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Hearst Castle California
Hearst Castle California - information and pictures. Hearst Castle California is over-the-top, that can't be denied. And what a treat to witness this magnificent place. You can feel and appreciate all the hard work that was put into the floor plans and aesthetic of each house, each room, the gardens and the pools. From the visitor's center you get in line to take a five-mile bus ride that winds up and around the hills to 1,600 feet above sea level. The ride is slow because of all the turns in the road and is a scenic drive as well. About 4 miles north of the castle on Highway 1 there are elephant seals on the beach. You have got to stop here and see them.
We come from the East Coast of Florida so to see elephant seals, sea lions and seals is fascinating to us. Its like National Geographic live. We saw a few of them crawling onto the beach from the water and a couple of them were fighting. The ones sleeping on the beach will throw sand on their backs periodically. You can hear them barking to each other. There is a boardwalk along the beach where you can get a closer view of them too.
We took the Experience Tour which is the recommended tour for first time visitors to the castle. This tour is more of an overview of the castle going into Casa Grande which is the main house, the 18-room guest house named Casa del Sol, the gardens and esplanade, and the Neptune and Roman pools. The film, Hearst Castle: Building the Dream, was entertaining and informative on the story of the castle and Mr. Hearst. It is 40 minutes long and was included in the #1 Tour but you are not forced to watch the film but we highly recommend it.
Being on the tour through the grounds and inside the houses was typical of a field trip. The tour guide had eagle eyes and didn't let you wonder too far away from the group and kept everybody in check the entire hour. The tour was at a steady pace and was not rushed. For the serious picture taker, though, it could get frustrating to get the picture you want while touring the rooms of the main house, guest house and indoor pool. You see inside the houses walking and standing space is limited and tight in most of the rooms we visited. The tour guide did not allow for any body to fall behind or stay behind to take pictures. If you wanted a picture you had to take it during the guides spiel. That means that you are walking around people excusing yourself, maybe asking them to move out of the way a bit. While the group was walking from one room to the next stopping to take a picture feels rushed because the people behind you are waiting on you. There are a lot of narrow hallways and stairwells, seriously only wide enough for one average size person, passing someone would mean touching them to do so. If you are an extreme claustrophobic I would have to suggest staying at the front of the pack where you could get a little space from the lagers in the back.
Hearst Castle also known as "The Enchanted Hill" was once the home of William Randolph Hearst. The mansion was donated to the State of California in 1957 by the Hearst Corporation. The total square footage of the estate is a little over 90,000. There are 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 41 fireplaces, 19 sitting rooms, and over 9,000 square feet of basement space as well. With all the architecture, animals, landscaping, and architecture it reminds me of Balboa Park and Zoo in San Diego.
The Neptune Pool is the one you see most on postcards and in pictures. It is 104 feet long with its deepest point being 10 feet and it holds 345,000 gallons of water. The indoor pool called the Roman pool is completely decorated with 1" square tiles in a mosaic fashion. Those little tiles aren't just on the walls, floor and ceiling the entire pool surface is also decorated with these one inch tiles. Out of about 5,000 historic house museums in the United States the Hearst Castle is one of the largest. Night tours are offered as well so you can experience what it might have been like at the peak of the Hearst social entertaining period in the 1930s.
Animal Hill was W.R. Hearst private zoo collection. In the cages were all types of bears, a variety of large cats, an elephant, storks, monkeys and chimpanzees. Roaming the grounds freely were deer, ostrich, zebras, camels, kangaroos, oxen and yaks. I am reminded of the Ringling House in Sarasota Florida that I took my mom to on her birthday. With the similarities being the exotic animals on the property, the mansion on the water, the art collection, and entertaining socialites. Currently, while traveling in the area along Highway 1 you might be lucky enough to see the surviving animals like zebra or fallow deer grazing. There is an airstrip which is not for public use for the family still uses it. The Visitor's Center is where the airport and airstrip were originally.
Jason's thoughts - I thought the price was too high at first and I thought it would be an overhyped tourist trap for high brow retirees. I was wrong. Hearst Castle was worth the price and I could actually take the longer more extensive tours that cover more areas if given the chance again. Extraordinary place. Do NOT miss the pools! Make sure you purchase one of the tours that includes those as they compare to the coolest pools in Vegas in terms of uniqueness and size.
Kelly's thoughts - The castle tour was a nice way to spend the day. I enjoyed the pool areas the best and the film. There are so many collections and furniture in the rooms and that's just too busy for my taste. I still highly recommend touring the historic Hearst Castle and if you can afford it go on more than one tour.
Travel info - Hearst Castle is in San Simeon on Highway 1 which runs along the coast. It is 250 miles or about a five hour drive from either L.A. or San Francisco. Click for California beaches or Paso Robles Wine Trip or
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