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Prime Travel

December 2009

A Carolina Christmas By Andrea Gross


t’s not easy to imp ress relatives, especially when their last names are Vanderbilt. But young George III – grandson of Cornelius, the great railroad tycoon – managed to do just that when he invited his family to Christmas Eve dinner back in 1895. His relatives traveled by private railway from New York to the thensmall town of Asheville, North Carolina. There, amid the mountains of southern Appalachia, George welcomed them to his new home, a luxurious estate that rivaled the grandest French chateaux. His niece, Gertrude, was appropriately awed. “I have seldom enjoyed a place so much,” she reportedly exclaimed. Even without Christmas glitter, the estate is statistically and artistically staggering: • The mansion is more than three times the size of the White House. • There are 250 rooms, about 100 of which are open to the public. More than 50,000 art pieces are on display, including paintings by Renoir and Whistler and several 16th-century Flemish tapestries. • The estate grounds are more than nine times the size of New York’s Central Park. Now add to this the Christmas stats: nearly 100 decorated Christmas trees, ranging from a small, tabletop model to a 35-foot Fraser fir that sits in the 72-foot high Banquet Hall; hundreds of wreaths, bows, poinsettias and ornaments; miles of evergreen garlands; and lights here, there and everywhere. (By the numbers, there are more than 30,000 lights inside the house and an additional 150,000 in the surrounding grounds and gardens.) “The 1890s were the height of the Gilded Age,” says floral manager Cathy Barnhardt, “and we try to replicate that gilded feel in our decorations.” Eighteen years after Cornelius

House was built to resemble a French chateaux. Photo credit: The Biltmore Company

Vanderbilt opened his opulent mansion, a new hotel opened a few miles away on the north side of town. E.W. Grove, a businessman who made a fortune hawking a cure-all tonic named Grove’s Tasteless Chill, wanted a hotel with the atmosphere of Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone – grand but rustic. Like the Biltmore mansion, the hotel’s facts are impressive: • The Great Hall has 24-foot ceilings with two 14-foot stone fireplaces. • The elevators are hidden in the fireplace chimneys, a turn-of-thecentury way to mute the noise. • The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in

1973, but it still has a most-contemporary spa, as well as a golf course. Wandering the halls of the grand hotel is an adventure in itself. One hallway has photos that show how the lodge was built with teams of men and mules. Another has a display of Grove’s tonic medicines, and still another has photographs of all the folks who have stayed at the lodge – a group that includes eight presidents, Will Rodgers, Harry Houdini, George Gershwin and Thomas Edison. Yet, despite the oversized lobby and gigantic fireplaces, Christmas at the Grove Park has a decidedly downhome feel. “Major Bear,” who looks suspiciously like a fur-faced Santa,

leads youngsters in songs, dances and ornament making. Staff members serenade with Christmas carols and the hallways are lined with gingerbread houses that have been entered in a national gingerbread house competition. But the real charm of Asheville – winter or summer – is the outdoors. December temperatures generally hover around 40 degrees, meaning that folks can still ride the Holiday Trolley to see elaborate scenes of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas or enjoy fireworks that light the evening sky every Saturday during the Christmas season. For more information, visit or call (888) 247-9811.

Transform Depression Into Winter D-light By Dr. Shellie L. Rosen


ave you noticed a seasonal trend when it comes to your emotions? Has a friend or family member experienced more depression than usual lately? It may be as simple as a vitamin deficiency. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects more than half a million people in the United States every year. Numerous studies have uncovered the causes of SAD and other psychological and physical shifts that occur specifically during the winter months. These studies have determined that exposure to sunlight is be a key factor in much of the emotional slide experienced during the holidays.

Under the Weather’s Influence Through our skin, the body itself produces Vitamin D. During the summer, we spend more time enjoying the warm outdoors. We wear less clothing and run more errands. But as winter approaches and sunny days become shorter, we head indoors sor bundle up when outside. This limits the amount of direct exposure to UV-B sunlight and significantly decreases our skin’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D. In the case of winter blues, Vitamin D could be the answer.

Why is Vitamin D so important? Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorous and therefore assists in maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. What many people don’t know is that low levels of Vitamin D not only lead to rickets (soft bones), but a host of other serious ailments, including heart disease, muscle and bone pains and rheumatoid arthritis. SAD and many less serious symptoms can be treated effectively with Vitamin D supplementation. But Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic in cases of overdose, so regular blood tests are recommended

for those who take supplements. The best source of Vitamin D is cod liver oil (500 international units per teaspoon). A host of high-quality products are available in most stores. Invest in a quality product that guarantees testing for mercury and other toxins. Keep in mind, though, that even with a supplement you still may not reach the recommended amount of Vitamin D. So, confront the cold weather by taking a midday walk on top of a few teaspoons of cod liver oil. In fighting the holiday blues, you may find yourself feeling winter D-light! Dr. Rosen can be reached at (505) 999-9468 or visit

2009 12 December  

Prime Time Monthly

2009 12 December  

Prime Time Monthly