One of the largest mansions in California, Hearst Castle at 70,000 square feet, is a pittance of the size of the Biltmore House in Ashville, NC.
Vince and I are grateful to our fun Diamond Resorts hostess, Chastity, for the opportunity to see this magnificent home which is still owned by the descendants of George Vanderbilt.
Neither of us had seen snow for a while, so getting up in Gatlinburg, TN to heavy flurries excited us until the cold wind hit.
It didn’t bother any of the stylishly dressed mannequins inside the Biltmore Estate. Scattered among the antiques which are original to the home, each room on the main floors is “hosted” by models wearing clothing from the movie, “Titanic.”
As part of our special Diamond Resorts Events package, we also got to go behind the scenes at the Estate. All of us on the tour opted to stay off the roof, which was the tour our hosts had planned for us. Our guide, Ruth Ann, gave us a choice and showed us behind the scenes in the guest bedrooms, storage rooms and staff quarters instead.
If you are wondering, the cylindrical item on the table is a vacuum cleaner.
In the George Vanderbilt’s era, the women’s guest rooms did not have access to a sink in the bathroom. Would you like to know why?
Of course, you would.
Women didn’t turn on their own water. It was work, so female guests had attendants do it for them. Mr. Vanderbilt wanted his female guests to be pampered and have the water brought to their rooms. Male guests had sinks in their bathrooms.
The guest bathrooms did have toilets and large tubs. Some women of that era did not think it was good manners to have a toilet inside the house. Those guests received a chamber pot instead. We saw where all they stored all the old pots. 🙂
Since the family still owns this home, all the furniture has stayed with the house, and believe it or not, there’s not enough room to display it all. So some of it is kept in the fourth-floor bedrooms. One of the rooms was also used to film the movie “Private Eyes” starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway.
We spent time at the grand staircase talking about the chandelier, which is 50 feet tall and weighs 1,700 pounds. One bolt keeps it from tumbling down on your head. If you zoom in on this picture you can see that the bolt is not on exactly straight on center.
The reason for that is because the Biltmore is on a fault line. In case of an earthquake or another disaster, the chandelier is able to move around on that attachment.
Eventually, it will scrape off all the paint up there, so if it looks like you have dandruff when you walk underneath the chandelier, it is probably just flecks of paint. By the way, all the lights are still replaced the same way they did them in 1895. Brave workers use a whatchamacallit to drop the lights in place. They don’t screw into a socket.
Check out the library on the main floor, with 23,000 volumes all handpicked by Mr. Vanderbilt. Private eye, Don Knotts, discovered a few of the books missing when he got to tour the home. Sure enough, the family found those missing books at auctions and repurchased them.
This is Marsha Ingrao reporting as accurately as my brain remembers the fascinating trivia I learned at the Biltmore Estate. I hope that you enjoyed your brief tour.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any way you choose.” Dr. Seuss
Over the years you would think I would have everything mastered for seamless travel. Each trip is memorable for something I shouldn’t do. Here are some of them so that you can avoid the pitfalls that trapped me.
Seventeen Travel Tips
1) If you fly for business, don’t book your flight far in advance of your meetings. I booked my flight in early August to attend a November conference. Two days ahead of time I entered all my meeting times into my online calendar for the first time. The meeting I chaired started at 4:00 p.m and my plane arrived at 5:00 p.m.
2) Don’t trust the “change your flight plans insurance” to cover mistakes like, “I didn’t know I had a meeting scheduling conflict.” While it may not be your fault, it is not the airline’s fault either, and insurance doesn’t cover that. Read the 45 pages fine print.
3) When you connect flights, make sure you get to the right gate and not the one next to the right gate. Keep checking for changes in the gate. Don’t read something engaging; they don’t hold the plane for 20 minutes after take-off for you to get on. (Apparently, they don’t call your name over the intercom either.)
4) Book through United Airlines rather than US Air. If you miss your connecting flight, they will get you on another flight without charging you. I’ve done that twice. Both American and US Air did not help.
5) Don’t print your ticket up at home. If you are lucky, when they print your ticket at the airport, you might get a “Pre-Check” ticket, which is given randomly. Or you can buy them through Homeland Security for $100 for 5 years. The application may kick you offline, and you have an interview, but Pre-Check is like gold.
6) Since Pre-Checkers don’t have to take their shoes off, don’t wear buckles on your shoes.
