Today we went to tour the largest private home in the US. Biltmore was the estate of George and Edith Vanderbilt. George’s father made his money in railroads and George used part of the inheritance to build a pretty nice little house.
The entrance price is pretty steep at $55 a person but everyone said you have to go. It was tough to pay that much but I think they are right. The house alone is pretty good but the gardens were amazing. It’s a good thing that the NC arboretum had the Bonsais or it would have been a real waste to go there after seeing this.
The estate used to be 125,000 aces but they donated most of it to create the Pisgah National Forest. It is now “only” 8000 acres.
You have to drive almost 3 miles from the entrance gate to get to the massive parking lots. It is then a short walk or shuttle ride to get to the house. Below you can see Jennie on the lawn.
I took these shots from the top of the wall at the end of the lawn.
Lots of interesting details.
Unfortunately once you go inside the house you are not allowed to take any pictures so all we have are from outside.
For a extra $17 a person you could take a tour of the roof, as you can see some people in the picture above.
The outside of the main staircase.
Amazing stone carvings everywhere.
The end of a downspout.
Every column had something on top of it.
The front entrance.
Inside the building we opted to get the $10 a person audio guide, which I would recommend, that gave a description of each of the rooms we visited.
There was also an exhibit called “Dressing Downton”, as the comparisons are obvious, that displayed many of the outfits worn in the series. This one was in the gift shop so I could take a picture.
We got to see the dining rooms, conservatory, music room, the Vanderbilt’s bedrooms, guest bedrooms, servant’s quarters, the kitchens, swimming pool, bowling alleys and gymnasium. All in all there were 41 stops on the audio tour. The house has 250 rooms in total, of which 43 are bathrooms.
One interesting thing was that they had to fill and heat the 70,000 gallon swimming pool each time they wanted to use it. Then after they were done it had to be emptied. With no pool chemicals or filters it would have gotten kind of gross in a few days.
There were staff and video cameras everywhere so it would have been hard to even sneak a picture. Partway through we went out on a balcony and all the cameras came out.
Most of the estate is a forest, which I think had mostly not been there or at least vastly improved by the Vanderbilts.
I took this shot, out through a screened window, showing the glass roof of the conservatory.
We started the tour at around 11 am and finish at about 1:30 pm.
We had brought a lunch with us but had left it back in the car so we just went to the food area and shared a nice Cobb salad.
Jennie said she was going to go get some ice cream for dessert. I started laughing as soon as she came out the door. She seemed a bit embarrassed.
She said she had seen someone have one across the patio but didn’t realize how monstrous it was. We scraped off a lot of the whipped cream, which was real by the way, and worked our way through it. The ice cream was premium quality and we especially enjoyed the chocolate.
Almost there. You can see which side went first.
We really needed to work this off so we headed towards the amazing gardens.
A balcony at the side of the house was covered by a huge wisteria tree. I guess we are a few week too late. It would have been amazing to see it in bloom.
The stem or trunk is massive.
A wisteria topped pathway.
Then down into the walled garden. The top level was very formal, with lots of geometric planting.
The next level down was the rose garden. It was past it’s prime but still great. The scents were amazing.
Then we went into the Conservatory greenhouse. I know this post is already long but we just went crazy in here. There were so many interesting plants that we couldn’t stop taking pictures.
Together we took about 125 pictures in there.
This one had a strange center.
Jennie had never seen a banana tree before.
I can’t stop! So many pretty flowers!
I could have posted so many more.
We finally dragged ourselves away mainly because we were getting tired after all the walking and standing around.
The weather forecast today had actually been pretty lousy calling for a high chance of rain. It had rained hard last night and we are in a thunderstorm right now, this evening. During the day we had no rain and even some sun as you can see in the picture above.
I had thought going here would be OK on a rainy day because we would be inside most of the time. Little did I know how long we would spend in the gardens. We got back to the car at around 4 pm.
The forecast for tomorrow is even worse but we need a day off anyway. We are moving north on Thursday to a campground right on the Blue Ridge Parkway that has no services at all. We will be running on battery power all week. The long range forecast is gloomy so I hope we get enough sun for the solar panels.
I have read that there is cell coverage so our internet cellular hotspot should work but who knows.