We have lunch at the Vanderbilts’……

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…….well, as paying guests anyway! George W. Vanderbilt built this beautiful home for himself in Asheville, the town where we are now staying, in1895. Biltmore House looks like a Loire chateau but was fitted out with all mod cons for the time. Hardly anyone had electricity then, for example, but GWV even had underwater lights in his swimming pool. The house and gardens have been open to the public since 1930 to bring in money to preserve the estate, but are still owned by the Vanderbilt family. Prices are eye-watering. We booked online in advance to SAVE $15 per ticket, but it’s a must-see in the area so we gritted our teeth and paid up. However, in the end I felt we did get our money’s worth as we arrived about 11am and didn’t leave till after 7pm, having had a fabulous time.

We toured the house first and blew most of the savings we made on admission by hiring audio guides ($10 each) but they were really good and told you more than the booklet you could pick up free on the way in. We were in the house over two hours! As well as some of the public rooms and the Vanderbilts’ bedrooms, we saw the aforementioned pool and other leisure facilities – he also had a gym and a bowling alley. The kitchens and servants’ quarters gave a realistic perspective of the work involved in running a house like that and were very comfortable for the time so he was probably quite a good employer.

The Stables Cafe is great for lunch – I had a roast veg, smoked cheese and pesto sandwich which was absolutely delicious. Then we braved the sun to wander round the gardens for another couple of hours. Finally, we visited an area where they have converted old farm buildings into a winery and display area. We toured the winery and got to taste some of its products (not bad, but not great) and saw an exhibition of Tiffany lampshades. All in all, an excellent day. Here are a few more shots of the house and grounds.

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