Biltmore III

This is a continuation of our aforementioned trips to Biltmore House. On our third trip up (or geographically down) to the Estate, we held reservations for a lunch buffet at the Deer Park restaurant. Our chauffeur (know to us as Dad) had us right on time. If you’re not typically a fan of buffets, go to this one. Fancier than most, we ate until we couldn’t move. I didn’t eat again until lunch the next day. After completing the meal, we continued on the house. We didn’t have much left to see, having been two previous times, and already have taken the audio tour. We did the walk through for the third time and looked at all the Christmas decorations. With not much left inside to explore, we drove down to the picturesque man-made fishing pond, hopping to get moving after our filling lunch.
We wandered around, enjoying the landscaping and greenery. As I said before, the lawns were designed by the creator of Central Park in New York, so they are both similar in many ways. The rose gardens weren’t really in bloom, ’cause it was rather fall-ish (is that an okay way to describe it?). I’m sure if we visited in spring or summer, we would have spent double the time we did exploring the nature and gardens on the Estate. If it was winter we would have spent half the time we did (us Floridians are such wimps when it comes to cold weather).

Well, for us, visiting checked one more thing off the list of Places to Go. Now we only have that list that’s, oh, maybe 4 feet long of places to go.

Cali

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Biltmore II

Alright, you’ve heard about the history of Biltmore, and most of the rooms I’ve written about. Now on to the ones we were unable to visit last time because of the crowds, and some more facts now that we’ve taken the Audio Tour.
Walking up to the house never ceases to amaze people. You always have to take a moment (and maybe a selfie, if your THAT person), to enjoy the grandeur of the palatial place. But hey, on the second time, you really don’t need more photos than the two hundred you took last time. Let’s keep walking.
On to the small shack to the right of the entrance, we got our time slot and tickets for the audio tour. To kill time, go to the Carriage House gift shop and sample all good things they have for sale.
Entering the house, we picked up our audio devices and headed to the rooms we missed first time around. To be completely honest, the Great Hall didn’t have a large wow-factor for me. I was kinda like “Oh, another too large room.”
Maybe it was just hard for me to get the full-scale of how big it was. Back in the good old days of us touring capitols, I became a veteran of large grand spaces with lots of lavish decoration.
The dining room was next, and to me it was very dark and foreboding. Part of that was probably to protect the priceless Rembrandt and other famous paintings, but I feel like it was a  little too dark. Walking into the next room is kind of like stepping into the sun. Based off of Turkish design, there were lots of bright colors. On the wall there was a very famous engraving by Albret Durer. That small rhino print wasn’t the only Durer in the house. In fact, he had a whole music room filled with his work. Back when they were restoring the house, they found a fireplace mantle covered in hay in the carriage house. The hauled the several ton marble block into the room where it now sits. Carved on either side is an A (left) and a D (right). In the middle is a date. It is thought the mantle was carved by Durer himself, but they have no records on how George Vanderbilt could have come across it. I just love mysteries, don’t you?
Well, that is the end of the previously unseen to us rooms.
The famous artwork gave us more appreciation for Vanderbilt’s efforts to keep art preserved and in his collection.

