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Road Trip north to Santa Barbara

Visit to Santa Barbara Pier, the Ronald Reagan Ranch Centre, the Old Mission and another winery.

sunny 22 °C
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I was then taken on a Road Trip north for a few days to see the sights of the Central Californian Coast. After overnighting in Port Hueneme we arrived at the popular tourist destination and resort of Santa Barbara with its main street (called State Street) bedecked in American and Mexican Flags.

Driving down State Street, the main street in Santa Barbara

Driving down State Street, the main street in Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara East Beach

Santa Barbara East Beach

At the entrance onto the Pier was the Statute of Three Dolphins erected in 1982; according to legend the dolphin is a cousin of Santa Barbara's early Chumash Indians and brings luck. Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf that it reaches out to were built by lumberman John P Stearns in 1872 and is the longest deep-water pier between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It has been seriously damaged by fire and restored several times (most recently in 1998) but still has many shops and restaurants.

Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf


The Dolphin Statue at the entrance onto Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf

The Dolphin Statue at the entrance onto Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf


Driving onto Santa Barbara Pier

Driving onto Santa Barbara Pier


Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier from Stearns Wharf

Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier from Stearns Wharf


Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier

Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier

Ronald Reagan was The US President between 1981-1989 and his ranch (Rancho del Cielo aka "The Western White House") is located atop the Santa Ynez Mountain Range north west of the city. The ranch itself is closed to the public but there is a centre dedicated to his life on the ranch and love of horses just a short distance from the end of Santa Barbara Pier. Ronald Reagan had been o close to the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who had died shortly before our visit and there was a glass tribute case to her on the ground floor.

The Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara

The Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara


Photographic Portrait of President Reagan greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center

Photographic Portrait of President Reagan greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center


A piece of the Berlin Wall greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center

A piece of the Berlin Wall greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center


Tribute case to Margaret Thatcher in the Reagan Ranch Center

Tribute case to Margaret Thatcher in the Reagan Ranch Center

Upstairs there was an impressive multimedia desk illustrating episodes from Ronald Reagan's presidency surrounded by artifacts from his Ranch. The largest item on display was the Scrambler CJ-8 Jeep he used to get around the ranch but other things included his cowboy hat, saddle and boots along with the chainshaw he used to tidy up trees.

The large multimedia desk in the main gallery of the Reagan Ranch Center

The large multimedia desk in the main gallery of the Reagan Ranch Center


Ronald Reagan's 1983 CJ-8 Scrambler Jeep

Ronald Reagan's 1983 CJ-8 Scrambler Jeep


Ronald Reagan's Cowboy Hat and Saddle at the Reagan Ranch Center

Ronald Reagan's Cowboy Hat and Saddle at the Reagan Ranch Center


Ronald Reagan's riding boots

Ronald Reagan's riding boots

There was also the desk used for radio broadcasts to the nation during his presidency. It was from here during a 'mic' test that wasn't meant to be recorded Ronald Reagan made the humourous comment "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that today I have signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes." Needless to say the Soviets were not amused!

Desk used for Presidential Radio Broadcasts from Ronald Reagan's Ranch

Desk used for Presidential Radio Broadcasts from Ronald Reagan's Ranch

The gem amongst the many sights to see in Santa Barbara however is the Old Mission (the first of five old missions I was to see in Southern California - for the record the others I went on to see were at San Luis Obispo, Santa Ines/Solvang, San Luis Rey de Francia/Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano). Established in 1786 with the church mostly rebuilt following an earthquake in 1812, it has over the years served at different times as the Cathedral Church for both the Los Angeles and Monterey Roman Catholic dioceses and as a result unusually for a mission church has a double bell tower.

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara


The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission

The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission


An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

Inside the Mission grounds there was an historic mausoleum used as the final resting places for many of the early Franciscan friar and founding family inhabitants of Santa Barbara with a further 4,000 Chumush Indians buried in the Cemetery Garden in the shadow of the old fig tree. The church has statutes to both Saint Francis and Saint Dominic behind the alter and is the only Californian Mission to have a crypt.

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara


The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission

The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission


An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission


The historic Mausoleum within Santa Barbara Mission

The historic Mausoleum within Santa Barbara Mission

Attached to the Mission Church is also a small museum containing many paintings and a number of rooms recreating the life of the early Franciscan monks who lived at the mission.

Making our way through the old rooms of the museum at the Santa Barbara Mission

Making our way through the old rooms of the museum at the Santa Barbara Mission


Paintings on a Staircase at the Old Santa Barbara Mission

Paintings on a Staircase at the Old Santa Barbara Mission


Paintings of Franciscan Friars within the museum inside the Old Santa Barbara Mission

Paintings of Franciscan Friars within the museum inside the Old Santa Barbara Mission


Recreation of a typical Mission Kitchen from the time the Mission was founded

Recreation of a typical Mission Kitchen from the time the Mission was founded


Unique Chumash Indian altar constructed for the 1789 church

Unique Chumash Indian altar constructed for the 1789 church


The Old Mission at Santa Barbara

The Old Mission at Santa Barbara

We then continued north towards San Luis Obispo but not before stopping for some wine testing (known as a flight, see after going wine tasting in 3 countries I'm finally learning the jargon!) at the nearby Foley Winery.

The drive upto the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

The drive upto the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara


Old tractor by the entrance to the Foley Winery

Old tractor by the entrance to the Foley Winery


Rows of vines at the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

Rows of vines at the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches churches museums california wine piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

Hearst Castle

'La Cuesta Encantada' (The Enchanted Hill)

sunny 26 °C
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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)

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