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Last Thanksgiving was 6 days of utter misery. Our 14-year-old (and by far favorite) cat fell suddenly, and terminally, ill on the first day of the long holiday weekend. She went blind on the first night and quietly passed away a week later at the first moment when no one was sitting by her side. This year, none of us wanted to stay home so to Biltmore we went!

A quick background on the Biltmore for those who have heard of this landmark in western North Carolina: In the late 1800s, George Vanderbilt visited Asheville, NC and loved the vista so much that he decided this is where he would lay down his roots. And since he was a Vanderbilt, that involved building the largest single-dwelling private home in the U.S. The statistics on the house are mind-boggling: 80,000 acres of land custom designed by the same landscape architect as NYC’s Central Park; over 4 acres of rooms under one roof, including 43 bathrooms, 101 bedrooms; on and on…

Even visiting when the landscape is a mixture of greens and browns with only tiny pops of autumnal color, the estate was breathtaking. I can only imagine how even more spectacular the vista is when the flowers and trees are in bloom or when a thick layer of fresh snow is on the ground.

No pictures are allowed while inside the house and the brilliant late afternoon sun made the more impressive exterior shots difficult. I adore mountain vistas and tried in vain to capture the beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains in the background. Below is a smattering of the better shots taken with both my phone and my camera.

Biltmore! A poor man’s photo of a beautiful house

A panoramic shot of the Blue Ridge mountains behind the house

A pop of red! The branches themselves no less!

My sister adores the chance to smile and pose in front of a camera – this is one of her more “over-the-top” shots of late. (And I’m an evil sister for posting – haha!)

Sisters, sisters. There were never such devoted sisters. (In other news – EEK! My hair! Get me to the salon STAT!)

This is now the time that I should wax poetic about how my heart is overflowing with thankfulness and how blessed I feel for the year past and what’s ahead. But last Thanksgiving, my heart broke and this year, I realized I am not quite ready to break out a smile and exclaim how my cup runneth over with sunshine and butterflies.

But this, this was a pretty darn good day. And for that, I am thankful.

Tess, the Lioness

P.S. I almost left Biltmore without snagging a picture of this lovely creature! A lioness I’m sure for she wears a festive Christmas necklace.