Tuesday, December 11, 2007

40th at the Biltmore - Being There

This was taken from the Vista (whatever that is) as we came over the hill from our parking place. Remember, the pictures are better if you click on them.

As I said we were going to do, Anna and I drove to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at the Biltmore House.

But we almost didn’t make the full trip. We almost became two greasy spots on the road, marked with two crosses.

When we were on our way, going with the speed of the flow of traffic a van suddenly pulled out in front of me. At the speed we were going, I could not stop. As I swerved to the left land I glanced in my rearview mirror and a car was coming up to my left. Luckily for us, he saw me swerved into his path and he swerved to avoid hitting me – which I can’t say without bragging that the man driving on my left and I did excellent jobs avoiding a disaster. The idiot who pulled out in front of me at such a close range kept on driving. We pulled up beside him and tried to give him a good hateful glare but he never looked our way.

He was an elderly man. He needs to take his pills before he gets out in the ravages of morning traffic.

We cut across country through Roswell via Hwy 92, Holcomb Bridge Road, and Jimmy Carter Blvd. Just a few blocks on Jimmy Carter Blvd before we went down on the I-85 we decided to pull into Martin’s and get a steak and biscuit.

I don’t think Martin’s is a national chain but I could be wrong. I know of about 5 in Metro Atlanta area They have good breakfasts. They seem to attract retirees to have a morning meeting to solve the world’s problems and Martin’s also seems to attract the no-collar workers… not blue collar – no collar.

I noticed in line two or three people behind us was a woman about 40 years old, dressed sexy with a short tee-shirt exposing her mid-drift exposed and tight-ass design denim. There was print on her tee-shirt, I couldn’t read. The other female looked to be about twenty, also with a short tee-shirt exposing her middle, and also tight ass denim. Her tee-shirt said, “I’M HOT!!!”

That is nice, mother and daughter matching outfits.

Their hair-dos were messed up. I suspect they have been partying all night long – or hugging a pole.

We drove on up the road to Asheville.

We had reservations at the Double Tree Lodge. The Double Tree Motel/Lodge/whatever is owned by the Hilton Company.

I like to think a good portion of the money we gave the Double Tree Lodge went to help Paris Hilton party a good hour or so. The black and white poster with Paris looking sad at the camera and sucking her thumb and the bold letters that said, “This girl may have to go sleep sober night.” really got to me.

The entrance of the estate:

After we unpacked we drove to the Biltmore Estate. We were directed to park in parking lot A-6, which is the closest to the Biltmore House. In fact, it was so close they did not have a bus shuttle service for it. We walked. I think it was almost a mile.

As usual we got there hours earlier than we were suppose to be there. Our candlelight tour was at 6:30 and our dinner at the Stables was to be at 8:00. I looked at my watch and it was about 3:00. We had the opportunity to look around some before we went on a tour to look around some.

We went to the gift shops and wandered around. We visited all the specialty gift shops in what was the Stables. The building is a little courtyard away from the main house. It not only holds several gift shops but also the Stable Restaurant, which I thought this time of year with Christmas in the air, it might be profitable to name it The Manger. On the second floor I think is offices now, but when the Vanderbilt family was here, it was the male servant quarters.

The courtyard is relaxing area with a bakery on one side and a ice cream shop on the other – and there might even be a bar on the side too. All the things to make your sitting at an iron patio table more relaxing (and more profitable).

It is hard to find an unused table – there were not any. So, you sort of walk around like a hawk among chickens looking for someone about to get up and rush over and claim that spot… they should rent little flags to claim to spot – another way $$$. We spotted a table with three people sitting and two empty chairs.

We asked the guy who seemed to be just sitting there and not part of the other two sitters were those two seats taken. He said no, help yourself – which we did. It didn’t take long for us to figure he was not part of the group of the two other people sitting. He was friendly. He was waiting on his wife, who was in the gift shops. He is from Lima, Ohio. He told us he has an abnormity: He only has one layer of skin (I think he was telling us the very basic so we could comprehend his condition). He told us that if he is barely touched he will have a terrible bloche of a bruise but it goes away. He showed us a few bruises on his arms he was sporting then. He said he condition was melanoma. I imagined if he went to a down-to-earth bar and some redneck picked a fight with him he would bleed to death underneath his skin is just a short time. The couple left about the time his wife showed up. She told us they just got a computer and was trying to find out ways to use it.

They have several – more than 2 – grown children. I told them it is excellent way to communicate if they are any distance. We told them we keep our finances posted, genealogy research, and so on. She was impressed with the genealogy research – she told us she was a Mormon. I wonder why she didn’t say “We”?

