Hearst Castle and San Simeon Elephant Seals

Published: March 6th 2018
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Aerial Shot of CastleAerial Shot of CastleAerial Shot of Castle

I took a picture of a picture here.
Today's weather was perfect for a road trip, so we packed up and headed to one of our most anticipated bucket list items...The Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst referred to the mountain top as La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill) and we'd say it more than lives up to its name. To build his amazing castle, he hired California's first female licensed architect to assist with his plan; to build a few modest bungalows on the mountain top (with its 153,000 surrounding acre ranch) he camped on as a boy. But as things go with mega-millionaires...they added on a little bit along the way until he created one the most amazing museums and party palaces we've ever visited. The Casa Grande, (Big House) contains 115 rooms, 38 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms, 14 sitting rooms, 2 libraries, indoor pool, billiard room and a full movie theater. The other 3 bungalows are easily big enough to be called mansions in their own right. The front entrance is modeled after an entry in Seville, Spain with 15th century statues, 18 Belgium bells in each tower (controlled by a keyboard in house), and a cornice carved from imported Siamese Teakwood. The entry room is decorated with
Casa Grande Main EntranceCasa Grande Main EntranceCasa Grande Main Entrance

The façade resembles a Cathedral with its two towers, inspired by Santa Maria la Mayor in Spain.
amazing pieces he bought back from Europe, from the hand-carved ceilings, enormous 15th century French fireplace mantle, 15th century Flemish tapestries, and ancient wood choir stalls as wainscoting along the walls. The dining room's 15th century refectory ceilings are life-sized panels representing 12 saints, 2 coats of arms, and the Virgin Mary. A bit of trivia, the Harry Potter dining room was modelled after the one in Casa Grande. Most of the other ceilings are hand carved 15-16th century works largely from Spain, as I remember it. Everywhere we looked the place is full of art...in spite of WR Hearst having to auction off much of it and his zoo animals in the late 1930s, after he had overspent his fortune. Post WW1 European economy was devastated, so estate and Cathedral auctions provided Hearst the opportunity to find treasures for his estate. The ocean/mountain views, surrounding gardens, fountains, Neptune pool, and the indoor Roman Pool alone are amazing enough to justify seeing the place. The oldest artwork is the centerpiece of a garden fountain. The fountain is made up of 4 Egyptian statues of Sekhmet, the Lion-Faced Goddess, dating from 1350 BC. In all our European travels, we've never saw a palace more grand than this one.

The problem with touring an estate this large, you must take 3 separate tours to see all of the castle. We attended the 2-hour Grand Rooms Tour, but did not have time to take the Upstairs Room Tour, or the Kitchen and Guest Cottages Tour. All of them would be amazing, but it would take all day and Maggie was patiently waiting on us. I've put some descriptions with the pictures, to help with details and to help us remember what we saw.

After finishing up our tour, we headed down the mountain to see the Elephant Seals laying around on the beach. The males are absolutely huge, but the females are not much bigger that the sea lions we saw in SF. The males have plenty of scars from fighting over mates, but when we were there it was pretty peaceful. I did get to see one of the large male crashing along the beach, they move fast but it sure isn't graceful ;-) The animals first started using this stretch of beach in 1900 with a colony of 19, during peak times the beach now houses as many as
Coast Along Highway 1Coast Along Highway 1Coast Along Highway 1

Approaching San Simeon
15000 elephant seals, but there were only a couple thousand while we were there.

We started our 90-mile ride home to Monterey along California's beautiful Highway 1, but in about 20 miles were met with a "road closed with no detour sign". I guess that explains why our GPS sent us on the much longer route earlier in the morning. Last year's landslide took out a vast section of the road and it won't be fixed until next year. We did get as far as Big Sur's Ragged Point and the 1874 Piedra Blanca Light Station. Sometime this week, we plan to travel along Big Sur from the north to see a couple more points of interest. Driving along CA-1 we encountered some of the most beautiful rocky cliffs and high surf we've ever seen, and then all of a sudden there are the largest dunes we've seen. California has an amazing mix of environments and landscapes without having to travel far from wherever you are along the coast. Tomorrow we'll wander around the dunes before driving south to see more of the cliffs. I stay safely back from the edge, but Mi Hyon walks to the edge and
Casa Del MarCasa Del MarCasa Del Mar

Has great views of the Pacific. One of the Bungalows. View from where we got off the bus up the hill. They don't allow cars beyond the welcome center.
looks over to take pictures...makes me nervous. 10 feet from the edge is close enough don't you think?

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 25


Neptune PoolNeptune Pool
Neptune Pool

Unfortunately for us the pool is being repaired. It was leaking 5000 gallons a week. Its Roman Temple façade is a combination of 1st-4th columns, capitals, and carvings. It was heated with oil burners for year round swimming.
Girl with a ParrotGirl with a Parrot
Girl with a Parrot

One of countless sculptures used in the landscape design. The naked Greek sculptures is a bit of a theme.
Approaching Casa Del SolApproaching Casa Del Sol
Approaching Casa Del Sol

House of the Sun

Hearst wrote to his Mother about this piece by Leopoldo Ansiglioni, but at the time he couldn't afford. Later in life he could afford it.
Garden StaircaseGarden Staircase
Garden Staircase

Continuing the theme of naked goddesses.
4 Sataues of Sekhmet, Goddess of War and Battle4 Sataues of Sekhmet, Goddess of War and Battle
4 Sataues of Sekhmet, Goddess of War and Battle

Protector of the Sun God Ra. The oldest art work in the Hearst collection, dates from 1350 BC.
Casa Del MonteCasa Del Monte
Casa Del Monte

House of the Mountain. This house has the best views and is where Mrs Hearst and their 5 sons lived much of the time.
Entry to the Big HouseEntry to the Big House
Entry to the Big House

Two 15 Century Spanish statues of the 'wild men" from middle age mythology.
Closer details of EntryCloser details of Entry
Closer details of Entry

Door modelled after Akazar in Spain.
Cornice and Bell TowersCornice and Bell Towers
Cornice and Bell Towers

Cornice is hand carved from imported Siamese teak wood. The towers contain Belgium bells that are controlled via a keyboard inside the house. The towers also served as water towers to hold water pumped from springs to the house. The massive containers ensured good water pressure to support the many bathrooms in the facility.

6th March 2018
No Detour

It does look like Harry Potter's dining room. A little too opulent and ornate for my taste, but I guess when money is no object you can be as over the top as you feel like! Looks like a fun place to visit.
6th March 2018

Very interesting, I have never seen the hearst castle. The dining room looks just like the one from the Harry Potter movies, cool fun fact! The California coast is beautiful!

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