Hearst CastleCalifornia Travel Tips
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Perched on a hilltop 1,600 feet above the crashing waves of the Pacific, Hearst's magnificent Castle is located halfway between LA and San Francisco near the town of Cambria.
June 2008 marked 50 years since the castle opened to the public. Today, it draws more than 1 million visitors a year.
Start your Hearst Castle Tour at the Visitors Center, located right off Highway 1. The Experience Tour is one of five offered at the castle, and is recommended for first time visitors. Tickets sell out quickly, so advanced reservations are strongly recommended. Tours average about 2 hours.
Hopping aboard the tour bus, we begin our steep and winding ascent to the castle, listing to old time music while passing roaming herds of cattle. It's easy to imagine how invited guests felt arriving at the ranch for a weeklong stay of lavish parties, good food and fine living.
William Hearst built three separate guest houses for his famous visitors, who included Hollywood glitterati, political leaders and other notables like Howard Hughes.
Passing through the main gate, we looked down in awe at the sparkling Pacific ocean, Santa Lucia mountains and rolling green hills that inspired Hearst to build here in 1919.
The Neptune Pool, with its impressive Greco-Roman colonaddes, Vermont marble statues, remnants from Roman temples and 17th century bas reliefs, is a highlight on each tour. The white marble pool is 10 feet at its deepest point and 104 feet long, featuring a unique oil-burning heating system.
Hearst's visitors had their choice of the three guesthouses, and Casa del Sol is one of the most beautiful. This 8-bedroom, 2,600 square foot Moorish retreat, with sweeping views of the Pacific, opens up to Central Plaza and Casa Grande, Hearst's 60,000 square foot Medietrranean Revival style residence.
Casa Grande has 38 bedrooms and 41 bathrooms. Total square footage of the estate exceeds 90,000 square feet.
Casa Grande itself is a palatial sight. In fact, architectural historian Lord John Norwich called it a "palace in every sense of the word."
The Central Plaza outside Casa Grande is serene and beautiful, especially as the ocean breeze blows by. The plaza and outer terraces are a great spot to relax and admire the beautiful gardens, fountains, ponds and priceless sculptures.
In fact, the castle has more than 22,000 museum quality artifacts, shipped from around the world, including ornately carved ancient European ceilings and exquisite tapestries.
There are 14 sitting rooms in Casa Grande, but the Assembly Room was where Hearst's guests gathered around 6:30 p.m. to enjoy cocktails, play cards, or enjoy a game of Monopoly before dinner. The estate has 41 fireplaces!
At 8 p.m., guests moved in to the Refectory, the only dining room in the castle. Here, Hearst enjoyed lavish meals with his mistress Marion Davies and about 15 famous visitors, always making sure there was plenty of ketchup, pickles and mustard to go around. Heart's favorite dish was rare pressed duck
The kitchen, built in 1927, featured electric appliances and the latest in modern conveniences for its time. It looks much like it did during its heyday, including spoons for enjoying bone marrow, a delicacy at the time.
Hearst employed 15 chefs, waiters, butlers and maids.
After enjoying a fine meal, guests retreated to the 50-seat Movie Theater or took a dip in the Indoor Roman pool, styled after the Italian Baths of Caracalla and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
Thanks for coming along on our tour of the magnificent Hearst Castle. Now, go make those reservations and enjoy this Palace on the Pacific.
750 Hearst Castle Road, along Highway One, San Simeon
Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation, www.hearstcastle.org/
Friends of Hearst Castle, www.friendsofhearstcastle.org/
Tour Reservations: 1-800-444-4445
Tours for Mobility Impaired: 1-805-927-2020 SUBSCRIBE! http://tinyurl.com/p2fveuj
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