Biltmore Estate Girls Weekend

Last weekend, my blogging girlfriend Tammie Reed (Talking With Tami) & I took off to Asheville for a really fun girls getaway!

21731410_10207686997691513_1585713812372900805_o

Weekend of fun coming right up!

 Tammie was reviewing Chevrolet’s new totally electric car, a Bolt EV they provided the trip, and she asked me to accompany her.

21728496_1592355214158649_6741728267313175931_n

I was able to drive the Bolt EV as well.

Tammie and I left on Friday about lunchtime and we casually drove up, stopping to freshen up the charge on the car in Greenville, SC.  We arrived late in the evening, checked into Aloft Hotel (I’m a hotel snob & I approve), walked down to a local sushi restaurant (who knew that you could find delicious sushi in the North Carolina mountains), and then grabbed some rest for our fun-filled Saturday at the Biltmore House.

FullSizeRender-6

I’ve been a season pass holder for the Biltmore Estate for several years now.  It’s always changing and I think I learn something or see something new with every visit!

Biltmore-Welcome | Fiddle Dee Dee

Main entrance… guests of Biltmore have entered this gate since 1898!

This was Tammie’s first visit and she was shocked at the size and beauty of it all.

Biltmore-Estate | Fiddle Dee Dee

We had so much fun walking through the estate and taking in the opulent lifestyle the Vanderbilt family must have enjoyed.  One of the goals of the Biltmore estate is to carry on the many legacies of George W Vanderbilt.  These include a gift of hospitality, sustainability, and education.

Each guest who visits the Biltmore Estate is made to feel welcomed and valued.  The Vanderbilts were known for their lavish dinner parties and weeks of entertaining guests at a time.  While I’m sure Vanderbilt never intended to open his home to the public, he wanted a place designed that had the comfort of his guests in mind.

As you tour the home and see the beautiful tables, you can easily imagine the dinners that were enjoyed by family and guests alike.

When George W Vanderbilt III made the decision to build the estate in the 1890s he was inspired by all of the amazing country homes he had seen in his many travels in Europe.  He wanted a place that he could invite friends and family to enjoy the same hospitable lifestyle he had come to enjoy while traveling abroad.  While this was not his only home, it was one he loved and put a lot of effort into creating.  GW wanted a home that would showcase his love for art and literature (he had an amazing collection of both), while also being a self-sufficient, working country estate.  He used the latest in technology and technique to help achieve his agricultural goals.

When guests came to Biltmore they were celebrated and entertained in a spectacular fashion.  Guest often stayed for weeks at a time and had enough activities planned that they never grew bored with the country estate.

The Vanderbilt’s hospitality was enjoyed by many high-ranking social, political and art individuals including the US Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Hodges Choate as well as authors Edith Wharton and Paul L. Ford.

When guests dined at the Biltmore they were able to enjoy large meals served in the banquet hall.  With its medieval decor, large triple fireplace and rich, dark colors it was an impressive setting I am sure!  The tapestries hanging on the wall were antiques from the 16th century when GW acquired them so they are true treasures now!

Biltmore-Formal-Dining-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

Couldn’t you just see this table set for a large dinner party with pressed linens, gleaming silverware, glistening crystal, and beautiful china?  Seating arrangements would have been carefully arranged so that guests of honor were predominately seated for conversation.  Dinner may have been for a party of 6 or a party of 36!

Menus for guests were planned around the seasonal bounty that was readily available on the estate.  Once a menu was planned, Mrs Vanderbilt would approve it, or even tweak it a little.

I found this menu dated from March 26, 1896 published a current Biltmore cookbook:

Blue Points (oysters that would have been overnighted by rail) w/ celery, olives, radishes, salted almonds

Saucie de Lyons

Consumme Royale (a rich, clear soup that has been clarified)

Parisienne Potatoes

Cucumber Salad

Terrapin ala Maryland

Sweetbreads with French Peas

Sorbet

Lettuce Salad

Cheese & Biscuits

Ice Cream

Fruit & Coffee

That is a huge meal and just a sampling of what a guest of the Vanderbilt’s might enjoy!

Guests were treated with the finest of food, almost all of the bounty from the estate itself, although an ocasional telegram might have been sent North to have a shipment of lobster overnighted by rail to the estate!  Attention to detail was a standard guests came to expect when they entered the home.

Oh how I wish we still entertained and showed such hospitality today!

Edith Vanderbilt’s sister wrote after visiting the estate,

“The dinner table, in the center of the room, being too large for common use, a small cosy round table is drawn up before the central fire, & there we dine each night, with 2 footmen in knee breeches, gold garters, etc. to serve and look de style!”

