Continuing on our cross country (or half country) journey, we made it to Asheville, North Carolina Wednesday evening. We pushed hard that day to get there in the evening so that we could visit a place early the next morning that I've been wanting to see ever since I first saw it in one of my mother's Victorian decorating magazines back in the early 90's. It is the largest privately owned residence in the U.S., the Biltmore Estate, and it is truly a breathtaking sight. My darling traveling companion and I were completely awestruck when our shuttle from the parking lot rounded a bend and it slowly crept into view like a tiptoing herd of buffalo.
That's right, there's nothing subtle about the grand Biltmore Estate. (Click on all pictures for a larger view.) There is honestly no describing it, so I won't even try (much). Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside so as to preserve the furnishings and textiles, I would imagine, but we did manage to snap plenty of photos of the outside and the gardens.
It took 5 years to build this dream home and who knows how much money. We took a guided tour using mini-personal recorders which were worth every penny as they allowed us to take our sweet time visiting every exhibit. The crowds were light as we were there on a weekday, which I would highly recommend. I wouldn't dare attempt it on a weekend.
This was one of the outside living areas, much too grand to be called a mere "balcony." There was more floor space in this area than in the whole upstairs of my house. (Photographs were allowed out here.)
I'm not sure that these are actual gargoyles, they're much too cute for such a name. And this one appears to be painting. Think of the skill involved in carving such ornamentation.
The ceiling. Even now, a week after the visit, I'm still at a loss for words on the sheer enormity of the grandness of this home.
One thing's for certain, we are going back for a longer visit. We took six hours and completed the tour of the inside, but there was so much to the outside that we didn't have time for. NEXT TIME.
There are 42 bathrooms in this home. We saw three in 42 exhibits in 4 hours. THAT'S how large this home is.
After the tour and some coffee and pastries in the stableyard converted to shops and bistros (sustenance was required after the home tour), we made our way down the winding path to the gardens and greenhous. This sensational Japanese Maple greeted us as we descended one of the many flights of stairs. She is enormous, easily over a hundred years old and most definitely one of the original inhabitants of this garden.
Just look at that gnarled trunk. A grand dame indeed.
One of several gardens. It was still early spring and many of the surrounding trees and shrubs hadn't yet burst into leaf and bloom, but the tulips were on their high horse at their peak, and we made sure to get plenty of close ups. Tulips don't fare well in Texas, so this was a real treat for us.
I will close with this, the first of the close ups. Is this not THE most delectable color combination ever? Pink, yellow and orange. I could just eat it up. Please join me tomorrow as we view more of the tulips and then the multi-roomed greenhouse where there are more orchids on view than I ever knew existed. Until then...