A Day Trip to the Biltmore

Biltmore 5

An adventurer at heart, I yearn to explore more of the cities, towns, natural wonders, and points of interest around wherever I happen to be living. For at least the past 12 months, I have wanted to visit the Biltmore, a sprawling estate just 50 miles over the state line in North Carolina. With the day off work, the sky nearly free of clouds, and the temperature a perfect 80 degrees, I road tripped last Thursday to the Biltmore and enjoyed a perfect day of fresh air, photography, and walking.

Art collector and horticulturalist George W. Vanderbilt, who inherited several million dollars from his shipping magnate parents, spent much of his fortune in 1895 after dreaming up plans for the colossal Biltmore House. Working with architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt’s dream became a reality. The finished product: 250 rooms on 8,000 forested acres – the largest private estate in the U.S. If you were to picture the Hearst Castle, you wouldn’t be far off the mark. If you were to picture France’s Chambord Château, you’d be even closer. Notice the exterior spiral staircase, taken straight out of French château architecture books.

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Photo Locale of the Month – March 2016

Spring is in the air! The Vernal Equinox is just two days away, and the weather across Tennessee – and elsewhere in the U.S. as well – has been positively spring-like. A few days ago, temps crept into the lower 80’s, and I was able to sleep with my windows wide open!

Despite the continent being more northerly in latitude, the weather in Western Europe is generally milder than here in the U.S. This was definitely the case in 2011, when I spent several sunny, shorts-wearing spring days in France, exploring Paris for the umpteenth time and making my first trip to French château country, aka the Loire Valley.

Chambord Chateau 8

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Paris, je te aime

Eiffel Tower 27

The nation of France – and Paris in particular – has had a tough week. On Wednesday, radical Islamist terrorists gunned down twelve employees of the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, allegedly in retaliation for that magazine’s publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. One suspect turned himself in and two others – brothers who were once under surveillance until the French government decided it simply had too many “persons of interest” to continue monitoring the ones it was already keeping tabs on – were ultimately hunted down and killed.

The manhunt was well underway by international authorities, and makeshift memorials of flowers and candles were already being left near the magazine offices, when it happened again on Thursday: a policewoman, just 26, was gunned down by one of the suspects in the suburb of Montrouge.

And again on Friday. The killings returned to Paris-proper when two terrorists gunned down four people inside a kosher grocery store in a predominantly-Jewish section of Paris. One terrorist was killed in a standoff but the second, a female, is still at large and is believed to have since fled to Syria.

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