Saturday, May 10, 2008

Notes from last year

I was cleaning out some old electronic files, and came across the below unfinished account of my visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina in April, 2007.  It literally stops in mid-sentence, but thought I would share what is here, anyway.  If you have ever visited the estate, I would enjoy your comments.

                            I can do whatever I want.  If I had a value assigned to every time I said that to myself in the past week, I would have something of tremendous value.  To me it’s been quite valuable, and has been the steering force of this vacation. 


                           I looked up that word tonite – on  I am an internet junkie, I realized that these few days.  But back to vacation.  Freedom or release from the usual.  I anticipate the questions from others: “where did you go? What did you do?  How many would realize that the greatest value to me was being able to do whatever I wanted; going out to dinner when I wanted overeating if I wanted, and of course over drinking…when I wanted!  I got up when I wanted, stayed out as late as I wanted, stayed in hotels that had great beds along with daily maid service, swimming pools, and fitness rooms, that I used when I wanted. 


                             I thoroughly enjoyed the Biltmore Estate.  It was very close to what I had anticipated from my many visits to the website.  One disappointment, however, was the appearance of the gardens.  My first impression was that perhaps Asheville was experiencing a draught as we in south Florida had been; everything looked very brown and more like Fall as opposed to Spring.  It wasn’t until later I saw a sign that the staff of  the Estate had erected stating that the record setting cold over Easter weekend had damaged much of the gardens’ young plants.  I imagined how beautiful the rose gardens will be – perhaps in a couple of months.  The structure of the gardens –the walls,  the buildings, the conservatory, the mature trees and sweeping landscapes all is very impressive.  The magnitude alone is awesome. There were many tulips and lilies; the red bud was just emerging and the azaleas were thriving.  I could have spent an entire day in the gardens, but after several hours, I chose to explore the house.


                    I  took the advice of the front desk agent at my hotel and purchased the audio tour.  Good advice, as it told me details and trivia about the Vanderbilts  and the various rooms and items.  Occasionally I would imagine viewing the home without the audio guide, and decided that it would havebeen somewhat meaningless.  I frequently would linger between various groups with tour operators pointing out certain facts or features.  This allowed me the opportunity to hear what these paid guides were telling, as well as allowing me to separate myself from other folks who were taking the tour along the same pace as I was.


                                         Some of the information pertaining to the customs of the time or what was “proper” was interesting, for example how inappropriate it would be for the Madam of the house to have a female hand maid visiting the chambers of the Master of the house.    This information was offered in explanation as to why the Mr. and Mrs. had separate bedrooms.  Ha.  I’d shake the hand of the woman that made up that tradition.   I looked at the expansiveness of Mr. V’s bedroom and wondered what one would DO with so much room.  His bedroom was larger than my apartment.  I mused at the platformed bed and  I wondered if Mr. V was a short man.  Separating the Master’s suite from the Misses’ is the Oak Sitting Room.  Recall I was only just wondering what one would DO with such a large bedroom, so the sitting room was a bit overkill.  Then into the Misses’ bedroom.


                             The audio guide spoke of Mrs. Vanderbilt as being a woman who was as comfortable in luxury as she was among the common.  You wouldn’t know it by her bedroom. She had to be a rather exceptional personality,  based on the purple and gold silk fabrics and furnishings that decorated her room.   I looked up at the ceiling, and, as are the ceilings in  most of the main bedrooms, this one was oval with great crown molding, wall fabrics and paintings. This ceiling looked like an Easter egg.  A rather nice Easter egg, but an Easter egg none the less.  The ceiling looked as thought someone had used a pastry bag with the ruffled piping in frostings of buttercream, lilac and pink.   


                       You may realize that I have totally not described the first floor.  It is opulent, extravagant, excessive, grand and great.  Of note, though, are a few mentions.  The Vanderbilts had a winter garden in the center foyer of the house

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