San Simeon - Hearst Castle
Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
90Trip End Aug 14, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Our next port of call was San Simeon where William Randolph Hearst built his hill-top holiday home, the inaccurately named "Hearst Castle".
Hearst was the newspaper magnate grandfather of the famous Patty Hearst (who?). This amazing place was started in 1919 & as a consequence of Hearst's persistent meddling, was never completed in his lifetime.
It has been preserved just as he left it.
We were shown around this palatial estate by an enthusiastic guide who was very knowledgeable but was used to showing schoolchildren around (and it showed).
We climbed up & down hundreds of stairs, right to the top of the towers in the main building - the Casa Grande. This has 56 bedrooms & 61 bathrooms
(did he think his guests were dirty or incontinent?)
The estate was furnished with truckloads of art, antiques, and even whole ceilings ripped out of european buildings. The art collection on this estate rivals many famous museums. The style is a hotchpotch of Italian, Spanish, Greek & Roman with a mixture of paintings. Most rooms had ornate ceilings, medieval tapestries hanging on the walls, Gothic fireplaces with greek vases dotted about.
I had assumed that Hearst had gone to Europe to rape & pillage palaces & villas to get these artifacts, but apparently they were bought by Hearst in New York after the war where they were put up for sale by poverty stricken European aristocrats.
The outdoor swimming pool (the world's most photographed pool) is lined with greek colonnades & marble statues, specially commissioned by Hearst & made from the same marble as Michelangelo's David.
Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood and political elite often visited - amongst Hearst's A-list were Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill & John McCain (?).
Orson Wells' film Citizen Kane & its setting of Xanadu were a thinly disguised parody of Hearst & Hearst Castle (a film Hearst tried to suppress).