7) When you do miss your flight, and they book you on another flight, and you leave the customer service counter without a printed ticket, don’t assume that you can get your confirmed seat without a ticket. This happened to me twice with two different airlines. Both flights were overbooked, and the clerks were rude.
8) When the clerk tells you that there are no more seats on the flight and you have a ticket don’t assume that there are no more seats. Wait until the plane loads. Stand near the counter and look old and helpless. If there is a seat, he or she will find it just to get you out of his hair.
8) Do not wear a blouse with trapunto stitching when you fly. The naked airport scan indicated that I was carrying illicit something in my blouse. The TSA agent had to put her gloved hand in my bra to check for hidden contraband even though I assured her there wasn’t much in there. On her third check, the agent got mad at the naked picture reader behind the plastic curtain.”It’s just stitching. There is NOTHING THERE!” she announced in a loud voice.
9) Don’t try to joke with the TSA agent when they are searching in your bra for drugs and counterfeit money.
10) Don’t overpack your carry-on luggage even though you don’t want to pay for checking a bag. If you can’t squeeze it in the overhead bin, the attendants and passengers get angry even if you look old and helpless. Best to check it at the last-minute, if you can. Better to pack light!
12) If you are going long distances on a full train, don’t assume that you have been assigned to the correct seat. I went to the restroom and came back to an occupied seat.
13) If you sit next to someone on the train who either stinks or has on too much perfume, consider drinking all night. At least in the dining car, you can choose who you sit with. (to a point).
14) When you drive at night in strange towns, and your GPS tells you the streets to take, don’t assume 1) that they are not torn up, and 2) that they are not one-way streets. In South Bend, IN, fortunately, there was a parking lot that led to the one-way street that went the direction I needed to go.
15) If you are going back east in the winter, don’t forget to take more than one coat. Costco sells down coats that roll into a little ball. St. Louis hit twelve degrees with the wind chill factor. California winters do not prepare travelers for that.
16) DO NOT eat fish and chips at 10:00 am in an airport restaurant. You might not feel the effects for 12 hours, but you will feel them.
17) Don’t forget to pack Imodium pills.
Here are some pictures from my trip to St. Louis, MO. I hope you will enjoy.
Oops, I lost my head!
St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was tried.
St. Louis lights
The fountain is empty, but there are pockets of ice.
NCSS is in town.
The Old Courthouse
What travel “do not do what I did tips” do you have?
Sixteen year old Golda could have bemoaned her life of trying to live down the stigma of her father’s constant trouble making. Drunken stupors, fights, and now much worse. As good as her mother was, and as hard as she tried to make a good home, Golda could never bring friends to her house, and even hated to admit who she was.
Nearing the end of her junior year of high school, Fred Birchfield was going to jail again, this time in Indianapolis, fifty miles away, for killing a man. Maybe it was self-defense. Maybe the guy he killed was no good, and the police were secretly glad to get rid of the man, but her dad would do hard time. Of course, her mother would move to be near him. Golda envisioned another, more optimistic, life for herself.
Golda Harriette perched on the branch steadied by her best friend Lavona. The damp summer air that encased her body in secure warmth, plastered her limp bangs to her head. She loved smell of Crawfordsville, Indiana, the cloying smell of roses climbing the sides of tiny white frame houses, and the subtle clean smell of gladioli. She could watch the showy flowers swaying in the gentle breeze, gleaming along the back fence the morning sun like women in their colorful finery bunched together for an early morning church photo.The mix of the summer’s blooms in the Lavona’s back yard overpowered Golda’s senses, making her dizzy with the joy of life. Taking a deep breath, Golda leaned back her head and grinned at God. Filled to the brim with the happiness she leaned forward and touched Lavona’s shoulder with her cheek sharing her euphoria with her friend.
She could go to Indianapolis with her mother, and maybe she should. but Golda did not see an optimistic future in that. She had taken pains while attending school in her small conservative town to keep her reputation spotless. When Lavona’s mother said she could stay with them until she graduated, Golda hopes took root.
Focusing her thoughts on happy times, Golda considered the many family conversations about Lavona’s handsome older brother, his U.S. Army service picture proudly placed in the center of the mantle. She wasn’t proud of any man in her family. She didn’t remember her grandfather very well, and she didn’t have a brother, younger or older.
