Tag Archives: history

Biltmore Estate (Written)

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and continued great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for a half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by the Pemberley House[.]

It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills[.] Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at the moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! (1)

Although I wish we were visiting England…Asheville, NC is second best choice for this quote. The scene from the novel Pride and Prejudice came alive in my mind as we drove into the Biltmore Village and into the Estate entrance. Having just read this chapter the night before, I could not help but mention something aloud to everyone in the car. The drive through the wooden area to the house…though still winter brush (and occasional bamboo trees) was still beautiful. You could also picture Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as the opening scene where the Beast is still a prince–the wooded area with the castle in the background. It was something like that. 🙂

We parked and rode the shuttle the rest of the way into the estate. (Side note–it represents excellent tourism when you are the last car to leave the parking lot, LOL.) As you entered through the gate, you see the house and being the first time for all of us, I was just amazed! I literally felt like I was in a different country (France was what I felt.) Now, I am a big fan of architecture, so the first thing I start looking at is the details of the walls of the house and the structure. We have visited the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and there were a few similarities of style that I noticed.

We could not take long at first to soak it all in, because I had to go in and meet my interpreter. I was fortunate that she had already been to the house before and was excited to sign for the tours again (no matter how long!) We were set to go on the Butler’s Tour first, before the regular “walk through on your own” house tour that had a tape you listened to and a map with some extra details. We had a few minutes to spare, so we saw the rooms where they showed the process of how the house has and is being restored to maintain the history there. It was pretty fascinating, because they showed these pieces of rare artwork and how specialists use different cleaning processes and glues to put back together broken artifacts. You could never tell that anything was wrong with it at first glance! Also, they talked about the draperies and silk chairs/wallpaper. That style of rug weaving with silk is almost outdated! They talked about how they are having a shop in France–that specializes in this technique–help them in this area of preservation. Because George Vanderbilt loved to travel and loved the arts, much of his collections are from overseas countries which makes the process a “world event”–or so I say. 🙂

The Butler’s Tour was a “behind the scenes” of how the servants of the house did their duties. I found this so fascinating! I know the BBC show, Downton Abbey, is a view much from the servants point so I had a little glimpse already of how the process goes, but was still blown away at what details and professionalism that had to take place! The house is about 4 acres itself with another 8,000 acres of land otherwise. The Vanderbilt’s had more, but after George’s death, his wife–Edith–sold part of the land to the U.S. Government for a national forestry. Anyway, the house has 250 rooms and I believe 43 bathrooms. Considering the house was built in 1895-1898…43 bathrooms for that time period was A LOT!!! They had their own electricity. We saw where the coal was dumped from the main outdoors to the lower level…then saw the big furnaces. They had their own water–which they could fill up a 70,000 gallon swimming pool that was in the basement! There was a gym (the gym had a shower no less!) that had a hallway attached with private dressing rooms so the servants could bring down the guests clothes so they could change there. I read on a sign that Mr. Vanderbilt could change his outfit as many as eight times a day for the different occasions! Best part of the basement was the bowling alley. 😀 The servants would have to run and replace the pins after the ball strikes, LOL. Classic.

There was so much detail already in the house, but the Butler’s Tour was really extrodinary to get even more behind the scenes! The house even had different colored walls for different meanings. The brown hall was the servant’s hall. Then as you went around closer to the bedroom entrances from the back…Mrs. Vanderbilt’s hall was a rose color. The bigger picture of the house made better sense when we did the regular tour…because then we knew that the doors in the bedrooms went out in the servants halls. There was also another room where the china for dinner was kept. The meals would come up from the kitchen (which was on the basement level of the house) through a dumb waiter to the room. The meals were then placed on the china that had been picked by the Vanderbilt’s for the evening or event happening and made presentable. Then they were taken into the dining hall. The room had china up to the ceiling in cupboards! They had ladders even! Can you imagine?? That would not be a job for me. 😀 I thought the kitchen set ups were genius. There were three parts in separate rooms: regular food, meat, and pastry. They had a freezer and storage for their milks and cheeses. They have a dairy farm there on the property so they got their milk from their own cows. Also, much of their fresh produce was from their own land/gardens.

