Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Biltmore Estate

I have alot to blog on, but I thought I would start with the most recent trip, which is the one to the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC. I have never been a big one for pretense, but I was completely impressed with this house.

Built in the late 1800's by a guy that my friends and I agreed could not have been straight, it is truly beautiful. He decorated the whole house himself. There are 250 rooms in the house between the servants quarters (which were nice enough for me to live in now), the huge kitchens, the indoor swimming pool, the 45 bathrooms and the very primitive gym. The entire house had plumbing and indoor electricity, which was an unheard of luxury at the time.

Two things I heard down there that I thought were interesting:

- Each bathroom had a toilet and a bathtub but no sink. Apparantly the luxury of having a servant bring warm water into your room in a basin was so desired, the sink was not wanted in the bathroom. It would have removed the pleasure of the basin and service for the guests, so it was not installed.

- Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt were scheduled to be on the Titanic. They got so close to traveling on the ship that when it went down their luggage and their valet were left in the ocean. They were saved by Mrs. Vanderbilt's sister, who called her urgently before they boarded and said she had a dream they were going to die on the ship and begged her sister and brother in law not to go. She saved their lives.

The grounds at the house are unbelievable. Beautiful gardens, walking trails, and thousands of acres of trees that Vanderbilt had specially planted. (I find it fascinating the guy just couldn't buy a forest- he flew someone in from Europe to BUILD him a forest). The original land for the house was 250,000 acres, but during the depression their only heir, a daughter named Cordelia, donated the land to the Pigsah National Forest and kept 8,000 acres for the estate, which she then opened to the public.

She had to open it to the public because her father spent every last penny he had to build the house. $5 million dollars at the turn of the century. But the house helped to keep the economy in Asheville healthy during the depression.

The estate is also very environmentally conscious. Saturday at lunch we drank through paper straws. Tons of things were recycled that we received and our tour guide made comments about how even when the estate was built, they tried to be conscious of resources. When they used to milk the cows they had slots behind them in the dairy farm. The manure would fall through these slots to an underground facility which would process it and send it back out to the greenhouse to be used to keep the grounds going. It was a very automated, effective process.

Eventually the dairy farm was converted the a winery, which we also toured. Turns out no matter what you do to wine, I just don't like drinking it! But we did a wine tasting class and also took a "wine and chocolate" class, to pair certain wines with certain chocolate.

My pictures from the Biltmore are on the other computer I use for things, so I will try to get some on here. Meanwhile check out facebook where I have them all uploaded!

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