Hearst Castle, San Simeon

May 2015

Dmitriy and I went to visit Hearst Castle. We left on Friday night, but pretty late because I had to finish up a bit of work before going. There were two routes we could take to our campsite, one down highway 1 (a bit longer) and one inland, and we decided to go by highway 1 because it is more scenic. It turned out to be very cloud though, so we couldn’t really see anything out over the ocean.

Eventually we got to where the turnoff for our campsite was. It was a two way road but looked like a one way road, incredibly twisty with blind turns, sheer drop off a cliff, and we got into super thick fog and could barely see. After 40 minutes we finally got a GPS fix and realized we hadn’t even gone 1/3rd of the final distance and it was after midnight, so we pulled over into a turnout and set up our tent. Then it started to rain. Neither of us slept very well between being wet and there being a lot of car noises because somebody was driving back and forth very late looking for their friend.

The next morning we woke up and it was super foggy, which I think is pretty cool. Dmitriy was not so happy though because in the middle of the night he went for a walk when he couldn’t sleep, and all his clothes got wet.

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It was cold and wet so we packed up fast, hopped in the car, and blasted the heat. Then we drove back down the crazy road and stopped and The Whale Watcher Cafe for some breakfast.

We had to get to Heart Castle for 12, to go on our tour (we reserved tickets in advance) so we had some time to kill. We stopped at a beach and went for a walk.

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There were lots of cool rocks. I started a green rock collection (although they are all just kind of grey now that they are dry).

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There were tons of washed of Vellelas, which are super cool!

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At the end of the beach there were entire rocks covered in de-submerged sea anemones.

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On our walk, Dmitriy found a lot of cool things. He found a beautiful feather and a sand dollar.

We got back in the car, and drove on. Then we saw signs for an elephant seal viewing platform and pulled over. There were so many of them!

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Apparently some of the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic Park are from elephant seals.

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Finally we got to Hearst Castle and got our tickets. You could see it in the distance, and it looked like a little castle on top of the hill.

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You have to drive to the Visitor Center and then they drive you up on a bus. I had reserved tickets in advance because I heard that the tours can fill up, although we probably would have been ok without. The tours leave every 15 minutes, so we walked around at the Visitor’s Center, where they have a little museum. This was my favourite thing:

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Alex Trebec narrates the introduction that they play on the buses up to the castle. Apparently Hearst loved animals and had all kinds of exotic animals on his land, including a herd of wild zebras that still roam today. There were lots of flower trees all along the way.

Here is Dmitriy outside the main entrance to this house.

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The entire front of the fireplace was imported from France.

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Hearst would invite groups of guests to stay here for a week or so at a time, usually movie stars or politicians or prominent business people. You could do whatever during the day (tennis, hiking, swimming, etc), but everybody was expected to meet for dinner and a movie at night.

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He was also a big fan of art, and collected all kinds of pieces. This was a particularly bizarre sculpture.

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This was where guests had dinner. Hearst sat in the middle. Newcomers would be seated next to him, and the longer the stayed the further out towards the end of the table they would be moved. An interesting fact is that this room is actually wider than it is tall – it was designed to be an optical illusion.

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This entire ceiling came from some ancient building in Spain. They are currently restoring it.

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This is the movie theatre. They showed us some old clips of guests at the castle, including Charlie Chaplin.

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Dmitriy living the life.

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The Neptune pools were under construction! We wondered if they chose to do maintenance at this particular time because of the drought. The pool undoubtedly takes a ton of water, and it is hard to get the water up the hill.

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This is the most life-like statute I’ve ever seen. Her skin looked so smooth and real from close up.

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The Roman pool.

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On the way back down we saw where there used to be a polar bear pen. On hot days, they would cart ice up the hill for him.

The cool thing about Hearst Castle is how ridiculously extravagant everything is. Especially how it brought art from all over the world, including ceilings from Spain and a stone fireplace from France, and had all these exotic animals wandering the property. It was very imagination-inspiring.