Historic Houses Around the World

Biltmore - America's largest private house.

Our plan was to visit Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to see the azaleas flowering. David has a soft spot for azaleas. This particular plan also involved blue skies and sunshine. I have a soft spot for not being cold and wet. Unfortunately neither the weather nor the azaleas co-operated. On the day of our visit, in early April, the skies were grey, the weather was cold, there was a constant threat of rain and only a few of Biltmore's azalea bushes had begun to blossom. At least the tulips were flowering. They were a great consolation prize. It is hard to imagine a more perfect flower. There were row upon row of them - vivid yellows, reds and purples all in full bloom challenging the chilly weather to move over and make way for spring.

The Mount: Edith Wharton's House, Lenox, Massachusetts

The Mount, Edith Wharton's home
Have you noticed how historic houses always showcase the achievements of men?  Women barely get a mention, and when they do it is often only in supporting roles. The grand houses we visited on our road and cycling trip through America's north-east were almost all built by men and, with few exceptions, the history of the houses highlighted the achievements of the men who lived in them. Visiting estates such as George Washington's Mount Vernon, Henry Francis Du Pont's Winterthur and even Edward Berwind's The Elms, you could sometimes be forgiven for wondering what roles their wives played in life. Edward Berwind's wife was so tucked away in the minutia of his life history I had to dig deep even to discover her name. How refreshing then, on our last historic house tour, to visit The Mount; planned, built and made famous by a woman.