Candler, NC (high 78, low 54)
Yesterday was the day to go visit the largest home in America, the Biltmore Estate. It’s 175,000 square feet.
George Biltmore fell in love with this area of North Carolina and in 1895 the house was officially opened after 6 years of construction. There are 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms. George was a 33 year old bachelor at the time the house was completed. Some bachelor pad, huh?
Three years after the house was completed, he brought his new bride Edith there, and they set up housekeeping in this “family” home. They actually lived in the house, and raised their daughter there, along with give St. Bernard dogs, cats and numerous other pets.
The house was decorated with the finest items money could buy, most of which came from Europe. George was a collector and even had a chess set and table belonging to Napoleon.
A tour to the Biltmore Estate is not cheap at $59 per person and if you want the audio tour (I highly recommend) it was an extra $10. Senior citizens can go on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and get a $15 discount. I don’t know why we didn’t find that out first, but we didn’t.
We decided this place was worth the expense, and after the tour, we felt we got our moneys worth.
We arrived about 10:am, parked and walked down a beautiful path to the house, which was about 8 minutes away.
It was a beautiful walk, but you could also catch a shuttle bus, if you liked.
The walk was beautiful and it smelled like Christmas with all the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the estate. In fact through out North Carolina, we frequently pick up that wonderful Christmas tree fragrance.
Mr. Vanderbilt hired a landscape architect to landscape the property. It was the same man who designed New Yorks Central Park. He did an amazing job.
As we walked up towards the house, we were amazed at the enormity of it.
It looked like a castle both inside and out. It was an amazing piece of architecture.
You are not allowed to take photos inside the house, unfortunately, and I didn’t even try to sneak one.
There were security cameras everywhere, lots of other tourists and plenty of employees all over the place, so even if I had have been tempted…….
The extra $10 we paid for the audio tour, really helped us to learn about each room as we went into it. It also explained how they lived. For instance, they changed clothes 6-8 times a day and both George and his wife Edith had personal valets to make sure they were all dressed properly.
The servants worked long days and were always on call. I think they got a half day off a week.
The Vanderbilt's entertained a lot and the guests were treated like royalty. There was an indoor swimming pool, a gym, and even the first bowling alley in a private home was in this house.
I sure wish I could have taken some photos…..I guess you’ll just have to visit!
We spent about 3 hours in the house, and only covered a small percentage of the rooms. The entire house is not open for tourists. The descendants of George Vanderbilt run this historical site and the profits are said to entirely be used for maintenance and restoration.
After, we toured the house, we were hungry and our feet hurt, so we went out to the car and ate our Subway sandwiches we had brought. They have several restaurants on the property, along with a winery and creamery, but we went with a Subway instead.
From the parking lot, you have to drive a few miles over to the other areas of the estate. The roads are now paved, but that wasn’t done until the 1950’s, long after George died.
There were some trails leading to a bass pond, waterfall and a lagoon.
There is a big equestrian center and this week-end there is a big horse event of some sort. LOTS of horses!
There were nice trails to ride on and we saw lots of riders out enjoying the day. The horses were enjoying the cool weather and were playing together in the huge pens.
A lot of the horse people have trailers with little living quarters, so many are staying right there at the Biltmore. We saw one big motor home, but mostly horse trailers. We didn’t see any electrical hook-ups, but there was water. It would be a nice place to boon dock.
We visited the winery and sampled some Biltmore made wines. We had already spent all of our money, so we didn’t buy any wine.
We walked through the kitchen gardens and also the livestock areas.
It was beautiful everywhere we went with the mountain back drop.
There was a paved bicycle trail and also some mountain biking trails.
When the Biltmore's lived in the house, they kept horses, livestock and even grew their own produce, and the curators still continue to do the same.
There were exhibits of a lot of the equipment that had been used on the farm/estate.
Chickens are still being bred and raised here. The lady that took care of the chickens really loved her job and delighted in telling you all about her charges.
George Vanderbilt was an avid hunter and even went “camping, Vanderbilt style” at his hunting lodge, which was up on Mt. Pisgah.
We had a wonderful day, but were pooped out by the time we got home at 6pm.
We never made it to the gardens at Biltmore, and we didn’t get to walk on any of the trails. We decided to buy an annual pass for an additional $40 more, so that we can go back anytime we like for the coming year. We love this area so much, that we hope to come back often.
We extended our stay another week, so we’re going to stay until the end of September….and maybe longer if I can talk Al into it! We’d really like to stay through October, but we probably need to get back to Tampa.