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Published: March 6th 2018
Aerial 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 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 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 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?
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