On the house tour, there was so much to see. It was like a huge museum! 😀 My favorite rooms were the banquet hall, the library, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, and the Louis XV room. The banquet hall was designed to look like a throne room from the 1500’s. It had tapestries, a massive pipe organ in the loft, a triple fireplace at the other end of the room, swords hanging for display and flags, and a huge oak table. The library was AMAZING! Mr. Vanderbilt loved reading, traveling, the arts. He owned 23,000 books. It literally goes to the ceiling of books! Another Beauty and the Beast moment here! Funny part is that after the books were used, they had to be compressed to fit back on the shelves. On the ceiling of the library is the painting, The Chariot of Aurora, which they took down by segments from the ceiling of the Pisani Palace in Venice. You can only tell in a few spots where the segments were cut and put back together. It was astounding. I don’t know with all George’s traveling, generous hosting and charitable events, recreational activities and family when he had time to get in that much reading but I applaud his endeavours and library! 😀

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was one of my favorites due to the colors. It had gold walls and mostly gold everywhere–the ceiling had painted textures if pale purple and a minty green color. There were the silk pattern of the chairs and bed–these were part of the fabrics that France helped restore. If I were running a home magazine, I would look at this room for simplicity (even though it was super elegant designs obviously)..but the colors and the oval shape of the room…the windows. I think it would give good inspiration for ideas anyway. 🙂 And lastly, the Louis XV bedroom. It is where Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s daughter, Cornelia, was born. Cornelia also gave birth to her two sons there! For a baby’s room, it had quite the furnishings. My favorite part were these stairs that go down to the window…like a little “sunroom” where one could sit with the baby and look out the window.

I will close with the Vanderbilt’s love of travel. We discussed it at dinner tonight, but I mentioned that I found it amazing that George and Edith made relations with people as they traveled. They just did not have a love for all this historical artwork without also getting to know people of importance. For example, I do not remember who, but someone who George knew personally (and knew his love for art, etc) helped him get Napoleon’s chess set. Yes! Isn’t that great! 🙂 We got to see it too! Also, George was very fascinated with Japan. I read there that he and his cousin spent a while over in Japan touring and getting art work. He had an ancient samurai warrior armor and swords. I also saw the invitation where the Emperor of Japan invited Mr. Vanderbilt personally to his birthday celebration while he was still in Japan. What an honor. The Vanderbilt’s were also very charitable people. They helped fund a school library, a church, and other needs for education. They shared their love for learning and the arts.

This history just fascinated me. We spent 10 hours at the Biltmore Estate. Let’s say the next day, my left ankle was swollen and I was incredibly sore from all the stairs, but it was worth it!!! 😀 I decided I would like to visit in every season: we got “winter”…but I have heard Christmas is spectacular!! The tree is in the banquet hall–that ceiling is 70 feet tall!!! It would be so beautiful to see the gardens and do the outdoor activities in the spring/summer and then the tree colors and harvest in the fall. Whenever I get back, I am sure I will always see something new and exciting! I recommend a trip to Asheville, NC if you are ever at loss for a vacation idea. I can think of nothing better than ending spring break in this way. 😀

Pictures in the next post…


(1) Austen, Jane. Illustrated by Hugh Thomson. Pride and Prejudice. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2005. Pages 301-302. (Have you ever noticed on classic novels that after the recent publication date, it says something to this extent: “This Dover edition [is] an unabridged republication of the work origionally published in 1894 by George Allen, Ruskin House, 156 Caring Cross Road, London.” Brilliant!)


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Downtown Lextington, KY.

Our trip to KY inspired me to get back reading in the subject none other than history! 😀 I never realized that Kentucky was so historical. Take Lexington for example. Lexington was named after the first American Revolution battle: Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. I read that soldiers were camped out in the area (of KY) and heard the news of the start of the battle, and so decided to name their camp “Lexington” in honor of the battle. History did not stop there, but why bore you with facts? I will just tell you stories of what we saw and experienced in four days.

The first night we got to Lexington, we went to a place called Victorian Square. It was built in the 1880’s. It now hosts a variety of shops and dining all under one roof. A very spectacular way to preserve the old buildings and history there.

