Friday, January 16, 2009

Same Old Lang Syne - San Francisco, Day 4

Following a subdued breakfast at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m., we piled into the classy white Impala that we rented and set out for San Simeon. Our chosen route was Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. It was Father of Ken’s lifelong dream to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway; however, in his dreams, he was behind the wheel of a Shelby GT500KR or a Viper, NOT a four door Impala.

For those who have not experienced this highway, it parallels the Pacific Coast with spectacular views of the ocean, cliffs, and rugged countryside uninhabited by humans. The first fifteen minutes of the trip were glamorous and exciting, and then we got stuck behind a Dodge pickup with a top speed of 40 mph. All. The. Way. There. The views really are spectacular—my pictures are real and they’re spectacular.

One of the bridges that we drove across:

A video of Father of Ken driving down the Pacific Coast Highway:

As we neared San Simeon, we started to notice large lumps of something dark on the beach. Upon closer inspection, we figured out that these were elephant seals. On the hill above us, Hearst Castle came into view.

We had to board a bus at the visitor center to take us up the winding road to the castle. Today, this ride takes about ten or fifteen minutes, but in Hearst's day, it could take between 1 and 5 hours, depending on the weather. Once we got to the top of the hill, we met our tour guide, Holly, who wore distinctive George Burns-style glasses. She politely, but firmly, reiterated the rules for touring the castle, which included no eating or chewing of gum. Father of Ken has recently admitted violating this rule by eating no less than four Mentos on each one hour tour. We are sure that he has been blacklisted for this impropriety.

On the first tour, we saw the ground floor of the main house and one of the guest houses as well as the swimming pools and gardens.
The main house:

Some views of the ocean from the courtyard in front of the main house:

A view of the mountains on the other side of the castle--Hearst owned all of the land that you can see in this photo:

The outdoor pool, which Hearst rebuilt three times until he got it the way he wanted it:

A bathroom in one of the three guest houses:

Two of the bedrooms in the guest house:

The front of the main house, which Hearst designed to look like the facade of a church:

The fountains in the courtyard in front of the main house:

The dining room in the main house was where all of the guests would dine together, even if they were sleeping in one of the guest houses:

The musician's balcony looking over the dining room:

We ended our tour at the indoor pool, which is designed to resemble a Roman bath house and includes 24k gold tiles along with the blue tiles:

The diving platform:

The tennis courts:

The second tour included Hearst’s private suite, several guest rooms, and the kitchen. Our tour guide, Jill, was very personable and informative. She told us that employees are allowed to swim in the pools once a year and that they also get to eat the fruit from the grounds.

This is one of the sitting rooms (by the way, apologies for the quality of the photography--we were not allowed to use flash at any time and were often being pushed to keep moving):

The guest library:

Hearst's private suite includes his bedroom, bath, and dressing room, a sitting room that connects his room to another bedroom suite that was used by his mistress, Marion Davies. This is her bedroom:

Hearst also had a private library across the hall from his bedroom from which he could run his publishing empire:

This is one of the most requested guest rooms because it is at the top of the house and the light pours through the windows:

There were many guest rooms in the main house, including a duplex, such as the one below. Each of these rooms has a sleeping loft and a sitting room and bathroom below--this photo shows the sleeping loft:

Toward the end of the tour, we went into the commercial kitchen:

Again, we ended our tour at the indoor pool:

Family of Ken would recommend a visit to Hearst Castle to anyone who is in the area, but we would encourage you to take one of the more detailed tours in addition to the introductory tour.

In keeping with the tradition begun by Ken and Mother of Ken in Spain last fall, the search began for food. Using our trusty GPS, Evelyn Garmin, we located the Black Cat Bistro in San Simeon. For some reason, on a Tuesday night, reservations were required, forcing us to continue our search in the next town 30 miles away after the hostess called other restaurants in San Simeon and could not find space for us anywhere. We ended up eating a mediocre dinner before driving several hours back to the bay area, arriving at our apartments around 11:00 p.m.


Leah said...

1. That bridge haunts my nightmares.
2. I want to swim in that indoor pool! That's way nicer than the one at my brother's house.

Mary and Larry Smerk said...

Marie, Laura, and I drove from Hurst to San Fran along the coastal highway at night in the fog. Ours was a very slow drive too. We pulled into Sacramento around 2 in the morning.