Just like athlete's foot, I'm baaaaaack! I got in yesterday afternoon and was welcomed by a heat wave of epic So. Cal. proportions. An interesting change of pace considering I spent the last part of my time away in the cold and damp of North Carolina. And while the Getaway With Dee was pretty much met by a steady stream of rain, that doesn't mean I didn't have a fabulous time. Proceed with caution, as this blog post is likely to sound like one giant Love Fest.
I got in to North Carolina on Sunday and checked in to the fabulous, beyond words Inn On Biltmore Estate. People, I cannot stress enough that if you have the means and opportunity that this hotel was off the hook. I have never, in my life, had a more positive hotel experience. The staff was amazing. Professional, courtesy, helpful, just obscenely excellent. It was like they required the entire lot to attend hotel hospitality school. Oh, and did I mention they serve afternoon tea? As in, a real pot of tea. Not a tea bag stuck in lukewarm water. I'm talking loose tea in a real tea pot, finger sandwiches, lemon curd, and clotted cream afternoon tea. Swoon
That alone was worth the trip. See how easy to please I am?
Anywho, the festivities kicked off with the Gilded Age party on Sunday evening. So many fantastic costumes! Dee and her daughters looked especially amazing. Parlor games were played. Desserts were consumed. Books were swapped. The best part of the evening? When Dee demonstrated how a Victorian lady got dressed. Dear Lord! Now I've always known that women during this time period wore an obscene amount of undergarments, but I think it takes it to another level to actually see a dressing in person. How many of us have read historical romances over the years where the lusty hero takes the heroine up against a tree in the garden, in a closet, on a back staircase etc.? Yeah, so would never happen! It would take the guy 30 minutes alone to wade past all her clothes!
Monday was a bit of a free day. I took a quick stroll through the Biltmore Estate and snapped a couple of sub par photos before my digital camera battery gave up the ghost. The estate itself sits on roughly 8000 acres, and the house (I believe) takes up 4 acres all on its own. It also illustrates the difference between "merely rich" and "obscene, gaudy wealth." The "house" is stunning, and is still owned by the Vanderbilt family. I saw one of Edith Vanderbilt's Louis Vuitton trunks with my own beady lil' eyes. This was also the day that a bunch of us toured the winery on the estate, and I resisted the urge to not buy about a dozen bottles of the stuff.
Monday evening was our private tour of the house. We got a "behind the scenes tour" and the tour guides designed it around Dee's latest book, Maid to Match. Which means we saw the kitchens (amazing), the servant's quarters (pretty nice actually!), and the guest rooms. This tour, top to bottom, from basement to 4th floor, took roughly 2 hours! It required a lot of walking, and a lot of stair climbing, but it was so worth it.
That private tour pretty much signaled the end of the getaway. Everyone said goodbye, and we all went our separate ways. I flew back to Cali Tuesday morning, and hit the ground running....until about 7:30PM when I promptly passed out and slept the whole night through. I'm not sure who said vacations were supposed to be relaxing. Mine never seem to be at any rate!
I had such a wonderful time at the Biltmore, that I'm dying to go back. It was simply that amazing, rain and all. Honestly, if you love historical romance, it should probably be required by law that you go. Although seeing a place like this just makes me more angry that American-set historicals are currently seen as "uncool" and "unmarketable" (unless, of course, you write inspirational romances, and then the setting is OK. Yes, I am riding the Bitter Bus, why do you ask?). I'm no writer, but even I was aware of the hundreds of stories screaming out of the walls of this estate.
I can't thank Dee enough for picking my name out of the drawing she had at RWA, and I'm so glad that My Man told me I had to go, and that I better not even think about declining this prize. It was really a fantastic trip, one that I'm not likely to forget anytime soon. As soon as I catch my breath, and get those photos on the disposable camera I had to buy developed, I plan on posting more pictures to my Flickr account (yes, I'll post the link when I do!). In the meantime, I'm currently trying to figure out how to make millions of dollars so I can build myself a library like George Vanderbilt had. Seriously, if they would let me, I would so move in.