We walked to the Convention Center, which is right behind Triangle Park. The waterfall there is very unique! It runs from April until the temperatures freeze. It was a freezing night as we walked all around downtown Lexington but I’m glad it was not “freezing” freezing temperature. 😉

We then ventured to Thoroughbred Park to see the sculptures of “legendary” horses and historical markers of the people behind the legend horses. I was sort of shocked to see Bing Crosby on one land marker. Very interesting. Most names I did not recognize but a few I did…same with the horses. There are so many names of when speaking of the horses, but a few you hear over and over such as Lexington (the horse), Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and of course, the legend–Man 0′ War. The Thoroughbred Park was just the first hint of my realization of how complicated and fascinating the breeding and training process of race horses really is!!! I think I found a new area of interest to study this winter. 🙂

As we walked back to the main section of Lexington–by this time my feet were freezing and my hands were so cold they could hardly move–we passed by the First National Bank, which I read was the highest building from Cincinnati to Atlanta during the year of 1914. It was/is 14 stories high. Now seeing a 14 story building against the 5/3 bank right behind…seems a little tiny. 🙂 We also stopped in at the public library–VERY COOL!!!!!!!! 😀

(Inside the library)

We finally made our way back to the Victorian Square area and ate at a cafe/restaurant called “Shakespeare & Co.” Very lively, quaint decor and seating and excellent food/service. We ate out on the patio and they had these lamps that heated the area. I was freezing when I first sat down, and sweating when I left. 😀

And that was our first few hours in Lexington. 🙂 I am sorry, but my pictures are not cooperating, so I will post what I have, then add pictures when I can get them uploaded. So, I will sign off. My doctor appointments are tomorrow, so I will keep you posted on the MRI results.

[Uploaded pictures October 26, 2012]


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Labor Day Weekend Recap

Hi everyone!

Last week seemed to go extremely fast! Wednesday’s session of Occupational Therapy went very well. Although it does not feel like it, my hands have improved from the strengthening exercises and brace (which I lost this weekend…story below). My next session is October 19th. The OT gave me a stronger “soft” putty. The irony. LOL. She also wanted me to do some thumb strengthening exercises, because they are actually very weak–which surprised me, because I feel my thumbs take a lot of control when using my hands to lift things or obviously when I text. 🙂 But they are weak, so I hope the strengthening exercises help.

How was your Labor Day weekend? Mine resembled much like the Adventures in Odyssey episode where the Barkley’s go on vacation in their home town–i.e. camping in their living room, playing guess-the-animal-when-blindfolded at the zoo and having ice cream at Whit’s End. While mine was not to that extent–it was a wonderful weekend with my family. Here is a quick recap:


I worked a short morning shift and then hurried home to join my family as we embarked in a journey back in time at George Rogers Clark Park a few towns over in Springfield, OH. The 30th Annual The Fair at New Boston was taking place all day Saturday and Sunday. I am glad we got there in the early morning, because there was so much to see and we were blessed to see most of the fair before the rain came in little splurges (more like random downfall that felt like hail.) What a fun event!!! It is a whole field was replica of the era 1790’s-1812. There were Indian encampments (we saw the Drum and Dance event), tents full of clothes, jewelry, gentlemen and ladies hats, wool socks, goodies, kids toys, food, shoes, a blacksmith and a printer, Daniel Boone enactment, tea and pottery–all this from that specific time era. The people who volunteered to be in the event did a great job in keeping the time era within the conversation. My mom heard a little boy ask a native how much his pipe cost. The reply: “About three beavers.” HAHA 🙂

I don’t know which was my favorite part, because it was all so neat to experience! I really liked the way they portrayed the social classes at the time: the workers, the soldiers, the upperclass women in their fancy clothes carrying baskets of fruit. The soldiers did a reenactment of a battle that actually took place in that area as George Rogers Clark held off the natives from joining the British forces in the war. I also really enjoyed seeing the ladies go through the washing clothes process. There were horses, oxen, chickens and a rooster. There was a man carrying around a rat in its cage and gave us the recipe for “Rat Stew.” We also ate amazing “ham and biskut” for a late lunch and you could buy an ale- looking mug for your drinks, then you got to keep the mug!! I just set my mug in my “colonial yellow and patriot themed room” with some flowers next to my bookshelf.

I bought a bag of butter mints, which were delicious and we all shared some peach over pound cake for a small dessert before we headed out. When you took the exit, a sign read, “You are now entering the 21st century.” Like Twilight Zone! If you are ever in the area for Labor Day, this event is quite a destination! At the bottom of this post are some pictures and the event website.

