Monday, October 15, 2012

DAY 53- Hearst Castle...

It was another day of rain.  While it poured down, I had another wonderful breakfast at the Bike Lane Inn.  This time it was cut up fresh watermelon and cantaloupe along with some amazing pancakes.  These pancakes were whole wheat with berries and nuts.  Yum!  Shortly after that I got my car loaded and off I went for the day.

I quickly fueled up and then I swung by the Jack Creek Farms.  I wanted to thank the gal for helping out yesterday when I had gotten lost.  I also still wanted to take some more time and check out the cute shop there.  I ended up purchasing a bit of hand lotion and a couple of flavored honey straws.

Photo- A scarecrow boating along Main Street in Cambrai.
 Off I went through the rainy landscape on Hwy 46 towards the beach and turned north on Hwy 1.  I was going towards Cambria, a cute town nestled in a valley just off shore.  I decided to take a quick drive through its Main St.  They were having a Scarecrow Festival the whole month of October.  As I drove along I would see scarecrows in front of almost every shop or restaurant.  Unfortunately, because of the weather some of them were covered in plastic but not all.  There were all kinds of scarecrows; some in rowboats, some dressed in elaborate dresses, construction workers, Snoopy, cyclists, surfers, and characters from movies. I pulled over to take a few pictures; especially when I saw the row of scarecrows on bikes. 
Photo- Bicycling, surfing, and Snoopy Scarecrows... NOW I've seen it all!
I turned back on to Hwy 1 and continued north another 5 miles to Hearst Castle.  After I parked I headed into the visitor’s center.  I went straight for the ticket booth to see what was available for the Grand Rooms tours for the day.  The clerk said that there was still a couple of places open on a bus in 5 minutes or an hour if I wanted to wait.  I said 5 minutes would work for me.  I got my ticket and immediately headed over to the line for the next bus.

A short time later, I was on a bus headed up with the hill to Hearst Castle along with about 15 Japanese tourists.  One of which was taking a picture of everything in the bus and out of the bus on the way up.  The rest seemed to be a bit more restrained with their cameras on the way up. Meanwhile a pre-recorded message played Alex Tribeck’s voice as the bus headed up the hill we learned of history and animals that used to be on the property. 

It was a bit surreal climbing the hill seeing glimpses of the castle here and there as you got closer.  It was awe inspiring and with some amazing views too.   The road up had been designed by architect Julia Morgan to let you see the castle and then go around a bend only to lose sight of the castle.  In fact, she was the architect on the castle and collaborated with Mr. Hearst to build the castle.  There were a lot of references made to her during the tour later on.
Photo- Getting the Japanese translation.
The bus stopped and the group got out.  There was a tour guide waiting for us.  Shortly after everyone was grouped one of the Japanese tourists translated the directions that had been handed us before we got on the bus.   Our tour guide waited patiently while she finished and then he said something in Japanese.  He said that he just wanted to emphasize that there was no flash photography in the actual castle.  He said it in a comical way and had everyone in the group laughing.  The tour guy seemed quite the character.  He teased that he would give all the dirty family secrets as the tour went on. Then, as we headed around and up to the Main Terrace he gave a bit of the history of the family that had lived in the Castle.  William Randolph Hearst was quite the interesting man or as some would say “eccentric”.  He would be considered strange if he had been poor.  Why do we do that?
Photo- Hearst Castle from one of the terraces.

Photo- The Receiving Room.

Photo- Gold touches that are real gold all throughout and on the Castle.
No messing around with the fake stuff here.
Next, after we were directed again to stay on carpeted areas and not to touch anything but railings, we entered by a side door into the castle.  The first room we saw was the receiving room.  It was HUGE with 27 ft. high ceilings that were carved wood.  We were told that this room was almost 3000 sq. ft.  It was dark wood and very elaborate overall.  There were tapestries, statues, elaborate furniture, and simple couches and chairs all throughout the room.  In Mr. Hearst collection, there was quite a bit of art from lovely carved statues to 2000 year old mosaic floors.  It was rather overwhelming how much money everything was worth.  The tour guide directed us to statues that could now be worth almost 1.5 million dollars today.  I was afraid to touch anything for fear I would paying for the rest of my life and eternity. 
Photo- The Dining Hall.
Then, we went through doors that lead to the dining hall.  This room again had the 27 ft. tall ceilings but was only 28 ft. tall.  There were flags from several different countries that hung in the upper areas on each side of the room, and a very long plain wooden table was situated in the middle of the room. There were pew chairs lining the room; all of which had been taken from a church somewhere in Europe.   Our tour guide explained the meal times, the serving of the meals, and who sat where.  It was interesting because if you were a guest the first night you would sit in the middle by Mr. Hearst and then as the nights progressed you would sit further out towards the ends.  If you were sitting on the end chairs, it was really time to go.
Photo- The tour guide explaining meals at Hearst Castle.

