Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christmas at the Biltmore Estate


It’s been a dream in the making. A wait of 5 + years to see the largest privately owned house in the United States. And with that, welcome to the Biltmore Estate. A house of 250 rooms with 35 bedrooms for family and guests and 43 bathrooms. Construction began in 1889 and continued into 1896. It was opened up to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895. I can just imagine the remarks of awe and wonder at such a luxurious home. No expense was spared with such an intensive display of wealth. The construction of the main house required 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. Vanderbilt went overseas to bring home furnishings such as tapestries, hundreds of carpets, linins, and other decorative objects.


Upon entering, your first stop will be the Winter Garden. I highly recommend the audio tour which will walk you through the Biltmore, describing the history and background of the various rooms, kitchens, dining halls, and other areas.


The banquet hall is the largest room in the house. It measures 42 feet wide and 72 feet long, with 70-foot barrel-vaulted ceilings. My visit was at the end of October and already Christmas was in the air. Ladders were in place to hang garland and ornaments. The tree in the banquet hall is a 35-ft. live Fraser fir. In addition to this large tree, more than 100 Christmas trees are placed around the mansion with the largest tree being 55 ft. out in the front of the estate.


This additional dining area is elaborate with the upholstery and decor.


The Salon


The music room


The library which demonstrates Mr. Vanderbilt’s deep appreciation and love for books.


The Tapestry Gallery


Christmas trees! Two out ofover a  hundred.


Imagine being able to walk out on your porch each day to see this view.


View down the stair well from the third floor.


Bowling Alley


The pool which is empty due to a leak.


The gymnasium.


There are three kitchens with this being the main one.

Outdoors at the Biltmore Estate





The gardens and Conservatory are another highlight of the estate. The Conservatory was compleeted in 1895 and features a variety of exotic plants. The Conservatory hosts small ceremonies and receptions of 10 – 75 guests. It is a romantic setting for weddings, but be prepared as the estimated cost for 100 guest is between $44,612 and $45,665.





I hope you enjoyed these photos from my tour of Biltmore and will get to visit for yourself one day. By booking in advance, you could get a discount so check out their tickets online.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Camping in Grandfather Mountain


There I stood, at the edge of the cliff daring to look out into the wilderness with thousands of feet from where we were to the ground. The air was chilly, but with the frequent movement it was almost nonexistent or at least it seemed so. I just wanted to take it all in. It was like all the stress and anxiety was washed away and there I was feeling God’s presence in the most miraculous way. It had taken climbing steep hills and over large boulders to reach the top, but worth every step. And then as we looked out into the distance, a cloud was encircling the moutain. You could see the breeze pushing it around.



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Foscoe point

Grandfather Mountain State Park is known for the South’s most severe weather and most challenging terrain, but eight of us convened out on this trip with at least 35 pounds on our back and some around 45. We were courageous. The adventure seeker outers. It was my first time camping in a tent. I cherish the times my grandparents would take us camping in their airstream, but there is something way different when sleeping in a tent, cooking food on a small propane stove, filtering your own water from a stream, and the other little various things that we take for granted in city life. Camping takes us back to our roots. How we used to live before all the fancy appliances.


Picture to the left is us filtering our water and photo to the right is how we cooked our food on a portable propane tank cooker.


Conclusion to day one was experiencing a sunset at Grandfather mountain. The oranges and pinks lit up the sky and as the light grew dimmer, the stars grew brighter. Stars beyond our ability to comprehend with the distance and multitude of them all. What looked to be a satellite slowly went across the sky and then as we looked across the horizon, not only did we see the stars clearly, but also small lights coming from the city below.


The next day was even more adventurous. We found this trail and thought that this couldn’t possibly be a trail with the dangerous nature of it, but sure enough it was and as you can see the blue streak on the rock declared that it was. So despite the strenousness of the trail, half our group ventured forward into the unknown up what was quite a steep mountain. It was most assuredly worth it and though we didn’t have time to reach the swinging bridge, we shared the views and splendor of reaching the peak. It was an adventure of a life time and though the views and sites of a trip are astounding, the people you share it with is even more part of the memorability of the journey.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fireman Museum in New Bern


The conditions were perfect. The weather was dry and the firemen were all on their way to Raleigh for the Eastern North Carolina State Championship Football Game. And then it happened. The largest lumber company in 1922 caught fire on December 1, but that wasn’t enough. The fire began to leap to other destinations because the 70 mile per hour winds. People within the city were recruited to help. Within an hour a fire started in the chimney of a small house on Kilmarnock Street. The fire of New Bern was devestating. About 1/3 of the city was destroyed, over 3,000 were left homless and 40 city block were destroyed.

This is just the beginning of the history shared at the Firemen’s Museum, a museum established in 1955.


