Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Biltmore Estate, Asheville

After we left Julia and Chapel Hill, we headed to Asheville, NC, for a few days. We spent most of one day at the Biltmore Estate, an amazing property built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1895. The weather was not great, pouring rain, so it was a good day to spend several hours inside this amazing French-style house and imagine what it was like to live such an opulent life in the early 20th century. You were not allowed to take pictures inside, which was disappointing, but I took plenty outside.  I think there are more than 250 rooms--the one I liked the most was Vanderbilt's library, which held about half of his 23,000 volume collection of books. Apparently he was quite the reader. The wood paneled walls are lined with two floors of books and while large, it seemed like a comfortable room. The ceiling was covered with a painted mural that came from a palace in Venice. Oh, and the chess set in the library was once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte!

I also loved the Winter Garden, a circular conservatory room at the center of the house,  with a glass roof and filled with all kinds of plants. Big, sumptuous floral arrangements were everywhere--I guess you kind of need overscaled arrangements in a big place like this.  On the big porch at the back of the house were gorgeous baskets of orchids and begonias.

Orchids on the porch

It was fun touring the four floors of the house, and seeing the kitchens and servants quarters, and even an indoor swimming pool. Almost all the furnishings are original to the house. We had lunch in a cafe that is in the old stable of the house--really cool.  Luckily, by the time we finished the house, and lunch,  there was a break in the rain so we were able to tour the most important part of Biltmore--the gardens!

I was kind of obsessed with these moss-covered Italian busts

View from the gardens
This blog should be called the "Bench Blog"

Most of the landscaped beds are enclosed in this Walled Garden. There is a White Garden, rose gardens, and much more. They were in the process of planting thousands of mums.
Walled Garden

At the far end of the Walled Garden is the Conservatory, a grand old wooden and glass structure.

I loved this big old broken terra cotta pot that is reinvented as a garden feature.

Inside the conservatory

And I loved this scene as we were driving out, the reflection in the pond was just so pretty and serene.

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