Cali

The Biltmore House and Estate I

Mr. and Mrs. George Vanderbilt were big spenders. At least that’s the conclusion I draw when I look at their houses, the furnishings in the houses, even the portraits of them that hang on the walls in the house. They look like regal, rich, high-class people. Which is exactly what they were. How did they get the money? Georgie inherited it all from his super-rich grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was the richest American until his death in 1877. All his money was made on the railroads. He split the money between his children. That generation pretty much doubled the money their father had made, especially Cornelius’s oldest son William Henry Vanderbilt. William’s son, Cornelius Vanderbilt II was the next “Head of House”. Now the grandkids spent it. Cornelius II’s younger brother was the owner of Biltmore. Most all of the extremely large mansions in America were built by the Vanderbilt family. Biltmore is just one example. We’ve seen others like The Breakers, in Newport, RI (see our experience here), and the Vanderbilt Mansion in New York state (and this one here).
Enough about the family. If you want to know more, Google it. So lets talk about the house.
THE HISTORY:
The project started in 1889, and 6 years later was completed and opened on Christmas day of 1895. Can you imagine being a guest at the grand opening? Nothing like this house had been seen before. Edith, George’s wife, loved to entertain, and this house was built just for that. To wow people.
In 1899, their only child, Cornelia, was born. I imagine her name was a tribute to her Great-Grandfather. Her mother and father took her all over the world as a child. When they left her home, she had plenty of people to look after her. Sadly, in 1914, George died in surgery. Edith was left with a teenage daughter and a huge estate to manage. She did it though. When Cornelia married John Frances Amhearst Cicel, a British diplomat, Edith walked her down the isle in place of her father. The guest list contained some pretty influential names, such as Astor, Pulitzer, Rockefeller, Churchill, Warton, Roosevelt, Taft, and Coolidge. Cornelia wore a veil worn by her mother, and her mother’s three sisters. The veil was originally worn by the Grandmother. All the females in the family wear the veil when they marry, even the most recent this last spring/summer. It is currently 114 years old, and 7 or 8 generations in the female line has worn it at her wedding. Cornelia and her husband moved into Biltmore, where they had their two sons. After Cornelia and John divorced in 1934, John stayed in the Bachelor’s wing of Biltmore until his death in 1954. Cornelia never returned to the estate. When she died, her sons, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil and William A. V. Cecil Sr., continued to keep the house open to tourists, as it had been since the 1930’s, when there mother had lived there. When both brothers had died, William A. V. Cecil Jr. took over and turned it into a major tourist destination. He ran it up until his recent death.
THE ARCHITECTURE:
The house is designed by Richard Morris Hunt, one of the leading architects of his time. He had worked with the Vanderbilt family before, on other mansions. The gardens and grounds were done by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also did Central Park, in New York City. Biltmore, he considered his last great project before his death. These two, plus Vanderbilt were a good team, and each had respect for the others. Together, they created one of the most notable houses in history.
Most of Biltmore was based off foreign architecture, from France, Italy and Greece. The mansion is full of famous artwork. Many of the uncompleted rooms were used to store incredibly popular paintings. I’ll let Marc tell a bit of what he liked.
“My favorite room is the library, ’cause it’s full of books and had very interesting architecture. It had a humgo black marble fireplace on one side of the room. I would describe the outside Gothic Chateau, which I a style I find interesting, one of my favorite styles. I like Gothic in general, because of all the spires and attention to detail, with all the small but very ornate statues perched around the outside. I find the style mysterious and dark. The one word I’d use to describe Biltmore is immense.”
Large, is one word I would use. At 178,92 square feet, it is one of the biggest privately owned properties in the world.
Now, on to our experience at Biltmore. We purchased season tickets, because that was the cheaper way for us to go. We went on Saturday, and it was incredibly busy. It took us 2 hours to make our way through the house, and we skipped the first floor, all except the Tapestry Hall and the Library. We didn’t go to the Great Hall, Music Room or any of that, knowing that we’d be back. The spiral staircase going up stairs was wonderfully big. I don’t even know how many Christmas trees there were. Wow. I just looked it up. In 2013 they put up 56 Christmas trees around the house, including a 35-foot tree in the Great Hall. On the property, at Antler Hill Village, the hotel, restaurants, and everything, there are 58 additional trees. In the house, 30,000 lights light up the trees and house, mixed with 150 candles. I know that there was a least one tree in every room we saw, and most of them had two to four.
Because its fall, the gardens weren’t all that impressive, but the conservatory was pretty amazing, and I’m pretty sure I went over board with photos of the flowers. Mostly just poinsettia and orchids, but still, it smelled like summer.
After completing our inspection of the mansion, we headed to Antler Hill Village, to learn more about the Vanderbilt family. They had a display on the weddings in the Vanderbilt family. William A. V. Cecil Sr., George’s Grandson, married Mary Lee Ryan, cousin to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, who married J. F. Kennedy. The cousins were both married in their Grandmother’s wedding dress.

