Okay, if you’re ever planning a trip to Asheville and you really want to see the place (and I recommend it), allow yourself a few days at least. I really only had one full day. If I had hit the road super early yesterday and not dawdled, I could have had a day and a half. It’s not enough. I got to see some of downtown yesterday, as I already reported on. But today was devoted to Biltmore Estate.
I arrived shortly after opening and got my tickets. I ended up shelling out the $45 for the entrance plus an audio guide (the audio guide was only $3 extra….). There were no tours of the house proper today, but all the side tours were on. They had garden tours, motor coach tours of the property, and various tours behind the ropes of the house. Continuing my climb to the top of all large structures pattern, I chose to take the roof top tour. You saw that coming, right? Okay, it wasn’t nearly as strenuous as Climbing either St. Paul’s or St. Peter’s Cathedrals, but it was a lot of fun.
Despite the fact they were expecting in excess of 5,000 people today at Biltmore Estate, I was one of only three people on our tour. So, we had lots of time for questions and I think we got a little more out of our tour than most. The guide was awesome and told us a lot of tidbits about the house. The rooftop tour isn’t just of the roof, as it includes various rooms and corridors otherwise off limits.
That tour complete, I had yet to take the proper self-guided tour of the home. I had wandered around the outside a bit before the roof tour, but the estate was doing “timed entry” today to try to control the crowds, so I hadn’t been able to go in before hand. It was about 11:30am at this point, so parched and a bit hungry, I decided to go pay $10 for a coke and a sandwich. Oh well, at least it was a healthy sandwich…
The audio guided tour of the house was probably in excess of two hours. I mean, I got my money’s worth. I went in every room and I listened to every audio commentary there was for that room. And the house is just amazing. Well ahead of it’s time, a home from the late 1800′s with electricity and plumbing (43 bathrooms when hardly anyone of the day had one), and it’s original. And the grandeur…. Wow, when I saw the banqueting hall, it was like deja vue. I could have been back in any English castle I’ve visited before. And the victoriana is evident everywhere you look. Ornate moldings, elaborate carving, gargoyles and grotesques (and I’ve been trying hard to remember where in England I last saw examples like those). It really was a feast for the eyes if a bit unforgiving for the feet.
After leaving the house, I wandered through the gift shop for a bit and then began to tour the gardens…. yes, more walking…. and more… and more… And I never saw them all. I tried, believe me, I tried. If one lived near here and likes gardens, that alone would pay for the $80 or so it costs to be a season pass holder. I mean, this is a garden designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American landscape architecture and the designer of Central Park in New York. While the greenhouses and formal gardens were just stunning, it was the woodland gardens (still Olmstead) that really spoke to me. I so wished I had been here to see that Azalea garden in bloom!
I walked the gardens for about three hours before dragging my sad feet back to the house to catch a bus back to the parking lot. Driving out, I passed all the other attractions I failed to get to, the winery, the farm, and the other garden paths. Nevermind Biltmore Village that I drove through but never got to see on foot.
It was just a side trip for me. The real goal is Jamestowne area of Virginia, but now I think I may have to come back here some day and allow myself a few days. There’s so much more here. Art museums, a nightly ghost walk (that my feet would shoot me for, nevermind that it’s now raining), galleries, parks, the mountains, etc., etc. And this is just what I discovered in the day and a half I’ve been here.
And tomorrow morning, I head on to Colonial Williamsburg and the next stop on my trip. I had thought about going to see X-Men III tonight or maybe Why We Fight at the art theater downtown. But I’m just exhausted. Between being on my feet for most of the day and the oppressive heat (which according to the guide at Biltmore is unusual), I don’t have the energy to get back out or be up late. I want an early start in the morning.
Hate to think how hot it is at home right now. The heat here feels like what I left… But the real killer for me is something that is in bloom here that we either don’t have or has already passed bloom at home. My allergies have been havoc since last night. Watery red eyes and all. Luckily I packed the allergy pills!
Oh, and here’s a photo from the streets of Asheville that I particularly liked:
I loved these yellow fire hydrants with the red and green accents. I’m sure it has something to do with the water pressure or some such, but I still think it was artistic of the city, which is known to be artsy.