But first a few more stories about the weekend. Well, by now you are probably wondering what happened to my finger brace. Well, I’ll tell ya–I was not prepared for the major grass ruts we encountered at the fair. Within a few minutes of entering, my ankle twisted and I found the grass. 🙂 My dad was carrying a big umbrella, so it was just the right size to be my cane. I did find until we stopped at this tent that had gadets and kid games. They had this sign up that talked about how people at that time judged their character and personality by their nose shape. So getting a closer step to the clay nose-shaped examples, I triped over the tent peg and grabbed hold of the tent ropes. Envisioning the tent collapsing, I let go and did this slow motion backwards fall to the ground. People around thought I fainted (must have been graceful). But seriously, it was a hot and humid day, so I can see their train of thought. A few gentlemen from the other tent came over to help me get up and they asked if I was ok. I said, “Oh yeah. I was just trying to see my nose shape.” 🙂 I think that is where I lost my finger brace. I remember feeling it sliding off as I grabbed the rope, but never looked for it as my mind was on this–“just act cool”–moment after the fall. That is my only logical explanation.

Just one more side note–just for you history lovers like myself–George Rogers Clark was the older brother to William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Interesting. Well, Sunday after the community Church service, I took a nap! Then we enjoyed a movie at the Cedarville Opera House and a bit of ice cream from the new “parlor” in town. Yesterday, we attended the community pancake breakfast provided by our local volunteer firefighters. Next event was the rainy CedarFest parade. A bit of relaxing (another nap), dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, and we finally ended the weekend by watching the town fireworks from our patio, then playing a game of Pictionary.

What a spectacular weekend! Now, if you are wondering how I play Pictionary–good question! Look forward to that story tomorrow. 🙂 As promised, here are some pictures (thank you to my mom–I was a bit too wobbly to take my own) from the Fair at New Boston. And the website:



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Wishful thinking…

As I paint, I have been jamming to oldies. Anything past the year 2004, I really don’t listen to due to my hearing loss. I don’t know the words plus I can’t catch the beat equals that I stick to oldies that I know. Personally, I think the 80’s-90’s are the best anyway. However, I have also been into movie soundtracks or classical music lately. It helps me to think while I paint. Today, it is Bach and the Sea. The London Symphony Orchestra plays the greatest of Bach’s pieces with the sounds of the sea in the background. It is so relaxing.

A few songs are so calm…lots of cello so the sound is deep–makes me want to sit by the sea with a cup of tea in a cute sundress and fancy hat. Others pieces have more upper violin with a good beat which makes me want to ballroom dance like they did in the day (think Pride and Prejudice style songs); and still others, I wish to have my flute at hand. Although I definitely could not play a note or even remember the hand positions, I have been missing being able to play the flute. I really loved it. I can see myself being the flute soloist in Bach’s “Badinerie”. 🙂 My favorite piece on the cd is Bach’s No.1. I think it is the whole symphony, but I am not positive. Lovely melodies none the less!!

With the Olympics starting this Friday in London…my thoughts of my dream vacation arouse. I really hope to make it to England at some point in my life. There are a few things on my list to see: London (obviously), Oxford University and C.S. Lewis’ home, “The Kilns”; Canterbury and St. Augustine’s Abbey in Kent; and the countryside of England…maybe Wales. So much to see!

I love any history (as you might already know!), but since some anscestry is rooted in England, I find their history even more fascinating! Last summer, I spent a lot of time studying the time periods from King Henry VIII to King James I. This summer it has been King Arthur. I picked up T.H. White’s classic work, The Once and Future King, but it is over 500 pages and with all this painting–I have a feeling it will be my autumn season reading (with tea). 🙂 For right now, I just enjoy BBC’s show called Merlin. You can watch the first two seasons on hulu. I have yet to start The Downton Abbey series, but I will!! 🙂

My final months in Denver, a friend and I went on a quest to visit different tea shops around town. We found a British-owned cafe called The House of Commons. 🙂 We enjoyed the simplicity of decor, bright atmosphere, and sugar lumps for our tea. I, of course, put in three. 😉

Have a splendid evening, regardless of how many lumps of sugar are in your tea!


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A day in Pompeii.

