Friday, August 30, 2013

The Biltmore and other Beauties of Asheville, N.C.

While I was pining over the idea of going back to Europe and searching for a less expensive way to take a vacation, I did some research and luckily found Asheville, N.C.  The Vanderbilt's summertime Chateau, Biltmore Estate rests within the city limits and is a world away!  A trip to see Americas largest home, a city I've never seen, sure, why not!!!!  Steve and I decided we would check it all out and report back;)  

First things first, we'd need a place to stay.  Since you all you I LOVE B&B's, I skipped the hotels and looked for only the prettiest digs around!  My search took me to The Lion and the Rose B&B in Downtown Asheville.  This beautiful, historic home rests on a quiet, wooded street, in the heart of the Montford Historic District and is just mere blocks away from restaurants, book, clothing, jewelry and antique shops, coffee houses and bars.  But you'll sleep soundly!  Hosts Jim and Linda Palmer will make sure your stay is warm, welcoming and absolutely delicious:)

Our room for the next three nights, the Fannie Rice Room, a beautiful room dressed in creams and blues.  I fell in love with this room after seeing the pictures of it on their website!  This room overlooks the water fountain and garden on the side and back of the property.  When you rise in the morning be sure to peek out your door, there will be a tray waiting for you with your preference of coffee or tea to perk you up while you get ready for your day:)  But don't diddle doddle for too long, because a scrumptious breakfast awaits you downstairs.

There are few things I like more than a room filled with lovely antiques, antique, painted porcelain and white linens dressing the table and delicious eats!!!  And that's just what we had among good company!  On our first morning, we enjoyed mandarin oranges soaked in amaretto served atop sliced bananas and poached eggs with ham over grits.  On the second morning, we wrapped our lips around the best pancakes I've ever had with pecans, dried cherries and cranberries with warm maple syrup and bacon. And on the third morning we swooned over watermelon, agave and mint paired with cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs, apple wood smoked bacon, roasted potatoes and kale and toast.   You'll be dazzled by what these two bring out of the kitchen:)  Its a delight for your eyes, nose and your tummys!!!!    

At the end of a day of sightseeing, shopping and eating at some of the best restaurants I've had the privilege of dining at, you may want to open a bottle of wine or sip sherry or port on the porch are in the garden and we did just that!!!

If you decide to visit lovely Asheville, stay at The Lion and the Rose Bed and Breakfast, from the time you walk through the door you'll find your home away from home:)  Jim and Linda were wonderful, they gave us recommendations on where to eat and what to see and we're glad we took their advice!  They know the best of Asheville!!!  We'll definitely be back!!!

After our 4 1/2 hour drive from Southwestern VA we arrived in Asheville on Night 1 around 6pm and were starving!!!  The Palmers recommended a French Bistro in downtown called Bouchon, and it knocked our traveling socks OFF!!!!  While we waited for a table we sat outside at the restaurant's Creperie next door and enjoyed a starter of savory duck confit crepe and a couple glasses of wine.  Since seating was limited a local couple sat down with us and we enjoyed great food and local conversation:)  However when are table was ready, that's when the night really took off!!!!  The wine flowed, we savored avocados with fresh crab, tomatoes and herbs to start, feasted on Roast Duck a la orange with cocoa nibs and steak a poive and finished with a pot de creme that could bring tears to your eyes:)  Our waiter was such a cool guy who loved getting to know us and our tastes and recommended what we devoured, but another highlight was getting to mingle and chat with restaurant owner and chef Michel, whose from France and brings with him all the delights of a french menu with a North Carolina, comfort food twist.  Bon Appetit Y'all!!!!!

