Mr. Garner and I have been to the Biltmore, the fairy tale castle home in the North Carolina highlands built just as the last century was waning by George Washington Vanderbilt. We went for Garden Week about 20 years ago. I remember because we did not have #1 Son yet, and we had a wreck of a car that required regular infusions of motor oil to stay on the road. Unfortunately, there was a late frost that year, and the Garden Week grounds were disappointingly spare, offering only a very few brave bulbs. But every room in the estate was an amazing sight, beautifully decorated, with flowers everywhere.
We decided to fit in a visit to the Biltmore while we were in North Carolina this past summer, so that our children could see this immense achievement of construction and design. Too, it was important to us that they be reminded, that just like the poor, the rich will always be with us, and as Christians we are called to love them, not demonize them.
Number 1 Son enjoyed seeing the fruits of industrialization, wise investment, and resultant philanthropy that resulted in the Metropolitan Opera, Vanderbilt University and the Medical School of Columbia University. He pointed out to me that apparently the Vanderbilts were allowed to leave their cards on the table in the game room. Ahem. He especially liked the ERG (rowing machine) in the basement exercise area.
GraceNotes liked the gift shop (sigh), and lunch in the stables (sigh) and our long walk through the gardens (Thank Goodness)!
Photography within the house is not permitted and really the house is too immense to attempt to photograph. Although I really would have liked a few good pictures of the 15th Century European tapestries that they have in the large fireplace room, so that I could study them later. Here is a link to the Biltmore Website page that offers a brief slideshow.
The highlight of our visit came after the long hike through the gardens down to the Bass Pond and Waterfall (really a spillway). What was a pleasant tromp down, was a bit more demanding on the way back (uphill), and we were keeping an eye on what were formerly fluffy clouds as they got darker and more threatening. When we finally got back to the “house,” we sat and rested for a few minutes on the very large patio overlooking the South Terrace. There was a concert scheduled for that evening, so lots of people were setting up tents and tables, and the band was doing sound checks. There was a fabulous breeze, and I just wanted to cool off a little bit before we headed to the shuttle stop. As I was watching the clouds over the hills about a mile or so away, I suddenly noticed a darkening over the trees, then over the meadow. The rain falling in dense sheets was headed straight towards us. I needed no further encouragement to make a run for it, proceeding straight past the shuttle stop at entrance of the Biltmore and into the Stable Courtyard where the ice cream shop is located!
We were just in time! We took our very generous ice cream comes to a sheltered table where we could sit and hear the rain, watch the hustle and bustle, and just absorb all that we had seen. Here is a link to the interactive map of the Biltmore House and Gardens.
This is the fifth in a series of posts about our wonderful summer vacation in the Blue Ridge! Thank you so much for reading! If you are interested in the other posts you’ll find them here:
We Set Out Accompanied by Wildflowers
Dipping Our Feet in the Ancient New River
Stumbling Over the Tanawha Trail
Wonder and Awe at Linville Falls
2 thoughts on “Ice Cream at the Vanderbilts”