Monday, January 26, 2009

Honeymoon Journal

Honeymoon Journal

We arrived to cool, crisp air of Charlotte, North Carolina for our honeymoon. (And no, our plane didn’t land in a river!)

After we picked up the rental car, Greg unpacked his GPS and we headed out to Asheville. (Having the GPS was a great idea, though from time to time it wondered if we were frolicking in the fields instead of driving on a road!) The town has a quaint feeling, focused around the Biltmore Estates, which is indeed a fact, because the "village" was built in order to build the Biltmore Estates. (The name coming from "Vanderbilt "bilt" and "moor" - meaning rolling hills).

As we arrived early, the bellmen took our luggage and vehicle to wait until our room was prepared and ready for us. We toured around the Inn, which was very ornate. It matched the ambiance of the Biltmore House. A lady was playing the flute, classical music greeted us. The lobby was huge with countless comfortable chairs, tables, books, floral arrangements (fresh from their conservatory), the room was clad in iron rod design and chandeliers. It was elaborate. For breakfast and supper, one could go down the stairs to the Dining Room. I loved how the fireplace in the lobby was right above the fireplace in the Dining Room. You could see both at one time when you looked at the staircase.

The staff on the Estates was very attentive, calling us by Mr. & Mrs. O'Brien. They knew we were newlyweds and offered their congratulations and I don't just mean the bellmen, butlers, concierge, front desk, but also the Dining Room staff and members at other locations. It seemed they made it their business to know about their guests.

As for our room, it was lovely with a balcony view of the mountains. When Greg made the arrangements for our honeymoon, he decided on the Romantic Getaway. The package included the balcony view, breakfast and supper (either at the Dining Room or the Bistro), entrance to the Biltmore Estates, fresh roses and champagne, along with turn down service with chocolates.

Greg said, "One of the things that I loved about your profile was that you loved nature. You liked the beach, but you preferred the mountains. I'm like that too."

We drove out to the Biltmore Estates the first day there, because it was the last day for Christmas decorations on the Biltmore and we wanted to see the "halls decked out." Thirty-Six (36) Christmas Trees! 36 in total were inside the house and one was so massive, the Banquet Hall Christmas Tree - I'm talking, the width of the tree was as big as our front room massive - so big that the "ornaments" were gift boxes - no kidding - it was huge! We weren't able to take pictures inside the house, but we were prepared for this information.

Before going on our honeymoon, we googled Biltmore Estates and read a blog detailing a horrible story of a lady's experience. She claimed, "I wasn't looking for trouble, but I sure found it." The lady correctly stated that there is only one "no photos allowed" sign just inside the entrance to the house. The notice wasn't large at all. She didn't see the sign and after a few clicks of the camera, she was removed from the house and her camera was taken away! She felt as though she was a camera criminal for the way they swooped down on her. I took her blog to heart and strongly resisted the urge to snap a few.

The house is beautiful, almost overly so, but I imagine that was what George Vanderbilt wanted. The architecture was French chateau style, to imitate France's Chateau de Blois. Fleur de Lis were both inside and outside the establishment. (Which hey ~ considering our wedding theme, I had to smile!) The Vanderbilt family's mansion was created in the late 1800s. It is the largest home that is privately owned in the United States. Greg asked, "Does anyone live here?" And one tour guide responded, "Nobody has lived here since the 1950's." I thought this was sad. Greg questioned, "Then how can you say it’s the largest home if nobody is living in it?" We didn't get a response to that one.

Biltmore house is huge and certainly has enough space for descendents to share with the tourists at 175,000 square feet with 250 rooms. What's amazing is the architecture and design ~ so advanced more than 130 years ago. The house even had 2 elevators and yes, they were built in with the home. Are you wondering how George Washington Vanderbilt was able to afford such a mansion? His grandfather was in the Shipping business and made his money there. Then his father was a businessman and ended up having a legacy of billions to provide to his many children.

Greg said, "And what did George do? Did he have a job? What type of education did he have?" The response from Estate members, "He traveled. He could speak 9 languages." And... he built a house, using up his inheritance. (It took 6 years to build the house, which opened on Christmas Eve of 1895) I can’t imagine living in a house that large!

George was claimed as “the most eligible bachelor,” for a long time. Mostly because he constantly traveled, it was difficult for the single ladies to find him. There was a story told in the audio tour about how one father wanted his daughter to catch George Vanderbilt's attention. The father sent his daughter on 3 tours of wherever George was going. George was "not amused by this." He did eventually fall in love with another lady; they married and had a daughter.

