Asheville Day 2, or MTV Cribs: Gilded Age
After a brief hiatus where I struggled to get up the motivation to edit a batch of fifty photographs of the Biltmore House, we're back in Asheville! And as I just alluded to, specifically we spent the second day of our trip at the largest private residence in the United States. And incredibly fancy it was too. But first, we had breakfast.
During or research, one place that had sounded like both a must-do and convenient fuel spot on our way to Biltmore was Biscuit Head. Unperturbed by the line of people streaking out the door when we arrived, we waited an amount of time one would reasonably for really good brunch food before we made it in the door, and were served enormous biscuits.
I suddenly became incapable of taking a decent photo when the food arrived, but rest assured that I'd gone in. I had a beautiful, mammoth biscuit, fried eggs, a large piece of fried chicken, sausage gravy, and fried green tomatoes. It was a good job we were going to be walking.
I did get a good shot of the restaurant's hearty collection of jams though, featuring such interesting flavour combinations as chocolate raspberry (good), sweet potato chai (not so good), and perhaps oddest of all, blueberry bacon butter.
Ready for a nap, we headed on to the estate. After driving the 100 miles down the entrance driveway, getting our tickets, and parking up, we were faced with a choice: to walk the perilously long few hundred yards from our car to the house, or take the free shuttle bus like everybody else seemed to be doing.
Thankfully our legs held up, and we made the few hundred yards with ease. God, people are lazy. And instead of being bussed literally right up to the door, we had an opportunity to take in the panorama, and kill a little time admiring the gardens before our house-entrance time.
We wandered down the adjacent Italian Garden in a vague direction toward the house, and spent a good amount of time marvelling and making faces at the splendidly big koi in some of the decorative ponds.
The founder of the house, George Vanderbilt, certainly nabbed a good location for it. There's no civilization to see for miles around, and the horizon of deep green mountains was an impressive sight.
When it was finally our time to go in, we were instructed by the person at the door not to enter through the door, but through a far less legitimate and impressive tent further down the driveway, and the then return to the front door.
Once we'd completed this silly task, and entered the house, the first thing that you see in the building's foyer (aside from all the other tourists) is the immaculate winter garden, that looked like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's courtyard with my old conservatory's sun-bleached wicker furniture in it. Cool nonetheless.
The inside was really well laid out, and a very natural route encompassing all the many rooms and chambers inside was complemented by knowledgeable guides stationed in each one. It got pretty dark and hard to take good photos in some of the parts, but we suffered through.
There was also a neat exhibit on Johnny Depp movies which meant that costume pieces were dotted about the various grand rooms. It was actually an exhibit of classic book-adaptation movie costumes, based on rare first edition books Vanderbilt owned, but apparently Mr Depp (back when he was less controversial and far more handsome) had starred in most of these.
Still, the movie costumes added something, and to be honest a sense of life to the otherwise museum exhibit halls.
We wandered all over the building, upstairs and downstairs, taking in the various grandiose rooms that made up this veritable American palace. We only got stuck behind slow people taking photos of everything (and therefore nothing) in one particular bottleneck around the bedrooms, and only lost Lia once, when Mum and I went to check out the waiting area on the second floor that turned out be for people who couldn't make it up more than one flight of stairs without risking cardiac arrest (a sizeable chunk of Biltmore tourists, and North Carolinians) and Lia continued onto the basement. It wouldn't have been a big deal except there was very little phone service at the Biltmore Estate. I guess it's hard to get a signal booster for the largest private residence in America when you're in the middle of nowhere. But you'd think, with all that money...
I got a similar photo to the one above, but accidentally captured a very overweight man in a very red shirt making his way up the stairs. He somewhat detracted from the image, but he was moving so slowly that he at least came out very sharply.
Down in the basement, Lia had found the bowling alley, the swimming pool, and several kitchens complete with fancy hanging brass pots. We took some inspiration and unrealistic demands for our apartment hunt in Seattle.
House tour completed a few hours later, we hid from the rain before heading onto the greenhouse, which I think it's fair to say was each of our favourite parts.
I never would've appreciated an experience like being in this fantastical greenhouse when I was younger, but just to be surrounded by such diversity of wondrous examples of life is so invigorating to me now.
Plus Lia and I being amateur plant parents ourselves, it was fun to see what our efforts could maybe-no-way-ever yield one day!
The architecture of the greenhouse buildings were just as impressive, and cast awesome dark shadows across the white walls, and the plants in a jurassic park aura.
Plus, it's probably something to do with all the awesome light, but greenhouses are hella fun to take photos in.
After all this wandering and wonderment, we were pretty pooped, and ready to call it a day on the Biltmore Estate, even though there were still villages of stuff we didn't see that our tickets gave us admission to! We got a bit lost trying to get back to the main house, but after taking just a couple of wrong turns, we found it. Still didn't bus back to the car though, because we're not weak.
We were just hungry. It was dinnertime, to be followed with ice cream sandwiches.