We've been before-- pretty much anyone who lives within a 200 mile radius of the mansion has-- but it has been years. We had talked about going during the winter break, but had decided against it due to chronic Christmas overspending. But then there we were, completely surprised and grateful and more than a little history-struck. Since I did not know I was going I did not have my camera, but I snapped a few pics with my iphone for posterity's sake.
Biltmore is the palatial estate built in the mountains of North Carolina by George Vanderbilt in 1895. It was designed and built in an era when the wealthy had obscene amounts of money, and the poor regularly died from want of basic necessities-- a period that make the modern disparity between economic classes look insignificant. But I'll spare you the history lesson. And while I can't condone the era it was built in, I can't deny the sheer overwhelming beauty of the grounds and the awe that comes with it. I imagine it is something to akin to how the French view Versailles.
Unfortunately I could not take pictures inside the house. I found this shot of my favorite room, the library, on the website to give you an idea of what it looks like.
The picture doesn't do it justice. 10,000 books stored on two levels of shelves. It is...flawless.
Right now they are preparing for an exhibit of costumes from Downton Abbey-- which immediately begs the question, why aren't our television execs climbing over themselves to film a Gilded Age version of that show set here. I'd watch it. Anyone have any pull in the entertainment industry?
We went to the Stable Cafe before we toured the house-- and while we waited for our table we browsed some of the shops. I was able to snap a few pictures, mostly at a little book shop in a mall of sorts that now occupies what had once been the Vanderbilt's expansive stables.
The last picture is of a ginger chiffon cake layered with pink grapefruit curd and vanilla buttercream, with champagne sabayon and candied ginger, topped with fresh pink grapefruit that we shared after a delicious lunch that will haunt my culinary dreams in the most pleasant way until the end of my days. I am terribly sorry for the picture quality. We snapped a few but most came out blurred and within minutes all that remained was this...
...which I now regret leaving on the plate. I could have eaten that frosting on a stick...
We popped into the winery for a bottle of Biltmore red, but didn't have time to take the tour. And there were some new spots that have opened up in the village that we also did not get to see. But since we left vowing to get season passes next month, there will be time for all we missed. Of course we won't be able to have such a big splurge on the regular, but we can bring a picnic and walk the grounds...and maybe do some wine tasting. Taking a day out once a month to travel back in time seems like just the ticket, doesn't it?
The day was perfect, and such a wonderful surprise.
PS I was not compensated in any way for this post. And I swear to the heavens it was the best cake I've ever had.