Hearst San Simeon SHM
Narrated by Russ Christoff
My next stop was San Simeon and world famous Hearst Castle.
One of the largest of 5,000 historic house museums in the United States, Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument is one of the most visited state parks in California.
The lavish creation of newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, Hearst Castle houses an outstanding collection of European antiques and art pieces.
Historians believe that Hearst's interest in European art and architecture was sparked when he toured Europe as a young man.
As a grown man, his love of art is reflected in the 130 room main house, La Casa Grande, as well as the guest houses and gardens on his enchanted hill.
Four different tours are available to the public for a moderate fee, and require advanced reservations.
Each tour focuses on a particular area of the property, with Tour One being recommended for first time visitors.
The visitor's center was my first stop.
It's an attractive building that contains and information desk, a snack bar for lunch before or after a tour, and a gift shop with souvenirs and reading material on Hearst Castle.
I decided to take Tour One in the morning and Tour Two in the afternoon.
At the assigned time, we boarded the bus that was taking our tour up to the castle.
No private cars are allowed past the visitor center parking lot.
No food, strollers, flash cameras or tripods are permitted either.
Five miles of winding road and rolling hills lie between the visitor's center and La Casa Grande.
All tours take about one hour and forty-five minutes, and cover between 150 and 400 steps, and visit the magnificent Neptune Pool.
Inspired by the classical period and constructed of concrete faced with marble, this 104 foot pool also sports marble colonnades at each end, and is enhanced by white marble statues.
From there, Tour One took us through one of the guest houses, down some garden pathways and finally to the main house.
Visitors on this tour, explore the rooms on the bottom floor.
These included an enormous assembly room.
Refectory where all the castle meals were taken.
The mooring room, and billiard room.
All the rooms featured furnishings and art from Spain, Italy and France, which date from the 15th to the 18th centuries.
A private theater showed a brief movie reel of Hearst entertaining celebrities in the castle's heyday.
Before you were led to a departing bus, we visited the Roman pool.
Artisans for three years on this incredible indoor structure.
Colored Venetian glass tiles interspersed with tiles containing gold leaf, create a beautiful aquatic design.
Between tours, I returned to the visitor's center and explored the exhibit gallery with Deroy, from public relations.
The gallery has displays on-hand that document the history of the Hearst family and construction of Hearst Castle.
In the afternoon, I returned to La Casa Grande for Tour Two.
This tour takes visitors up narrow winding staircases to the second and third floors, and Hearst’s private quarters.
On the second floor, where we were treated to views of the library.
Housed here are 5,000 books, and a superb collection of ancient Greek vases.
Another flight up took us into Hearst's personal sanctum, where we marveled at his gothic study.
This dark room contrasted with his airy private sitting room across the hall.
This bedroom, decorated in gold tones, is one of the cozier rooms we visited all day.
At Hearst Castle, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the grandeur, so remember, take time to pause and examine the exquisite details.