Monday, November 15, 2010

The Biltmore or is it Built More?

Okay so that was pretty cheesy but I just couldn't resist! haha

There was one main thing I really had my heart set on accomplishing during travel season and that was going to the Biltmore House in Asheville, Va! When I got assigned my territory and realized that Asheville was part of it I knew I was going to have to take a trip to the Biltmore House! I have always wanted to go see that house for as long as I could remember, and now I was finally going to be able to go!

Well I was planning on going there after my visits on this particular Fri. and I had been looking forward to it all week! Well all travel season for that matter! Then I started looking at the ticket prices and I really didn't think I could was going to be $70! I was so surprised it was so much! Plus, this was one of those trips that I decided I really didn't want to go to by myself so by the end of the week I had pretty much talked myself out of going. I was pretty bummed about it but knew if I waited until a time that somebody could join me it would be totally worth it!

Well I was at my school visits on Thurs, and at my last stop I had a fantastic visit! I was able to not only sit down with the counselor but I was able to sit down for lunch with some interested students. It really opened up the visit to more conversation and it was a little less formal so they could ask me whatever questions they may have had. As if the visit couldn't get any better when I was leaving and saying goodbye to the counselor she was asking me what I had planned to do in the area and I told her about my hopes to go to the Biltmore House, and you will never believe what happened next! She actually went inside and brought me a ticket for admission for the Biltmore House! Apparently, they always keep some on hand for special visitors to campus. Of course, I quickly changed my mind and knew I just had to go now especially since it was going to be free!

Well after I left the school visit they gave me the free ticket I called Kevin to let him know about it and...SURPRISE, SURPRISE! Kevin was actually already on is way down to Asheville to surprise me! It really made me excited that not only did I have a free ticket but I now had somebody to go with! Things were just falling into place and it really made for the best visit in Asheville ever!

That night we were able to walk around the cutest little city! Fun fact: the town of Asheville was actually originally built because they had to have houses for the people that were building the Biltmore House. So you can imagine what a cute city it was! We really enjoyed ourselves walking around town and seeing all the neat restaurants. They had music on each corner and some of the cutest little shops! We also got to tag along behind a ghost tour!!! I had always wanted to go on one of these but we didn't technically sign up or pay for this one so we only tagged along for one stop but it was still really cool! We got something to eat at this really yummy Chinese place and then walked around for a bit longer because it was such a beautiful night.

The next day after my school visits we headed to the main event! I was soooo excited! I couldn't believe I was finally going to get to see this amazing house, America's Castle as I like to call it! haha. We ended up not only getting the tour of the house, the gardens, antler village, and the winery but we also decided it would be worth our while to get the audio tour on top of that so we could get as much information about the house while we were walking around. It was so neat! Honestly, I can't describe into words how amazing this house was. The house sits on 929,000 acres if you can imagine and it has the best views I have ever seen anywhere in my life! and of course it looked amazing in the Fall with the house over looking all the mountains with the changing leaves. I think we spent a total of 3 1/2 hours inside the house alone! We really loved walking from room to room and getting to take our time and listen to the audio tour. Honestly, I was in awe! From the dining hall to the indoor heated pool and everywhere in between. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house but I think I enjoyed that better because I got to focus on the house instead of focusing on taking pictures. My advice, if you really want to see the inside, just go see it for yourself!

After we got out of the house we got a chance to walk around the house and the gardens. We had a lot of taking our time walking around and just enjoying the beauty of the place! Remarkable trees, flowers, walkways, and waterfalls. It was so nice not to be on a schedule or have a time limit; we really could just take our time and we ended up walking around the gardens and up to the waterfall for about 5 miles there and back!

As if that wasn't enough fun we still hadn't made our way to the Antler Village! There we got to walk around and see the cute shops and dining options. We also got to see the clock tower that was used back when the house was built to keep every clock on schedule in the house. Just goes to show with the clock tower and a heated pool in the 1800's, how technologically advanced this house was!

