Road Trip…..day two

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We woke up early and had the continental breakfast that came with the room. This was the Ramada and I’d stay here again. Very quiet structure (cement floors), close enough to the freeway without the noise, comfortable room and only about a mile and a half walk to the downtown area. We booked all of our hotels ahead of time and also our tours of Hearst Castle, which would take up most of today. We booked three tours. Two in the morning with a break for lunch and then an afternoon tour of the cottages, kitchen and wine cellar. The tours are not cheap ($200.00 total) and when we were checking in at the Visitor Center, a person next to me said “I don’t have a reservation, could I get a tour?’ The response was “We’re sorry, but we’re fully booked for the day.” That’s what happened to me in 1984 when I first arrived in California, and I tried to see the castle. Still a busy place.

We drove straight to the castle (the scenery and ocean views along the way were stunning), by passing Cambria, Morrow Bay and Morrow Rock. We will do those on the way back from the castle. We didn’t want to lose our reservation. After checking in, we were guided to the bus loading area, and we boarded for the twelve-minute ride to the castle. Our first tour was the Grand Room, Dining , main rooms adjacent and the Theatre.

The guide we had made the whole tour. About 50 people were on this first tour, and he waited until all of us were together before he would start talking about the history and details of each room, who the guests were (all the famous people from the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s), and savory stories that accompanied them. He allowed us to ask questions, he made us laugh and overall we learned so much about Mr. Hearst and his life and how the castle came to be. The tour ended with a movie taken from clips at the castle and made the whole experience truly memorable. After the tour, our guide extended an invitation to explore the rest of the grounds before we took our bus ride back down the hill. However, we had to make our way back to the bus drop off location to start our next tour.

Our second tour was for the second and part of the third floors of the castle. This included Hearst’s private study/office, the library and numerous guest rooms with all of their art and antiques. Our guide for this tour was not as exceptional as our first guide. As she led us through the maze, she would begin talking before all of us were in the room. She was less than enthusiastic about telling us any details and the ones she did mention on a piece of artwork (“this is a fleur de lys and is French, or this is an olive leaf and it’s Italian”) I’m sure were told to us to make us think she knew what she was talking about. She mumbled, didn’t ask if we had questions and her memories of events that had happened in the castle amounted to her meeting Elizabeth Taylor and Mel Gibson. Near the end of our tour she looked at her watch and said; “We have just enough time for me to show you one more thing”. She pointed to some stairs and said “Go down this stairway and I’ll meet you”. It was the last we ever saw of her. We all went down the stairs and waited while she never showed up. Basically she showed us ‘the door’. I think it’s time some one did it to her.

By the end of this tour, we had just one hour to go back down the hill, have a bite to eat and then head back to the castle for our final tour of the kitchen, guest cottages and wine vault. At the visitor center we went to their cafeteria where they serve Hearst grass fed beef and other items from the ranch. The food we ordered was great, but they had only one cashier on and the line-up to pay was so long, all of our food went cold before we could eat it. It took so long for people to cash out it left us with only 7-10 minutes to gobble everything down and head back to the bus loading.

Our third tour guide was efficient, but she had a sense about her that made us feel…. “When will this end?”. And so we began our tour of the first construction on the site, which were the cottages. Each cottage was named for the view it entertained: House of the Sea, House of the Sun and House of the Mountains. They were the main residences of the Hearst’s and guests like Winston Churchill during the early years, while the main castle was being built. None had kitchens as everyone was required to eat together (a Hearst rule). One of the most surprising aspects to these cottages and the main castle were the bathrooms, which for the 20’s were as modern as we have them today. Hearst even experimented in these cottages with ideas like seven shower heads and ideas he used later on in the castle.

The last part of this tour were the kitchen(s) and the wine vault. Being in the cooking field for over 45 years I would have given almost anything to work in or even have a kitchen like this. For when it was built it is absolutely amazing and modern.

After the kitchen, we were taken to the basement to view the wine vaults. The photos say it all. It held over 7000 bottles of fine and rare wines.

The photos below were of a sarcophagus (Roman above ground tomb), the Neptune Pool (under construction…it was leaking 5000 gallons of water a day…now sealed and ready for the marble replacement), the indoor Roman Pool, tennis courts above the Roman Pool and the view of the hillside coming down to the Visitor Center.

 

This ended our tours for Hearst Castle and we headed back towards Cambria and our home base San Luis Obispo.

Cambria is a quaint seaside city hugging the coastline with numerous accommodations available and some wonderful restaurants and shops. We stopped for a few photos, but had to move on for timing purposes to Morrow bay and Morrow Rock.

After Morrow Bay, we headed back to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. To finish our daylight hours, we passed our freeway exit and the Ramada and stopped at the famous Madonna Inn. It’s filled with surrealist items and construction. We sat at the bar and ordered ourselves a glass of wine each and took in the uniqueness before heading back to our hotel.

It was about 7:00pm when we got back to the hotel. We took a small break and freshened up. Then we walked over the freeway bridge to downtown and the Mission. We lucked out again. As we approached downtown, we could hear all of this music filling the air. It was Thursday and we found out, like Palm Springs, they have a street fair Thursday evenings. The street fair here has a vibrancy that we are missing in Palm Springs, but I think it is because of the youth factor. The streets and shops here, which remind me of Old Town Pasadena are filled with boutique shops and a population of young and old….heavier on the young side. GREAT Energy! They have a creek that runs parallel to the main street (which was closed for the fair) where you can dine Creek Side. Very charming and romantic with the night lighting. Lots of people milling about and all seemed carefree and happy. We searched out another attraction called ‘Bubble Gum Alley’ and found it. You can see from the photos why it has its name. After that we walked up and down the fair and enjoyed all of the excitement. Lots of musicians…guitar players, violinists, a group of about 12 students all doing percussion only, and many others too numerous to mention. One food kiosk stretched almost a half block and the servers for it made you feel like you were part of a movie with their antics, acting and fun-loving attitude. Great job! By this time, I wanted something small to eat to tie me over till morning. And I wanted to sit down away from all the commotion. We found a place called NOVO. A wonderful restaurant which I can honestly say gave me the best Lamb Salad I’ve ever eaten in my life. The flavors took me back to the Mediterranean. Every spice and flavor was balanced to perfection. Amazing: www.novorestaurant.com.

After this we headed back to the Ramada for some shut-eye and the start for our third day tomorrow.

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One Response

  1. Wow what a day! Thanks for posting all of the photos. For what you paid at the castle, all of the guides should have been top notch. Love the lighted art deco desk clock. That salad looks as good as you said it tasted 🙂

    Like

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