First of all, if you have never been to Asheville, NC, you should go sometime in your life. Or immediately. For a few reasons, really. #1 at the top of the list: Biltmore Estate. We'll get into that later. Pictures to follow. #2: Downtown. #3: Food. #4: Grove Park Inn. We'll start there, and go in reverse order.
Some background info on the trip before we dive in...for my birthday this year, one of Ashley's gifts was a round of golf at the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa golf course. Being from Oregon, naturally I have never heard of this place. But after doing some research, I found out that it was designed by one of the world's most famous designers, Donald Ross. I have never played a Ross course, so this was instantly exciting for me. Then I come to find out that the Grove Park Inn is a Top Ten Spa destination in the world. This place is UNREAL. So anyway, here we go.
#4 - Grove Park Inn. Golf? 10. Bloody Mary on the 11th hole? A solid 9. Playing partner? Easily an 8+, maybe a 9-. Negative points for being a smoker - sorry if I offended any smokers. Jason was his name, he was from Alpharetta, GA. Ring any bells? That's right...he lives about 5 minutes away from Ashley's house in GA. Needless to say, he and I had some things in common, and he was a good golfer, so it made for a great day. Between us, we made 7 birdies I think. That always makes things more fun! But as for the golf itself, it was awesome. The course was hard, which I like, and it was in amazing condition, considering we are 2 weeks into November. I was seriously impressed with this place...and would easily go back to play again. The Spa (which we didn't really see the inside of) was amazing just to look at. Most of it is underground...grotto style. Not to be confused with ghetto style. We looked at some prices, just to be inquisitive.....uhh....about $250 for a 60 minute massage...that being the cheapest treatment you can get. Needless to say, Ashley spent her time in Starbucks writing lesson plans, dreaming about facials, peddies, and steamy hot tub. Clearly my stocks need to do a little better in order for us to make a return trip for anything other than golf!! Overall experience? 9.2
#3 - FOOD. I like food, and lots of it. In fact I am kind of getting fat, but that's beside the point. One of Ashley and I's great habits and traditions is finding fun, new, old, young, hip, whatever places to eat in new towns. The nature of our relationship has blessed us in the fact that we have been so many places together and coincidentally have eaten at a lot of great places. We found a place called Table in downtown Asheville (found it on OpenTable.com, great website. If you are a traveler, USE IT). It was small, upscale, fairly priced, and had great food. I had lobster risotto, Ashley had pork chops......But Asheville is supposedly known for it's food, and I can see why. Downtown is laden with small boutiquey restaurants...I didn't really see any chains at all in downtown, which was nice. But you can walk everywhere, get a good glass of wine or drink at tons of places, and it has the feel of a big city eating spot in a setting like Bend kind of. Overall eating experience (lunch at Bello, glass of wine before dinner at ZLounge, dinner at Table, after dinner drink at Zambra Tapas Bar)? 8.7
#2 - Downtown. This will be short and sweet, because I covered most of it already...but once you park, you don't get in your car again until you leave. I love that. It was $5 flat rate all day, and $1 after 7 PM all night. So that takes most of the guess work out of it. The buildings are old - Pearl District feeling - the streets are easy to navigate, and scenery is amazing. Overall downtown experience? 9.0
One now for #1...BILTMORE ESTATE. Let's start with some stats.
- Biggest house in the USA
- 8,000 acres (used to be 125,000, but the wife sold the rest to the government, which is now a National Forest that the Vanerbilt's head landscape guy started on his own, because he was bored, probably)
- 255 rooms, 43 bathrooms
- Built from 1889 to 1895, opened on Christmas Eve, 1895.
- Owner - George Vanderbilt, father of ONE. That's right, three people lived in it.
- Staff was 66 people.....living in the staff quarters....and 435 living in an adjacent villeage.
- 2.4 million cubic feet of living space....can anyone convert that into square footage for me, please?
- 95% self sustaining while people lived in it...they grew, caught, raised, all food and drink, and operated one of the largest dairies in America at the time.
Ok now for some descriptions. THIS PLACE IS HUGE. It is amazing and cooler than anything I've ever seen. The tour takes you thru about 40% of the "house", if you can even call it that. You see some bedrooms, the billiards room, the gun room, the cigar room, the kitchen (which has seperate rooms for: fruit, veggies, canned goods, baked goods, meat, walk-in fridge, its own cannery...), America's first in-house bowling alley, the first house with underwater lighting in the swimming pool, and the first and maybe only house with a fully functional PIPE ORGAN.
It was a crazy life back then...everyone had servants, and the servants had servants, and you had to have someone help get you dressed for every activity throughout the day, the meals were 7 course meals, your guests had trunks full of clothes and funny hats, you spoke with lots of funky words to try to be impressive, and so on. It was an amazing visit for Ashley and I. We spent about 7 hours on the estate, finishing up at the Winery. It is the 55th largest winery in the USA, and totally self contained on this esate.
It is so hard to describe, but I did my best. Ash and I really had a great weekend together, one of my favorites! After 2 months of living in the same town we aren't sick of each other, so that's good! I hope that sometime in your life you can see the Biltmore Estate. And make sure to get the little head-phone tour thingy...Ashley got one and relayed the info to me (we're cheapos) while I walked around in a daze trying to figure out what I would do if I lived there. Rollerblades made the list.
Overall Biltmore experience? 10.7
Overall weekend experience? 11
Enjoy the day!