Carmel, Monterey and Hearst Castle

Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
Trip End Sep 18, 1994

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, March 5, 2003

DAY 15 FRI We were woken at 6.15am by an old codger knocking on our door. Wrong room. The Casa Verde motel was under occupation by hordes of bikers who had come for a weekend of motorbike racing and took great pleasure in revving their engines no matter what the hour. I would have liked to remonstrate with them, however they were too big, even the women.

Carmel, which we visited in the morning, proved to be a small, trendy town on a hill overlooking a beach. Although the beach was quite attractive, signs warned against bathing due to the unpredictability of the waves. We strolled around the streets gawking at the high-priced homes and had coffee in a coffee shop (how appropriate) before exploring a little mall. All in all I was more than a little disappointed in Clint's much-hyped tourist trap.

Monterey proved to be more interesting. We walked around Fisherman's Wharf, stopping to watch seals sunbaking and barking at one another. After a stroll up the main street we lunched at a outdoors restaurant, where I imbibed a chocolate and mocha beverage. Crossing the street, we inspected FW Woolworth in the hope of discovering that elusive cheap t-shirt. The remainder of the afternoon was spent visiting a number of historical buildings scattered around the town, including one which, I think, was the old customs house. The custodian was an elderly lady of the blue rinse variety who spoke to me for ages about the history of Monterey.

We returned briefly to the motel before setting off for Monterey town for dinner. O'Kane's Inn was a pseudo Irish pub/disco full of customers, few of whom appeared to be Irish. I ordered chicken gumbo, which was very palatable. After days of being relegated to the pavement for a smoke I was overjoyed to see a sign on the wall advising that smoking was allowed throughout the restaurant. Unfortunately the others were anxious to get moving and I didn't get to exercise my rarely-bestowed rights. The ladies made a beeline for the outlet shops in search of cheap "seconds" from famous name clothes manufacturers such as K Mart and Best'n Less. I think that Jonathan would agree that this was not the most exciting part of the day. Later that night we relaxed in our room in front of the TV. "Pale Rider" was the closest we came to seeing Clint Eastwood, ex-mayor of Carmel.

DAY 16 SAT This morning we drove a hundred miles south through Big Sur to Hearst Castle at San Simeon. Big Sur seemed to go on forever; a winding road running alongside the ocean. We passed many small beaches and coves, all rather bleak and, according to the signs, unsuitable for swimming. We stopped for coffee along the way at a one-building town called Lucia, famous for being nothing but a one-building town.

1. Jono and Maryann - Big Sur, Monterey, United States

As we dove towards San Simeon we could see the castle-like spires of Willie's folly peeking through the trees on a distant peak. At the foot of the hill was a large embarkation complex where one could view exhibits of the Hearst family's exploits while waiting to visit the castle. At the appointed time we boarded the bus appropriate to our tour; Jonathan and Maryann for the more sophisticated bedroom tour and Jeanette and myself for the basic overall tour. As the bus wound slowly up the hill a recorded voice described the wonders of Hearst's great and visionary creation. Every few minutes Jeanette would dig me rather brutally in the ribs and point enthusiastically at the exotic beasts grazing on the hillside. I was not as enthralled as she at the sight of goat-like sheep and rather ordinary looking cows and was tempted to dig her rather brutally in the eyeballs after the first few miles.

At the top of the hill we disembarked and clustered around our guide, whom I shall call Mr X as I never learned his name. Mr X delivered a discourse on William Randolph's childhood, parentage and pampered life as the only son of an immensely rich minerals tycoon. As he spoke a large tarantula scuttled across the steps on his migratory journey south.

2. Hearst Castle - San Simeon, Monterey, United States

We were all overcome by the magnificence of the first building we came across, however it proved to be only one of the seven enormous guest houses surrounding the main building. The actual castle resembled a European cathedral from the outside and a medieval castle on the inside. Willie had literally unlimited funds at his disposal and used them to transport ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman statuary as well as entire ceilings from Italy and elsewhere. The outside swimming pool was at one time the largest in the world and resembled the Roman Forum during a flood. The indoor pool was lined with a million pieces of Italian glass, much of which was covered with 22 carat gold.

3. Hearst Castle - the family swimming pool, Monterey, United States

Sickened by this unashamed display of wealth, we were nonetheless reluctant to re-board our bus for the trip back to the entrance complex. Once again I had to endure the steel-fingered proddings of my companion as she pointed out clumps of imported Australian bottle brushes. We met Jono and Maryann at the bottom of the hill and drove even further south to a grill, where I devoured an ABC burger (avocado, bacon and cheese) as well as a chocolate shake.

By the time we reached Casa Verde the others were bushed. While they lay on their beds and read, I walked down the main road to visit the local supermarket. A fire engine screamed past on the other side of the road, pulling into a block of apartments nearby. I never did find out what was going on. Having visited the supermarket, I walked back past the motel and down a side street. Suburban life in Monterey appeared to be much the same as its equivalent in Sydney.

Once again we experienced the hospitality of a Denny's fast food restaurant. A sign prominently displayed at the counter emphasised Denny's policy of employing anyone regardless of race, creed or hair colour. This proclamation was necessary as the restaurant chain had been sued recently for refusing to hire blacks. I ordered the cheapest dish available as I wasn't in the least bit hungry. Jono and Maryann splurged on a banana split and a strawberry milkshake, which they shared.

On our return to the motel I took my can of orange pop and went for another walk. I was feeling a bit homesick and missed the family.

DAY 17 SUN We left our motel after breakfast at Denny's and drove to the Monterey Wharf, which is near Cannery Row. At the end of the wharf were dozens of seals basking on the rocks. Maryann was entranced by the antics (arf, arf, wriggle, wriggle) of these jolly creatures, while I found them altogether lacking in personality, a deficiency which created in me a feeling of kinship and empathy. Monterey was fine, but the bright lights of Las Vegas beckoned and we set off on our homeward trip.

Once again Jono's planned lunch in San Jose's central park was frustrated by crowds of people listening to rock music. I think it was Mexico's national day as the music was rather Latin in character.
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