We ended our trip after peaking in some of the village shops.
In all, I think we enjoyed the trip a lot. Of course we are planning to go back at least once, maybe more. Next time we are paying the extra 11 dollars each for the audio tour.
Thanks for sticking with me through the long post!
-Cali

October 2017 in Pennsylvania

After being in Pennsylvania for  a month, we have gotten on the road again, headed down south to follow the warm weather. But I do believe I left you after Canada, right? It didn’t take long to get from Canada to Pennsylvania, because we only made a few Wal-mart overnight stops. One night, or I guess two, we spent in a campground to see the Henry Ford museum. There we also had issues with the bus. I couldn’t tell you exactly what went wrong, but we were delayed from going into Pittsburgh. We ended up spend the whole day in 90 degree weather and Dad spent all of the time underneath the bus. We only got to the nearest Wal-mart, where we spent the night, and headed on to Pittsburgh early the next morning. That day was spent with Aunt Kelly, mom’s friend,  hanging out. The next morning, we chilled in the Wal-mart parking lot and before noon went on to Gettysburg, PA, near our family.

After ten days at the campground, we spent a month parked across the street from Grandma Carol’s house. We spent time with Grammy Carol and Grammy Red.  Now we are with Sams and Windy, family friends, parked next to their house.

The bus, on the whole, stood up to the journey okay. We had some problems, and fingers crossed we won’t have to fix anything major before Florida. Our plans are to stay in a Thousand Trail campground near Winston-Salem, North Carolina for 3 weeks, to maybe visit friend and to definitely spend time with our Uncle Bill and Aunt Krysta, who live down there.

Thanks for reading
-Cali

Poutine

This is officially our first post all about food! That is quite surprising, because we do like our food. We try and get some popular local food wherever we stop. When we entered Canada, the one food that was widely popular was Poutine. If you don’t know, poutine is a dish made of thin cut potatoes, like french fries, topped with cheese curd, or some kind of cheese. Poured over it is a gravy of some type.

First stop, DQ (a.k.a. Dairy Queen)

Restaurant: Dairy Queen

Price: $5.69

Review: Served in a small round bowl, the fries were okay, the cheese was okay, the gravy was beef, and was also okay. It was probably the okay-ist poutine. Really, it wasn’t amazing, blow your mind good. It was okay. That is the best way I can describe it.

Restaurant: Costco

Price: $4.69

Review: It was HUGE. I mean, our friends warned us it was big, but it was larger than we thought. I must say, it was our least favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, just not as good as the rest. The fries were thick and not crunchy. They gravy was beef, and heavy. Sure it was flavourful, if you’re into that. The cheese curds were large, and very good. They, I think, were the best part.

Restaurant: Humpty’s

Price: $7.50

Review: Before I tell you how it was, let me note that Humpty’s is a sit down, diner type restaurant, not fast food, as with the rest. It was yummy, and the gravy was homemade, so that made it extra great. And topping is wasn’t cheese curd, as is typical, but shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a good idea, and if you didn’t have cheese curds, it is a good substitute. Over all, I think Humpty’s was my second favorite.

Restaurant: McDonald’s

Price: $4.38

Review: Normally, I criticize McDonald’s, because they are the most popular chain restaurant, with the worst food. But the poutine they have IS THE BEST I’VE HAD. It’s probably due to the fact that I love their fries. And maybe because the gravy was chicken, instead of beef like the rest. Really, it was delicious. Everyone (Mom and Dad, because Marc won’t eat it) thought it was the best.

Maybe if we had gone to more than four restaurants and rated them, we’d have a different review, but we didn’t. And now, poutine is one of my favorite foods!

-Cali

Oh Canada

Canada is amazingly different place. I always thought that everything would pretty much be the same, as it is quite close to the United States. But when you cross the border, things get bigger. The mountains, taller. The lakes, larger. The wildfires, more wild. At the moment, BC (British Colombia) is having a hard time with wildfires. So much so, that the air is always hazy, and hard to see through. I imagine that it would be gorgeous to drive through the mountains, but when we did, you could hardly see over the trees. Most days the sky is gray, not because it is going to rain (they wish), but because of the smoke.

