A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

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 Comments (0)

Solvang and the return south

The delightful Danish town of Solvang, brush fire smoke and the infamous 'four-oh-five' freeway

sunny 32 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The following day we continued our return south towards Los Angeles diverting slightly to stop for a couple of hours to look around Solvang. Solvang (translates as 'sunny fields' in Danish) was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who bought a 9,000 acre (3,600 hectare) ranch next to the historic Santa Ines Mission in the Santa Ynez Valley with the aim of creating a Danish colony away from the severe winters they suffered in the US Mid West.

Classic street view of Solvang

Classic street view of Solvang


Entrance to the Old Mission in Solvang

Entrance to the Old Mission in Solvang

The Old Mission in Solvang

The Old Mission in Solvang

Solvang with its unique half-timbered architecture, colourful potted plants and 'little Denmark' ambiance has become a major tourist attraction with over a million visitors every year. There are several restaurants and pastry shops serving Danish specialities, a Hans Christen Andersen Museum celebrating his fables together with a copy of Copenhagen's Mermaid's Fountain and 1:3 scale copy of the Rundetarn (Round Tower).

A colourful Danish restaurant in Solvang

A colourful Danish restaurant in Solvang


The Solvang Rundetarn (Round Tower)

The Solvang Rundetarn (Round Tower)


The Mermaid's Fountain in Solvang

The Mermaid's Fountain in Solvang


Tivoli Square in Solvang

Tivoli Square in Solvang


Solvang Bell Tower

Solvang Bell Tower

However probably the biggest attraction are the town's Danish windmills; although we didn't see all of them I counted at least half a dozen on the map dotted amongst the town's streets. All in all Solvang was a delightful little town well worth the visit.

Close up of the Windmill on Alisal Road in Solvang

Close up of the Windmill on Alisal Road in Solvang


The windmill in Hamlet Square

The windmill in Hamlet Square


The windmill on Mission Drive is now part of a brewery!

The windmill on Mission Drive is now part of a brewery!

We then descended from the mountains back on to the freeway only to be confronted by the smoke from a large bush fire that threatened to block our route south back to Los Angeles. Because of the way the wind direction changes near the coast one minute the sky was relatively clear while the next minute there was a very distinct layer of smoke above us.

Brush fire smoke begins to darken the skyline

Brush fire smoke begins to darken the skyline


Brush fire smoke above Port Hueneme

Brush fire smoke above Port Hueneme


Brush fire smoke billowing in the distance

Brush fire smoke billowing in the distance


The brush fire threatens to close the highway

The brush fire threatens to close the highway

Fortunately the brush fire didn't cross the Freeway to cut our route back like it threatened to do at one point but we still had to travel down the notorious interstate 'four-oh-five' freeway to get through Los Angeles, the busiest and most congested freeway in the USA. What we had hoped would be a two hour drive turned out to be four hours plus with bumper to bumper traffic. Although little consolation while we were stuck in heavy traffic we did see the Goodyear Blimp (Airship) take off from close by the freeway.

Traffic jam on Los Angeles' infamous Interstate 'four-oh-five' Freeway

Traffic jam on Los Angeles' infamous Interstate 'four-oh-five' Freeway


Wall to wall traffic on the I405 Freeway going through Los Angeles

Wall to wall traffic on the I405 Freeway going through Los Angeles


The Goodyear Blimp takes off near the I405 Freeway

The Goodyear Blimp takes off near the I405 Freeway


The Goodyear Blimp

The Goodyear Blimp

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged churches california windmills danish missions mexican natural_disasters airship Comments (0)

San Clemente and a weekend away in Mexico

Visit to a bonus country while staying at a Spanish Village by the Sea

semi-overcast 21 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

San Clemente describes itself as a "Spanish Village by the Sea" and is located on California's Pacific Coast about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego. It was founded by a former Mayor of Seattle, Ole Hanson, who envisaged it becoming a haven for Californians who tired of "the big city". Its most obvious landmark is its beautiful 1,296 foot (395 metre) long wooden pier original built in 1928.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


Looking out along San Clemente Pier

Looking out along San Clemente Pier


Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Sat on a bluff-top above the pier is Casa Romantica, with a red tiled roof and white stucco arches it was the original home of San Clemente's founder Ole Hanson built in 1928 in the Spanish style and is now heritage listed. However what San Clemente is more famous for is La Casa Pacifica which was bought by President Richard Nixon in 1969 as his vacation home during his presidency and became known as the "Western White House".

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier


Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Mexico was not a country I thought I would be able to include in my itinerary of my trip around the world so I was very pleased when the chance of a weekend south of the border arose while I was in San Clemente. We drove down to Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito in Spanish), a Pacific coastal resort 30 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican state of Baja California that is very popular for its beaches and dance clubs. Our hotel, around which the surrounding town grew, was originally opened in 1925 but since then has had a lot built onto it including the 17 storey Presido Tower in which we stayed.

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

In addition to bars, restaurants and a ballroom the hotel we were staying at also had a lovely golden sand beach and a quarter mile long private pier. Unfortunately the weather was not at its best while we were there so the pier was closed and there were few takers for the horse or quad bike riding however it was evident from the volleyball nets, stands of empty seating and other paraphernalia that this could often become a very busy beach.

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach

Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach


The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

We did venture south to Puerto Nuevo passing the enormous 75 foot (23 metre) high statue of Christ of the Sacred Heart (Cristo del Sagrado Corazon in Spanish) above the highway at the town of El Morro. Puerto Nuevo itself is known as "the Lobster Capital of Baja" and having been coaxed into a restaurant and chosen the crustaceans we wanted to eat we enjoyed lovely fresh lobster for Sunday lunch.

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro


Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico

Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico


Street scene in Puerto Nuevo

Street scene in Puerto Nuevo


Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

On the Monday morning it was time for us to return north across the USA border, experiencing the heavy traffic in Tijuana just south of San Diego on the way. Thankfully our hotel was part of the Border Fastpass Scheme and this enabled us to use a dedicated lane to avoid the chaos and often 2 hour delay crossing over the Mexico/USA border.

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border


Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana

Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana


Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border

Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border


Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

On our return to San Clemente we visited family in Valley Center just north of San Diego and managed to stop at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded in 1798 at Oceanside on the way back. The 21 Spanish missions in California are a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1833 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. Starting from San Diego they stretch north with each mission about 30 miles apart - considered a long days ride on horseback or 3 days walk. All told I saw 5 of the 21 missions while I was in California, including the Mission at San Juan Capistrano which I had visited on a previous visit to California and we passed as I got on the Amtrak train to Fullerton.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


The Mission at San Juan Capistrano

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano


My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches churches trains hotels california piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

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