After resting up and recovering from our food comas, we began Day 2 at Biltmore Estate and it took our breath away!!!  
Biltmore, the summer retreat for the Vanderbilts was built by George Washington Vanderbilt  II between 1889 and 1895 and was done in the Chateauesque style.  At 178, 926 sq. feet, Biltmore is the largest home in the United States.  In the 1800's, George began to make frequent trips to Asheville N.C. with his mother Maria and fell more and more in love with the mountains, landscape and climate that he decided to create his own getaway modeled after some of the finest estates in Europe.  He hired on Richard Morris Hunt as the head architect for the house and Frederick Law Olmsted for the landscape.  Both genius' united to create the ultimate summer getaway.  It's hard for me to believe that this gorgeous estate sits within the city, but even from the highest tower, all you can look out upon is rolling hills, trees, horses and far off mountains.  Sadly, but understandably, you're not allowed to take pictures inside the house, so you'll have to book your trip to get a peek of the beautiful furnishings within!  George went on extensive buying trips overseas to bring Biltmore to life with style and grace!  He brought back furniture, art, sculpture, tapestries and decorative objects from all over the world, items dating from the 1400's to the 1800's.     

The grounds and gardens are just as magnificent as the house!!!  After you've walked through the Vanderbilt's luxurious home, complete with billiard room, indoor swimming pool, gym, bowling alley, dozens of bedrooms and guest rooms and suits, grand entertaining halls, dining and tea and music rooms and impressive libraries and verandas, you'll want to make your way into the enchantment that awaits you in the gardens!!!  You'll need at least 6-8hrs to enjoy all that Biltmore has to offer, so plan on getting through the front gates by 10am at the latest since they close the grounds by 4:30pm.  See the house, break for lunch, enjoy the gardens, experience the winery and village for the perfect, full day.  As you walk the grounds you'll encounter many different garden styles as you travel further from the house.  You'll begin your outdoor tour in the lily pond and french gardens.  Past those you'll immerse yourself into English gardens and further into woodlands.  You'll see many different species of plants and flowers all blooming in a chorus of color and scent sure to touch your heart and soul.  The greenhouses hold palms and orchids and the woodlands are home to beautiful birds, squirrels, rabbits and tiny salamanders that you'll catch out of the corner of your eye squiggling across the walk into the grass:)  Keep your eyes peeled!!! 

I know you're probably thinking, where would you break for lunch???  Look no further than the Stables, just steps off the side of the house.  Once working stables transformed into a rustic court of gift, toy and sweet shops, a restaurant, a creamery and coffee house.  Be sure to take home a book on Biltmore, they have many different ones to choose from, some postcards to send to friends and loved ones and a treasure to remind you of your time there.  There is also usually a wine tasting featuring their delicious wines, a great take home for yourself!!!  All in all, the perfect way to take a much needed break:)

After you're done with the house and grounds, head to Antler Hill Village to continue your tour.  Here, a two mile drive from the estate you'll come upon a small village farm, winery, restaurant, pub, museum and shops to close out your day.  We started with the wine tasting, followed by the winery tour and closed with the museum before we called it a day!!!  We had a great time:)  Here you'll learn more about the Vanderbilt's, time at Biltmore, see their personal possessions, see photos of them and stand a few inches away from one of Edith Vanderbilt's favorite cars and one of Georges motorcycles!!!  Don't miss this, if you're too tired, I believe you can come back the next day, the wine is fantastic and the artifacts are even better:)

Night 2, we decided to head back to our B&B and crash for a cat nap.  Perked up and refreshed we ventured out for a late bite and were glad we did.  Limones, also in downtown Asheville boasts the areas best Mexican cuisine, a DO TRY:)  We started with roasted plantains and fresh guacamole and moved onto the most incredible steak fajitas and short ribs we've ever had!!!!  Nothing like a glass of Argentina Red to wash it all down;)

Day 3, we filled our time with sightseeing and shopping in all the different districts of Asheville.  We started in the Antiques District, near the Biltmore Village District where you'll find everything from large, super funky antique shops housed in garages lining the street to J.Crew and more!!!  The River Arts district is filled with gallery upon gallery featuring local artists work, you'll find everything from painting, photography to sculpture and furniture.   

