Monday, May 23, 2016

Hearst Castle

If you are traveling around the California central coast one stop you have to make is at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hurst worked with architect Julia Morgan to build this amazing hilltop estate from 1919 to 1947. Its style is Mediterranean Revival and the estate is filled with art and antiques that Hearst collected throughout the years.

The drive up the hill to Hearst Castle is an amazing sight in itself. It's hard to imagine how they put in the road, let alone brought up all the materials to build the estate. The views of the coast are fantastic, and there is a lot to see on the grounds.

There are two different pools on the grounds. The Neptune Pool is located outside, and is currently empty as it is undergoing repairs. This gives you a unique opportunity to see its white marble floor.

The other pool is the indoor Roman Pool, which was built using more than a million Murano glass tiles. It is beautiful and over the top in its design.

In order to see inside the buildings you need to book into tours, which are $25 each and last around an hour. Our first tour was the Grand Rooms Tour, which takes you through the main downstairs rooms of Casa Grande, including the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room and Theater. The rooms are quite dark and gothic with the wood ceilings, old church pews and tapestries hanging from the walls.

The second tour we did was the Upstairs Suites Tour, which allowed you to see the living and working quarters of Casa Grande, as well as bedrooms for guests and Mr. Hearst himself. This tour takes you up the winding staircases to the top levels of the house and the tour guide provides you with interesting stories about what it was like to actually be a guest of Hearst. It was quite fascinating and definitely the better of the two tours we went on.

When we returned back down to the Visitor Center we went to the Hearst Castle Theater to watch the 40 minute movie Hearst Castle - Building The Dream about the Hearst family and the building of the estate. The film is a mixture of reenactments with actors and some original film footage that paints Hearst in a very favorable light (aka no mention of the mistress who lived across the hall from him at Hearst Castle). If you plan to visit do give yourself most of the day to explore the grounds and take in the different tours.

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