Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Christmas for each other - Biltmore House Candle Light Tour...

Biltmore House on the night of December 17, taken with my camera phone. 

On December the 17, we went to the Biltmore House in N.C. for the Candle light tour. This is something we have done before many, many years ago, and have longed to return and experience again. This year, we finally decided that we were going, one way or another, even if going entailed eating more cheese sandwiches to afford doing so!

Christmas Tree outside of Cedric's at Biltmore Estates

So, in setting up our reservations, we discovered we could make reservations at several possible restaurants and thought, Cool - that will solve what and where to eat dinner before going on the tour. So the Saturday arrived, and as some of you may know we lost our cat WeeBit in the middle of the night, before our trip. So we set out on the road to Biltmore somewhat sad and tired, even though we were happy to be going on the trip. Then the fun started. Not realizing that the restaurant, Cedric's, was actually on Biltmore Estates, we attempted to find Cedric's via GPS. Then by phone. According to our GPS both Cedric's and Biltmore House are in the middle of downtown Asheville (Which they most certainly are NOT!) and according to 411, Cedric's did not exist. We finally got it straightened out and arrived very late to our dinner. 
Once we were there, it was lovely and we had a fabulous time - some of the best food we've ever eaten and excellent service by the staff! 

Walking up the approach to Biltmore House, after dinner.
From there we went on to the House. For anyone who has never been there, there are hardly words to describe it...Biltmore House is a Châteauesque-styled mansion near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at 135,000 square feet and featuring 250 rooms. 101 rooms are bedrooms.On Christmas Eve 1895, Biltmore House opened its doors for its first family celebration. An art connoisseur and collector, George filled his mansion with Oriental carpets, tapestries, antiques, and artwork, including paintings by Renoir and Whistler, and a chess set that had belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. After Vanderbilt died in 1914 his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, completed the sale of 85,000 of the original 125,000 acres to the federal government, which carried out her husband's wish that the land remain unaltered, and that property became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest. 8000 acres remain to form Biltmore Estates as they are today, including a dairy, a winery, shops, and extensive glorious gardens. It is still owned today by the surviving descendants of George Vanderbilt, who, as one of the tours states, do not preserve the house to make a profit, but seek to make a profit to preserve the house and its incredible legacy. 

Main Entrance to Biltmore
The glorious part of the Candle Light Christmas Tour is that the house is decorated as it was on the night it was opened to the public in 1895, with Christmas trees in virtually ever room, antique toys, candle light and roaring fires in the fire places. 

Stone Lion at the entry
Not sure if he's happy about his decoration,
or not.....
However, there are no words to describe the experience of walking through the house, nor can pictures do it justice. Photography is forbidden inside the house, but there are rooms in it that are beyond belief - the Dining Hall is 72 feet long, 42 feet wide, and its walls stretch up 70 feet tall. Wall decorations in the Banquet Hall at Biltmore Mansion include priceless Flemish tapestries from the 16th century and medieval weaponry. The room also features a triple fireplace and an organ loft. The oak dining table can expand to accommodate 64 guests and the acoustics are perfect. The organ still plays. Over the doorway of the Hall are the words "Let there Be Peace, oh Lord, in My Time" in Latin.

And then there is the Library. There just are no words. Go look at the link to a picture of the Library here, right now. Go on, go look. There are 10,000 books in this room, and an estimated total of 22,000 total belonging to the estate...which they are STILL working on cataloging! The mural in the ceiling is The Chariots of Aurora by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741), which the Vanderbilts purchased secretly from a Venetian family who found themselves in financial straits; they sold it with the proviso that its provenance was not to be remarked upon and the price paid was not to be revealed. Today it is known to have come from the Palazzo Pisani on the Grand Canal in Venice. Now, they do not allow photography inside Biltmore on the tours....however, I was a little bit naughty. 

Detail of  the Library ceiling painting with my Cell phone....

I snuck a shot of the Library Ceiling with my cell phone. There was a tour guide next to us, so I couldn't really aim or focus - I just fired and hoped. All those cornices and stone work up there are a painted illusion.

This shot was taken from the third floor over looking the front entrance and grounds with the glorious decorated tree in the center. The rest of the house is just as glorious as the two rooms mentioned above with a huge ginger bread house in the kitchens in the basement, a swimming pool (!) and a bowling alley, as well as an exercise room.

Exterior shot of Biltmore - my cell phone did amazingly well
 - much better then our actual  camera did; evidently the technology has improved....

And this is the Christmas Tree on the from lawn,
reflected in the pond in front of it.

And in this shot of the tree,
you can see people standing silhouetted against the lights,
which gives you an idea of how big this tree really is!!!
We could not have a had a more wonderful, lovely romantic time, and as it was where we went the year we were dating, almost 8 years ago, it was a lovely thing to both remember, and to bring the reality into the present day and make new memories. We may not get to go every year...but it is a tradition we want to keep as often as we can pull it off - Christmas at Biltmore. Always! 


  1. Sounds like a beautiful evening! Glad you went and had some romantic fun!

  2. Thank you, beloved, for sharing such a magical evening with me! I am blessed.

  3. I think we are both blessed to have each other!

  4. I really love Biltmore. You article is very good. It was very easy for me to rent a Biltmore square condo immediately after i arrived here from Asia.