Sunday, November 04, 2007

Asheville & Biltmore Estate

My western North Carolina adventure continued this past weekend in Asheville, NC. Saturday afternoon I drove to downtown Asheville, near the Grove Arcade, and wandered around...

(giant iron appears about to crush street musician)

...peeking into many cool little shops and galleries, including a Woolworth's that's been converted into an art gallery, yet still retains a Woolworth's lunch counter/soda fountain:

Here's some of the art:

I then found the local gourmet chocolate shop -- Chocolate Fetish, and came away from there with some delicious edible souvenirs, a few of which I've already enjoyed. Yum!

I wandered some more and found the downtown yarn shop:

which is very cool. Lots of nice yarns, arranged mainly by color; and they have a daybed in the back of the shop where I would imagine regulars might sit (lay?) and knit. I didn't spend much time (or any money) in there, as shortly after I got there, my cell phone rang, (saved by the bell?), and I was off to meet some friends for a nice lunch of chicken Caesar salad and potato & bacon soup at Carmel's restaurant, a couple blocks away.

After lunch we poked around a few more shops downtown, and I managed to find another yarn shop within the Grove Arcade -- Asheville Home Crafts, (no photo, though), but again, I maintained restraint and left empty-handed. (After all, I can make my own yarn, now, right!) ;-) My friend Maria did buy a cute, hand-knit beret there, however.

Finally, we were off to Biltmore Estate:

to visit the winery:

for a wine tasting:

me, Norma, Catherine, Maria
We were allowed to sample eight different wines, and I think my favorite of those eight was the "Christmas at Biltmore Rose". Delish. All of their wines were quite nice. If I were driving rather than flying home, I would have purchased a few bottles to take with me. And I just discovered that unfortunately, they don't ship wine to Virginia, but if I want some bad enough, I can have some shipped to my sister in NC. It's also possible that some of the Richmond wine shops carry Biltmore wines. [Edited later to add: My sister informs me that my brother-in-law, a beverage distributor, carries Biltmore wines. I have a source in the family!]

After the wine tasting, we parked down behind the greenhouse so as to walk through their lovely formal gardens on our way up the house, and then went on the candlelight Christmas tour of America's largest home:

As you might imagine, that place is just incredible. More ornate than most cathedrals, I had to keep reminding myself that this 8,000 acre, 25,000 sq.ft, 250-room property was once someone's home. Mind-boggling, for sure. What impressed me, most, room after room, were the fantastic ceilings -- gorgeous, yet different in every room -- some carved, some fabric, and as amazing as the rest of furnishings and decor. The tour was far more extensive than I imagined it would be, and we got to see the Vanderbilt's bedrooms, guest rooms, children's rooms, billiard room, library, sitting rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, (indoor plumbing in Appalachia at the turn of the 20th century -- unheard of!), servant's quarters, kitchens, pantries, laundry, bowling alley and indoor pool.

The house is still privately owned by the Cecil family, great-grandchildren of George Vanderbilt, and I would think that owning such a legacy is an enormous responsibility. Here's hoping they still get to have the occasional family party there, even as they have graciously shared the place with the rest of the world.

After our lovely candlelight tour, we fumbled our way back to the car in the dark, and drove to Biltmore Village for a wonderful dinner at Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant, where I had the osso bucco and a delicious chocolate pot de creme for dessert. A very nice place indeed, and we stayed so long we ended up closing the place, which the staff didn't seem to mind.

Then it was back to my hotel for a sweet night's sleep that included an extra hour, thanks to daylight's savings time. Love this time of year!

Tomorrow, I'll share my Sunday adventures.


Margaret said...

Asheville is just too cool! I've always loved it there, and Biltmore is just gorgeous anytime. I went to summer camp nearby, and got to visit the house several times, a looong time ago.

Robin said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I LOVE Asheville! I love the Woolworths Gallery too, we visit every time we're there. I know you've had a marvelous time...

Bess said...

Hon, are you sure you don't want to be a travel writer instead of a computer geek? I have loved taking this trip with you. sigh. pleasure. What fun!