Day 23 - Asheville - North Carolina
Trip Start Oct 13, 2012
38Trip End Nov 19, 2012
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OK so we didn't really have any dueling banjos, but we did listen to Dolly singing about the Great Smoky Mountains along the way, so that must count for something :)
Despite 5 feet of snow falling on the mountains a couple of days ago our coach driver still tackled the winding road to take us up and over the Appalachian Mountains through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was beautiful views the whole way.
This is Cherokee area, who called the mountains "shaconage" which means "blue, like smoke".
During the 1790s white settlement began in the lowlands (North Carolina) but as farmland became scarce they pulled themselves and their wagons up and over the 5200 feet summit (1585 metres), Newfound Gap, to settle on lowlands of the other side (Tennessee)
At Newfound Gap you can, if you choose, join the Appalachian trial, a 2174 mile (3498 km) long walking track that covers the whole of the Appalachian mountains. I did not choose, seeing the summit was just fine for me :)
Once over the mountains and in North Carolina it was off to Asheville to visit Biltmore House. This is the most visited house in the USA. It was built in 1895 by rail tycoon George W Biltmore, and it is luxurious. Not short of a penny he hired architects and landscapers to make sure every corner of his house and grounds were beautiful and complete with the most modern conveniences.
Inside the house there was everything you could think of, a library containing 23,000 books in every language (George was smart as well as rich and is reported to be able to read in 9 different languages), large and stunning formal dining rooms, a myriad of exquisitely decorated guest rooms (they loved to party), 43 bathrooms, over 60 fireplaces, a 70,000 gallon (265,000) indoor heated swimming pool with underwater lights, a bowling alley, a gymnasium, a bachelor's quarters complete with gun room and smoking room, and so much more, you name it, it had it
Outside the house are stunningly manicured gardens and pathways to long gardens walks through forests and trees all designed and landscaped by Frederick Olmsted, who was also responsible for designing New York's Central Park.
It is one very beautiful home.
The estate also has its own winery so we stopped in there for a tour. Alright I'll tell the truth, the winery tour was to include a tasting at the end and it was running a bit behind. We only had a limited amount of time before we had to head back to our bus so myself and one of the other lovely ladies in our group decided to heck with the tour and headed straight to the tasting room. 45 minutes later the rest of our group appeared at the bus breathless from rushing the tour and not really getting a chance to do much tasting, whilst the sweet Miss J and I had taken our time to taste half a dozen of the estate wines. Culture and education be damned, bring on the free samples I say. I think we made the better choice ;)