My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and though we generally do something each year, for this particular anniversary getaway trip, we decided to do something a little different to commemorate such a special occasion.  Have you ever taken the time to put together a bucket list of things that you and your spouse wished to tackle together?  Well, visiting what is known to be the largest home in America was one of ours.  With our anniversary being at the end of January, it seemed to be a great idea because the crowds would be lighter and we felt the weather would be satisfactory as well.  The Biltmore Estate is located in Asheville, North Carolina and is surrounded by The Blue Ridge Mountains. 

We decided to do a little research to see what other things we could include in this anniversary getaway to make it even more special.  Before heading to Asheville, we first wanted to check out a restaurant that we had read wonderful reviews about called Rick Erwin’s Nantucket Seafood Restaurant! 

Many who know us, know that we have a love for exploring new restaurants and seafood happens to be one of our favorite cuisines.  Rick Erwin’s Nantucket Seafood Restaurant is located a little over an hour away from Asheville in Greenville, South Carolina so we decided to book a flight to the Greenville/Spartanburg airport and reserved a car so we could drive into Asheville after dining.

Upon our arrival into the Greenville/Spartanburg airport, we retrieved our luggage, picked up our rental car, and proceeded directly to the restaurant.  We had made dinner reservations and so we were able to be seated at our table right away when we arrived.  A little after ordering our appetizers, the owner, Rick Erwin, came to our table to introduce himself, and a little later, the manager, Brandon, who is also Rick’s nephew, came by our table as well.  We had a great conversation with Brandon discussing his military past, all of the other restaurants the family owns, and we even touched on his future plans for his life.  It was really fascinating to hear him speak because nashville2ot only was the conversation very interesting, but by listening to his accent, you would have thought that he was the one from Texas instead of us.

The staff at Nantucket’s Seafood was very courteous and our waiter, Brian, filled with Southern Charm, took extra good care of us.  We started out with crab cakes and the famous Blue Point Oysters!  They were both delicious!  We then moved on to something very popular in The Carolinas, the She-Crab Soup.   For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s very similar to crab bisque.  For the entrees, I ordered the Sea Scallops “A La Oscar” which included Jumbo Scallops, Colossal Lump Blue Crab, Asparagus, and finished with a creamy hollandaise sauce drizzled over the top.  Howard ordered the Surf and Turf which included a Steak Filet, a jumbo lobster tail, whipped potatoes and sautéed vegetables.  After thoroughly enjoying our meals, we were stuffed but our waiter, Brian, talked us into trying out their desserts.  Everything on the menu looked so good, so talking us into it was not very difficult for him to do!  After all…we were on vacation, right?  After perusing the menu, I finally chose the Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee’ and Howard chose Carnegie Deli Cheesecake.  We planned on just taking a bite and packing it up to take to our room but that didn’t happen as there was very little left to take.  The flavors of the two desserts were incredible!

It was finally time to get on the road and make our way to Asheville, North Carolina.  When we originally looked into booking our hotel, we looked into the Inn of Biltmore Estates, but we eventually found out that the location was closed during the time that we were visiting for installation of new floors.  We got online and came across a boutique hotel located directly across the street from the Biltmore Estate called The Grand Bohemian. We were able to book a suite that was located in the heart of the Biltmore village area and we felt this would really be convenient for what we were looking to do during this visit.  Also, with the hotel being listed as one of The World’s Best Hotels by Travel and Leisure, we felt that we couldn’t go wrong with our decision to stay. Upon arrival late that evening, we were greeted by the doorman and he helped us to get all checked in and up to our suite.  We arrived a little late so the halls seemed to be very quiet as we went up to our suite located on the 4th floor.  The 600 sq ft suite included a beautiful marble bathroom with a large tub perfect for soaking in a hot bubble bath.  The bed was very comfortable and our view was of the entrance of the Biltmore Estate and the beautiful lush mountains.  Our first morning there, we spent some time in the fitness facility and then we went to explore the hotel a bit since we had arrived so late the night before.  There was a bit of an old world charm type of feeling as we walked around the downstairs area of the hotel.  As we looked around, we noticed a European type of hunting theme going on that was unique, yet still luxurious.  The carved statues and art pieces definitely stood out and some were even made available for purchase.

After exploring the hotel, we eventually made our way to have lunch at the Red Stag Grill located on the first floor of the hotel.  I ordered the Cassoulet which is a dish that originates from the South of France.  The ingredients included crispy duck confit, wild boar sausage, house smoked bacon, white beans, and baby root vegetables all served in a bowl.  This restaurant did a great job with this dish as the chosen spices for flavor were perfect!  Howard ordered the Mountain Trout which was served with Ratatouille and kale with an almond brown butter sauce.  It was fresh local fare and also cooked very well but Howard said it was a little light on the seasoning.  Now, Howard is from Louisiana so I don’t know how much you should pay attention to this “light on the seasoning” comment! (*wink)

After our lunch, we made our way back to our room to get ready for our photo shoot that we had scheduled to help commemorate our 15th wedding anniversary.  We hired the phenomenal photographer, Ms. Meghan Rolfe, to capture moments of us together at the Biltmore Estate!  With this being a popular tourist attraction, we were concerned about being able to take beautiful photos without having multiple people in the background or interfering with our shoot.  It was a cold windy day but we found this to be to our advantage because we didn’t have to deal with any crowds and Meghan was able to capture so many fun loving moments between Howard and I.  This whole experience really added something even more special to making our anniversary trip an unforgettable one.