Our Canadian trip started in Kamloops, BC. Friends we had met 3 year prior had heard we were coming into Canada, and invited us to stay with them for a couple days. They have a small house overlooking Kamloops Lake. After a – kilometer drive out a rough dirt road (the toughest trip for the bus yet), we arrived at a picturesque lake. There we stayed 2 nights and enjoyed our friend company. Thank you so much, Yvonne and Steve!

From there, we moved on to Vernon, BC, to a campground our friends were working at. It was a well kept campground, and they had done lots of work on it. For the first few days we had full hook-up, but the last couple days we only had electric and water. Almost everyday we had a little field trip. One day we spent at the lake, another day we went to an orchard. Also, almost everyday, we hiked down to a pretty waterfall near the campground.

We then moved on to Lake Louise. The campground was large, and the sites were nice. Our first full day there, we drove up to Lake Louise, and hike to the nearest tea house, about 4.5 miles both ways. It was smoky the whole time we spent at Lake Louise. The second day we drove to the ice fields, in Banff and Jasper National Park. We did several small hikes, to see a glacier and to a quickly flowing river. All the water up here is a Caribbean blue colour, because of what they call glacier flour. Small particles of dirt (glacier flour, because they are the size of flour) are in the water, and they reflect the blue colour. Our third day was spent seeing the spiral train tunnels and hiking around Lake Moraine. The spiral tunnels were made because the train tracks climbing through the Rocky Mountains were incredibly steep. They had lots of run-away trains. The solution to the problem was to build tunnels that spiral up through the mountains. I liked watching the train go through, because you would see the engine go into the tunnel, then coming out higher up. The end wouldn’t even be out of the tunnel before the engine went into the next set of tunnels.

Lake Moraine was like Lake Louise, the same colour, but smaller and not nearly as busy. We climbed up a mountain of boulders, had a look, then walked around the lake.

The fourth day we left for Banff. Banff is a cute tourist town settled in the mountain. All of Canada is picturesque, but Banff especially. There was the Hot Springs, and the Banff Springs Hotel. We walked all over the town. Then it started to clear up, and the smoke started to disappear. We wanted to Lake Louise without the blanket of smoke, so the next day, we drove back the hour and hiked around Lake Louise. It was beautiful. I can’t stress that Canada was beautiful enough. It was gorgeous, pretty, wonderful, amazing.

A note about Canada:

We did not have any phone service in Canada, and we were completely okay. Yep, we didn’t call anyone in three weeks. We didn’t die. But really, everywhere in Canada had wifi. The National Park Visitor Centers had wifi, and if you where wandering around the town of Banff, they had wifi also. Tim Hortons, McDonalds, all of the fast food places have wifi. About once a day, for half an hour, we would go someplace and use internet. To check email, text, Instagram, things of that sort. We weren’t completely cut off from the out side world.

Cali

Choo Choo

Our parents love surprises, but this one they found hard to keep a secret. They were going to take us across the country, on a TRAIN, so we could be with our family for our 13th birthday. Why not fly, You might ask. It’s quicker, you might point out. True, very true.

But how many people that you know have taken the train across the US before they are a teenager? Not many, I’ll bet. Well, now you know two more.

Our plans for this trip took a while and went through many changes, but on July 13th we drove to the Redding, California train station. It was 5 o’clock in the morning and McDonald’s was just opening. The train was late, as it was supposed to arrive at 3 o’clock a.m., but Amtrak kept us updated with texts. We got to sleep in! Yay!

