Wednesday, April 21, 2010

California road trip - day 6

We checked out of the hotel early in the morning and headed for the Morro Rock, a volcanic plug in Morro Bay, and a historical landmark. Morro Rock was first charted in 1542 by the Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who called it 'El Morro' which is Spanish for "the pebble".

Morro Rock ahead

The area surrounding Morro Rock is beautiful, and if it hadn't been so cold, we'd have spent some more time outside the car.

Tiny squirrel greeting u

Morro Rock is a nesting site for falcons and seabirds. We saw tons of seabirds!

It was really windy too. Watch the seagulls drifting. Some look like they're just suspended in mid-air!

The plaque was set in a piece of rock.

Closer view of the plaque

We spent some time there (mostly inside the car though) and were off to our next destination -- Hearst Castle.

Beautiful winding roads, and signs of a storm ahead

Hearst Castle is a mansion built by William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper magnate in the early 1900s. The castle was built on a ranch Hearst had inherited, which spanned 250,000 acres. The extremely grand castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan, and construction went on from 1919 to 1947, mainly because Hearst kept changing his mind. He started off wanting to build a modest bungalow so he could stay there instead of a tent when he went camping. He finally ended up with a mansion covering 90,000 square feet, featureing 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Hearst formally named the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), but usually called it "the ranch". Some ranch, this.

In 1957, the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California. It is now maintained as a state historic park with major sections open for public tours. Apparently, the ranch attracts about one million visitors per year.

Although the main estate is now a museum, the Hearst family continues to use an older Victorian house on the property as a retreat.

We started off with watching a movie on the history of Hearst castle. It was very obviously a home production because it glorified the castle as William Hearst's "dream that he turned into reality". So the moolah he had was just a 'by the way' thing, yeah? I wasn't too impressed with the video.

Next, we were taken to the castle in a bus and our guide Belinda, sporting a blood red fringe, greeted us. It was incredibly cold and windy, and I was very glad we had our jackets on.

Viv feeling the chilly wind as he poses in front of the castle

The outdoor Neptune Pool, located near the edge of the hilltop, offers a great view of the mountains, ocean and the main house. The patio of the pool has an ancient Roman temple front transported wholesale from Europe and reconstructed at the site. Apparently, the Neptune Pool was rebuilt three times before Hearst was satisfied.

Hearst bought a lot of art from all over the world and displayed it all over the ranch.

The terrace

Casa Grande, the main castle

Orange tree with ripe oranges. Apparently, no one is allowed to pick the oranges from the trees, though the ones that have fallen on the ground can be picked up.

One of the grand rooms. The walls are lined with expensive paintings Hearst collected.

That's Belinda, at the bottom of the picture. We had never met a tour guide who knew, like, EVERYTHING. One of the people in our group asked her something about the architecture style of the chandeliers, and Belinda was immediately able to correct her and talk about the chandeliers for a full five minutes.

The ceiling

The dining hall where Hearst dined with his invited guests. Invitations to the ranch were highly coveted in the 20s and 30s. Hearst invited the elite such as
Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bob Hope, etc. and they would fly into the estate's airfield or take a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Guests could stay as long as they wished, and apparently one of his guests stayed (on and off) for two years! Hearst had strict rules for his guests -- don't drink more than you can handle, don't let a woman who is not your wife stay in your room, and do not skip the formal dinners he hosted. The guests could do anything they liked all day while he was at work, but if they failed to attend the dinner which was the only time he showed up, they were packed off to where they came from. Whoa.

Belinda also told us that for a man who was so particular about his guests not allowing other women to stay in their rooms, it was indeed strange where Hearst got himself a mistress. That was such a scandal that the readership of his newspapers dropped because of it.

And oh, apparently Citizen Kane was based on Hearst's life.

Chandeliers in the dining room

If I had a terrace like this...

Our final stop was the grand indoor pool, which was not only HUGE...

...the floor tiles were crafted with real gold. Get that!

The bus ride back to the main entrance

Me standing next to the Hearst Castle poster titled 'Experience the dream'

And off, we were, back on the road!



  • LOL @ "why is the sea so restless??" haha

    By Blogger Tejal, at 9:48 PM  

  • Viv and you have the same kind of sneakers?

    By Blogger N, at 2:41 PM  

  • Just one word... amazing!


    Did you guys go for wine tasting in those Santa Barbara wineries/vineyards?

    By Blogger Kanan, at 1:21 AM  

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