#64: Biltmore

A few weeks ago, one of the English teachers and I were chatting at work, and she asked if I’d ever been to the Biltmore. I hadn’t, but it’s on The List, and she was shocked that I’d never been. Turns out she’s a passholder and had a few free passes to the Biltmore, which she gave to me. So Harvin and I went yesterday.

I really enjoyed it (of course!). It’s labeled “America’s Largest Home,” and it was built by one of America’s richest men during the Gilded Age. I expected it to be an ostentious display of wealth that would annoy me, but it was so beautiful and classy that I was mostly just mesmerized.

biltmore-libraryMy favorite room by far was the library. I actually did tear up when I walked in. It’s everything I could ever dream of in a home library–a huge globe, a spiral staircase, a massive fireplace, comfy chairs, and, best of all, two levels containing thousands of books!

Harvin and I also decided that we want to live in round tower bedrooms. Round rooms are just so much more fun than the square ones we live in now. And we’re going to ask Clint, our apartment’s maintenance man, if he’ll build us some gargoyles outside the apartment building. 🙂

After we toured the house, we ate lunch in the Stable Cafe, which has the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten. They also gave us eco-friendly paper straws, which I’ve never had before. It’s a lot different to drink water through a paper straw than a plastic one. So different that it’s worth mentioning in my blog about Biltmore.

We browsed the gift shops, too. I bought a lot of postcards in the Book Bindery, which also features books from tons of Appalachian writers–Thomas Wolfe and Joel Chandler Harris were, of course, the most interesting for us, since we visited both of their houses recently.

All in all, it was a really awesome day. I hung out with my best friend, exploring an amazing house and gardens. And I marked yet another item off The List.

Now it’s time to decide which one to tackle next…

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#77: Thomas Wolfe

Yesterday had the potential to be just another boring rainy day. But we had plans. And while we considered letting the rain ruin those plans, we didn’t. I figure we’re not the kind of people to let a little water get in the way. And besides, rain can make things more fun, right? 🙂

Chris is reading Look Homeward, Angel for his Appalachian literature class. It was a perfect reason for us to do something we’d mentioned a few times: visit the boarding house in Asheville where Thomas Wolfe grew up.

old-kentucky-homeSo Harvin, Ticcoa, Chris, and I headed to Asheville yesterday afternoon in the foggy, dreary rain. We first went to “Old Kentucky Home,” the boarding house run by Wolfe’s mother.

Things I learned:

1. Wolfe had a terribly dysfunctional family–evidently, the kind that makes for good literature. I kinda want to read Look Homeward, Angel now after seeing the place and hearing some of the stories. Maybe this summer, when I’m not overwhelmed with other 20th-century American fiction to read.

2. Women are more morally upright than men. We never contemplate stealing things from a museum. And we never reach across exhibit displays and set the alarm off (even if we think about it). 🙂

3. Author home tour guides are generally very good. Our tour guide at the Wolfe Memorial, Patrick, was very professional and informative. He didn’t give us the quirky little stories that Nannie at The Wren’s Nest did, but that’s fine. He gave us a very good picture of Wolfe and his life at the boarding house and how that life influenced his literature.

After we left the boarding house, we headed out in search of Riverside Cemetery, where Wolfe is buried. The place is wolfe-gravemassive and wonderful! Things I learned there:

1. I was right–cemeteries are more fun in the rain. I got wet and slipped in the mud a few times, but the rain makes it more mysterious (in my opinion). Sure, maybe it wasn’t 80 degrees and sunny, but it was still tons of fun. [Note: This isn’t a photo from yesterday–it’s a lot gloomier in the rain.]

2. I’d like to be buried in a cool crypt when I die. One where innocent youth can climb on the roof, and the door can be left unlocked so they can explore. I mean, why else would anyone want to break into a crypt?

3. Make sure your friends know that O. Henry is a pen name. Sorry, Harvin. We spent a long time prowling a large section of the cemetery, only to discover that Harvin had been standing right near it, but because the stone said “William Sydney Porter,” Harvin didn’t realize it was the right one. But we finally found it. I sat on his grave. It was neat.

4. Gophers are scared of cars and people. They like to live in cemeteries and run into holes in the ground when they see a car speeding toward them.

5. There was a governor of NC named Zebulon Vance. Harvin thinks he looks like a cross-breed of a human and Chewbacca. And the name Zebulon? I can’t decide if I think it’s awesome or just weird.

So we finally left Asheville after that and went toward what we thought was Hendersonville. Things I learned during the rest of the trip:

1. Don’t trust Google maps. Always pull out my trusty N.C. map (or whatever state I happen to be in at the time) and double-check. It doesn’t take an hour to get to Hendersonville from Asheville. Chimney Rock is not on the way. But you know what? It was still fun. It’s a great drive through the mountains. And we listened to the entire Manchester Orchestra album while we drove, so that was awesome, too.

2. Thai food and sushi at a restaurant on Main Street in Hendersonville was a great idea! They had a Boston roll (avocado and shrimp)! But convincing Coa to try sushi wasn’t the best idea. While I’m thrilled Coa was adventurous enough (and trusted us enough) to try sushi for the first time, I’m very sad that Jess got mad because we were able to convince Coa to do something she could never do. I’m sorry, Leisters. Let’s have a re-do, shall we?

3. I need a GPS. Or a chauffeur. I’m directionally hopeless, but I’m glad you guys still let me drive often. When will we learn? 😀

Another adventure marked off the list. Another afternoon with great friends. Life is pretty great.