Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hearst Castle, Presidents's Day Weekend, 2012

The long weekend gave me a chance to see Hearst Castle, which has been on the list a long time!  We did actually try before, but were blocked by a rock slide on 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.  Turns out that happens a lot and if you are planning on driving it, better check out the status before you leave the house.

Drive down
Nothing eventful on the drive down-we took 101 down and got to see the wine region near Paso Robles before stopping in Cambria for lunch.  Cambria is a very sweet, sleepy seaside resort town where the food could be hit or miss, so we planned ahead and got brunch at Robin's.  Great reviews online and we weren't disappointed-an international twist with fresh local food (chorizo, avacado and egg in a sandwich, and lox and egg on naan).

After lunch we visited Seekers Glass shop just across the street.  It has been around since the 80s and one of the group remembers going there as a teenager!  Decorative glass objects in every style you can think of, but the dragon with hotdog took the cake for whimsy!

Hearst Castle
You can see it from the highway and you know that you are in for some great ocean views. The system is well designed-plenty of parking, giant visitors center with everything to keep you busy for more than an hour-movie, snacks, extra exhibits, gift shop and an outdoor patio.  Don't arrive after noon without reservations, the tours sell out!  Buses take you up the hill and give you a nice introduction to the estate and as a bonus it is narrated by Alex Trebek, though no one on the internet knows why.

Most people on their first visit would start with the Grand Rooms tours, but we went with the Upstairs Suites.  I find the more intimate parts of a fancy house can be more insightful.  What we find out is that Hearst was eccentric (if you are poor you are odd, but when you have money you are eccentric).  Changed his mind about everything, mixed and matched originals with replicas and wanted a house filled with lots and lots of ornate stuff.

Wow, what an uncomfortable place to live-too many things competing for your eyes.  This was his 'office'.

And a strange style, super fancy spacious rooms, but many narrow unfinished hallways and stairs.  After your official tour, you can wander the grounds to see the famous pools and guest houses.

 Outdoor Pool

Indoor pool-I think this is the best room in the estate.

I really enjoyed the fruit trees but there is no picking the fruit and they don't even harvest it themselves.  It is a lost money making opportunity!  They do sell the Hearst Ranch beef because it is still a working farm and folks would love a bag of oranges, or better, marmalade!

After all that grandeur he managed to add something tasteful as well.  The outdoor floor tiles are simple but pretty with a cohesive yellow/orange and blue color scheme and themed but not identical.

Drive home
We don't dilly dally because we drive back up 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) in order to see the ocean and the sunset.  It is worth it every once in a while, just be prepared for a slower drive, what with all the curvy parts and stopping for the view.

Final stop is dinner in a funky taqueria in downtown Monterey.  Thanks to yelp for the good reviews and my friends for the day out and their photos!

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