The Whitney Museum, Grand Central Terminal, Biltmore Estate and Miss Rosie
The Ladies of the Traveling Totes have been on the move for the last few weeks, and it’s time to share our Tales! I can’t wait to see where my fellow members of the sisterhood have been partying! Our theme this time is “Places I’ve Been,” and Miss Rosie and I have been extremely busy.
You might see us in my favorite local market checking out the produce. I noticed Miss Rosie stuffed into my cart the other day and snapped a photo. I wonder what the other shoppers thought?
As we munched on that delicious watermelon and I reviewed Miss Rosie’s recent adventures, I was surprised to find that we had been enjoying several locations all connected with the Vanderbilt family. We live outside NYC, and a hop onto the commuter train (on a line originally planned by Cornelius “the Commodore” Vanderbilt) will quickly take me into Grand Central Terminal. It’s been a favorite meeting place in the city since Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroads used it in the mid 1800s.
(That’s the top of the Chrysler Building on the right!)
There’s something very difficult about being a tourist in your own city. But Grand Central (as the Depot/Station/Terminal is known to locals) is truly grand and impressive and I knew you would like to see at least one photo. Do you love that clock? How about those lights?
If I was in London, Florence, Paris or any other city worldwide I wouldn’t hesitate to pull out the camera and snap away. I see no problem with being a tourist in a foreign city! But after living in NYC I am very self conscious about doing it here. NOT Mr. Fun, however! A true native New Yorker, he is oblivious to the goings on around him. I asked him to hold Miss Rosie for me and I should have known there would be antics.
On this occasion we were on our way to another Vanderbilt destination where we were co-hosting an event, so I spoke severely to Mr. Fun and Miss Rosie, said goodbye to the Commodore and his Grand Central, hopped on the subway (no taxi riding during rush hour!), and flew down the tracks to the brand new site of The Whitney Museum on the west side near the Hudson River. Luckily Mr. Fun knows how to behave when he’s hosting an event and chatting with the president of our college. I don’t think that’s Vanderbilt wine he’s drinking, but more on that later.
(note: this charming and brilliant woman is not me, but Clayton Spencer, the President of Bates College)
Now what does the Whitney have to do with the Vanderbilts? Well, this prolific family includes many talented individuals, among them a great-granddaughter of Cornelius, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Born in 1875, she would have been a contemporary of Lady Cora, the Countess of Grantham of Downton Abbey fame, but here in America she wasn’t worried about English aristocracy. She was a sculptor and supporter of the arts, including new styles not accepted by traditional critics. In 1914 she established the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village, and in 1929 offered an incredible collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which they refused! Luckily her financial situation allowed her to open her own museum in her own building, and now the latest building, designed by Renzo Piano, continues to create controversy as it transforms our ideas of art and architecture. We were able to view the collection without crowds, so Miss Rosie and I found a few of our favorites, and a few others too.
Three Flags Jasper Johns, 1958
No Title Eva Hess, 1969
Circus Alexander Calder, 1969
And a new one to me, strangely impressive and interesting: a collection of uniforms of the NYC museum guards, who, according to the artist, are “on display but also invisible.”
Guarded View Wilson, 1991
It was particularly strange to see this piece as a real museum guard stood nearby.
This building itself is an experience not to be missed. There are staircases, large windows with views of the city, and terraces which allow the visitor to go outside and view the skyline and the adjacent High Line.
This view of a terrace three stories below the one I was on looks like a piece of art to me. Sitting in the green chair near the center of the photo is my son, Will. I wonder if he will be surprised to know I can recognize him by the top of his head?
Speaking of DOWNTON ABBEY, I was very excited to hear that the costumes worn by the actors in the spell-binding drama/tear-jerker/visual delight would be on exhibit at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I have had the Biltmore on my “must see” list for many years, so Miss Rosie and I convinced Mr. Fun that he would like to see a fabulous house, gardens and costumes, and off we went.
We followed parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s Miss Rosie resting in the grass.
Is this why they are called the “Blue Ridge” mountains?
The grounds of the Biltmore were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in NYC and the grounds of Waveny House here in New Canaan. The approach was planned so visitors would come upon the house all at once as they rounded the curve at the main entrance. The first view of the house is breathtaking!
note to the Biltmore people: there is absolutely NO reason to allow all those buses onto the driveway approach!! How can a blogger get a decent picture?? Olmsted would faint.
George Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius, was born in NYC in 1862, making him almost identical in age to Lord Grantham. Unlike Lord Grantham however, George Vanderbilt had no financial difficulties, and in 1889, after a trip to the North Carolina mountains with his mother (what a nice boy), he purchased huge acreage and began construction on this amazing home. It is the largest private home in the US and is still privately owned. He married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898 with great pomp and ceremony, and in 1900 his beloved daughter Cornelia was born, making her a contemporary of Lady Sybil. She fared much better than Lady Sybil, however, marrying happily and giving birth to two healthy boys (who would be contemporaries of the little George and Sybil Branson), who with their children now run the Biltmore!