What would you do if you inherited "billions"? Sure, I'd buy a bigger house, but not one that has "too many walls between us." Maybe I'd have a house in the mountains and another one in a different state as well, though New Orleans would always be home for me. But would I build a mansion? No, and it's nice to know Greg feels the same way. (I should add that I read George started out wanting a "Summer Estate" ~ wow, talk about an idea expanding!)

Though it seems George might have spent his fortune on the house, he also wanted the property (from one ridge of the mountains to the other side of another set of mountains) to be self sustaining. I respect him for the self-sustaining idea. They had a farm; they had their own brick making company on the property to build the house; they had their own conservatory for fresh gardens and flowers, etc. I liked this idea and the idea that the servants lived inside the mansion and from all that is told in the audio tour, the servants were treated very well. The house was structured that the Butler could ring the various areas inside the home to expedite good service to the guests.

It would take a couple of tours to drink in all of the wealth inside the Biltmore House. I enjoyed seeing the tapestries and paintings and especially Napoleon's red and white chess set. Vanderbilt was a "collector" for sure!

He also appreciated land as a luxury. He hired the "father of American Landscape Architecture ~ Frederick Law Olmsted." (the mastermind of Central Park in New York City) Olmsted believed that "nothing in nature is a straight line" and hence, the meandering roads throughout the Estate property. It's a lovely drive and very relaxing. Greg made me laugh when he said, "You know, the people who work the Estate don't take these roads, there is probably a private road that leads them directly to the house in a straight shot!"

Though we weren't able to take pictures inside the Biltmore House, I have plenty of other pictures to share of the Estate! I’ll share the Picasa link at the end of this post.

Our first night at the Inn, we had reservations in the Dining Room. Again, we were properly dressed, because we were well prepared in our Google search. There were complaints from other guests that they weren't allowed into the Dining Room due to their attire. I can appreciate that the staff wants to keep a certain ambiance and this includes the dress code. I had no issue with that and I'm glad they had no issue with our apparel.

What I did take issue with ~ was the food. In a posh restaurant, we were open to trying new things and knowing that the "hoity toity" (Greg's words) atmosphere would mean small portions and strange combinations, we still weren't prepared for the appetizer. We laugh about it now.

The appetizer menu description stated biscuits and gravy with quail. Neither of us has had quail before... You have to see the picture of this thing. The "gravy" was a raspberry sauce, NOT a gravy. The biscuit had tooth-chipping potential for hardness! The quail.... the quail was R A W ! Greg even asked, "Is the quail supposed to be served like this?" Errr, yes, it was a little "wild" to the taste and we did try it. Never again, though. The quail was cut up into a few medallion pieces and then.. a leg. I swear, I was waiting for that thing to grow feathers and fly!

They must have a thing about not cooking feathered friends all the way, because the duck I ordered was not Medium Well... it was more like medium and pink in the middle. We determined by the end of the day that we would continue having breakfast in the Dining Room (though towards the end of our stay, we lavished with the room service breakfast), but for the afternoon we would go to the Bistro.

The Bistro was a fancy restaurant as well, but no dress code. Service was excellent and there wasn't anything we tried that disappointed us.

There was one supper experience I have to share. We went to the Bistro, ordered our meal. One table away, a lady and gentleman were seated. The lady and her lover (we assume) were very loud. At first Greg thought she was drunk, but we figured she wasn't after a while.. She kept going on and on about how her sons didn't drain her financially like how his daughters did and that his daughters took him for 70,000 and made him broke, where her sons only costs her 50,000. The "her sons" and "his daughters" were our clue that it wasn't a marriage between the two of them. She also made comments about, "We've been down this road, let's not have this talk again." Yet she couldn't stop talking about it. I felt as though we were listening to their life history! At one point, Greg's eyes shot over to them and I asked what she just said. He wrote it on a piece of paper, "She said - if I trusted you with my naked body, you can trust me!" It was a soap opera. Greg said, "Thank God you aren't anything like that." I replied, "Thanks, ditto that. Just think of them as being free entertainment." We were happy to see them leave. I don't think it ended well though, because the man jumped out of his chair and left her with the bill.

I feel as if I’ve written a book, are you still with me? Ok, I’ll end with a few quick highlights. If you’re going to the Biltmore Estates:

~ Definitely walk around on the grounds, enjoy the beautiful scenery. Take the hike to the Athena Statue. It’s lovely!

~ Go on the carriage ride, it was relaxing and brings you to a great view of the Biltmore House. You also get to pet the Belgium horses. They are “voice activated.” When I asked the driver the horses’ names, she had to whisper very low to me, because the way she “starts ‘em up” is to call them by name. She wasn’t kidding either. Oh and “Yaw” means for them to go to the left and “Gee” means go to the right. (We saw some wild turkey on the ride as well, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.)

