We arrived there between 11:30 and noon, and since our Biltmore House tickets were for the 2:00 tour, we went into downtown Asheville and had breakfast at a place Robert had researched ahead of time.
We had the most delicious breakfast in this little place. I had scrambled eggs with chorizo and Robert had scrambled eggs with salmon. Both dishes came with a slightly browned soft tortilla stuffed with melted cheese, which came with delicious guacamole and some pico de gallo to put on it that was just yummy.
We got to Biltmore at about 1:00, I guess. Robert treated, and had bought our tickets ahead of time, so we waved in and directed to parking lot 3B, where we waited about 10 minutes for a shuttle bus to take us up to the mansion. It's always fun people-watching at these type places.
Here are a couple of pictures taken outside the place. I did a terrible job with the picture of Robert. Too dark in the area of his face. I really need to learn some basic Photoshop techniques so I can fix things like this when I need to.
That one looks like he's about to "Call Earl."
Robert in the Shadows of Biltmore
Me and my Biltmore Buddha Belly
We were not allowed to go in any earlier than our scheduled 2:00 time, so we quickly walked through the estate's "Stable" area, where we blew off the Conservatory Café that had too long of a line and didn't really have anything all that great in it from what we could see through the windows. A quick look in the nearby Ice Cream Shop, where there wasn't a mile-long line, resulted in nothing that really struck our fancy either.
We stopped in Bookbinder's, where we looked at the refrigerator magnets, which was really the only thing we were both in the market for, but we decided to see if there were more of them in another store nearby, the Carriage House.
We ended up getting our magnets there, with the help of a spry—and a little bit giggly—little thing who got excited about reordering the magnets, because the way they were displayed was confusing as to which magnets were which price.
We headed back out to the entrance at about 1:35 to await our 2:00 tour. There was a lady there who checked your ticket, and I walked up sticking mine out saying, "2:00?"
"We're still calling the 1:45 group," she said.
I stepped back, a little taken aback, that the tour times were so granular. Who knew?
At about 1:49, she let some more people in and I thought since it was past 1:45, that she was now taking the 2:00 tickets, so I stepped up again with my ticket out.
"Nope. We're still taking the 1:45 folks," she said, and I stepped back rejected and impatient.
We finally were let in for our assigned tour time, and the place was really quite interesting to see. I thought I'd been to the Biltmore Estate before, but if I had, nothing inside brought back memories to me. I wonder if I just toured the grounds the last time I came.
At any rate, the place was opulent, with more rooms and "things" I could ever imagine owning or wanting to own. What was most interesting was imagining how it was in its heyday, what it must have been like living there, or attending parties there, or probably the least palatable, working there.
Photographs were not allowed in the place, but here's a 5-minute video that shows off most of what we saw, if you're so inclined:
The next few hours were an absolute comedy of errors during which we went from having a free place to stay to one costing $259 for the night.
I'd made a reservation with Choice Hotels, using my points, for a free room at the Econo Lodge Biltmore. When we arrived, the two people working in the lobby were having a little spat between themselves, after which one of them, the crabby one, checked me in to our room.
Driving around to it, we found it an end room, with the number, 133, missing from the door. It was a handicap accessible room, so the bathroom area was huge. However, when we tried to turn on a couple of the lights they didn't work. Then we tried the microwave, and it didn't work either.
It turned out they weren't plugged in, because there weren't enough outlets in that area of the room. I had my trusty triple three-pronged outlet extender with me in my laptop bag, and we used it to connect the microwave, a lamp, and the TV, I think, or maybe it was the refrigerator.
The microwave came on, but when Robert went to turn on the lamp, he found that it didn't have a light bulb in it. He went over to another lamp and took the light bulb out of it to use in the one by the microwave. However, once it was screwed in, the light still didn't come on.
That was it; I'd had it. We gathered our stuff, and I went back to the front desk and told that women how we'd found that place, saying that it was ridiculous that we're running around trying to plug things in and switch bulbs, and that we wanted another room.
"That's the only room I have," she said.
"Well, it's unacceptable," I said.
She swiveled her chair around reaching for the phone and said, "You can talk to the owner, and see what she says."
I said, "I'm not doing that! I want my points credited back and we'll just go find somewhere else to stay tonight."
"I can't credit your points. You'll have to call Choice Hotels to do that."
By then I was so angry with her and her total insensitivity to customer service, and I'd started walking toward the door, when she said, "I need your key cards if you're leaving," she said.
