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The Biltmore House. A monumental understatement.

Posted 05-24-2013 at 08:16 PM by BillB44
Updated 05-24-2013 at 08:18 PM by BillB44 (add photo)

Today we set aside for a single objective: touring the Biltmore House, built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt.

But calling this monument a “house” is like calling the Great Pyramid a triangle. “Estate,” “Mansion” and “Manor” don’t do it justice either. Seriously, only “Palace” or “Castle” come close. We’ve toured to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California and this puppy dwarfs it.

I’d seen pictures of the Biltmore and a TV special about it, but the scale has to be experienced in person to be grasped. It’s unreal.

Ever seen one full acre of land? It’s pretty damn big. Well, this “house” contains four acres of floor space under its roof! The grounds are equivalent to 120 New York Central Parks! The ceiling in the banquet hall is seven stories high! (All this from someone who hates exclamation marks.) (!)

We got up early, stopped at Starbucks for a quick breakfast, and-despite getting lost--arrived the the will call ticket office before the 9AM opening. It was then just a two-mile drive on the “approach road” to the parking lot near the house. A shuttle delivered us to the front door, about 30 feet tall.

Audio guides pressed to our ears, we spent the next three hours in the ‘house’ touring the impossible to describe library, dining halls, tapestry room, salon, sitting rooms, bedrooms, guest rooms, service quarters, basement gymnasium, kitchens, indoor pool, bowling alley and so forth.

Then, another few hours strolling the expansive gardens and conservatory & greenhouses; then driving the grounds (several miles) and visiting outlying facilities, shops, restaurants,
(lunch of wood-fired pizza and salad at ‘Antler Hill Bistro’) barn and miscellaneous attractions.

In the afternoon, when most people were steering for the exit three miles away, we decided to return to the ‘house’ for a quick re-tour to make sure we hadn’t imagined any of it. We hadn’t. It blew us away all over again. And we caught details we missed the first time through.

As in all the historical homes we’ve visited this trip, no photos were allowed inside the Biltmore. Such a pity because there is so MUCH to show and enjoy. This is the largest private home in America--our national castle really--and the Vanderbilts were as close as we got to a monarchy. I doubt you will, but if you want to see more, click over to their website and drool some too: http://www.biltmore.com

The day was both exhilarating and exhausting. We stopped at a N.C. version of Whole Foods and got a Greek salad to go, demi-loaf of sour dough and bottle of red wine to eat at the Spud. Tomorrow, we need to rise and shine semi early and head to Charlotte.

Two reasons: see a great client I’ve worked with for six years and have never met in person, and hook up with a crazy former employee I’ve not seen in 20+ years who’s now an accomplished writer and illustrator of children’s books.
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