Monday, July 13, 2015

Celebrating Us at Biltmore

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Sunday, June 21st just so happened to be both Father's Day and our 12th wedding anniversary.  Now when I planned our wedding on June 21, 2003, Father's Day was not really on my mind yet...besides celebrating my father.  I liked that our wedding date fell on the first day of summer because I love summer.  It was just the perfect date for us.  So now when Father's Day falls on our anniversary, I really don't mind sharing our celebration with the little people in our lives who make our family complete.  They are the symbols of our love after all.  And since we do not frequently get date nights for just the two of us anyway, we have come to accept that these special occasions will usually involve our kids.  We loved spending such a special day together as a family in a very beautiful place in our state.  Biltmore Estate is world-renowned for its beautiful landscapes, gardens, and buildings.  When we discovered that we would be heading to Asheville, NC on Sunday for the next phase of Eddie's forestry teaching academies, I knew I didn't want our anniversary and Father's Day to only be marked by a lengthy car ride.  When I checked the Biltmore's website, I was delighted to discover that not only did kids get in free all summer, but fathers would get in free for Father's Day.  That was too good of a deal to pass up so I immediately purchased my ticket online and reserved the kids' passes.  With our lengthy car ride, we didn't arrived in Asheville until early afternoon, but we still enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring the house and grounds and then dined in one of their fine restaurants in Antler Hill Village next to the Biltmore Inn.  Although I could appreciate the beauty of the house and the gardens, I think my favorite part of the entire estate is the extensive grounds that you get to see on the meandering drive through the estate.  The estate is on a beautiful piece of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  George Vanderbilt, grandson of a very wealthy industrialist (think railroad) from Staten Island, New York, did not have much of a legacy to leave besides his parentage until he chose to build his estate in the mountains of North Carolina.  The estate was originally over 90,000 acres in size, and he hired the first professional forester, Gifford Pinchot, to manage his extensive forested lands.  Pinchot developed the first forest management plan to manage Vanderbilt's land.  German forester, Dr. Carl A. Schenck, succeeded Pinchot in the position and worked for 14 years to restore the lands to a flourishing forest.  Prior to his death in 1914, George Vanderbilt attempted to sell most of his forested land to the U.S. Forest Service at the rate of $7.00 an acre (a very fair price in that day), but the United States government initially refused.  After his death, the government did purchase 87,000 acres of the forest from George's wife, Edith, for the bargain price of $5.00 an acre.  That land is still preserved today as the Pisgah National Forest and is also known as the Cradle of Forestry.  Even without the 87,000 acres, the Biltmore Estate still encompasses about 8,000 acres of lush green woodland along the French Broad River.  The estate has also become extremely self-sustaining, growing and raising most of the food served in its many restaurants.

George's house is a whopping 178,926 square feet and is still considered the largest privately owned house in the country.  It is always funny to me to see how many wealthy patrons in Hollywood movies "live" in this house.  It is a popular choice to use pictures of the house in movies.  One that comes to mind is in the movie "Hannibal" where it is the residence of the former victim of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins character) who had his face and body seriously distorted by Dr. Lecter who detested his demented obsession with himself and his looks.  He wanted to capture Dr. Lecter and feed him to the feral hogs he was raising.  Haha!  No, I didn't see any feral hogs on the property.

The estate is owned by the descendants of George's only living child, a daughter named Cornelia, who married John Francis Amherst Cecil.  The Cecil Family still own the estate which is now managed as a business called The Biltmore Company.  The company is the largest employer in the Asheville area. It manages restaurants, a winery, and the world-renowned Inn on Biltmore Estate.  Eddie also discovered in his more private tour of the grounds with the teachers for forestry education that some of the family do still reside in private residences on the estate.  So while the house is lovely in all its grandeur, the estate's lavish grounds are definitely the crowning jewel that make it truly worth a visit.

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The long car rides over the course of two weeks were a little trying sometimes, but the kids were very good travelers for the most part.  Evan and Brody watched a lot of movies on the drive.  Mattox slept a lot and was only occasionally fussy.  

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The first views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Of course, views from I-40 are not the best, but I do not do well on the more scenic routes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I definitely have to take a Dramamine, and I hate it.  The bottom right picture shows the ravages of a recent wildfire. 
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The area surrounding Biltmore is actually its own separate little township called Biltmore Forest and has a very upscale vibe.  Even the local McDonald's looks fancy. 
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This was actually my first visit to the Biltmore.  I know, I have lived in North Carolina my whole life so it is a bit crazy, but there just never seemed to be a good reason.  Eddie's teaching academy gave us the perfect excuse to visit. 
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Evan kindly took our picture for our anniversary, but he was too short to get the house in the background.  

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Daddy and his boys enjoyed celebrating Father's Day in a beautiful place. 

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And our whole family enjoyed celebrating our 12 year anniversary of starting this family.  Since you can't photograph inside the house, we took advantage of a beautiful portico with gorgeous views for some family pictures.  
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We all enjoyed a little ice cream break after touring the house.  The house doesn't have air conditioning so it did get a little warm, especially down in the basement.  Mattox was giving me the look like "And why can't I have any milkshake?"  Haha! 

Of course, the Biltmore gardens are some of the most beautiful features of the estate.  Different times of year will offer special treats in the extensive gardens.  I, for one, would like to visit when the azalea garden is in bloom.  The rose garden was quite splendid and boasts over 250 varieties.  I mostly spent time exploring the walled garden and hothouses on this trip.  It was a very hot day so we were not in the mood for too much walking.

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Lots of colorful blooms in this hothouse.  

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I did manage to get one shot of my boys in the gardens.  They could not be bothered with waiting for me to take pictures and chose to move through the gardens at a run. 

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The many varieties of roses offered spectacular color.  

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I think the close up images do more justice to the beauty of the gardens at this time of year because the lush green does overpower the flowers. 

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After exploring the gardens a little (I could have stayed much longer), we headed to eat dinner at one of the amazing restaurants.  We chose Cedric's Tavern as a more kid-friendly establishment.  The boys loved playing on Cedric the St. Bernard outside the restaurant.  Cedric was George Vanderbilt's beloved dog.  I rarely remember to take pictures of the food, but it was very good.  I enjoyed the Shepherd's Pie, and Eddie enjoyed a Bison Burger.  
Next, the boys and I return for some more kid-friendly fun at Biltmore Estate...


  1. What a beautiful place! I don't know where to even begin. The flowers, the buildings - wow! Happy anniversary to you and Eddie! You two are such a great couple!

  2. When my mom and I went there about ten years ago, we ate at the DeerPark Inn. It was really good. Glad you all had a good time. :)

    Happy Anniversary!

  3. Happy Anniversary! I love your views on celebrating your anniversary with your children. Michael and I have similar views although the last two years our kids have wanted nothing to do with us and we have really enjoyed spending the day together as a couple.

    Once again you have taught me a lot about North Carolina history! Although I can say with 100% certainty that my parents too us here during one of our many cross-country trips. I too remember it being warm inside but truly majestic and impressive.

    Lovely pictures of all the gardens too. We were both nature photographers this summer.

  4. This looks like a lovely memory to make on your anniversary.

    I really want to go visit this place. I am still kind of in shock that Dave went to it without me :)


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