Heading North On The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)
We headed up Hwy 1 (the PCH – Pacific Coast Highway) after enjoying our stay on the coast by San Luis Obispo. The next stop was Monterey on our road trip along the California coast. We knew it was a long drive on twisty roads. But we still planned to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights first.
On our last road trip to California, we bypassed the Hearst Castle. But this trip we did our research before. The history of this fascinating house intrigued me. We knew we would not see it all. But we still wanted to enjoy our first view on a day when the castle shone in the clear blue skies.
A Long And Windy Road
The parking lot for Hearst Castle was right at the bottom. We parked and then a bus took us up to the castle. You must buy a tour package. There was no general grounds admission ticket. Four tours were offered during the day. Each tour showed a different part of the castle. The one evening tour provided access to a number of rooms. And in the evening, you will see people around the house in period costumes. I am sure the views from the castle as the sun sets must be amazing.
Included with your tour ticket was a 40 minute movie. The movie gave us a great overview of the history of the Hearst family fortune. Scenes depicted William Randolph’s early inspirations as he travelled Europe with his mother. And the history of the building of what Hearst called “The Ranch” was depicted. There was a lot on the famous female Civil Engineer and architect Julia Morgan. As a female Civil Engineer, she would have been my role model if I had learned about her earlier in my career.
The bus took about 15 minutes to get up to the Hearst Castle. A narration by Alex Trebeck provided more information and pointed out key sights on the estate. We learned that the Hearst family was still running cattle on much of the acreage that was not donated to the state of California. We saw where the zoo used to be. But we missed seeing the zebras that still run wild. The remains of the long covered portico peeked at us through the trees. It was fascinating to think that in Hearst’s time, people bounced up on rough dirt roads. Not everyone came in by plane on the private airfield.
As we wound our way up the twisty path, the castle view came and went. The bright blue skies were perfect for a day to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
Gardens, Terraces And Pools
All of the tours provide free time to explore the outdoor space around the Hearst Castle. We got a small narrated tour at the beginning. And then wandered on our own after we went inside. Gardens and terraces were on all sides of the grounds. Hearst had maintained most of the original trees and planted many more in bare spaces. Most of the flowers were not in bloom. But oranges coloured the green trees.
There were buildings around the main Hearst Castle. The three cottages were guest houses at one time. Each was named for its view (Del Mar for sea view, Del Sol for sun view and Del Monte for the mountain view).
Everywhere we looked we found interesting and eclectic statues. They were set in natural settings. Most blended well with the scenery. But it was interesting to find the Egyptian statue of the Goddess Sekhmet in one fountain. The main parts of this sculpture are over 3,000 years old. It was a reminder that during Hearst’s time, Egypt-mania was in full swing just after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
The star attraction of the outdoor space was the Neptune Pool. It shone crystal blue. Roman columns stood on one end. Statues adorned the sides of the pool. The current pool is the third version. Each pool got bigger and bigger.
Enjoying the outdoor space is an essential part when you visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
Views Over The Pacific Ocean
As we wandered the grounds, we saw an amazing variety of things. But you could not visit this hilltop spot without enjoying the amazing panoramic views. The views from this spot were one of the key reasons Hearst built here. And we had the most amazing day for views.
We were so glad we got such a perfect day for to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
Admiring The Hearst Castle Casa Grande
Before we went inside the main building, we took the time and admired the outside of the Casa Grande. This building was designed in the Mediterranean Revival Style. It looked very Spanish in design. It reminded me much more of a church with its twin towers that came from a cathedral in Ronda, Spain. When we looked closely, we found so much intricate detail on the outside of the building.
While the house looked intricate and artistic, it was built to withstand nature and the elements. Most of the buildings were made with poured reinforced concrete to make them earthquake resistant. This was great. Until Hearst or Julia Morgan decided that they wanted to change the layout or move rooms around. Which apparently happened a lot!
The main Casa Grande was an imposing and beautiful building. The perfect place to start when you visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
Starting The Grand Rooms Tour At Hearst Castle
We did the Grand Rooms Tour. This gave us views into the main floor rooms of the Casa Grande. We started in the Assembly Room. This large sitting area was where guests spent time mingling and chatting. Massive tapestries hung from the walls. The wood ceiling was intricately carved. The walls had wooden church benches beside the central massive fireplace.
Several doors were embedded in the wall. One went up to Hearst’s private areas. And we walked through another to get to the refectory. A large refectory table dominated this room. The backside of the Assembly Room fireplace covered one end of the room. Behind the table was a sterling silver sabre. This marked Hearst’s spot at the table. Around the sides of the room hung flags representing the winner teams for the horse race every year in Sienna, Italy. The flags added a colourful flair to this somewhat spartan room.
It was said that the place settings and meals were not the elaborate affairs you might expect for one of the richest men in the world. However, Hearst continued to think of the property as “The Ranch” and the setting and meals reflected that.
The first view of the inside of Casa Grande will fascinate when you visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
More Main Floor Rooms At Hearst Castle
From the Refectory Room we moved to the Morning Room. This was a more casual area. We were often reminded that smoking was a regular indoor thing during Hearst’s time. The wooden ceiling of this room was being renovated when we visited. You could see where the accumulated smoke had been removed.
The Billiards Room was next. Two large billiards table dominated this room. It was clear that there was lots to do when guests visited the Hearst Castle.
The last room on the Grand Rooms Tour was the theatre. This grand theatre was used regularly during Hearst’s time to show films.
The other day tours provided access to Hearst’s private rooms upstairs, to the kitchen areas and to the guest houses. Having done the Grand Rooms Tour, we can visit other rooms on a return trip to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
We Exited Through The Roman Pool
After we explored the grounds some more, we followed the signs that said “Exit to the Roman Pool”. We found the tennis courts that sat above the pool.
We entered the tiled massive Roman Pool room and got in line for the bus back down the hill. Hearst used the property year round. And needed an indoor pool when it was not warm enough to use the outdoor pool.
The indoor pool showed off more than a million Murano glass tiles. Some of the tiles even contained gold leaf. Skylights let the sun in so that the pool and tiles sparkle.
This last pool view was the perfect end to our trip to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights.
Plan To Visit The Hearst Castle For Eclectic Sights
We were so glad we planned to visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights on our trip north to Monterey. We got a first glimpse into this amazing property. And we know there is much to see on a return visit to Hearst Castle.
We had the prefect day to explore the grounds. And got stunning views out in all directions. We certainly saw why Hearst put the Ranch at San Simeon. He may not have called it a “Castle”, but it certainly looked like one.
Did you visit the Hearst Castle for eclectic sights? What was your favourite spot to see?
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