On Thanksgiving Day we awoke to the sun rising proudly over the blue ridge mountains. Our cabin provided a cozy night of sleep and we were ready to start our busy day of touring, cooking, and eating. At 8:30 a.m. my dad and brother headed off for a snowy hike while my Mom, Veronica, Ryan and I took off for our tour of the breathtaking Biltmore Estate.
Biltmore Estate is a jaw dropping mansion nestled on 125 acres in a valley of the blue ridge mountains right outside of Asheville, NC. The country mansion, built between 1889 – 1895 served as the luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Yes, those Vanderbilts! Today, it is open to the public and is the largest privately owned home in the United States.
With a distinct eye and a passionate drive, George Vanderbilt designed and decorated the elaborate estate with only the best materials, artisans, builders, landscapers, and decor. While the building was under construction, an entire village was formed on the grounds full of all the workers and artisans. They also built a railroad leading to the construction site. No expense was spared! The beautiful grounds were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park.
The 178,926 square feet, including 250 rooms and 43 bathrooms are filled with original artwork, custom woodwork and furniture, 65 fireplaces, 16th century tapestries, rugs, and priceless decorative pieces collected from around the world. Highlights include the library with 10,000 volumes, a bowling alley, an indoor swimming pool, great hall with 70 foot ceilings, and beautiful winter garden atrium.
The mansion was lavishly decorated for Christmas – I was so ready to make myself at home in front of one of the 70 elaborately decorated Christmas trees or fireplaces that were the size of studio apartments. It was also fun to see the servants quarters and kitchen – I couldn’t help but think of Downton Abbey. It was hard to imagine that this was the daily home of a real American family. Truly a special experience!
You cannot take pictures inside of the mansion, so the indoor photos I am sharing are courtesy of the Biltmore website
After touring the inside of the house we explored the luscious grounds which included a beautiful flower conservatory and gardens.
Touring this beautiful, gilded home is a must for anyone in the area!
Before leaving the Biltmore village we hit up the Biltmore winery and did a fun wine tasting. We tasted some good wines, but only a select are grown on site at the Biltmore vineyards. It was a great way to warm up for the Thanksgiving meal cooking.
Once back at Eric’s home in the mountains of Leicester, we began preparing our Thanksgiving feast. Our gracious hosts, Veronica and Eric are vegan and we were cooking an entirely vegan Thanksgiving dinner. We had all the staples of the traditional feast like, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. But yes, no turkey. The meat was substituted with a celebration roast. Personally, I’m not a fan of turkey and have never eaten the bird on Thanksgiving day. Give me stuffing and corn and I’m a happy girl!
We had a lot of fun having some pre dinner drinks and being silly with each other. Dinner was delicious and as is expected, we stuffed ourselves to the point of being uncomfortable. But, we pulled through, finished off the wine and had a fun night playing games. We must have gone through an entire deck of cards for Gestures and have priceless memories of us acting out hilarious clues. We played boys against girls and had quite the rivalry going. Ryan nicknamed our drinks “Guessing Juices” and as it always goes – the girls won. High five!
Truly thankful for my fun family! We may clash, me may be all different, but we’re family and in the end we have fun and love each other. Isn’t that the best part about family?