Golda had not met Jesse, but Lavona told her how shy he was with girls. Over the months of secret-telling and giggles in Lavona’s bedroom, Golda felt intrigued. Jesse sent presents to his mom from Hawaii, a beautiful hope chest, a manly trunk, and dishes. Golda made plans. When he came back from Hawaii, she would talk to him, be his friend, and draw him out of his shell. He could be her big brother, too, or maybe something more. How could she hope to meet him if she moved to Indianapolis? Golda also dreamed about Frank Gifford in her high school class. She wondered if he would be the one to win her heart completely. She wanted to meet Jesse first.
Martha Birchfield had a confectious belly laugh that made the walls of their tiny home shake. Golda believed her mother’s optimism could belie even national catastrophes, but she also believed that being pragmatic improved optimism. Before she married she planned to go to Normal School and become a teacher. She would be able to provide handsomely for herself until she married.
Although she loved her mother dearly, and knew Martha Birchfield would do almost anything for her, Golda did not want to be like her mother, who got married instead of attending high school, and had her when she was fifteen. Martha’s three older sisters from her grandmother’s first marriage had married, so at age fourteen, Martha Nina Earl optimistically thought she could do the same, and she did. Golda rationalized that her mother’s optimism, though infectious, was often misplaced and impractical. That was not the life she wanted, nor was a man as unstable as Fred Birchfield in her sites. She optimistically thought she could do better.
Golda’s young life did not reflect either the elegance or ennui in the upper class society of the great Gatsby’s acquaintance. Nor did she look or feel destitute. Instinctively and by observing her mother, she knew how to elude poverty by working and saving.
Optimism had crept into the nation’s political and economic fabric. With Sears opening its first store in Chicago in 1925, and its first free-standing store in Evansville, Indiana, the free market system started to blossom. If politics changed and threatened this new exciting lifestyle, Golda could vote, a freedom her mother did not have. This Crawfordsville damsel believed optimistically that growth and wealth would continue into the future.
Jesse Clark came home from World War I where he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to find a cheerful teenager named Golda living with his family. As shy as he was, he could not escape the charming mental images she painted for the future. The flamboyant roaring twenties promised nothing but good times forever. My grandparents married during these optimistic times. Surrounded by friends and family, they married when the 1920s roared their loudest, July 3, 1925, the year Charles Scribner & Sons published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby. They could have attend the first performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1925, driving the luxurious the Chrysler Six, Walter Chrysler’s first design. As first child born in the family since Golda’s only daughter, I spent most of my preschool years being chauffeured between my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s homes. They spoiled me silly. They infected affected me by encouraging me to think I could do anything I wanted to do, in spite of having a double harelip.
At the time, I guess that being born with a harelip was considered quite a handicap. I didn’t learn until I was an adult that the Nazis threw out babies with harelips as though they were trash, and I was born just six years after they lost control of the world. The dreams and optimism that drove my life forward stemmed from a lineage of both heredity and training from three optimistic women.
Optimism is child’s play coupled with determined hard work.
Speaking of hard work, I have started a blog specifically for writing and blogging tips. If you love this blog, or know people who want to be part of the writing experience, please follow my new blog for writers called Just Write or follow my professional writer’s Facebook page, TC History Gal Productions . Thanks so much!
Hope you enjoyed a trip back in the history of my mother’s family. For additional optimistic entries, click here or on the WP camera.
I live much of my life behind glass. My 2006 Prius has over 215,000 miles, my husband’s 2004 truck has nearly 200,000 miles, and his “new” car, a 2010 Prius has nearly 80,000 miles on it. Usually I drive and can’t take pictures (or shouldn’t). On our accidental vacation, we had to stop. So did everyone else.
Nonetheless, my husband wanted me to stay behind the glass. Glass protects. For this picture, he pulled off the road. Elk grazed on both sides of the 2-lane highway. Other brave souls came out from behind the glass. I did too, and fortunately the elk were more interested in the grass than in us. 🙂
You don’t want to test glass beyond its protective endurance. Fortunately there was more to this floor than just glass because a few weeks after we took this picture, the glass busted! Those squares weren’t patterns on the carpet, they were tops of Chicago buildings.
Glass does more than protect. The University of Notre Dame collected more French stained glass than anywhere in France. It would take days to notice all the beauty in these glass windows.
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but what about people working in glass buildings? I guess they can throw anything they want during the daytime. You can’t see in anyway. I could have seen a reflection of me throwing a stone off the tour boat, but I was more than a stone’s throw away!
If you’re not glassy-eyed by now. Click on the icon to view more of Cee’s friends’ photos.