Thursday, August 15, 2013

Girlfriends' Get-together 3--North Carolina

Eugenia and I left Washington, with good friend Renee, bound for the hills of West Virginia.  It’s a long trip, but the scenery was beautiful and the company even better.

One of our first stops was in Staunton, VA, where we had lunch and visited the Camera Heritage Museum.  The proprietor has not only current camera models for sale, but vintage cameras and photo equipment that tell the history of photography over the last 100 years or so.  
Fields, farms and dairies flashed past.  The countryside is beautiful, and we enjoyed the view as well as the company.  By late afternoon we had arrived in Mary-Blair’s home in Brevard, N.C.  Again, the scenery was beautiful but the company was even better!  Mary-Blair’s two yellow labs and orange tabby helped her to welcome us.

The next day, Eugenia, Renee and I left for nearby Ashville, N.C., for a visit to the historic Biltmore mansion.  Front and rear views give you a good idea of the scale of the place.  It is a magnificent structure, and I only wish we had been permitted to photograph inside so you could get some sense of its opulence.  The mansion has its own greenhouses, which are filled with hundreds of orchids and other flowering plants.  The mansion itself has lovely floral arrangements everywhere, much as it must have had in its heyday.  

The Biltmore  Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction.  The main house on the estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest son of William Henry Vancerbilt, between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned house in the US, at 178,926 square feet and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. 

We took a special behind-the-scenes tour to see not only the servants’ quarters, but the interior workings.  I’m just sorry that they prohibit photography in the mansion itself, so I cannot show much of the interior architecture and furnishings.  We can, however, admire the exquisite carvings on the mansion's exterior.

 The following day, Mary-Blair graciously played tour guide and took us to see some of the area’s lovely scenery and spectacular waterfalls.  One of our first stops was at Looking Glass Waterfall.

We had just enough time to admire the falls and take a few photos before an outdoor wedding party arrived.  As we were leaving, the bride was just about to walk down to the falls.  She was lovely, but I’m glad her father was carrying her wedding shoes.  It would have been a long hike down theos many steps in high heels!

We also hiked in a short distance to Hooker Falls.  This scene may look familiar to some of you, because this is where several scenes in the movie “Last of the Mohicans” were filmed.

Here are Eugenia, Renee and Mary-Blair perched on a rock enjoying the view of the falls.

We also stopped at a local pottery studio to do some shopping and to see some of the artisans at work.

On Sunday we accompanied Mary-Blair to church at the lovely St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.  

We so thank Mary-Blair for her hospitality and for sharing her home with us.  We had a wonderful time.  Oh, and I can’t forget the fun we had pursuing Brevard’s famous white squirrels.  As the story goes, a pair of white squirrels was given to H.H. Mull of Brevard in 1949, by a Mr. Black of Madison, Florida.  They supposedly escaped from a carnival truck that had overturned near Black's home.  Mr. Mull gave the squirrels to his niece, who unsuccessfully tried to breed them.  Eventually, one of the white squirrels escaped and Mr. Mull soon released the other.  Before long, the squirrels began breeding in the wild and appeared in several areas of town.  The town has passed an ordinance to protect the squirrels, and there is even a festival in their honor.  It should be noted that these are not albino squirrels.  Unlike true albinos, they have dark eyes and some have grey streaks in their fur. 

We stalked the descendants of these beasties for what seemed like hours, and finally were able to get a couple of them to stand still for photos.

And then, when we returned to Mary-Blair’s home, what do you think was waiting for us on the bird feeder just outside the window.  This little fellow...her own personal white squirrel!

It was a great road trip!

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