The Biltmore Estate was partially sold by George’s young widow to the National Forest Service and that land became our first National Forest. The remaining land is still maintained in a responsible way.
The Biltmore Estate website has detailed information regarding the development of the estate and the palaces in Europe which inspired the architect and George Vanderbilt. This staircase is based on one they saw, with the direction reversed.
I was disappointed but not surprised to find that photos were not allowed inside the house, but this fabulous structure provided plenty of opportunities for one of my favorite hobbies ~~ looking at all the tiny details.
Do your gutters look like this?
The house is covered in tiny people, all of which were carved by master stone carvers and based on a real person connected with the estate. This griffin is watching visitors while a little bird takes a rest.
Looking up we can see the gargoyles reaching out from the building to keep the rain from entering the windows.
A closer view of the gargoyles and the little heads!
We are in the process of replacing some of our outdoor lighting. If I could have carried this one home, I would have!
I know you are wondering about Miss Rosie. Well, she was happily carrying my camera and also enjoyed posing with this extremely handsome lion.
One of his friends also served as a doorbell. I would like him on my house, too.
Calling the marketing people at the Biltmore!
This side terrace faces the pergola and the rest of the gardens. Much of the land was left in its natural state.
The wisteria was in bloom. It’s so romantic!
The developed land is clearly marked. Which way would you like to go next?
I’ll decide for us ~~ it’s the Conservatory.
The Conservatory was filled with blooms of every type. The brick walkways were all beautifully maintained and edged.
An orchid room was filled with blooms!
The hydrangea were mixed with tropical trees, orchids and lilies!
Yes, I think this amazing red flower is a lily! This is the first one I have ever seen in this color.
The estate also provides many outdoor activity opportunities, including biking trails, rafting, canoeing, hiking, and two which we enjoy: horseback riding and clay shooting. We were traveling with friends and they did not wish to ride, so instead we took a carriage ride through the estate. It was a great choice as we were able to see the house from different vantage points.
We also saw the lambs,
and more of the ponds which are available for fishing and boating.
Our carriage ride included a bottle of wine and a wonderful driver who entertained us with stories of the family and of other passengers. She often has proposals take place in the carriage, and I asked her about unusual ones and rejections. Surprisingly she said she has seen several rejections!! And the most hilarious story was of a couple with the mother of the groom along for the ride! She said she had paid for the carriage and intended to take the ride! Can you believe that the girl said Yes???? Hmmmm. Not a good start!
We were pulled by a beautiful blonde and a gorgeous red head.
Mr. Fun and Mr. L did some clay shooting at the Sporting Clays School. They returned quite pleased with themselves but as they were shooting only clays, we had no grouse or other birds to clean. Thank goodness for that!
While they were shooting Mrs. L and I enjoyed another area.
Just as at Downton Abbey, Biltmore Estate eventually needed to find a way to survive financially. Although the tourists provide much income, the family wanted to make the estate productive, and they turned to wine production. The old dairy barn serves as the wine cellar.
Also in the Antler Hill Village area are shops and restaurants, including Cedric’s, named after one of Cornelia’s favorite dogs. This delightful bronze is in the courtyard, and you can see him guarding Miss Rosie. You can also see the parts of his nose and ears that everyone rubs as they walk past.
His collar is on display in the restaurant.
This trip was wonderful and we loved every minute of it!
Miss Rosie and I will definitely be returning to the Biltmore, perhaps for the Christmas celebration or a fall festival.
Have you been to the Biltmore, or maybe Grand Central or the Whitney? I would love to hear about it. Did you enjoy the art from the Whitney? Yes? Maybe no? It’s ok–I want to know!
And can you recognize your loved ones from the tops of their heads three stories away?
Please be sure to visit all the other Traveling Tote ladies for some interesting tales and adventures. We are all having great fun with our pretty totes. And if you have your own MacKenzie-Childs tote please let us know!
Debbie and Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths
Patti and Miss Kenzie @ Pandora’s Box
Rita and Miss Luna C. @ Panoply
Sarah and Miss CC @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Samantha and Miss Christabel @ Samantha Stone
and our non-blogger friends:
Colleen with Miss MacKenzie Joy
Tami with Miss MC la Mer
****One of the Traveling Tote ladies, Debbie of Mountain Breaths, is having a wonderful giveaway which you will not want to miss!****
I hope you enjoyed reliving my travels to Grand Central, the Whitney and the Biltmore. And I hope you will leave me a little message! Now Miss Rosie and I are having more adventures and we will see you again soon.