In time they left and were instantly replaced by two women. One told us she was from Louisiana and the other one said she was from South Dakota. They are both living in Nashville, Tennessee, now – they are part of a efficiently medical group. The one from South Dakota said actually she was her boss. But I don’t think they had a boss and not-boss relationship, although she did say that – they appeared to be more like friends. Their staff move in a hospital and look for ways of being more efficient – and move on to another city for someone looking for their unique talent.

All this time it seemed the lines going into the Biltmore House was endless. Finally when it got nearer our time we went and got in line ourselves. The old uniform guard checked each ticket… if your time was more than 15 minutes away he would politely tell you to stand with the next group or “go visit the gift shop.”

Back of the house:

When we entered the first room was a youth choir of some kind singing Christmas carols. After that you are issued headphones which in each room you enter you get a good description of what’s what and why.

It was a very good tour! It was very enjoyable and educational.

George Washington Vanderbilt was born in 1868 and died in 1914. He was the youngest of 8 children and a mama’s boy. He had the Biltmore House built and it was completed in 1895 when he was still a bachelor. After he married they had one daughter and her two great grandsons are the CEOs today. One of them own the house and its operations and the other owns the surrounding land of thousands of acres and its operations, such as the Winery.

That is a very brief tour I gave you – considering ours cost much more, based on the time you read that, you owe me about $2.43. Look around my blog and find my address – no personal checks, please.

One interesting thing was the daughter Cornelia Vanderbilt married John Francis Amherst Cecil, a Brit. Their sons were born in the Biltmore House and had duel citizenship. I don’t know about both, but at least one of their sons served in the Royal Navy.

I was a bit nervous about the time factor. Our dinner reservation was at 8:00 and our house tour began at 6:30. Would 90 minutes be enough time to look at every thing? I like to get places early – there was no room to arrive early. What was I going to do?

I decided not to ruin a good tour fretting about the time. I refused to look at my watch. I decided let things take care of themselves; we wouldn’t stave.

After we walked out I looked at my watch. Well, we were not early, but not too late either. It was 8:05. We walked up and the friendly hostess seated us….. in the middle of the floor near the kitchen. We asked for another seat. The, then, somewhat offended hostess seated us in another spot in the room, again in the center of the floor. Again, we complained. The hostess, smiling, but probably gritting her teeth, reseated us for the 2nd time, in a little alcove like area with only one table nearby – a part of four – two couples who, I gathered by their conversations the couples did not know each other very well, it must have been a business dinner.

Anna and I both ordered prime rib. I ordered mine medium rare, because medium rare seems to be the tastier and the most tender state of a prime rib. Anna ordered her medium well because she doesn’t like the taste of oozing blood.

The meal came in courses, of course. On the steak and potatoes course, I thought my prime rib was good. When the waitress asked Anna how her steak was she said it was too fatty. The waitress probably walked away reminding herself not to ask questions if she didn’t want to hear the answer. Anyway, the waitress returned in a short time with a newly cooked prime rib, not as fatty but again, not as cooked, it was medium rare, and offered it to Anna to replace the one she had. Anna said No,,, it was medium rare. The waitress asked me did I want it.

“Noooo!” I said with my hand in the stop motion in front of me. I rather stick with my own plate - I feel safer. Although, the whole staff were eager to please.

I did not order wine or tea. I ordered coffee. The coffee was brought in a very large china looking cup. I bet it was 8 or 12 ounces.

The most talkative man next to us said, more or less, “Wow!!! Now, that is a cup of coffee!!! Look at that coffee!!” he told his fellow diners.

Usually I am invisible but this time people are looking at me amazed. Wait! I am still invisible; they were looking at the coffee.

We went back to our room at the Doubletree and got a good night’s sleep, we were tired.

The next morning we checked out and returned to the Biltmore. It was pouring down raining. It looked so good, the rain…. Giving rare water to all the plants on the estate that needed it so much.

We took a shuttle bus back to parking lot A. We asked the driver to take us the hill to level six but he refused, saying he “Can’t do that.” In a polite manner.

The parking lots were almost empty. Anna was very tired and did not feel like walking. She sat at the bus wait place, alone, under a light, while I walked up the hill – six levels, mostly in the dark, to find our car. I was afraid for both of us. But I made it, and drove fast down the hill, going the wrong way down one way connections from one lot to another until I got to her.

The next day it rained. We elected to drive around the estate and look at things.

This is the Bass Pond. You may remember seeing this body of water in the Peter Sellers movie BEING THERE. The movie outside was filmed in the beautifully landscaped property of the Biltmore Estate. I don’t know about the inside. We want to check it out and see it again. It is about a simple gardener employed by a wealthy man of a huge estate. One time someone of importance in the government mistaken him for a wise man that had wise advice. He would ask him something about the economy and his answer would be of the only knowledge he knew: Gardening… it seemed all his answers were something like: “You must pull out the unwanted weeds so the best plants will get the nutrients they need”….. or “good growth needs a good amount of fertilizer” … and the high up man would implement the gardener’s ideas into the economy.

