Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hearst Castle

If you take the scenic drive along the California 1 coast highway, you should definitely stop by Hearst Castle, one of the larger attractions near San Simeon. Built for William Randolph Hearst in the early to mid 1900s, Hearst Castle was originally named La Cuesta Encatada (The Enchanted Hill) and features a Spanish Revival exterior as seen from this banner of the towers.

Inside the Visitor Center, while waiting for your tour, you can find assorted pieces of his collection in the mini-museum inside which included a picture of the upstairs Gothic study, part of the upstairs suites tour which I didn't get a chance to go on. The grand rooms tour costs $25 USD and the upstairs suites will set you back another $25 USD. Both tours, however, include the splendid outdoor pools and gardens.

Hearst had his mansion built atop a hill and thus the tours begin by bus, which run approximately every 10 minutes, to take you up there. Here's the view looking out the back at the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

A view of the front facade of the castle built in Spanish Revival style with the towers inspired by the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor in Ronda, Spain. Now as to why you would want your home to look like a church...I'm not too sure...

A view of the side of the castle along with interesting patterns on the overhanging eaves.

Here's a view of the Assembly Room, replete with choir stalls lining the side, 16th century Flemish tapestries and an original Italian ceiling if i recall.

The rest of the room is adorned with neoclassical sculptures, carvings and statues amidst overstuffed chairs and poker tables. I must say Hearst must have really liked his Casa Grande to look like a museum or art warehouse because it certainly looked like the oddest mishmash of collectibles I've ever seen in a home. I mean, choir stalls in what was essentially a living room? Strange...

The dining room, also known as the Refectory, was just as elaborate with yet more choir stalls, tapestries, carved ceilings,

statues of the Virgin Mary with the child (not sure why anyone would place this in the dining room?),

and an upper chamber for musicians to play while Hearst and his guests were enjoying dinner.

After dinner, you could relax in the adjacent room for an after-dinner conversation and sit by the fireplace, which incidentally may have smoked up the ceiling of this room, leaving it with severe smoke damage.

The billiards room contains two billiards tables under a 15th century Spanish ceiling and yet more tapestries and sofas for guests to hear the latest news and gossip by listening to the radio stations that Hearst owned.

The last stop on the Grand Rooms Tour is the Theater where Hearst treated his guests to a movie. These days, visitors are treated to a short 15 minute clip of Hearst and some of his guests who visited including Charlie Chaplin and other Hollywood elite.

Once you exit, you are free to walk around the gardens and pools so be sure to grab a map at the visitor center when you purchase the tickets so you can find your way around.

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