Have you ever seen the early ’90’s classic TV show called, Saved by the Bell? I find the show reruns to be very humorous. Anyway, on the show…Zach Morris is the main character. He is the one who comes up with the schemes and plans that usually get him into trouble. When things start going haywire, Zach says, “Time out!” using a “T” motion with his hands and the screenplay freezes while Zach talks about a new direction that the conversation or series of events should go about.

So, if you read my last post about the start of my Colorado trip added with the excitement of showing you more pictures and the “What am I?” game–in keeping with the football theme–I would like to call a time out. 🙂

Yesterday, my mom and I set out for Cincinnati for an appointment. Although this time it was not at Children’s Hospital but the Good Samaritan Hospital a few minutes down the road. There ended up being more one way streets than we anticipated so a few times around the block passing a huge high school (think High School Musical look) and the University of Cincinnati, we finally found our destination. The appointment went well and fast (just an occupational therapy test, so no worries of much going on). Since we were on a different section of town, we decided to check out the Cincinnati Museums Center.

Here it is: home to several museums, Cincinnati Amtrak and a research library. Also home of the Pompeii exhibit until August 12, 2012!!  I liked the structure of the building. On the front by the doors it has in the stone an inscription of 1931 along with information of the time capsule there.

You view Cincinnati from the parking lot…

…but it is the inside that captures your attention!

We each ate a slice of pizza and made our way down to the Pompeii exhibit by 1:30. Phenomenal! It reminded me of touring a museum in Greece. Seeing the artifacts up close…most of the styles were mimics of Greek art anyway. Pompeii was a Roman city during Emperor Vespasian. The city was filled with temples to the gods, mostly to Baccus–the god of wine and vegetation–because the area was very fertile there with grapes, olives, grains. Also, Neptune–the god of the sea and Apollo–god of the sun were very popular, but you saw mamy different statues. During the exhibit, there were also a lot of fauns.

The displays were set up like you were walking through a section or street of town. They showed how they did laundry (definitely not how we do it today…be thankful someone invented bleach!); their markets, how they cooked, their private rooms, how they bathed (extremely clean people…the women even wore makeup!); the amphitheatre with gladiators and their armor; the house structures and gardens. They even had a system of pipes to bring clean water into the house while another section of the pipe went out to their gardens. Their foyer areas when you walked in the house set the tone of the house. One had a tile art of a dog and the inscription said, “Beware of the dog.” Interesting, huh!? I think the house structures were my favorite to learn about. They even had a pool in that front foyer area that would collect rain water. They had artifacts of all things: pots, pans, wine vessel, water buckets, dentist and doctor tools, jewelry, mirrors, garden statues and pillars, and statues of the gods. To think all this and the people were frozen in time all these years.

As you went through towards the end, the mood started to shift. It became more quiet. Then they had this video that played continuous about the last 24 hours of Pompeii. It was set up like you were viewing the city looking at Mt. Vesuvius. The morning around 8am looks normal, then by 1pm it is raining balls of ashes that was burning the city. By the end, you hardly see anything. It is said that what killed most people of Pompeii was the pyroclastic cloud which basically just suffocated them almost immediately. Pompeii was lost under almost 13 feet of ashes. It was not rediscovered until the mid 1700’s! When they started finding the bodies, they made a plastic cast of the original and that is what we saw. The detail. The expressions.

This one might have been a slave. See the shackles on his feet? Those are real.

This one is a dog. The sign talked about how the owner probably had chained the dog to guard the house and then it tried to escape. The metal rings on its collar are real.

Pompeii and Herculaneum were completely destroyed yet preserved when the volcano erupted in 79 AD.

The exhibit quoted much of Pliny the Younger’s letters to Tacticus (who was a historian). I read that Pliny the Elder (uncle of Pliny the Younger) was killed in Pompeii. Pliny the Younger wrote two letters…they would be a great place to start reading if you are interested for more information. He gives eye-witness accounts. I own Tacticus’ The Annals of Imperial Rome, but hope to get to read Pliny’s letters soon. The amount of things to read never ends. That is why I find history so compelling!

I got a little silly when we left–

Here I am imitating a way that a person of authority would pose in a manner when they were about to make an address to the peoples. You see it on statues all the time:

When I got home, I announced to the family that the next time we are eating dinner and I want to say my two cents worth in the conversation, I will raise my hands like this…just wait until I do it at a restaurant. HAHA.

Ceasar demonstrates speaking to the crowd at the ampitheatre.

More to come…

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