Biltmore Estate – A Grand Tour

Friday, August 14th, 2009


I have a confession to make, I love to talk. In fact if I’m really excited about something, you really can’t shut me up. That’s where Twitter comes in! I can tweet about stuff, and share my boundless enthusiasm with the world. My followers can choose to listen or not … I belong to a terrific little twitter travel community, filled with wonderfully supportive travel professionals and enthusiasts.

One of the things I recently tweeted about was a weekend girl’s getaway with my daughter and her friend Carly to Asheville, North Carolina, it was Asheville this, Asheville that, Biltmore this, Foodtopia that… I was gushing. My only complaint was that the visit was too short.

As luck would have it, Biltmore Estate was listening! And graciously invited me back for a grand tour.

These lovely people were very sympathetic to my dismay at not being able to do full justice to their fair city and they asked whether I would be interested in heading back there and doing the city properly.

They would put me up at the Inn at Biltmore Estate, I could explore the Estate at my leisure and they’d show me the sights of Asheville. Would I be interested? I was already packing my suitcase.

A couple of weeks later, I flew to Asheville in the late afternoon from Charlotte airport; it was one of the shortest flights I have ever experienced. Pretty much as soon as plane was in the air we were preparing for landing, I swear the flight was probably about twenty minutes. That’s the kind of flying I love! Jean from Biltmore Estate was waiting for me at the Asheville Airport and off we went in her yummy yellow SUV to begin my three-day tour of what Asheville has on offer for women travelers.

We started with a lovely meal at The Bistro, a Biltmore Estate restaurant that prides itself on serving vegetables and produce from local, family-owned farms as well as the Biltmore Estate’s Kitchen Garden. I ordered the Sorrells Creek mountain trout, (locally farmed of course) and served with gnocchi, patty pan squash, baby zucchini and carrots.

One word – delicious. I was fast becoming a fan of the ‘farm to table’ menu adopted by many of Asheville’s restaurants.

After dinner and lots of girlie chat we made our way to the Inn at Biltmore. The grounds of the Inn were framed by dark mountains backlit with an orange red Inn_Lobby_300sunset and the gardens seemed to drink in the fading light and glow with color. The Inn welcomes guests with an air of gracious luxury, and I immediately felt like I was staying at the modern day equivalent of the Biltmore Estate mansion. The main lobby was filled with lush Vanderbilt inspired furnishings, its soaring ceiling and endless windows communing with nature at its best. I said goodbye to Jean and made my way to my room. The room lived up to Vanderbilt standards – to describe it as generously sized would be an understatement. How often can you say you got lost in a hotel room? The Pinchot Junior Suite included a living room, ½ bath, small sitting area, bedroom, an enormous ensuite bathroom with a separate walk-in shower and a whirlpool bathtub. I tucked myself into the king-sized bed that evening guiltily reveling in the luxury that is Biltmore.


The next day began with the view. The windows always beckon, the morning scenery tranquil and green. Outside there is no noise; no cars, no traffic, no crowds, just the mountains and this grand inn nestled in the middle of an 8,000-acre estate… Quiet, luxurious, nature. After a buffet breakfast on the Terrace overlooking the Inn’s immaculate gardens, I sat with my coffee and thought; can it get any better than this?

Jean picked me up in a her yellow convertible and we made our way to Asheville and our first stop of the day, a ‘Hard Hat’ tour of the new Indigo Asheville Hotel. This 100% smoke free boutique hotel is right in the heart of downtown Asheville, a great location for any girl’s getaway. Indigo_300The hotel will be opening in the fall of 2009, and taking reservations at the end of November.

After the Hard Hat tour and lunch (I got to ride up a construction elevator, so cool) I met up with Kelby Carr, Asheville’s Mommy Blogger Extraordinaire, we chatted about everything from social media, to our dogs and kids while treating ourselves to a Frozen Custard from Kamm’s Custard Shop. I’ve only been to Asheville twice and each time I’ve managed to make sure I got my frozen custard fix.

Saying goodbye to Kelby I embarked on leisurely and solo exploration of downtown Asheville. Sometimes being on your own can be a wonderful way to experience a new city. I worked my way through all the lovely handicraft shops in the Grove Arcade; a beautifully restored Art Deco building, which also has the distinction of being the oldest, covered shopping mall in North America. Afterwards I strolled over to Woolworth Walk which is home to 150 exhibiting artists and artisans selling and making jewelry, fine art, decorative arts, and crafts. SodaFountain_300This place also boasts an old fashioned Soda Fountain, very retro!

I managed to catch the trolley car heading towards the Historic Biltmore Village, many thanks to the trolley driver who let me on even though they were on the last leg on the tour. I explored Biltmore Village for the rest of the afternoon, a popular Asheville shopping district with “quaint tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks, open air dining, and original historic houses from the 1900’s” (Biltmore Village website). My favorite shop there? Hands down – New Morning Gallery, with 12,300 square feet of handcrafted furniture, home accessories, glass, pottery, jewelry – all made by American artists.

At the end of my afternoon of retail therapy I made my way to the Grand Bohemian Hotel where I was to meet up with Jean from Biltmore Estate and another of my favorite Asheville people – Sherida from the one and only Foodtopian Society, a fellow boxer dog owner and lover of sustainable food. We had arranged to have dinner at the Bohemian’s Red Stag Grill restaurant, a beautifully decorated space paired with the most wonderful food – once again showcasing farm to table food. Be sure to try the Truffle fries.

The next day was spent on Biltmore Estate, Jean arranged for a River Float trip on the French Broad River, a quiet and serene meander through the meadows and forests of the Estate with glimpses of deer and sun tanning turtles along the banks. Afterwards we visited the 4 acre perfectly groomed Kitchen Garden (my garden does NOT look like this), toured Riverbend Farm and did some wine tasting at the Estate Winery. I loved it all, and was so happy to have been giving this opportunity to enjoy the whole ‘Biltmore Experience’. We ended our tour with lunch outside at the Arbor Grill, a perfect spot for a great girl’s lunch out! We lingered over our late lunch, I was savoring every bite and drinking in the spectacular mountain views with the knowledge of the afternoon’s flight home rapidly approaching. Even before leaving I began planning my next trip to Asheville. After all there are nearby state parks waiting to be explored, many local markets and festivals needing to be visited and shops and restaurants to discover and people to meet…


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