It’s an estate the size of a small European nation. The Biltmore counts in its original footprint some of the tallest mountains on the East Coast. And that’s where we’d spend most of the day.
But, we started in downtown Asheville at a restaurant called the Early Girl. As we waited an hour for a table I was sure we’d stumbled into the Portlandia Brunch Special.
Asheville has that same sorta vibe as places like Burlington or Portland. It’s a hipsterism that can seem simultaneously authentic and contrived. Whatever it is, it’s entertaining. The people watching is fabulous. The 90’s are clearly alive in Asheville.
After brunch and a stop in a pretty sweet bookstore, we were on our way out towards Biltmore by way of one last brewery.
Highland Brewery is one of the original craft brews in Asheville. They’re a bit out of town, but their space is worthy of the trip. We had a round of beers, listened to some reggae and left for the biggest house in America.
There was a bit of Google maps confusion on the way there. Just searching for “Biltmore” sends you to a different place than “Biltmore House”. It turns out they’re both right. “Biltmore” is the entry gate…and then you have another 15-minute drive through the estate before getting to the house.
Palatial is a descriptor that gets tossed around pretty loosely. But, in this case it is the absolute perfect word. More than 250 rooms, including a library that probably makes even Library of Congress librarians swoon. The ceiling in the main dining room is seven stories high. The fireplaces are bigger than our apartment.
You get the point.
We toured during the day, then went for a wine tasting before touring in the evening. A little bonus, the ticket to the grounds comes with the wine tasting.
When we came back for the evening tour everything was decked out in Christmas lights. The songs of carolers echoed from the stone hallways. This place is already in full holiday mode. And instead of resisting, I decided to just swim with the current.
We did the audio tour, it takes about two and a half hours. That shows just how big this place is. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. The Biltmore is a landmark to an age when phenomenal wealth was gained by the few on the backs of the many. Don’t expect an honest discussion about the Gilded Age here. It’s a beautiful estate, but its cost isn’t something that can be measured in dollars.