Christmas at Biltmore
Tuesday 29 November
Biltmore House is built in the style of a French chateau, and was built between 1889 and 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II. It is still owned by George Vanderbilts descendants, and remains one of the most prominent examples of “Gilded Age” mansions. Vanderbilt bought nearly 700 parcels of land, including over 50 farms. Archives show that much of the land was in very poor condition, having been over farmed, and many of the farmers and other landowners were glad to sell. Vanderbilt made extensive trips overseas to purchase decor, including Belgian tapestries, carpets, prints, linens and other decorative items.
In an attempt to bolster the estates finances during the Great Depression, and at the request of the town of Asheville, hoping to revitalize the area with tourism, Biltmore was opened to the public in 1930 and in 1956 Biltmore ceased to be a family residence and is now operated as a historic house museum.
Over the years, Biltmore has expanded in scope, adding overnight accommodation and a winery at Antler Hill Village, as well as restaurants and meeting and event venues.
It is beautifully decorated for Christmas, including 67 hand decorated trees, amongst them a 35 ft Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall, hundreds of poinsettias and wreaths, and miles of garland. We had a timed entrance at 10.45, the earliest we could get when we booked several weeks ago (!), but once inside, it was self guided with an audio guide, and you could take as long as you wished. We spent a couple of hours going through, listening to the commentary, taking it all in, and of course taking loads of photos! When we had finished the tour, we had lunch in the courtyard - very busy, but well organized, and the food arrived quite promptly, given the numbers. We then had some time for exploring some of the gardens, imagining what they must look like in the Spring and Summer, and visiting the Conservatory, similarly embellished for Christmas. Then we headed over to a special exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci, at Antler Hill Village, which included an exhibition of several models of some of his inventions, built from his sketches, some of his paintings and a wonderful immersive exhibit projecting images on the surrounding walls and floor. By that time, it was dark, and we were feeling quite tired, having been standing or walking most of the day, so we were glad to return to the hotel, and later ate out at a nearby Olive Garden. I have added a couple of extra collages, one of the architecture of the house, inside and outside, and another of the beautiful Conservatory. A wonderful day out!
Step count: 8,529