Friday, December 30, 2011

Where Treetops Glisten

An eight minute ride on the Banff gondola will take you to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.   The views become increasingly spectacular as you climb over 2,000 ft to an elevation of 7,500 ft at the top of the world~~  

Earlier this year, the Gardener and I took a magnificent trip to the Canadian Rockies. (You can read about this trip in my earlier posts   They can be  accessed from my sidebar under the heading Our Rocky Mountain High.)  

Somehow I got busy with lots of other blog postings and I never got around to doing this last post - the incredible views from the top of the mountain.  It just didn't seem right to be looking at mountains covered with snow - while we were in the middle of summer!  So- I saved these photos until now.  It seems fitting to start out the new year from the top of the world~~  

The gondola ride is only half the journey of this amazing experience. When you reach the summit of Sulphur Mountain you can exit the building and witness the breathtaking 360 degree views.

Below you, the Bow River Valley spreads out in a glorious vista of rushing water and jagged mountain peaks. The summit offers a new perspective on the peaks you've been straining your neck to gawk upward at; on Sulphur Mountain, you're at their level, so you can look not only straight at them but also beyond -- to more distant peaks and valleys in almost every direction.

Standing here on the Baniff skywalk - you can't help but feel that  you really are on top of the world.  Come along with me - let's walk along  the one mile trail, stopping along the way to take photos and view the incredible scenery.  (you don't need your coat or gloves - it is unbelievably warm up here!)

The summit boasts an unbelievable restaurant here on the top of this mountain!  With astounding views from every table in the circular restaurant- this was THE most perfect place for our lunch on this afternoon trip.

Let's go back outside and walk along the skywalk some more~~

Doesn't everyone take their dog along on gondola rides to the top of the mountain?

Have you enjoyed the views from the top of the world? Did I tell you there was a Starbucks in the gondola terminal - and a gift shop?  I'm headed there now! 

Here we are at the start of a brand New Year.  To me, the birth of a New Year is a time for reflection~ an opportunity for change, a chance to make a dream come true, a rare "one more chance" to develop a greater appreciation for what is really important in your life~

Whatever you wish for - whatever you desire in this New Year - I hope that you reach out and make it happen. Every day, every minute, every hour is a treasure.  Make each one count~

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Biltmore at Christmas Time

The historic estate built by George Vanderbilt was first introduced to family and friends on Christmas Eve in 1895~~

The Biltmore Mansion is the largest privately owned home in the United States.  The house is 135,000 square feet and contains 250 rooms.  Christmas at the Biltmore is an amazing spectacle of light and Christmas decor.  

America's largest home is decorated with dozens of Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths, bows, and poinsettias, miles of evergreen garland, and thousands of beautiful Christmas ornaments.  From the moment you enter the grounds, driving through the gingerbread style gate house - you know this is going to be a truly unforgettable experience.  

The Biltmore lions have been greeting guests to this magnificent estate for over a century. 

The arrival of the Christmas tree at the estate is the beginning of a Christmas celebration that will last well into the coming New Year. 

With hundreds of people involved in the decorating of the estate grounds, inside the mansion, and the surrounding areas that are also part of the estate - the Winery, Antler Hill Village, the farm, and the beautiful shops inside the gate house and garden center. 

 Weeks of preparation will finally culminate when the house is aglow with the twinkle of thousands and thousands of lights~~ 

Inside the home - hundreds of poinsettias fill the winter garden while musicians, dancers, and carolers fill the great halls with music and the sounds of Christmas. 

From the last of November through the first weeks of the New Year - the house is open in the evenings for the Christmas Candlelight tour. There is something magical about seeing this opulent mansion through the flickering glow of Christmas trees and fireplaces.
(the following candlelight photos are courtesy of the Biltmore estate.)

Outside - all around the estate - Christmas decorations are found everywhere you look.  Here a beautiful wreath adorns the door to the Conservatory. 

And at the farm - a regal Christmas tree is part of the decorations in the courtyard.  

The shop at the Winery is splendid with lights and festive displays.  

 The Biltmore winery produces a special Christmas wine every year.

  Visiting the Biltmore at Christmas time has become a tradition for us.  We love the atmosphere, the beautiful decorations and the shopping.

 This year we had a candle light dinner in the Stable cafe.  You can click the photo for a closer look at the incredible menu.  

 The shops in the Stable House are beautifully decorated for the season.  This photo was taken at the Candy shop :)
The Christmas shop was filled with toys and decorations - these Nutcrackers were especially tempting to me~~

The entrance to the wine cellars at the beautiful Antler Hill village.  

Night time sparkles at the village~

The entrance to the ice cream and pastry shop in the village is adorned with this gingerbread tree.  

Baby - it was cold outside!

The lights from the trees made the whole village sparkle.

A visit to the Biltmore at Christmas is an experience to be treasured forever.  

Do you have visits to special places at Christmas time that have become a part of your holiday tradition?  If you would like to learn more about the Biltmore Christmas experience, you can click here. 
The Christmas rush has taken over everything at our house.  We just returned from a visit to Atlanta where we visited with our adorable 3 year old grandson Mason.  (I will have some new photos soon.)  Right now, the Gardener is putting the Christmas tree up and we will decorate it later tonight.   We still have Christmas shopping to do, and wrapping, and baking.  Is your life as crazy as mine right now?

I'm sending you holiday wishes - hoping that the magic of Christmas fills your hearts and that you have enough hours in your day to finish your "to do" lists!!