Sep 2, 2007
Vacation - Day 5 (Wednesday)
Day 5 brings us to the Biltmore Estate (http://www.biltmore.com/) - the largest home ever built in the US! An unbelievable 175,000 sq ft (and yes I said 175,000!) home on 8,000 acres (originally 125,000 acres) and still privately owned by the descendants of the original owner, George Washington Vanderbilt. When we arrived at the Estate, we were greeted by a gentleman who talked to us about the home and took our picture in front of it. Before leaving area and walking down toward the home, I asked him if he worked there, his name and if we could take his picture. He said his wife 'worked' there, his name was Cecil and why would we want to take his picture? We convinced him we did want to take his picture and later found out, via the audio tour we took and subsequent research we did, that Cecil is the name of the descendants that are the current owners of the estate. Wow! Once we'd put 2 + 2 together and did a little research via the internet, we realized that we were probably talking to John Francis Amherst Cecil, the great-grandson of George. The tour of the house was totally beyond amazing, totally beyond anything I could've ever imagined in my most vivid dreams. It took us 3+ hours to get thru the 250 room house. Among other things, it has original art from masters such as Renoir, magnificent 16th-century tapestries, Napoleon's chess set, a library with 10,000 volumes, a Banquet Hall with a 70-foot ceiling, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, bowling alley, and priceless antiques. The house opened to friends on Christmas Eve 1895 and this French Renaissance chateáu remains America's largest privately owned home. After taking the tour of the house itself, we wandered out to what were once the horse stables and ate at the Stable Cafe (even as horse stables this must have been a fabulous place to be as a horse!). Lunch was, as you might guess, a little pricey and not as wonderful as one would expect, but filling nevertheless. After lunch, we wandered into a couple of the several gift shops and purchased a sufficient $$ amount of soveneirs before leaving and driving over to 'America's Most Visited Winery' (our ticket provided us with a 'free' wine tasting). We tasted several and purchased one - the Century - a Biltmore Estate white table wine - the best of the ones we tried we thought and later made a delicious chicken dinner w/some of it (Rachael Ray says you should only cook with wine that you would drink ;-).