Then, it was on through a gothic door way to a den like room where there were unique chandeliers and another carved ceiling area.  Though, this ceiling was painted and Moorish in nature we were told.  They were currently trying to restore the original colors.  This ceiling was not as tall as the other two rooms, and the size of the room was maybe about half of the dining room.  Our tour guide explained that often after dinner there was conversation and then the guests were expected to go into the billiards room.  Eventually, they were expected to go in to the theater room and watch a movie.  The bedtimes were almost 2 to 3 AM.  All were expected to be present.  Quite often, Mr. Hearst would see his guests off for the night and then would go upstairs and work.  He would wire off instructions to companies all over.  He wasn’t much of a sleeper. 
Photo- The Moorish details in the ceilings and gothic doorways.
Mr. Hearst had a few rules that he expected of his guests: no sharing rooms of unmarried guests; another words no hanky panky going on.  There was no calling the servants by their first names; only he was allowed to do that.  Also, there was no bribing of the servants.
Then we went through another gothic arched door way into the Billiards Room.  This room was long and narrow but maybe half the size of the dining hall.  It also had the Moorish ceiling with chandeliers.  There were two pool tables.  There were Persian art mosaics on one wall and a row of gothic arched windows overlooking an open terrace on the other wall.
Photo- The Theater Room statues.
Next, it was onto the Theater Room where we got to sit and watch a bit of home movies in black and white.  The guide said who we were seeing and would give interesting little facts along the way.  The room was covered in a red brocaded material and had female sculptures holding lights.

Then, we exited the Theater Room and were allowed to wander the gardens and grounds at our leisure.  There were several other houses around the castle; most of them built prior to the castle.  The landscaping and the statues were amazing.  There were fountains and a Neptune Pool area that just took your breath away.  There were terraces where you could see views of the surround area; that just happened to be shrouded in rain clouds today but I imagine on a clear day would have been glorious.  I walked around enjoying and taking pictures.  What a wonderful way to spend the day! 
Photo- Wonderful statues intermixed with landscaping.

Photo- The Neptune Pool area was just amazing!

Eventually, I had seen everything and started for the Tennis Courts and the Roman Pool that was below the Tennis Courts.  This was where the bus picked you up to take you back down the hill.  I heard Roman Pool but wasn’t prepared for this Roman Pool.  OMG!  It was amazing. 
Photo- The Roman Pool which is 10 ft. deep but doesn't look it.
While I waited for the next bus, I talked with an employee.  Outside of the local wineries, the Hearst Castle State Park was the largest employer in the area.  Hearst Castle was donated to the state in 1958.  They eventually decided to do tours and it took a while to get organized to what it is today.  They employ almost 60 in the museum, another 20 in the visitor’s center, 9 gardeners, 10 bus drivers, and several others that are on the maintenance staff.  Another fact, I thought was interesting was that all of the bathrooms in the Castle were made non-operating.  It was just too high of a cost for the state to maintain.  So there are only the visitor’s bathrooms that were available.

I got back to the visitor’s center and wondered around a bit in the gift shops and what not but it was getting to be almost 3:30PM and I needed to be at a hotel in Thousand Oaks for the night.  I had about a 3 hour drive ahead of me.
Photo- Morro Bay with a sunnier weather than earlier in the day.
I did stop for a late lunch or an early dinner in Morro Bay.  It was a cute little two area where there a bay with sea otters.  I stretched my legs for a bit and looked for somewhere to eat along the dock area.  I found a little bar called Otter Rock Café which looked casual and easy. AND not as overpriced as some of the restaurants in the area.  I had a beer and a blue cheese burger that just hit the spot.

Next, I was on my way chasing the sun and driving towards the outer edges of LA.  Traffic was heavy at times but it kept a steady flow even when it was slowed down.  I was kind of surprised because I was expecting it to be worse being a Friday night, but this wasn’t bad at all.  I eventually found the exit and got checked into the hotel by 8PM.  That was enough for one day.

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