Open House

The Official Blog of Biltmore®

More From Biltmore

Home Ideas & Inspirations

Wine & Food


Meet Our Contributors

RSS Feed

July Travels of George Vanderbilt

Posted on 07/14/2016 by Amy Dangelico Comments(4)

Many of us often think of late summer—July, in particular—as an ideal time for a getaway. Perhaps it’s an effect of the solstice, but there’s just something about the year being halfway over that inspires a longing to travel, to escape from the everyday.

George Vanderbilt was an extensive traveler, to say the least. He visited more than 25 countries, crossing the Atlantic Ocean a total of 60 times by the end of his life. But more specifically, he was a champion of the July getaway, often spending the entire month abroad.

England and FrancePortrait of George Vanderbilt, 1878

George’s wanderlust can be traced back to his youth. He spent much of his childhood visiting museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Europe with his family. In 1879, at the age of 16, George accompanied his father on a three-month-long summer tour of England and France. The pair visited Versailles, the Louvre, Napoleon’s tomb, the National Gallery in London, Windsor Castle, and the graves of philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau.

He wrote in his July 1879 travel journal:

“July 4th 1879 Friday. Went out to Rouen [France]... It is said to be one of the quaintest towns in the world and is renowned for its medieval architecture. The cathedral is beautiful as also St. Maclou, we also went to the Museum of Antiquities and went to a little restaurant to get a little breakfast. But by far the finest sight is St. Ouen a magnificent cathedral of perfect medieval architecture.”


Years later, in 1891, George spent two months—including much of July—exploring Spain with three of his cousins. They first arrived in Gibraltar and then travelled to the capital city of Madrid; Seville, a town known for its enormous cathedral which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus; and Ronda, an old Moorish hilltop town. When the trip came to its end, instead of returning home, George stayed at the Grand Hotel in London until August.

George and Edith Vanderbilt's honeymoon villa, 1898


July was also the first full month of George and Edith Vanderbilt’s four-month-long honeymoon. Following their Parisian wedding in June 1898, the Vanderbilts stayed near Stresa in the Lake District of Italy. A peaceful Italian villa served as the couple’s home base as they explored the area’s spectacular Alpine scenery and took short trips to visit some of Europe’s finest museums and galleries.

George wrote to artist James McNeill Whistler, July 10, 1898: 

“[We] have spent a delightful fortnight in the villa on Lake Maggiore and return there from here via the beautiful Stelvio pass, so that nature fills out & continues the interest of this little tour. It was Mrs Vanderbilts first visit to both Venice & Vienna & it has been an added pleasure of course to see her delight and interest and the way the pictures really took possession of her…"*

Legacy of Wanderlust

While extensive travel like this was rare 120 years ago—especially before the advent of the airplane—it is still unusual today. July may inspire a longing to escape from the everyday, but for many of us, escapes of that nature are simply not feasible. With our fast-paced lifestyles, it can be difficult to find the time.

Luckily, you can experience the legacy of George Vanderbilt and his lifelong wanderlust with an overnight stay at Biltmore. From the iconic French château to the Italian Garden, George’s time spent abroad influenced many elements of the estate. Satisfy your longing to travel this July with a Biltmore getaway, the perfect European-inspired escape. Go ahead, indulge. Plan your visit today.

Featured: George Vanderbilt's travel journal, 1879 

Right: Portrait of George Vanderbilt, 1878
Left: George and Edith Vanderbilt's honeymooon villa, 1898

*Source: Letters of J. McN. Whistler 1855-1903; A.M. Whistler, 1829-1881.

Return to Blog


Related Posts

Posted on 08/17/2016 By Ted G

A letter from GWV to James McNeil Whistler:Sept. 1900 "Cher Maître How are you. We have thought & spoken of you so often this winter. We have been here through the year (so you see I can rest in one spot for a period) [p. 2] and on Aug 22nd a daughter[3] was born to us whom we will hope to show to you this winter as we expect to come abroad in November."(speaks to his reputation for wanderlust)

Posted on 08/01/2016 By Nancy B

So interesting...the written important back then! How do you preserve these old documents and photos? Acid free sleeves, etc? I would enjoy a new blog on this. Thank you.

Posted on 07/26/2016 By Carrie F

Actually it looks like he was reusing a journal - upper right the date "July 4th, 1879, Friday" is handwritten with the same excerpt. Good to know he was frugal, or maybe he just ran out of journal while on his trip!

Posted on 07/24/2016 By Vicki A

Your reference to the journal states that it was written in 1879. The date showing on the journal pictured is 1875. Which is correct?

Hi Vicki, Good eye! While the dates printed on the journal page say February 1875, if you look closely at George Vanderbilt’s handwriting in the top right quadrant, he actually dated his entry July 4, 1879. - Biltmore Blog Editor