Biltmore In Spring

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is a magnificent destination at any time of the year. It’s especially nice right now because the gardens are bursting with color.

There are over 8,000 acres of gardens and grounds including a formal garden, hiking trails, fields, lawns and forests that seem to stretch on and on.

The Biltmore landscape was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. In fact, this magnificent project was the last for the man who gave us New York’s Central Park and the US. Capitol grounds.

Olmstead’s guiding light was a concept called “subordination” which means that all elements of a landscape design should serve the overall effect without overwhelming or overshadowing any other part of the landscape.

These grounds are magnificent but I have only scratched the surface in exploring the outdoors here. The natural beauty seems endless.

In the formal garden, we saw peonies, snapdragons, roses and a host of other beauties. The rhododendron was in full bloom and there were a ton of other shrubs and trees unfamiliar to this Yankee.

The conservatory is home to all sorts of succulents, orchids, hydrangea and tropical plants that are arranged artfully.

If I ever find myself there alone, I hope to sit on one of these benches to read a book or write something smart.

It was nice and cool there in the shade so my friend and I did stop here to rest a while and to simply soak in the beauty of this day.

The house tour is incredible for its history and opulence. As much as I enjoy it though, the time spent outdoors is always my favorite part of a Biltmore visit. If you go, be sure to carve out some time to explore the outdoors.

Our next stop will be inside the house! Check back!

Adventures Revisited: Decorating A Travel Tree

One of my favorite traditions is to collect Christmas ornaments from the amazing places I go in this world. Each ornament gets its own postcard or tag with a trip memory written on the back. Then both the ornament and memory are displayed on a tree devoted only to my travels.

Sometimes the ornaments are actual Christmas ornaments. More often than not, they’re things that I purpose into an ornament.

A stuffed buffalo from Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, a toy plane from the day my dad and I saw the Memphis Belle together (that was our first big adventure just the two of us), a glass sun catcher from a trip to Wytheville, Virginia with my mother and a Canadian flag from Toronto are part of this collection.

Most items are new but a few are vintage like a souvenir pennant from Hollywood. When I visited back in 2004 I wasn’t collecting ornaments and I recently found this vintage piece in an antique store.

I decorated that tree this week and had a fun time reminiscing about my adventures. It was especially rewarding reliving this year’s fun with friends – Utah with Johnna, Fallingwater with Meria, Pittsburgh with Nichola and Virginia with my mother as well as the solo adventures I had this fall made me smile.

There are a few ornaments that I was careful not to read the tags or think about too much when I pulled them from the tote. Some memories are bittersweet enough they’re best left undisturbed. Maybe next year I’ll be ready.

But this is an overwhelmingly happy tree to decorate and enjoy throughout the season. Seeing the Biltmore decorated for Christmas was a bucket list item that I checked off a few years ago. Memphis is where I paid my respects to Elvis and where I saw BB King play in his club on Beale Street. A vintage toy train reminds me of my solo road trip through rural Indiana while a toy soldier reminds me of the morning I watched the sun rise over the George Rogers Clark Memorial and the tour I had inside the memorial – just me and a National Park Service Ranger. That Hollywood pennant reminds me of one warm Easter Sunday spent at Venice Beach. That was the only Easter I’ve spent away from home. A decorative Santa Claus tells the story of road tripping through Canada and finding the unexpected in Toronto last year.

I’ve never regretted taking a trip or the occasional sacrifice necessary so I can afford to do so. This tree is a testament to why.

Travel enlightens. It reminds us of our place in this world and how small we are. It teaches us about other people, their traditions and values. It gives us a release, an opportunity to escape reality and have fun.

It’s good for us.

I’m already dreaming of the next adventure and wondering what memories I’ll add to the tree next year.