Biltmore-Dining | Fiddle Dee Dee

The breakfast room was a perfect place to enjoy an intimate luncheon or take afternoon tea.  Luncheons were smaller affairs consisting of only five courses.  It was a wonderful opportunity for guests to gather to talk about events of the morning or plan other activities for the afternoon.

Biltmore-Breakfast-Room | FIddle Dee Dee

 I love the blue jasperware tiled fireplace mantle!

Biltmore-Jasperware-Fireplace | Fiddle Dee Dee

Food and drink were an expression of hospitality and home away from home for the guests of Biltmore.

Cooking would have been done in one of three kitchens; the rotisserie kitchen (where meats might have been prepared), the pastry kitchen, or the main kitchen with its large stove and oven, icebox for storage and plenty of workspace!

Biltmore-Estate-Main-Kitchen | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Picnic | Fiddle Dee Dee

There were pantries for canned goods, fresh goods, and a huge walk-in refrigerator!  It was the most modern of its time!

Biltmore-Estate-Pantry | Fiddle Dee Dee

Total pantry envy!!

After supper, ladies might retire to the salon for conversation and possibly live music, while the men disappeared off to the smoking lounge and gun-room for a nightcap.

Biltmore-Smoking-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

I love the dark masculine interior of the smoking room

Guest lodging was plentiful in the home.  With 250 rooms, you can imagine the space available.

Biltmore-Estate-Guest-Room | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Guest-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

Mr. Vanderbilt’s own bedroom was set up so that when he awoke in the morning and curtains were open, he could see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

George-Vanderbilt-Bedroom | Fiddle Dee DeeBlue-Ridge-Mountains | Fiddle Dee Dee

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s room was set up in a similar manner, yet much more graceful and elegant!

Edith-Vanderbilt-Bedroom | Fiddle Dee Dee

There were so many activities available to guest and residents of Biltmore House during the day and evening.

Biltmore-Estate-Grounds | Fiddle Dee Dee

Outdoor activities including horseback riding shooting sporting clays, hunting, bocce ball, bicycling, hiking (yes they hiked during the Guilded Age), picnicking, fishing were all apart of life at Biltmore.

A July 1908 New York Times article noted that “Mrs. Vanderbilt hosted a fishing party on the estate and landed 20 large mountain trout, the largest catch of the day!”

{I feel like we are missing out on so much in this day and time!}

If you wanted something more relaxing, a stroll through the beautiful gardens or conservatory adjoining the house would be just perfect, especially as the sun is beginning to go down.

Biltmore-Garden | Fiddle Dee DeeGarden-Roses | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie-Reed-Biltmore | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie enjoying the garden late inthe afternoon

If the weather was less than desirable a guest could remain indoors and swim, bowl, workout in a gymnasium, play various board games or read one of the nearly 23,000 books in GW’s library!

Biltmore-Library | Fiddle Dee Dee

George-Vanderbilt-Library | Fiddle Dee Dee

It is said George W Vanderbilt III read nearly 4,000 books between the age of 12 and his death at 51.  He kept a journal listing all of them.

Billiards-Room | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Bowling-Alley | Fiddle Dee Dee

“The vast swimming tank under the great hall is a great resort for the young men after exercising — ten feet deep so they can take a deep dive.  This forenoon we are to drive about the farms and see the wonderful stock.  Mr. Vanderbilt is teaching the farmers about the first rudiments of farming.”

~from a letter written by Joseph Hodges Choate to his wife, January 1902.

Biltmore-Estate-Indoor-Pool | Fiddle Dee Dee

Each activity would have required an outfit change, up to five a day!  Could you just imagine the flurry of fashion in that house?!

Guilded-Age-Clothing | Fiddle Dee Dee

Just an example of attire from the Guilded Age

Not only were guests at Biltmore treated well, but so were the large amount of staff and employees.  House staff had their own kitchen and dining areas with fresh foods and game as well as bedrooms they did not have to share, which was a rare treat in that time!  Employees of the estate were able to enjoy the bounty of the estate farms as well, in their homes or on their breaks.  It was as if they were family.

Biltmore-Staff-Dining-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

House staff dining room

The legacy of hospitality and sustainability are two of my favorite reasons to visit the Biltmore Estate over and over as these are still prevalent around the estate today.  No, it’s not exactly the same, but the staff of Biltmore are gracious and kind, welcoming, and knowledgable.  The restaurants utilize a farm to table program with much of the produce and meats are estate raised!  And while we did not visit the winery on this trip (I did purchase some amazing grape juice), the legacy of Vanderbilt land continues.

Biltmore-Sunflowers | Fiddle Dee Dee21751594_1594918093902361_8581185044392291680_n

Take a trip for yourself and see just how fabulous the Biltmore Estate is!

 

Signature

One thought on “Biltmore Estate Girls Weekend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s