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Over 60...and Getting Younger: August 27, 2010

Southern Hospitality, Part One

We arrived at Asheville, North Carolina after a short, two-hour trip on Delta Airlines. Our destination was the historic, gracious Biltmore Estate. It was our first visit to the lush, green land of North Carolina.

We rented a Toyota Camry (red) and drove to the fabled Biltmore Estate. We were staying at “The Inn,” a large, luxurious building run by the descendants of the Vanderbilt clan. Huge “V” monograms were everywhere on the bedsteads, the welcome mats, and in the dining room. Family portraits hung everywhere to give a sense of history.

Let me take my reader on a brief tour of the 8,000 acre Biltmore Estate and Asheville.

The Biltmore House is the largest privately owned residence in the United States. The house itself was opened on Christmas Eve, 1895. The house itself sits on 4 acres and contains over 250 rooms, all for one family and their guests.

The four-story structure contains a huge banquet hall, a billiard room, a winter garden, a breakfast room, a salon, a music room, a tapestry gallery, and a library, all on the first floor. The second and third floors have his-and-her bedrooms, a sitting room, and numerous guest bedrooms. A bowling alley with an indoor swimming pool and a gymnasium are also present. The Vanderbilts entertained many illustrious guests, so they provided a Bachelor’s Wing.

Lorraine and I stayed at “The Inn.” It was a joy. Breakfast and supper were served graciously by a staff of compliant and helpful employees. After dinner, we would sit on the veranda on rocking chairs and watch nature put on a light show against the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Buses ran constantly through the estate. There was a winery that produced the delicious Biltmore-labeled wines. Four restaurants served southern specialties and gourmet entrées while never leaving the estate.

A circular mountain-top pool was a dream to swim across, again while viewing the mountains in the distance. Also on the grounds was a quaint, complete village, called Antler Hill. It contained an old-fashioned restaurant, a winery, and a creamery, for delicious ice cream treats. The Biltmore farm produces much of the food.

On our second day we took the bus to Asheville, North Carolina. It is a “happy town”, and the people are warm and friendly. Southern accents fill the air and give the tourist a sense of well-being. It’s a town of 76,000 people, where tourism is the main industry.

We took the Gray Line Red Trolley Tour of Asheville, “Step on and Step off” at a variety of interesting sites. The drivers were well-trained and proud of their town. We learned of internationally famed writer Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville native who wrote Look Homeward, Angel, and You Can’t Go Home Again. He is buried here. So is O. Henry, the famous short story writer.

Kibbitzing with the drivers and the passengers in an easy southern manner was very enjoyable. Everyone was “just so darn nice!”

Back to the Inn for an elegant supper.