I have never done anything like this before, and I'm not proud of it, but I was so angry that I threw the two key cards toward her and they landed on the counter where she stopped them from sliding onto the floor on her side of the desk. "Thanks for nothing," I said as I did.
We drove downtown, and tried to get a room at the Downtown Inn & Suites, a place we'd stayed at in 2005 when we did a fall colors tour along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but they were full for the evening.
Next we went to the downtown Four Points Sheraton, where they were full but had just called across the street to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, and found out they had two rooms left over there, albeit at a price of $259 a night.
We drove over there, and Robert ran in while I waited. He came out to say we were in luck, but that he couldn't find his credit card on which to charge the room. He grabbed another one, and then returned after several more minutes inside checking us in.
"Good news," he said when he came out, "We got the last room at a decent rate. It's a concierge room, but it was only $159 for the night."
We were pleased about that, but then had to deal with his missing credit card situation. "I think it was in my shirt that I threw over a chair when we were in that Econo Lodge room," he said. "It must have fallen out there."
We drove back over there, and I told him that he had to go ask that woman for the key, as I couldn't face her again. He did that, but it was to no avail, as his card wasn't in the room.
We rode back to the Renaissance, and we went up to our room, where he could call the credit card company to report his card lost. When we opened the door to our room, the first thing we learned was that a concierge room comes with a sleeper sofa for the bed. It was already opened and made up, but one lie on it, and it sunk to the middle, and that was only with one person in it.
Robert was pretty distraught by this point, and while he got on the phone to report his lost credit card, I went down to the lobby to change our room. I approached the guy at the desk, and said, "I'm with the guy that just got the concierge room for the night, and we can't sleep on that bed."
He seemed a little annoyed and said, "I told him it was a concierge room."
To which I replied, "What you didn't say was that a concierge room comes with a sofa bed. That's kind of important."
And I thought, "And are we, the customers, supposed to know the configurations of all of the different kind of rooms in hotels? I don't think so." I know as much about your industry as you know about parallel construction, ambiguous antecedents, and task orientation in my industry."
To what I had said, the guy at the desk, taking a breath and putting up his index finger, said, "Just a minute," and he stepped into the back. When he came back out, he said, "I apologize for your inconvenience, sir," let's see what we can do here. And what he did there, was to move us to a regular room, with a regular rate of $259.
With that said, it was a lovely room, with a fantastic king sized bed through which you couldn't feel springs and that didn't sink to the middle, free wireless, and within stumbling distance of restaurants and bars.
When I returned to the concierge room to tell Robert we had that new room, he was on the line with the Visa folks. The guy helping him said, "I have good news and bad news."
Robert took the bad news first, which was that he wouldn't get his replacement card for two or three days, but which wasn't really bad news to him at all, since he had another card with him. The good news was that a "good Samaritan" had found his card somewhere, presumably on the Biltmore grounds, and had called it in, so they'd already canceled it before anyone could commit fraud with it.
Settled into our new digs, Robert got out appetizers he'd brought for us, consisting of sesame crackers, cheese, and bread and butter pickles. He was a sweetheart, and went down the hall to get ice for us and to buy me a Diet Coke.
After booting up my laptop, checking my mail, and making a couple of Scrabble moves, I lay down to what turned into a one- or two-hour nap.
At a little after 8:00, we walked to The Lobster Trap restaurant, where we had a killer, killer dinner. I had a dozen of their Steamed Clams, followed by their Crab and Pimento Cheese Dip. Robert had a dozen oysters raw on the half-shell, followed by their "20 Alaskan King Crab Bites." It was all incredibly delicious.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in this bar:
which is described as follows:
|Beyond Asheville's two larger gay clubs - Hairspray and Scandals - the city support a couple of fun gay neighborhood bars. One of these, Smokey's After Dark (18 Broadway, 828-253-2155), is just a hole-in-the-wall on Broadway, right downtown and within walking distance of many restaurants and shops. Small and simple though it is, Smokey's has a truly welcoming staff, inexpensive drinks, and a mostly male but all-welcoming vibe. This is a great little spot to have a drink after work, or mingle with locals when you're not in the mood for a big club scene. There's are a couple of pool tables in back and a juke box with some fun retro stuff on it.|
It was a long, interesting day! Thanks, my sweet, for taking the initiative to plan the weekend for us. Sorry for introducing that Econo Lodge fiasco into it.