Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stairs and Christmas Trees

So, this past weekend The Husband and I traveled to Asheville, NC to meet up with TOAS and Bookpimp for some socializing and a trip to the Biltmore House.

First, some background. My mother and her large family mostly lived in and around Asheville (Black Mountain, Swananoa, Old Fort), so I visited the area frequently as a child to see aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandmother. I have not really been in the area since I was 15, which was the year before my mother died. We didn't go up the year I was 16 because my mother had been ill for a while. So, my memories of the area are quite old now, yet the place felt vaguely haunted to me. Still, as a kid I'd never heard of the Biltmore. My mother never mentioned it, nor did anyone else that I can remember. I think it was so far away from their life experience that it never occured to any of them.

Alright, now, back to the Biltmore. You can read about it on Wikipedia. There's plenty to know about it. The parts that are most relevant to this little blog o'mine are -- they do not allow photography of any kind inside the house, the house has a MILLION stairs, and I've never seen so many full blown Christmas trees in my LIFE.

The estate has a lot more than just the house -- there's a winery, a 'farm', restaurants, nature walks, and an inn. We were allowed to take pictures at the winery and farm, which were the two parts we visited before our tour time (yes, you have to get a tour time to go through the house).

This tree was at the winery. Very pretty, but NOTHING compared to the 25-30 foot LIVE tree (hung with giant ornaments) that is in the Banquet Hall (the room with the row of three fire places at the opposite end and even WITH the tree, a full sized banquet table that would sit 20 EASILY).
This weathervane was also on the winery. V for Vanderbilt, ya know.

Part of the exterior of the house itself. House -- ha! It isn't called one of America's Palaces for nothing.

That building used to be the stables. Now it's where all the gift shops are.

This is the area at the far end of the grand driveway up to the house that goes to some gardens and walkways. Pretty impressive view, wouldn't you say?

The tour takes you through about 60 rooms on four floors. The stairs seem endless. Every room except the basement/kitchen areas had glorious, fully decorated Christmas trees sized from 2 foot high to that incredible giant. You'll just have to look at their website to get an idea. I even bought the book about the place (to make up for NOT buying the book for Blenheim Palace when I was there...)

We upgraded our day pass to the yearly pass. They hold concerts during the summer, as well as the huge Flower Carpet put on the front lawn, and there's plenty we didn't see there. It's about a 2 hour drive from here, which isn't bad for an overnight trip. TOAS and Book Pimp got year passes as well, so I'm looking forward to hanging with them as well.

I'm not looking forward to the stairs, though.

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