Joyce and I went to Asheville this weekend to see the Biltmore House for free. Laura’s in-laws gave us free tickets. I haven’t added up yet how many hundreds of dollars this free visit cost, but, as we all know, “free is just another word for ‘leaves more for you to spend after you get here.'”
Well, I can’t blame the folks at Biltmore. Joyce and I were about due for a weekend to ourselves, so we decided to go Saturday and visit Biltmore Sunday. That meant a hotel, of course, and extra meals.
No, we didn’t splurge on a spa weekend at the Grove Park Inn. This is what the Grove Park Inn looks like from our room at the decidedly more modest Hotel Indigo. But the Indigo is quite nice and very conveniently located a block or two from the Grove Arcade and the heart of Asheville’s downtown restaurants.
And because we booked a hotel downtown, naturally we ran over to Malaprop’s Bookstore. Asheville being the kind of town it is, and Gastonia being some other kind altogether, we find books at Malaprop’s we don’t even hear about here.
But, anyway, the weather was great the whole time and we enjoyed our trip. Joyce got to play on the farm and pet the animals, I got to discuss soil conditioning and weather with some of the Biltmore staff, and we reminded ourselves how much of a house George Vanderbilt put up with his grandfather’s money. I admit I have a complex relationship with the place. It’s great fun to visit and quite beautiful almost anytime of year, but my middle class snobbery towards the rich gets stoked if I spend too much time there. By the time we left I was having to restrain myself from making snide remarks about the family that made our visit possible.
The Vanderbilts, that is, not Laura’s in-laws.
But the Baileys had mentioned a special spot that we should visit on our way out. Down by river there’s a small pond that makes a great reflecting pool for the back of the house. Joyce and I had never stopped there before. If the wind is calm, Rosemary told us, you can get a perfect mirror shot of the mansion, but they had never managed to catch a calm day. We should try it. I promised we would.
Knowing I had a “stand here, shoot there” photo assignment at the end of the day, I avoided the usual shots I’ve taken at Biltmore over the years. I even tried to avoid the usual, “go stand over there and I’ll take your picture in front of the tourist attraction” shots of Joyce that fill many of our photo albums. It turned out to be a very liberating change. By trying to think of different ways to enjoy photographing a fairly familiar place, I was able to relax and enjoy photography for its own sake. I knew I’d be getting the “proof” we were there in that last photo, so I just shot what I wanted to.
It was the most fun I’ve had on an outing with my camera in a very long time.
But I did get a couple of “stand here, shoot there” shots, including the requested reflecting pool shot. The wind was blowing a little, but you get the idea….