Route One Excursions
Trip Start Jul 08, 2009
7Trip End Jul 18, 2009
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Back on Route One North it was. Just starting out, I saw a sign saying we had 121 miles to Monterey - our next hotel - and 235 miles to San Francisco - our final stop for this leg of the trip. The sky cleared up as we went along, and we finally saw the Route One Mom had been talking about - a winding road, with the ocean to our left, a wonderful view when the road curved, and often no guard rails. I was glad we were driving on the right side, and I could tell the edge made Dad a little nervous. We saw plenty of yellow fields and gorgeous blue skies and glittering water.
A little before midday we saw a giant mansion on the hills far above the road - Hearst Castle, a home of William Randolph Hearst, whom I already knew was a giant newspaper tycoon before and during the Depression. We went into the building at the base, where we picked up our tickets and waited for the bus that would take us alllllll the way up to the castle. The ride up was honestly terrifying - the bus was rather tall, the grounds extremely steep, and the only way up was a tight and winding road. I tried to pay attention to all the information being told us by our guide, but I was a little preoccupied by the tilting and lurching and turning of the bus. I did get some good photos.
The grounds got more and more cultivated as we approached the house. Finally we reached a staircase and rails framing a fountain and a building and hedges. It was pretty, but walking up the stairs and into the Greek-styled pool area (the Neptune Pool) was simply astounding. If I lived there, I would spend every sunny moment outside, swimming and admiring the view - exactly what Hearst intended for his guests. The tour guide told us that, although the building is now a National Historic Landmark, the Hearst family is allowed to commander it for private functions. The day had warmed up, and I really wanted to dive in.
More stairs led us to more gardens and the themed guest houses. We went in one, called Casa Del Mar, and it was beautiful but the outside is by FAR the attraction of Hearst Castle. Soon after, we were able to see a bit of the main house peeking over the trees. Hearst has some really impressive art pieces, including an actual Egyptian statue-fountain of Bast and many fine white (I think marble) statues of classical figures. The architecture of the house is very impressive and beautiful, and inside were even more fine art pieces. The rooms themselves were artwork, with every window, doorway, and corner adorned with carvings or tiles or paint. The ceilings were these incredibly intricate sections of carved wood, and each room was huge. The dining room looked very medieval or gothic, which aren't styles I particularly like, but it was impressive in its own right. In another room they were carefully restoring the painted ceiling. I don't remember many details of the tour, I was so distracted by all there was to see in the house. We were then brought to a movie theatre, with red velvet seats and curtains, and rather scary gilded statues that decorated the columns. There, we watched a film with clips from Hearst and his days of entertaining. I think I would have loved to live in that time period, with his amount of money, in this incredible house. But on rainy days you would be stuck inside a place more like a dark museum than a comfortable home.
Back outside, we were shown the tennis courts. I like tennis well-enough, but if every court had a view like this one, I would play every day. Also shown was the indoor, amazing, SERVANTS' pool, complete with statues and handmade tiles (with fish on the ceiling) and lighting and a diving platform. The tour now ended, we admired the view for a few final minutes before catching another bus for the crazy ride down. We drove by the old zoo they had in the past - apparently there are zebras, now wild, living on the grounds. We saw the house they shelter in, to this day, plus the cage where they used to hold the bears (some of the postcards in the gift shop have the zebras on them XD). A quick lunch of cafeteria food and then it was back onto Route One, with me riding shotgun.
We made a quick detour to the houses of San Simeon, at the base of Hearst Castle. It was tiny and not at all what I expected for such a tourist attraction, because not only do they have Hearst Castle but they also have a long stretch of beautiful coastline peppered with elephant colonies...
The afternoon will be continued in the next post!