Saturday, September 15, 2018

Chihuly Nights at the Biltmore

As we approach retirement, our travels will probably be more extensive and more frequent.  Historically, we've done one big trip a year with a couple to long weekend excursions.  With the Jean's parents needing more attention, our long weekend trips have become less impromptu; it's part of adulting.  
This past summer before we left for Newfoundland, we kicked around a trip to the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, NC to see the Chihuly Art Glass exhibit, but at night.  Jean had seen the Chihuly exhibit when it toured through Pittsburgh a few years ago at the Frick Conservatory. 
Between the four of us, the biggest vehicle is Rick's Ranger, but it's not really suited for more than 2 adults when it comes to travel; the remainder are small cars again not suitable for more than 2 adults for travelling.  We decided to rent a Hyundai Santa Fe for the week; only a couple hundred bucks, easily  seats 5 with reasonable fuel economy.  Biltmore tickets were secured as well as two nights of lodging at classic motel in downtown Asheville.  Our plan was simple, get on the road early, drop the dogs at doggy camp when they open and high tail it to Asheville in time for dinner on Wednesday, Biltmore Thursday night and start home on Friday making it a 2 day return.  We picked our rental on Tuesday to find out we now have a VW Atlas- upgrade.   Nicknamed "the beast", this thing seats 8, easy. so handling 4 adults and a long weekend's worth of luggage should be a piece of cake. 
Wednesday morning goes exactly as planned; we meet our friends at the Mount Airy park and ride, the dogs get dropped at camp and traffic on I-81 is light and moving fast.  We arrive in Asheville mid-afternoon, get checked into our funky motel and make decisions as to which brewpub dinner will be had.  Asheville is a mecca of brewpubs; Sierra Nevada has even set up shop here.
We decide on the the Jack of the Wood an Irish style pub with a name that sounds as if it came from a Jethro Tull album.  The other choice is the Thirsty Monk which has great beer reviews but limited real food offering according to its Yelp reviews.  It's open mic night at the Jack of the Wood and a local string band has taken up residence playing some pretty funky blue grass.
After dinner, we retire to the motel's breakfast area for a spirited round of board games and an early night.  With a early evening reservation for the house tour at the Biltmore and the expected twilight showing of the art glass, we headed out for a walking tour of Asheville, an urban trail that traverses various neighborhoods, geographic features and places of note.    All in all, it took us a just under two hours to walk the entire length, took in some really interesting places along with a brief visit to the Thomas Wolfe house to find out we all had a different Thomas Wolfe in mind.

Still with a couple of hours to kill before we head to the estate itself, a nap is in order.   We loaded up and drove the beast over the estate planning to take in some of the side exhibits before heading to the house proper.  The estate bills that it has the most visited winery in the country, so we HAVE to give that a try- we love wineries.  Turns out that claim is a bit of a stretch; more like the most visited winery tasting room since you really never get into the winery.  Some of the offerings are quite tasty and within out pallet and wallet range so several bottles get lugged back to the beast for safe keeping while we continue to tour the various shops in the Biltmore Village.   We head to the house and park in the designated areas to wait for a shuttle bus; luckily we got a spot adjacent to the bus stop.  We've been warned that this bus trip can be long depending on crowd size and what parking area you embark from.  10 minutes later the bus makes the right turn onto the grand promenade of the Estate where the first of 16 separate Chihuly exhibits stands.  We have more than enough time to circulate through the entire gardens during daylight, so we wander all the way along the meandering paths to the Conservatory and hung out until it started to get dark.  
The lights came on at 7:30 as we started the trek back to the house.

It's been a long day, we walked almost 9 miles between our urban hike and stomping around Biltmore.  Collectively, we decide to sleep in, lounge around a bit in the morning and see if we can take the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way back to Front Royal.  Portions have been closed since just before Florence and they have been reopened as the Parkway gets cleared.

Side trip to Mount Mitchell, aka "Black Mountain" to the highest spot east of the Rockies.
Now that's a view
The Parkway was open all the way to Skyline Drive; we jumped off at Roanoke for the night.  The weather got a little nastier the further north we drove.  The beast performed excellently to the point we looked at home much Atlases cost [a fair chunk but not nearly as much as their Audi sisters].  Skyline Drive was free for the weekend as the Park Service had waived the fees after the roadways were re-opened after Florence.
We reversed the process picking up the doggies and dropping our friends at the Park and Ride where they parked their car during the trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment