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Hearst Castle

'La Cuesta Encantada' (The Enchanted Hill)

sunny 26 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Having checked into the Cliffs Hotel above Pismo Beach near San Luis Obispo we continued our road trip to the Central Californian Coast with a visit to Hearst Castle. The Castle was built between 1919 and 1947 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst on a hill 1,600 feet (488 metres) up overlooking the Pacific Ocean where his goldmine tycoon father George and philanthropist mother Phoebe Apperson Hearst had often taken him camping when he was a child.

The view down to the ocean from the winding road up to Hearst Castle

The view down to the ocean from the winding road up to Hearst Castle


The view of Hearst Castle from the approach road

The view of Hearst Castle from the approach road

The castle was built in a "Mediterranean Revival Style" with no expense sparred and filled with historic European art. Invitations to come and stay in one of its three visitor cottages called the Casa del Mar (House of the Sea), Casa del Monte (House of the Mountains) and Casa del Sol (House of the Sun) were highly coveted by the Hollywood and political elite (including Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Bob Hope, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill amongst others) during its heyday of the 1920s and '30s.

Me in front of the main facade of Hearst Castle's Casa Grande

Me in front of the main facade of Hearst Castle's Casa Grande


The view of Hearst Castle's Casa Grande from the Southern Esplanade

The view of Hearst Castle's Casa Grande from the Southern Esplanade


The Cottages around the Main Terrace built for visiting guests

The Cottages around the Main Terrace built for visiting guests

The 115 room main building is called the Casa Grande features two bell towers and was inspired by a Spanish cathedral although it doesn't contain a chapel. Inside the decoration and furnishings are lavish and we did a tour of its ground floor including the 82 feet (25 metre) long, 30 feet (9 metre) high and 24 feet (7.3 metre) high Assembly Room which is the largest and most imposing of the La Casa Grande Rooms and a treasure house of architectural features and art objects such as a French 16th century stone fireplace and many tapestries.

Inside the Assembly Room of the Casa Grande

Inside the Assembly Room of the Casa Grande


The French 16th century stone fireplace in the Casa Grande's Assembly Room

The French 16th century stone fireplace in the Casa Grande's Assembly Room

The dining room is called the 'Refectory' in keeping with tradition for religious houses and universities. From its ceiling hang the banners representing the districts of Sienna that compete in its famous twice annual horse race. The Billards Room has a 15th century Spanish ceiling and is dominated by a late 15th century Franco-Flemish Tapestry. The Casa Grande also has its own Movie Theater furnished with log seats and walls covered with damask fabric and gilded cast-plaster caryatids where the Hollywood elite would be entertained with the very latest movies and where during our tour we were shown snippets of home movies of Charlie Chaplin and others visiting the castle.

The 'Refectory' or dining room inside the Casa Grande

The 'Refectory' or dining room inside the Casa Grande


The Billard Room inside the Casa Grande

The Billard Room inside the Casa Grande


The private Movie Theater inside the Casa Grande

The private Movie Theater inside the Casa Grande

The castle also has two luxurious swimming pools - the outdoor Neptune Pool includes Ancient Roman columns from the 4th century and is surrounded with carved marble statues of nymphs and swans; the indoor Roman Pool is surrounded with mosaic tiles fused with gold foil, Italian lamp standards and marble statues of famous Greek and Roman gods. The Roman Pool wasn't used much as it was part of a Gymnasium complex (which included the tennis courts built on the pool's roof) that was never completed because Rudolph Hearst eventually ran out of money to do all the building work he planned.

The Neptune's Pool at Hearst Castle

The Neptune's Pool at Hearst Castle


Another view of the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Another view of the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

The indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

The indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle


The Roman Pool's diving board at Hearst Castle

The Roman Pool's diving board at Hearst Castle


The tennis courts above the the indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

The tennis courts above the the indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

The castle also once housed the world's largest Private Zoo and included many exotic species such as antelope, camels, giraffe, kangaroos and yaks. When Rudolph Hearst ran out of money he sold off the zoo animals but several of the zebras escaped and their descendants are now often seen grazing the hills on the way up to the castle. Rudolph Hurst died in 1951 and in 1957 the Hearst Corporation donated the castle to the state of California who have maintained it as a state national park where despite its remoteness it attracts about one million visitors per year.

Fenced enclosures once used to cage animals for the private zoo

Fenced enclosures once used to cage animals for the private zoo

A short distance up the coast from Hearst Castle is the 7,500 strong elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas. It's an amazing site, there are no elephant seals any where else along the coast and then you come across one large cove where they so tightly pack the beach that it looks like the aftermath of a battlefield.

Elephant Seals packed on the beach at Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals packed on the beach at Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals packed on the beach near the rocks at Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals packed on the beach near the rocks at Piedras Blancas

We then returned south towards San Luis Obispo, stopping to see Morro Bay and its distinctive Rock on the way. Morro Rock, first named in 1542 and a useful navigation landmark along the coast, is 576 foot (176 metres) high volcanic plug, the first of nine stretching inland known as the Nine Sisters. In San Luis Obispo (affectionately known as 'SLO' by the locals) we popped into town to see its famous Thursday night Farmers Market along Higuera Street and sample the night life.

The Rock at Morro Bay

The Rock at Morro Bay


Sign on the beach at Morro Bay

Sign on the beach at Morro Bay


The Thursday night Farmer's Market in San Luis Obispo

The Thursday night Farmer's Market in San Luis Obispo


The Mission at San Luis Obispo

The Mission at San Luis Obispo

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches churches buildings volcanos california palaces missions marine_life videos mexican film_locations

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