Anyway, we boarded and got settled in. This train was (supposed to be) taking us to Portland, OR, where we would switch to a train headed east. But because our train left so late, we wouldn’t make it in time to transfer before the train in Portland left. To get us on our eastbound train we took a shortcut, sort of. In Klamath Falls, OR they transferred us to a bus that would take us to meet the connecting train in Pasco, WA. That cut a bit off our trip. The bus ride lasted over 8 and a half hours, arriving in Pasco at 7:30. They gave us chicken dinners from KFC, due to the inconvenience. The train was supposed to arrive in Pasco at 9:25, but was delayed until 9:50. This is where we started to expect delays. Take the supposed arrival time and add 30-60 minutes, then you’ll be closer to the arrival time.
The train arrived, and we boarded. We settled in and got ready for sleep (Notice, I didn’t say bed. We didn’t get a sleeper car for any part of this journey). The next morning we went up to the observatory car and was greeted by magnificent mountain and lush trees (the first green, natural trees we had seen in a while, other that the Redwoods). We had woke in Montana, our second day in the journey. There were a couple of Park Rangers on, and they told us about the surroundings. We played board games, read, and watched movies to occupy ourselves. Mom and Dad found it a sit difficult to sleep in the seats, but Marc and I can sleep pretty much anywhere. Oh, and we booked our tickets back to California. We had held off, in case we hated the train and wanted to fly back. But, so far, we were having a great time.
Third day we arrived in Chicago, in the evening. We took turns watching the luggage, while the other half went for a walk around. At 9 o’clock p.m. we boarded the last train east. One more night and Grammy Carol picked us up in Syracuse, NY and drove us back to her house,where we stayed they first week, with the exception of two nights that we spent with my mother’s brother in Harrisburg, PA. Next week we spent at a lake house our grandma had rented. The last week we spent between our Aunt and Uncle’s house and Grammy Carol’s house.  I’m not going to really get into the details of what exactly we are doing, because it was more of a family vacation. We went to an amusement park, a carnival, watched a parade, your typical summer activities.
The time passed all to quickly and our day to leave came. On August 8th at 11 o’clock, we left our Uncle’s house for the train station. It arrived, and we boarded. After being on the train for a few hours, we stopped in Pittsburg at 8 o’clock that evening.  (Dad and I went to a Primanti sandwich and then when to the business district and saw where dad used to work. -M. W. Perry) We sat in the train station until 12 o’clock and after in the morning. I slept like a stone, only waking when we were coming into Chicago Union Station. As we pulled in, we gathered all our luggage. We detrained, as they call it, and walked down the long, dim, underground tunnel. We bought some of the best tasting donuts, and coffee, and relaxed. We boarded our next train, finally the on the train that would take us to Sacramento, CA. While waiting in the Chicago, we did a bit of math and figured out that if we waited in Sacramento for our train up to Redding, we would be waiting in the station for 10 hours. So, we rented a rental car, to drive up instead of waiting for 10 hours. Travel weary, Dad and I walked a mile to go pick up our car. We did, and loaded everything in the car. At 7:30 that night we arrived back up in Redding and home.
So, that is the overview of our trip. But I have no way to describe the tiredness, the wanting to get on the train, the uncomfortable seats in the train station. It is all part of the experience. That is the only way I can explain it, as an experience. You’d have to have done it or been there to understand. It was awesome, boring, comfortable, draining, exciting. I could go all through the alphabet like that. It was an experience.  – Cali

(I would like to interject that the views expressed  may or may not  represent the views of the Unpredictable Perrys as a whole but rather those of the author of this post. – M. W. Perry)

California’s Central Valley

As we began to head north in California we decided to make a stop near Modesto.  First we had to see Shannon and Daniel.  It was great because Shannon’s dad was visiting from Tunkhannock while we were there.

Then we took a day trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  It was a three hour trip each way, but it was worth it to see General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, measured by volume.

On another day trip we visited Carmel-by-the-Sea.  It was a really quaint town.  We went to a French restaurant for lunch and went for a walk to sea the ocean and the cute homes.  Then we took the 17 mile drive along the Monterey Peninsula.

We also decided to drive to San Francisco for the day.  What a great city! We did over 7 miles of walking.  We went down Lombardi Street,  ate lunch at the Nob Hill Cafe and took a trolley ride. To wrap up an amazing day we stopped for some chocolate lava bread at Boudin’s.