With all this shopping you're sure to work up an appetite, well there's no place like the 12 BONES Smokehouse to kiss your hunger GOOD-BYE!!!!  Even President Obama has dined here during his campaigning days, anybody whose anybody makes sure to stop at 12 BONES while visiting or living in Asheville:)  Best Pulled Pork and Baby Back Ribs I've ever sank my teeth into, their only open from 11-4pm for lunch only, so make your time count!!! 

Finally, we made our way back to Downtown Asheville, where we walked off our ribs and enjoyed the eclectic selection of amazing shops here all within a few blocks:)  It was very easy to spend the whole day out and about!!!  Some of my favorite spots included this amazing antique shop Magnolia Beauregard's, that housed the largest collection of Victoria Era clothing and accessories I've ever seen, and in amazing condition.  Everything from bustling dresses to lace parasols, fans, china, etchings, jewelry and more!!!

If you're on the hunt for something locally made, a little more modern and kicking with bold color, look no further than Mora!!!  This ultra stylish boutique features the original design work of the owner.  The necklaces, rings and earrings inside this shop will stop you on the street as you pass by the front door, then they will pull you inside and into one of their beauties:)  I was no stronger than anyone else;) Mens and womens fashions inside, come on in...  

Want to take home some vintage cowboy boots or a studded clutch for that special night out???  Walk into Honey Pot for the cities prime vintage finds and you're sure to leave happy!!!  This shop is a destination both men and women can flock to for the areas coolest threads.  Don't forget the Chocolate!!!  French Broad Chocolate is here to please!!!  Whether you want to taste and tour in the tasting room or grab some truffles or brownies to go, this place is where all things wonderfully chocolate light up your life!!!   

The perfect way to end another perfect Asheville day....grab a bite and a drink with an old friend;)  Luckily, I know a pretty fabulous gal who hangs around these parts and was free to meet up at Curate, a great place for fresh tapas and pretty awesome drinks!!!  Roma tomato and manchego cheese flat bread followed by roasted eggplant and creamy chicken fritters, Yes Please!!!  Steph gave us the low down on some other great places to eat and shop while in Asheville, and we got to catch up on each others lives as well, it was a pretty awesome night!   

After dinner we wanted to hit the streets and capture our time together again after so long!!!!  :)  And take a few model pics while we were at it!!!

Day 4, our final day was met with coffee and another slice of Steph, followed by our last stop, The Grove Park Inn:)  Famous for it's elite guest list, The Grove Park Inn has seen 100 years of travelers coming to Asheville, N.C. for rest and relaxation.  The shared dream of Edwin Wiley Grove and Fred Loring Seely, both with backgrounds in medicine and pharmaceuticals shared an idea to build a resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the climate was ideal for health benefits.  Making their fortunes in a tonic that became an American medicine cabinet staple that cured the awful chills brought on by malaria, Edwin and Fred began work on their health resort.  Began in 1912, and completed in the Arts and Crafts style, the resort opened in July of 1913 and became a huge success!!!  It was used in World War II as a place where Army and Navy soldiers could rest, relax and recuperate before and after their duties.  

The Grove Park Inn was built using 400 men, hauling huge granite boulders from the surrounding mountains using mules, wagons and ropes.  Talk about a rough day at work!!!  There were even tents set up around the resort to house the workers while they completed this great building in less than a year!!!!  But don't worry, these dedicated guys meant business, they worked hard and were paid handsomely!!!  Throughout the years this resort has catered to Presidents, Politicians, Entrepreneurs, Businessmen and Businesswomen, Actresses and Actors, Musicians, Artists and Writers.  It stands today as a place of great history, magnificent architecture and grand character.  The Grove Park Inn IS Asheville:)   

There is even a Tom Torrens Bell that graces the veranda, I have one of these at home and you can get one too!!!  These beautiful bells look lovely in a garden, on a balcony or inside your home:)    

      I hope you've enjoyed our journey and I hope you make your own:)  Don't forget to write;)      

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