This is the French Broad River. One of my Hunter ancestors had a tavern on the French Broad River in the 1700s. I suppose then a lot of people traveled by the water ways. The Hunters place were nearer the Tennessee border.

The French Broad River runs through the bottom lands of the estate.

We toured the farm which we were told about Biltmore Milk Company that had a huge operation back in the 30s and 40s. There, one of the men that worked there was a retired English teacher. We agreed to swap blog addresses. I thought I would finish with this posting about his employer before sending him my blog address.

All the people who worked there, except maybe the shuttle driver were all laid back and very easy going and polite.

We toured the Winery, which is the below pictures. Part of the tour included wine tasting. A lady of some age, also of some dignity stood behind a bar and poured each of us (6 people) samplings of various Biltmore Wines and educated us on what they went best with, such as fish, poetry, red meat, Asian foods, etc. I think we each sipped about 6 types of wine. Once she referred when we go to the wine tasting in the next room they will have certain bla blas and blas.

So, when we entered the next room we found the wine tasting bar and moved up with 3 other couples. It didn’t take the lady long to figure out we were there for free sips. She, in a polite way, pointed to a sign, and said the tasting in this room was $5 for so many samples and $7 if you want to go with a few more sampling. Then she turned to speak to a couple that asked her a question about the wine they were sampling and when she turned back to us we gone.

The room was the sales room. They had plenty of free samples of dips and things to serve with your wine – so, we may not have got another round of free wine tastes in that room, we made it up in free dip and chips.

We left. It was about 2pm. We decided to have our 40th wedding anniversary lunch at Hardee’s. While we were sitting down with our food the manager called loudly across the room to another employee, “I’m going to the bank!” Now, is that something good to holler across the room – that she is going to make a deposit with today’s cash money? She looked proud when she said it, so I suppose it was her way of saying, “Look at me, I am manager today!” By going to the bank she missed the fun of watching the cashier and the cook get in a food fight. The slipped up on each other and throw a french fry and take off running and the other one would throw some at him… sometimes they dodged the fry and sometimes they got it in the back or in the chest.

Then it was time to head home. As we were getting on the exit Anna was looking at the map and told me to take the I-40 west. At the last moment I saw a sign saying for Black Mountain take I-40 East, which I did. Anna told me that was wrong, the map said take I-40 the other way. But I knew what I knew, the sign said take I 40 east for Black Mountain and I remember seeing an exit for Black Mountain outside of Asheville. Anna convinced me to pull over to an exit to get gas and we would look at the map.

Which I did, and we looked at the map. Black Mountain is in the opposite direction.


We drove home. In the gift shop of the farm we bought an Arcadia book of Biltmore and Anna read me the complete book on the way home. Of course, I didn’t get to see the many pictures in the book, but will come back to that.

The book made George Washington Vanderbilt and his wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser to look like the kind and generous humanitarians of that part of the Blue Ridge… which I am sure is partly true… their very presence generated jobs… many jobs. I think I heard 1200 jobs with all the farm projects and building projects and all. And Edith, the book said, was known to visit the sick of the families that worked for them and helped them.

Don’t you think to run a big conglomerate of interests and to keep the workers more or less to the grindstone, he had to be a bit ruthless?

We had our anniversary dinner at the Olive Garden in Roswell.

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Blogger Jean said...

The French Broad River is where, according the version of the story about our ancestor Mary 'Polly' Pullen that I heard, she threw off a long cloak and jumped into the water to lead the oxen to safety. They were on a flatboat with two other families, Rawlings and Tumlins, I think it was, on the way to Georgia.

Glad you had a good time. One more trip I won't have to take, now I've heard your version. The check is in the mail.

8:17 AM  
Blogger ET said...

I think you would love the 2000 plus acres the Biltmore governs.

I knew the story of our ancestor Mary Polly Taylor Pullen diving in the water to loosen the oxen but I thought it was probably the Etowah River that travels from Canton, through Cartersville, to the Rome area.

8:28 AM  
Blogger El Postino said...

Hey, Ed, good travelog. But you say, "he saw me swerved into his bath." I would have liked to have seen that myself!

2:11 PM  
Blogger ET said...

El Post -
That's what I get for being my old proofreader - it is something like being one's own doctor.

3:10 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

I enjoyed reading that, Eddie. We were there in May about 10 years ago.

3:55 PM  
Blogger ET said...


We went there about 20 years ago. I think I learned more this time... either that or I am retaining it - presently, anyway.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Sounds like a great time with many amusing moments. Thanks for sharing the stories and pictures.

9:59 AM  
Blogger ET said...

Thank you!
I enjoyed sharing them.

10:12 AM  

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