While we were at the Antler Village we also got to take a tour of the Biltmore Winery and have a complimentary wine tasting. The winery actually used to be a dairy back when the house was first built. Along with their dairy all the Vanderbilt's produce was also grown their so it was as local as you could get! They did sell the milk from the dairy though. We got to see how it used to be a dairy and where they kept the cows and jarred the milk, and now how they have transformed it into a winery and where they now store the grapes, etc. The wine tasting was fun and they had so many to choose from! Kevin and I really enjoyed walking around the gift shop at the end with all the wines plus any kind of Biltmore souvenir you could think of and more! All in all this has been the highlight of my Fall so far and I am already planning to go back and spend one of my wedding anniversaries there one day and actually get to stay in the inn! I haven't been able to stop thinking or talking about this trip! Just ask my sister; I definitely gave them an ear full when I was visiting! Kevin and I couldn't stop discussing which rooms were our favorites and what we want to do the next time! Who am I kidding, I'm still talking about it!

These pictures don't really give it justice but here are a few I took:

The Biltmore House! You can see where they were starting to put up the Christmas tree in the middle.

Close up of the house. The sad thing was that I wasn't close at all but we still couldn't fit the whole house in the picture!

Just a glimpse of the breath taking views!

This is the side of the house where crocket would have been played.

A small part of the gardens

The clock tower down by Antler Village that controlled all the clocks in the house.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roaming around Roanoke!

Well this week I was in and around the Roanoke area for just a couple of days because I had to get back to the office at the end of the week to prepare for the second open house of the season. I didn't really have much time there to do anything besides school visits but I knew I still wanted to get some fun things fit in while I was there.

When I was visiting a school I sat down with the school college counselor and after talking for a while she mentioned a couple of things I should really try and visit while I was in town. One of the things she mentioned to me was the Roanoke Star! I had never been there before so I figured going after my visits at sunset would be a perfect time to go!

That day after my visits I rode up to the top of the mountain to see the Roanoke Star! It was really beautiful up there! I could see the entire Roanoke valley for miles around. It was so neat to see a valley surrounded by mountains upon mountains. I have never actually seen such a distinct valley before. I went at dusk and that ended up being the perfect time to go because I could see the tail end of the sunset and the city all lit up at night. The star alone is 88 1/2 feet high and is the largest man made star in the world! It can be seen from miles around, 60 to be exact, and it is super pretty all lit up. It was neat to see the city buildings all lit up at night too. I spent a while there taking pictures; it was really remarkable!

Pictures of the valley at dusk

Overlooking the valley

Beautiful colors of the valley

A view of the city

The Roanoke Star!

Check out all the mountains in the background!

To give you some perspective about how big the star actually is!

A picture of the sunset on top of the mountain

A view of the valley at night!

All lit up!

This is a picture I took once I got down from the mountain at an intersection. This shows you how you really can see the star from miles around.

One of my friends and fellow co-workers, Katie Harding, is from Roanoke so she was so nice to send me an email before my week in Roanoke that listed some dining options I just had to try. So one of the other places I checked out while I was in the area was the famous Blue Collar Joe's! This is a donut shop that was actually featured on Food Network before and everybody I talked to while I was in town just raved about the donuts. In between my visits in Botetourt County I stopped by one morning. I got in there and it was such a cute place and smelled so sweet!! They had more donuts than I could have ever imagined and all of them with the most unique names like the Botetourt Bog and The Lunch Box Special, to name a few! I got in there thinking I would just pick one for the ride and somehow one turned into one DOZEN! Not thinking at the time that I am all alone during travel and don't have anybody to share them with, haha! Even still they were so delicious, decadent, and rich! It literally tasted like I was eating a piece of cake! It was a wonderful stop and I would highly recommend anybody visiting the Roanoke area to definitely stop by and try out some of the deliciousness!

Here is a picture of the place. They also have a drive-up window you can go to!

All different flavors! Yummy!!!