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Meghan was very familiar with the Biltmore Estate property and she was able to take us to some of the most beautiful spots that offered breathtaking views.  Some of the views that we saw almost made us forget that we had a photographer there to capture photos.  Meghan is very good at what she does.  She made us feel very comfortable and just allowed us to be ourselves as she literally froze our loving moments with one another.  She has a wonderful personality and a true gift in photography.  She is definitely a photographer that we would refer and wholeheartedly recommend for those special moments in your life.
As the evening rolled around, we decided to take a chance to dine at one of the hot seafood spots in downtown Asheville called The Lobster Trap.  The Lobster Trap is known to be Asheville’s premier seafood restaurant so we were really looking forward to experiencing the flavors of some of their popular dishes.  The restaurant was about a 10 minute drive from our hotel and once we arrived, we had about a 15 minute wait.  During our wait, we chose to walk over to the open kitchen to watch the chefs in action.  We got a chance to see many of the different types of fresh foods being prepared and this actually gave us a preliminary look at the plated menu items that we eventually enjoyed.

We, of course, ordered a selection of oysters from different regions, but I believe our favorite is still the famous Blue Point Oysters.  We also tried two of their appetizers, the bacon wrapped scallops and a steamed bowl of the old bay seasoned boiled shrimp.  Our entrees included one of the night’s specials, The Mountain Trout over Gumbo and the Grilled Maine Lobster.  Both dishes were very tasty and the portions given were plentiful.  One thing that you must try is the complimentary smoked trout dip that is brought to the table before anything else.  It is AMAZING!

The following day, we were able to go back to the Biltmore Estate.  We walked the grounds the previous day as we took our photos during our photoshoot, but this day, we were going to take a couple of tours and visit Antler’s Village and the Winery.  Our first tour was the “Behind-the-Scenes Guided Upstairs – Downstairs Tour” which was a 60 minute guided tour that took us through the domains of the butler, housekeepers and the lady’s maid.  We got the chance to also see the guest rooms and learn about the grand parties that the The Vanderbilts, hosted. For those who are unfamiliar with the Vanderbilt Family,  George and Edith Vanderbilt had this home built and moved into it in 1895. Five years later, they gave birth to a baby girl named Cornelia.  The family of three opened their home to guests from all over the world and hosted memorable dinner parties and extended getaways.

After this tour, we made our way to pick up our audible units so that we could peruse other parts of the home with our self-guided tour.  This self-guided tour took us about an hour and a half to complete and we learned so many interesting facts about the Vanderbilts, the guests they entertained in their home, and their servants.  The architectural work and artwork throughout the home were simply stunning!

Due to the size of the home and time, even with many hours behind us, we were still unable to see all of it.  There were other locations on the property that we wanted the opportunity to see as well so we would definitely recommend dedicating a minimum of two days for the opportunity to cover it all.

Our next stop on the Bilmore Estate was Antler Village which has shops and restaurants and The Winery also offers wine tastings and a wine tour.

After a long day at the Biltmore, it was time to head back to our suite for our couple’s massage, provided by Poseidon Spa.

Poseidon Spa is actually located in The Grand Bohemian Hotel and if you book a suite in the main building, they will accommodate you if you are looking to have your massage done in the privacy of your room.  Our masseuses brought the music, oils, and tables and at the end, they even provided hot chamomile tea to sip on.  They were both very professional and friendly and made sure that we were both comfortable with the pressure levels they applied.  We never stepped foot into the actual spa located at the hotel so we’re unable to provide any information other than that the staff was very friendly and courteous from the start of setting up our reservation to the completion of our in-room massage.

The following day would be our day to head back home, so we decided to enjoy a nice relaxed evening in our suite after our massages and ordered in-room dining service.   The hotel delivered champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to our room so we also enjoyed that treat before calling it a night.

We could not leave the city of Asheville without visiting the historic mountain resort, Grove Park Inn.    We decided to walk around the grounds and have an early lunch at Edison Craft Ale’s and Kitchen.  Edison Craft Ale’s and Kitchen offers regionally inspired food in a contemporary and artistic setting.  The restaurant suggested seating next to the windows to enjoy the beautiful views but due to the cold air, we chose to sit in front of the large fireplace to warm ourselves a little while we dined.

After eating, we walked around a little more to explore the resort and then went outside to take some photos because the views really were spectacular.  Before heading back to the valet to get our car, we decided to grab some drinks and sit in the lobby which they call the Great Hall.  There are a couple of massive fireplaces on each end and we couldn’t resist sitting in a set of chairs in front of the fire while we sipped and just gazed at the fire.  Another interesting thing about sitting in front of the Great Fire was that as your eyes followed the details of the massive fireplace, you would find inspirational messages etched in the stone by different authors.

As we headed back to the airport, we made some stops near the mountains, but unfortunately, roads were closed due to the blizzard that hit the area the prior weekend.  There was still too much snow and ice so the road was barricaded to prevent navigation.  Many people just parked alongside the road and got out of their cars to walk and take photos.
Overall, our 3 night/4 day getaway was full of romance, great food, good adventures and good times with one another.  We made some wonderful memories and took the opportunity to also learn historical facts about The Vanderbilt Family and the city of Asheville, North Carolina.  We always find it interesting to learn about other people, their ways of living, their cultures, and the stories behind the success of other individuals that have become prominent in history.  Some of what we learned was truly inspiring.