~ Absolutely MUST see ~ the Roof Top Tour. You go through rooms not included on the standard house tour and you go through the attic to get to another part of the roof top. Fantastic camera shots. While we were up there, it started to snow!

~ I read that some people weren’t impressed with the Wine Tour, so we didn’t do that. However,Greg did some wine tasting and enjoyed the award winning flavors. If you know me, you know I don’t drink. Never did acquire a liking for any kind of alcohol.

~ If you stay at the Inn Resort, take care when driving at night. We saw a deer. It didn’t have a “deer in the headlight look,” rather it was looked as if to say, “Just what in the heck do you think you’re doing on MY property.” Gutsy creature!

~ Enjoy the conservatory, but don’t plan on staying inside the building too long. It’s a hot house alright!

I’ll end this post on something Greg said. I asked him what he liked the most about the honeymoon, meaning, did he have a favorite tour. Greg replied, “You want me to be honest? Just being with you was my favorite part.”

Awww, I love you, Honey!
You're welcome to view pictures from our honeymoon - click here.


Hillbilly Duhn said...

It sounds beautiful! Wow. And Greg is such a sweet heart, the best was just being with you...AWE!

Congrats and good luck with the many years yet to come!

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

just being with you, ahhh!
36 Christmas trees????? Holy cats!

Kel said...

Awe, he is always so sweet. I'm so glad you both had a wonderful honeymoon...glad you had a safe trip!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Happy honeymooning. Hope it continues forever!!!

lmerie said...

Glad you had a great honeymoon! Hubby and I went to Asheville for our honeymoon too! We stayed at a B&B in town.

They did not offere the roof top tour but they did offer a behind the scenes tour that I really enjoyed. I kinda really did not like the audio tour - kinda felt a diconnect from hubby, especially being our honeymoon and all! :)

Lilly's Life said...

Great post Aleta and welcome back. Greg is a sweetheart its true and glad he is because you so deserve it. That was really interesting and the funniest bit was the line that lady used, 'if I trusted you with my naked body, you can trust me!" OMG - thats a line for a country song.

I know what you mean about fine dining restaurants my ex owned them and I never ate there. It used to annoy him no end but I just cannot stomach food that is undercooked and is too rich no matter how nice the first bite is.

I did go and peek at all your wedding photos - beautiful and now I will go and have a look at your honeymoon pictures. Great post and I wish you both all the best!

Lauren said...

I have to finish reading your post later because it's very long but so good. Have you considered becoming a travel writer? If not you REALLY should!

Hippomanic Jen said...

It sounds wonderful - and good work on the preparation you did!

Greg does sound like a sweetie.

bfs ~ "Mimi" said...

You two are building such beautiful memories, Aleta! I'm so impressed with your relationship ~ and happy that you share such a strong love and friendship with each other! You both deserve all the love in the world.

And what a wonderful place to honeymoon!!

Wep said...

Congrats sweetie! I loved the photos!

Kavi said...

Sounds wonderful ! I am sure these are a treasure trove of memories for a life time !!

Have fun !!


Debbie Y. said...

Loved the pics, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Helen said...

Thank you for sharing such a lovely part of your lives ... be happy!

The Blonde Duck said...

What a wonderful honeymoon!

I couldn't have done the fancy dinner. I would have demanded they take the quail back and get me a bacon cheeseburger.

Loving Annie said...

I loved reading all of that, Aleta ! Thank you so much for all of the details and descriptions. I found it very interesting ! It sounds exquisite.
If I'm ever there, I will remember not to eat the quail :)

No Easy Beads said...

Thanks for sharing parts of your special time with Greg. You are such a good writer. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures.

namaste said...

congrats on your beautiful wedding! i love a love story and you certainly have it!

thanks for visiting my blog.


Holly said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time in a very romantic setting.

Deborah Godin said...

You describe a very lovely and memorable trip (except for the raw food!). Joy to you both!

Romany Angel said...

Wowe Aleta. I have just spent a very enjoyale hour reading your post and looking at all your honeymoon pics. It's certainly a very posh looking place but I had to laugh at it being called an "Inn". My concept of an Inn is somewhere small and cosy. Ha ha.

Thank you for sharing such a special time with us.

Walker said...

See what you did?
I read that whole post and the "trust you with my naked body" twice and I forgot the whole thing, except the naked part becauss I never for get those parts, because of that last line.
That last line sums it all up in a nutshell.
The two of you together was your honeymoon not where you went.