After a tearful goodbye to Oma & Opa at the Knoxville airport (boo hoo—we miss them ), we had to cheer ourselves up the next day with a visit to Biltmore Estate.
This is the 180,000 square foot, 250-room, largest privately owned house in the US. George Vanderbilt inherited his family’s wealth from railroad and steamboat investments, and commissioned this home built in the 1890s for $10 million while still a bachelor. We went early in the day to bike ride with my brother, and look at the farm animals they have there (the Estate is 8000 acres and includes trails, ponds, a farm, winery, hotel, gardens, woodlands…if you’ve watched Downton Abbey, this is its American twin—splendid).
The Village, where we had ice cream after our bike ride.
View from the back “deck”—terrace, perhaps is a better word?
The kids & I left for lunch (the lunch prices on the premises were fitting with the grandeur of the place) and came back later in the day, still hoping to get in on a tour of the home. We got up to the house at 4:25, and I knew they stopped letting visitors in at 4:30, so I asked if we’d still be able to get in. The kind man handling parking told us to just park up front and we should make it. So I did!
I think the little Mazda fits in quite nicely!
We were the last ones let in for the tour (self-guided) and felt like we were the ONLY ones in this humongous house. (Except for the rather unpredictable and stealthy appearance of various black & white-clad docents to answer our questions.) It is quite impressive and beautiful inside and out. We especially liked the swimming pool and bowling alley, all the original furnishings and the LIBRARY!! George had the Sistine Chapel-ish ceiling brought over from Europe in 13 panels.
After some silliness with the sad-faced lions,
we explored the Gardens:
A lovely day, and after all that finery, boy, does it feel good to run through green grass barefoot!