Monday, June 20, 2016

Asheville, NC and the Biltmore Estate

On Sunday Bob and I got up earlier than we usually do (6:00 am) and were on the road by 7:20, which may just be a record for us. But we were on a mission! I typically wait until a day or two before we need a new campground before I start thinking about where we will land next. So I had missed the reservation window for reserving a site at Lake Powhatan Recreational Area in Asheville, NC. This place had good reviews and better prices than the private campgrounds in the area, so I called on Friday evening to see if we could score a reservation. No go. All the reservable sites were taken, but there were "lots of walk-up sites," according to the agent. All we had to do was show up by noon to snag one. And that would be 250 miles away.

I called the next night, in case a reservable site had become available. No such luck, and now there were only four walk-up sites open. So we set off Sunday not knowing if we would have a place to camp that night.

At 7:30 am on Sunday there was no traffic going through Atlanta, and the trip was smooth and uneventful until about ten miles from the campground. Then traffic ground to a halt. It took an extra half hour to get to our destination but I was still optimistic.

The ranger at the booth told me there was only a one-night site available. Oh dear--we really wanted at least two nights! She checked her database several times. How about a dry-camping site with no hookups? Not ideal--no AC, which makes me nervous when leaving animals behind and sightseeing. Then her partner looked over her shoulder and said, "How about this one? I think 40' rigs have gotten into that one."

Yay! Full hookups and a nice site that we fit into just fine! Later someone told us that was an act of God to get a walk-up site with full hookups. Had we known that, we never would have even tried.

So here we are until Wednesday and it's a very nice campground. On Monday morning we went to see the Biltmore Estate. At 250 rooms, it is the largest house in the world.
Biltmore was built by George Washington Vanderbilt at the age of 25 in 1895. It was patterned after the great European estates, but with modern American technology, and took only 6 years to build. This huge house has central heating, indoor plumbing, an indoor heated swimming pool, a 23,000 book library, a bowling alley, billiard room, and a fitness center. The Estate was also featuring an exhibit of wedding gowns in films, with the gowns displayed in almost every room that was open to the public. This place is a popular wedding venue. I had read that no photographs were permitted in the house but we were told we could take pictures as long as the flash was off. This made me very happy. Here are a few of the 89 photos I took:
The Banquet Hall features a seven-story high ceiling and Flemish tapestries, plus a huge pipe organ for guest's musical enjoyment.
The Billiard Room
Kate Winslett and Alan Rickman wore these costumes in the 1995 film, Sense and Sensibility.
The Breakfast Room
The Music Room
Helena Bonham Carter wore this gown in the film Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, 1994.
George Vanderbilt's bedroom
Edith Vanderbilt's room. Doors lead to closets, a bathroom, and her lady's maid's room. Society people in that time changed clothing 6-8 times a day. A staff of 40 took care of every need. Today, between 1800 and 2200 full and part time staff work for Biltmore. There are no volunteer positions...everyone is paid staff.
The Halloween room, in the basement, was a party room on October 31.
The Bowling Alley
The Indoor Swimming Pool holds 70,000 gallons of water.
Outdoors, the gardens are formal and very beautiful.
The house is surrounded by 8,000 acres of forest and lake. Originally the estate encompassed 125,000 acres, or 195 square miles. 

George Vanderbilt died at age 51 from complications following an appendectomy. His widow sold off most of the land to remain solvent. George and Edith had one child, a daughter, who inherited the estate.

Bob and I spent a few minutes thinking about how our lives were better than the Vanderbilts:
  • We dress when we get up and are good for the whole day.
  • Other people mow around our rig and maintain the grounds, but we don't have to employ them.
  • No pesky balls to attend.
  • We rarely receive letters begging for money.
  • We don't care about what "society" thinks of us.
Life is good!

Tomorrow we have a quiet day planned as we gear up for our final push to NJ.

No comments:

Post a Comment