The Castle visit

Trip Start May 31, 2009
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Trip End Jul 01, 2009


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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, June 26, 2009

Today we left Monterey, in the fog, at about 8.30 am. We travelled the coastal route to Hearst Castle, which was approximately 93 miles from Monterey. It was a pity about the fog, but for all that, the trip was great - the scenery wonderful, the road winding (40 mph much of the way) with little traffic, and odd little inns/restaurants/galleries along the way - and not a McDonald's in sight all the way - just great! We also managed to catch up with a group of Elephant Seals along the way, and stopped at many of the vista points for fresh air, a foggy view, and just to look back where we came from. Some of the roadway was more bridge than road, where the sea and the hillsides have been eroding the land away. They would be working on the area much of the time I should imagine. It is Highway 1 - the USA considers it to be their first scenic highway.

We arrived at the Hearst Castle visitor centre around 11.00 am, and managed to get on the next tour, at 11.10 am. Funnily enough, neither of us had spotted the 'castle' which was on the hill above us, as we travelled to the area, which is San Simeon - you may have heard of it.

Hearst castle was built by William Randolph Hearst over a period of 20 odd years. It is just stunning. Doesn't look like a castle from the outside - more like a church, but it is definitely a castle on the inside. The swimming pools - outdoor and indoor - are stunning. Graham - I have found somewhere for the lunch time swimmers to do laps in the future!!!! It is an indoor pool, probably 25 m in length, and is tiled in 14 carat gold and blue tiles. Hopefully will get a pic of it included today.

The tour, and the guide, were excellent. You start at the base from the Visitors Centre and travel by us (takes 15 mins) to the top of the hill, about 1300 feet up overlooking the San Simeon area and the Monterey peninsula. The views are fabulous, and by the time we got to this area the fog was well and truly gone - blue sky and sunshine all the way. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, and added hugely to the tour. You get to view the Neptune pool, one of the three guest houses on site, the main reception room, the dining room, the pool room and the "home theatre" as well as the tennis courts and the indoor pool in this tour. There are three other tours that can be taken, all costing about the same amount, that do varying other things - view more rooms, give more indepth information, provide a good view of the entire grounds, and also a night time event with dress up characters adding to the authenticity.

The Castle is part of the National Park, and also is a registered Art Museum. The paintings (originals) some of which we got to see, were stunning. In fact the whole place was. This was somewhere I had wanted to go, and Malcy was happy enough to come along, but even he was blown away by the place. He didn't stop snapping pics the whole time we were there.

We left the area around 3.00 pm, and were unsure where to head. Chose one area slightly inland, but ultimately changed our mind and headed to San Luis Obispo. However the detour gave us some great views of stunning wine country which is prevalent in this area. Made me think that it must be much like the French areas - very arid, but acres and acres of grapes.

San Luis Obispo was an area I had heard positive things about, and wanted to visit, and am pleased we have ended up here. We struck the right day - market day, which started at 5.30 pm and went through until 9.30 pm. The local farmers bring their produce to town to sell, and local artists entertain. The place was just stacked with stalls and people - something Invercargill would envy enormously. And the strawberries, and apricots and peaches and nectarines and apples and oranges and, and, and,..... were just endless, and cheap!!!

We had tea in town (which was forgettable), and then found a patisserie on the way home - probably shoudl have missed it, but we succumbed! We shared a lovely Raspberry/Lemon cake - which was probably made for 4, but who was counting!

Tomorrow we have a short jaunt to Santa Barbara. Have decided to stay around the coast area - it is just lovely. The spanish influence is very prevalent here, but not so much in the people - more in the buildings, etc. And no beggars to be seen in this town so far - much better! Temperatures also slightly warmer here - got to 75 today.
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