Pinnacles National Park

While we were in California we camped near Pinnacles National Park.  We did two hikes while we were in the park.  Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop was a 5.3 mile loop with some great views and we also did the Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop.    If you are ever near this national park it is worth a visit!

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle was, to sum it up in a word, impossible. Gigantic and not gigantic, an actual castle, but reminded me more of a small Mediterranean village with a cathedral at its center. Okay, I think I failed to describe all its greatness, but that was a pretty good, if not a very vague overview of the castle.

In 1850, at thirty years of age, George Hearst, William Randolph Hearst father, “the boy who earth talks to,” moved to California during the Gold Rush. There he bought a claim that everyone said only had lead, but George believed that there was something. He wasn’t exactly sure what. The problem was that he couldn’t prove the substance was valuable, unless he crossed the treacherous Sierra Nevadaswith the ore to get it smelted. He and two of his buddies crossed the mountains, walking and on horseback, with 38 tons of ore. They made it across the mountains and got the ore smelted. When the results came out, the people were wrong in wasn’t lead. It was silver. They got 56,000 dollars in todays money for every 1 ton of ore they brought over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. George went back and continued to mine. He invested in successful gold, silver, and copper mines. George quickly became a millionaire.

In 1865, he acquired 48,000 acres of land in San Simeon and built a pier in the harbor he lived on this ranch. He married, back in his home state of Missouri, and had only one child, William Randolph Hearst. William Randolph, also known as W.R., and his mother Phoebe Apperson Hearst, went on a one and a half year grand tour of Europe. William Randolph was ten at the time, and that’s when his love art developed.

In 1919, William Randolph’s mother died. His father had died many years earlier. W. R., who already had built a media empire, inherited his father’s land and wealth. At 56, he decided to put a house on top of a hill where he went camping as a kid. W.R. first stated to his architect, Julia Morgan, “I just want a little something.” Julia Morgan was the first woman architect in California. The project spanned over 30 years, only stopping during WWII, when William Randolph went into $100,000,000 of debt. After WWII, his newspapers started selling and the project continued. It was lived in from just a few years after construction started.  It was never finished at the time of his death in 1951.

Hearst Castle is 68,000 square feet, which isn’t even half of the Biltmore Estate (the number one place I want to go in the US.). There is one main house and 3 cottages on the hill. The Casa Grande, which is made to look like a cathedral, is the main house, and the Casa de Sol, Casa del Mar and the Casa del Monte are the cottages. They are named after their views; Sunset, Ocean and Mountains, respectively. These are made to look like the village “huts”. We took three amazing tours and saw most of the house that was open to the public. I’d give you a detailed account of different trips around the house but I can’t for two reasons. A) I could not go anywhere near the grander of the house. B) I got lost (quite an amazing feat, if I may say so) and all the amazing, magnificent, wonderful rooms got mixed up in my head. The tours I would suggest are the Upstairs suite and the Designing the Dream. The Grand Rooms tour was spectacular, but crowded. It brought you through the downstairs of the house showing all the grand rooms (hence the name) of the house. If you’ve toured Mansions before then this one will look very similar. I would also defiantly watch the movie that comes with your tour. All around, if you’re in the area, then I would strongly suggest going.

M.W.Perry

Note by Cali:

The Castle was, well…extra amazing with incredible twists. The architecture was surprising. Back in that day, barely any female architects existed. During her life Julia Morgan completed 700 homes/offices/castles in California, all the time competing with the male architects of her time.

Also I wanted to mention W.R. Hearst’s family. He had 5 children, all sons, and the last 2 were twins. Most of them went on to be successful.

All of Hearst’s staff (never to be confused with servants), had an extraordinary privileges. Of course, he only hired the best of the best, but if you worked for him you could expect a very high wage, to keep to from looking at other jobs. Another perk of being in his staff was, if the guests weren’t enjoying the pool, you could swim. Also, if Chief, as Mr. Hearst was known to his staff, was showing, you could go see it in Chiefs personal Movie Theater. At Christmas time, you could choose any gift from around the tree that  you wanted. Want to work for Mr. Hearst now? Yeah, so do I.