Asheville and Thereabout, 31 miles
"To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but what he aspires to."~Khalil Gibran
We toured the Biltmore Mansion today, America's largest home, at 175,000 s.f. That's a lot of mopping. And vacuuming, window cleaning, heating...
George Vanderbilt created Biltmore in 1895, an escape from everyday life for his family and friends. Quite an escape! And with 125,000 acres around it, the mansion truly made for a great escape.
What a place. A seven story banquet hall with tapestries from the mid 1500s and a giant pipe organ. Seating for thirty-eight. 23,000 volumes of books, collector paintings, frescoes and statues fill the rooms. And thirty-three guest rooms should they desire a few friends to visit.
We toured the place for around three hours and probably saw less than half of it. Being a contractor, the idea of building a house like this in the late 1800s with almost no industrial equipment to facilitate production fascinated me. The place included a two lane bowling alley. Since automatic pin retrieval hadn't been invented, the servants picked up the pins and sent the balls back. Don't forget the indoor heated pool, another engineering marvel of the nineteenth century, along with forty-three bathrooms, something almost unheard of for the rest of humanity.
Imagine the cost to maintain this place. The Vanderbilts struggled during the Great Depression and in 1930 opened it up for tourism, both to help keep the house functional and to make Asheville more tourist friendly. It worked, and today the Vanderbilt heirs continue to repair and manage the house with funds from the tours and gift shops.
Now a Rant, speaking of money. The sign read, 'Soda, Small $2.00.' A ridiculous price but we'll help the cause. Right! When the guy rang it up, he said, "$6.15."
Huh? What happened to $2 each?
"Oh, that's Annual Pass Members' prices." I shot evil looks out both eyes. Not good business.
And fear not, they made sure we could look at as many gift shops as we could possibly imagine. Biltmore trinkets, Christmas stuff, wine, games, DVDs, toys and books. So sad we couldn't buy anything, what with our limited space on the bike. Still trying to shake the depression for our pathetic attempt at shopping. Riding through the grounds, we're surrounded with beauty, as ponds, creeks, a river, forest and a park like grounds span each side to the horizons. The mansion now sits on 8,000 acres and thousands of people file through it daily, as many as ten thousand on a given day. Between the mansion, the greenhouses and gardens, the Antler Village with shops, history, wine tasting and a winery tour, the entire package was worth the day spent gawking.
And now, living in a much smaller condition, but with a mansion size heart,
The Biltmore was incredible and decorated for Christmas was truly impressive, There were decorated trees in almost every room with the main tree in the dining room that was 40 feet tall. I don't know how wide it was, but the thing was huge! The decorations were big also; gold balls the size of softballs and lots of huge bows. There were poinsettia trees, themed trees, all with gorgeous decorations. The floral arrangements in the house were works of art, I'm sorry we couldn't take pictures of them. It was a wonderful day. We also wandered around the conservatory that had a great variety of plants. There are acres of gardens that would be very pretty in the spring or summer. We'll be back!
Tomorrow we'll MISS the Wheels Through Time Museum, with over 300 bikes. Closed for the winter! D'oh! So off we go to Raleigh, the Capitol of North Carolina. Supposed to be sixty-five degrees and sunny. Wonderful!
And my apologies, Catpcha is again required on comments. After removing twenty idiotic comments of people trying to drive traffic to their websites in the last couple of days, I'll let the Catpcha separate the sheep from the goats. Too many goats.