Sienna’s spring break is two weeks and a little earlier than most schools. This year we decided to spend the night at the Biltmore Village Hotel and invite our friends Amy Jo and Laiken along. The first day was rainy and stormy which didn’t phase us a bit because we spent most of the afternoon in the Conservatory. The flowers were already amazing:
The girls played some imaginary spy game for a while with walkie-talkies they had made from Lego blocks. All was going well until a Lego somehow ended up behind one of the grates. With a little ingenuity and luck the girls were able to find a stick behind the grate as well (it would be impossible to find a stick out in the open because the Biltmore is always so well-manicured) and they pulled the Lego out without too much drama:
The Orchid Room is always enough to occupy me for a while. Every plant looks like it’s straight out of Alice in Wonderland:
I love how they are using the old terra cotta pots as planters. Interesting fact….these pots are made in Impruneta, Italy. They are formed freehand and the detail is added using the same 19th century molds used for Vanderbilt:
Even though it was drizzling the girls wanted to explore the terrace. You can see all the way to Mount Pisgah from this point. There used to be a swimming pool on the terrace that Mrs. Vanderbilt had installed in the 1930’s. It was filled in sometime in the 1990’s.
I actually got a pose:
The trellis below the terrace:
The tulips were just started to emerge in the gardens when we were there.
“This year crews will plant 56,000 tulips; 14,000 daffodils; and 1,000 hyacinths for a total of 71,000 spring blooming bulbs in the Walled Garden. -from Preparing Biltmore’s Gardens for Cooler Weather
(Click here to see what the tulips looked like in 1930 and what the walled garden looked like back in 1895.)
The daffodils were definitely in full bloom:
One of my favorite stories about the Biltmore is how Chauncey Beadle, the Biltmore Superintendent, used to send young Cornelia Vanderbilt packages of pressed flowers when she was traveling abroad with her parents. Cornelia had her own flower garden as a young girl and it’s so thoughtful that he kept her in the loop.
We stayed at the Village Hotel. The girls had so much fun with their dolls. They played board games in the lobby and checked out the little coffee shop. We had a great view of the fountain courtyard and the girls found watching the maintenance man cleaning the money out of the water epic. We ate dinner at Cedric’s Tavern where our favorite thing to order is the ham and cheese fondue appetizer.
The next morning we woke up early and went to the house. I hadn’t done the audio tour in a few years so we decided to take our time and do that. They have a kids version of the audio that keeps them interested for the two hours it takes to go through the enormous house. The day before we had spent time at the blacksmith and he told us that one of these hanging lights in the winter garden had to be recreated a few years ago. It took almost a year to remake it. We thought maybe we had figured out which one it was by the tint of the glass but the iron work must have been flawless:
Every time I go I notice something new that I didn’t notice before. Like the ceiling of the breakfast room:
This is part of a huge painting by Cornelia Vanderbilt and her husband in the basement of the Biltmore. It took three weeks in 1925 for them to paint it with folklore scenes for their New Years Eve party. I love that it was left all these years. (Read more about the basement here.)
The Biltmore is one of my favorite places on earth and I go at least once a month. I love learning everything I can about the fascinating people that lived there. Right now there’s a literary themed exhibit and they are showcasing what George Vanderbilt liked to read and some of the books in his collection. On display is Mr. Vanderbilt’s copy of Peter Pan, a first American edition! He was one of the best read men in the country.
When we were finishing up our last tour I saw two ladies peering into the Billiard Room and talking with Sienna. As I got closer I could hear them asking Sienna questions and Sienna was answering them with the confidence of a historical expert. I’m raising a little Biltmore buff ya’ll.
If you’ve ever visited the Biltmore you have to read the Lady on the Hill. I learned so much about the house through the years:
Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon by Howard E. Covington Jr.
Biltmore Estate (Images of America: North Carolina) by Ellen Erwin Rickman