Thanksgiving 2005

Again this year we decided to spend Thanksgiving at Biltimore Estate in Asheville, NC.

We took the rooftop tour this year and were treated to some magnificent views and chilly, windy weather. This is from the front of Biltmore House looking towards the Conservatory and gardens.

One of the beasties that guard the house, this gargoyle, like all of them found here, is hand carved and one-of-a-kind.

On one of the high ledges along the front of the house this gargoyle gets a lot of attention. Legend has it that by patting his tush one can ward off bad luck. I gave him several extra pats.

Still from the rooftop, the statue of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, can be seen in the distance in her shelter. Geo. Vanderbilt took his guests to that spot at the start of his fox hunts. The layout of the wall between is very functional; the diagonal ramps leading up from either side are designed with a horse's gait in mind. The horses would pull carriages of people and supplies for the hunt up the ramps.

Another shot of the Conservatory and gardens from the rooftop.

More gargoyles. They sat on every available corner all around the house. I found them fascinating. Remember, they are all hand carved and no two of them are alike.

Some of the views were spectacular. Geo. Vanderbilt once owned all the land he could see from the house, including the mountain in the distance in this picture. Literally.

Along the back of the house there is a very large patio just off Geo. Vanderbilt's bedroom. From here, we could see wild turkey and deer in the "Deerpark" he established, just as any good English estate owner would. The turkeys are the two dark dots in the middle of the picture and the several deer are seen beyond them in the gentle fold of the landscape.

After returning from the rooftop tour to our room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, it briefly snowed heavily for the second time that day. Here's a shot of it falling. The house would normally be visible in the distance from here.

More snow falling, looking at the closed pool area from our room.

The snow just began to stick as it came to an end. By next morning, it was all but a memory.

The next day, we took the Legacy of the Land guided tour with Deb's brother Roger and his family. This is the 2,000,000 gallon resevoir that held water from a mountain stream used to supply the house with gravity-fed water. It supplied all the fountains seen in various pictures as well as the house itself with as much as 90 p.s.i. of water pressure, all without a single pump!

One of the bridges on the estate forms an wonderful elipse over the Bass Pond.

This stream feeds the Bass Pond with clear water, most of the time... we were told a fascinating story about this.

The telling of the story by Sam, our guide on the tour. It seems Geo. Vanderbilt didn't like when rain caused the stream to become muddy, as muddy water didn't reflect well. So the Biltmore's landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead (yes, of NYCs Central Park fame) designed a one-of-a-kind device that sat between the stream and pond underneath the brick and openings seen in this picture. This device was able to determine when the water of the stream had silt in it and diverted it to a pipeline that ran underneath the pond to a damn beyond, thus preventing the pond from becoming muddy. Mind you, this was done in the 1890s. It's believed that sometime in the 1930s the device failed and was left to sit and deteriorate for decades. When the estate decided to repair the device after spending millions of dollars dredging the pond, no plans could be found for it, and engineers were hired to replicate the device. To date, no one has been able to accomplish this, yet further testament to the genius of Frederick Law Olmstead.

The damn at the other end of the Bass Pond. Careful examination of the wall of the damn reveals the opening of the pipeline from Olmstead's silt removing device. It's just to the right of the bottom of the waterfall over the damn.

Still on the Legacy tour here. Movie buffs might recognize this view from Peter Sellers' last movie Being There. In the last scene of the movie, Sellers' character Chauncy Gardner "walks on water" right here.

Later the same day, we toured the Biltmore Winery, which originally began life as a dairy. This is the most visited winery in America.

The fermentation vats of the winery.

The barrel room with it's French White Oak and American White Oak barrels. This process ages the wine and gives it character, smoothness and taste.

In the basement, this is the winery's "library", where it's select vintages are archived and stored.

At the end of the tour comes the tasting room. Here you can see two "expert wine connoisseurs" debating the merits of a particular vintage.

Thanksgiving Day we were back at the house to tour the gardens and get a closer look at the statue of Diana. Here's a good picture of the 175,000 sq. ft. Biltmore House.

Turning around to face the opposite direction, you encounter the staircase that takes you up to the statue of Diana. Again, the ramps' stairs are laid out at a horse's gait and are approximately 14 ft. wide. The fountains are supplied water from the resevoir behind the statue.

One of the fountains in the ramp.

The statue of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, at the top of the hill.

Another pretty site, this one taken at the top of the ramp.

Looking back at the house from the statue. This picture gives you an idea of the scale of the house.

This picture was taken from the gardens, looking back towards the house.

Another look back towards the house from the garden.

A festive display we found inside the Conservatory.

I caught Amy out on a walk back from the winery in this picture taken from our room at the inn.

Our first evening in Asheville, we met up with my wife's Aunt Carol and cousin Megan, pictured here, and her Uncle John, who were visiting the estate from their cabin in Tennessee. This was taken at the house in the stable courtyard before we had dinner at the Stable Cafe'.

After our Thanksgiving meal, the kids posed for a picture in the inn's library in front of one of two large fireplaces. Left to right, front row is Amy, Courtney and Alexis, back row is Brad and Anna.

The parents did too. Left to right, front row is Tammy, Gigi and Deb, back row is Kevin, Roger and Rich. Roger says he felt a bit small for some reason. Being retired, I didn't feel it was necessary to wear a tie.

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