Interesting fact about Asheville: Before the Biltmore Estate came to be, it was already a place where people went to heal. In the 1890s, there were some 100 hospitals in the area, each treating specific ailments, from depression to tuberculosis. Either I cried everything in me out yesterday, or this place really does do wonders for the soul, despite a couple punches to the gut I had today.
The endless estate
Without a doubt, the Biltmore Estate is impressive. From how forward-thinking George Vanderbilt was when it came to building the most technologically advanced home of the time, to the insanely gorgeous garden, to the stunning views of Pisgah Forest and Mountain, to the winery and vineyard, to the Victorian design, to the green sustainability of this massive estate…I was pretty blown away.
Every room I walked into made me shake my head in disbelief. Oh, just a little chandelier…that’s 4 stories tall. Oh, just a little personal library…with 25,000 books in it. Oh, just a little banquet hall…with 7-story ceilings. Oh, just a little basement…with a bowling alley, 10 changing rooms, a 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool, and gym in it. Oh, just a kitchen…exclusively for baking pastries; and another for just cooking meat; and a third for cooking everything else.
I understand why it’s called America’s castle. (And that’s not even the half of it.)
Highlights and tips
My biggest tip: Take at least two days to explore it all. Also, while there are tons of walking and hiking paths, bringing a bike to get around after you park your car would be really helpful. You can definitely drive or take one of the shuttles, but the grounds are so massive, you really want something that allows you to get into its nooks and crannies.
My highlights of the day:
- Winery: I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting much. George Vanderbilt’s grandson loved wine and hired the best in the industry to make it great. Not only is the wine good, it’s very reasonably priced. I never got around to the beer (they have house brews) but heard good things.
- Food: For lunch, I tried the new Chef’s Table offering. Four courses, each paired with wine. It was amazing and a steal at only $39. Everything we were served was produced on the farms of the estate. There are A LOT of other opportunities to enjoy some terrific food. This is one reason I recommend giving yourself more than a day.
- Walled Garden: The gardens are pretty spectacular. I was especially enamored of the rose garden. I couldn’t get enough of the Double Delight, which is pretty much the most fragrant rose I’ve ever smelled.
- Asheville: There’s a lot of great food and beer to be had in this hipster-lite city. And there’s terrific people watching, too!
A couple minor blue spots in an otherwise nice day
I was surprised to find how dog-friendly the Biltmore is. You can’t bring dogs inside the mansion, but they’re welcome pretty much everywhere else. So I saw A LOT of dogs today. As I was strolling around one of the many ponds, I couldn’t help but wish I had a do-over with Dewey’s last day. There was no way I would have been able to prevent him from dying, but I did know before I left for work that day that he wasn’t feeling well…and that something was different. I wish I would have taken the day off from work. I wish I would have spent every second I could to snuggle with him. I’d give anything to hold him in my arms like a baby again, like he always let me do. I know going into my house tomorrow is going to be really tough…to know that Dewey won’t be coming to greet me at the door in his gentle way, to know that I won’t see his happy bounce – I’m once again dreading going home. But I need to go home. Because it’s home.
I was supposed to get married in 4 weeks. Today is my mom and dad’s 49th wedding anniversary. There were two weddings going on at the estate today. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrown for a loop by it. It was a bitter reminder of what wasn’t meant to be. So maybe in a way, the bitterness of it all was a good thing.
Heading home, but not for long
I head home tomorrow morning. I decided to change to an earlier flight because I want to be at home with Frankie. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past month, it’s to go where my heart is. So I won’t be driving more of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I’m very much okay with that. I genuinely got what I needed out of this trip.
Plus, I’m in no shortage of upcoming trips. My next stop is Portland, in just two weeks, for a friend’s wedding. Two weeks after that, I head to Hilton Head with some girl friends. At the end of the year, I head to the Alabama coast for some R&R (after a big work project launches). Then, in late January, I head to China to take in the Chinese New Year. So there are more adventures in store.