There were two rivaling firefighting companies that ended up being housed in the same building. Our story begins on May 14, 1885. On May 14, 1845 the New Bern Fire Department started the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company. As the Civil War commenced in 1861, the company soon became inactive because so many members were serving in the Confederate Army. When the need for an active firefighting company again arose, the New Bern Steam Fire Engine company No. 1 was started up. As life returned to normal, the focus shifted. The focus for the firefighting companies was getting the biggest, the best, and the fastest equipment.

As you see above, the steam fire engine was all the rage in the later 1800’s. In 1879, The Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company received a new Silsby steam fire engine. In an attempt to out do the other, in 1884 the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 traded in their Amoskeag steam engine for the new “Button Steam Fire Engine.” There name was soon changed to the “Button Company.” The companies continued to compete with each other thorughout the state. The Button Company acheived the world record for running quick steam at 1 minute 46 seconds.


No, this is not a horse pulled fire hose, but a human pulled one!


This demonstrates how the hoses were hung up so they can dry.


The helmets were different than todays in that they were made with leather. You can only imagine how much that would cost today if they were still made in that fashion.


This is a very interesting piece used in the incident of a fire. Our guide explained that in a central location of a fire, there would be someone that would signal the alarm system which would be connected to the system at the fire station. They would go to that area and then be directed from there to the more specific location.


Fred was among the most faithful and loyal of the fire horses. He lived for 25 years doing a great service for the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company for 17 years. Mr. John Taylor and Fred the horse were a team working together to combat fires. Fred was keen with his senses as he had the ability to recognize tones of fire alarms and then reach those locations on this own. He was no stranger to adversity, but when his well loved owner died in 1925 of a heart attack, Fred passed away soon after. The dedication of Fred to his owner was very admirable and just another piece of history that visitors will experience at the Fireman’s Museum in New Bern, North Carolina.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Tips for Visiting Navy Pier & Lake Shore View in Chicago


Going to Downtown Chicago three times during my stay in Illonois, made the trip feel like three trips rolled into one. I’m a more nature minded kind of girl, but big cities fascinate me. For the final visit to Chicago before flying on home, I got the best of both worlds. Seeing Lake Michigan was like a huge bonus. It wasn’t on my radar, so when I realized we were going to get to go along the famous lake shore coast line, I was very happy.


The Greatest Challenge…

Hands down is parking and so if you haven’t opted for the public transit, then check out Each time you park it can cost about $22 for just a couple hours and once you go through, even if you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay the price. I speak from experience. The lady though was kind enough to refund us, but don’t risk it! Do a search on your location and see which places are cheapest. If you’re planning to go to Navy Pier, the Lakefront Trail is a popular and well-known route. Just be prepared for lots of foot traffic, but it is worth it for the views.


A beautiful view of Navy Pier. Now, for the story and some words of wisdom. So, I found this nice little restaurant in the indoor eating area. I asked the cashier for advice about what to do. The insider info is that it is a tourist trap, but in my opinion, it is all in your perspective. We ended up just having to pay for the parking and for lunch which was well deserved anyway (the lunch that is). I was in it for the views, so in this case, it turned out okay.


Since the cheapest boat tour is about $40 a person (and way up from there), I chose to just get my picture in front of it. I saved a lot! The one behind me must have been over $100. I’m just guesstimating.


Another beautiful view. Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes when measured by the water surface. Another fact is that it is the only great lake that is entirely in the United Staes. The water covers 22,300 square miles touching the four states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan (of course), and Wisconsin.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ascension to Chicago 360

Chicago 360

I thrive on adventure, going places, meeting new people. I’ve said yes to eating the hottest pepper in the world and going out on a piece of glass (the skydeck) to look straight down at the Chicago city below. The competition to the Sky Deck, meet the Chicago 360. It’s home is the John Hancock Center, a 100-story, 1,228-foot building. That’s a lot of floors! Designed by Brue Graham and engineered by Fazlur Khan, this building was brought to a completion on May 6, 1968. It was at the time the second tallest building in the word. It now holds the title of the eighth-tallest building in the US.

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The views are remarkable. You get to look out to an all around view of the city, see up to four states, and look a distance of 80 miles out.


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Some may say that facing your fears is the best way to cure them and I find it to be true. I have a “slight” dislike of heights and figured that going on the Chicago 360 and then the Sky Deck (a jump up from the 360) was a great way to cure those feelings. I can proudly say that on top of being 94 floors up, I was tilted outward over the city of Chicago, 1,030 feet to be exact. It was only a couple minutes for $7, but well worth the experience. Just don’t be embarrassed like me by being called out while trying to take a picture with your phone. I was so mesmarized that I didn’t realize that they were talking to me until they started counting. Super embarrassing, but what’s a good story without some personal accounts?