George Vanderbilt built this place as a summer house, a little hideaway where he and his wife could relax and entertain friends. His family still owns it, and we were told that the estate now employs approximately two thousand people to keep the whole operation running.
We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house, and to get the entire front of the house in one shot I'd have had to walk way back beyond this front-yard fountain:
We visited the Biltmore the day after our hike in the Indian village, so I was only willing to walk far enough to walk far enough away to get half of the house at a time in the camera frame. Here are the two halves:
The architectural detail was amazing:
This stately lion guarded the front of the house.
I was glad I'd saved my energy for the inside of the house, where we toured on four different levels, each with a high ceiling, that required multiple flights of stairs to get from one to the other. Luxury and extravagance were the bywords of the day, from the flooring to the wall coverings to the beautifully-appointed ceilings, the wonderfully ornate furniture, and the expensive art and decorative items.
My favorite part of the house, probably because of a deep and lasting love of Gothic novels, was the basement, with its neat but sparse servants' rooms and multiple kitchens and laundry areas. I remember standing near the window in one of those kitchens, looking out at the mountains, feeling a cool breeze, and thinking this house wouldn't have been a bad place to live no matter what one's status.
After the tour of the house, we briefly investigated the shops and restaurants adjacent to the house until it was time to catch a shuttle bus to our lunch destination. We'd made reservations to have lunch at the Deerpark Restaurant, located three miles from Biltmore's big house but still well within the boundaries of the 8000-acre property. And a fine lunch it was, too. The food was beautifully presented (I learned the importance of presentation by watching the Food Network) and tasted delicious. The restaurant was gorgeous and peaceful, inside and out.
After lunch we sat on the shaded bench pictured above and waited for the shuttle that would take us back to the house. While we waited, I snapped these photos:
I recognize the pink roses, of course, but not the other flowers. Perhaps some of you gardeners out there might tell us what they are.
Tomorrow I'll show you more of the beauty that is Biltmore. In the meantime, here's a link to a YouTube video that contains a brief history of the place, as well as some great shots of the interior of the house:
If you're the least bit interested, the video is well worth your four minutes.