As we travel around the US, most of the time we are staying at camp sites. From experience, we know that these will vary considerably in quality, some will be quite well equipped with water and power and clean toilets and some will be less so. Occasionally we are staying at “Primitive Camps”
such as that at Washburn near San Simeon. A primitive camp is one where there are few facilities and hence you are reliant on your van / car and what you have brought with you. There is no power or water and if your van does not have it – you do not have it!
Washburn was very cheap and provided a parking space, a table, a long drop toilet and peace and quiet.
It also gave us a great view of a full moon rise. Run by the National Parks Service, we were quite impressed with it.
Hearst Castle was built for William Randolph Hearst as his country house. It was bequeathed to the State of California after his death and now is a major tourist attraction in a country we has few real castles.
When you visit it, you experience a very slick operation. Having checked in at the visitor centre (above), you are then whisked up to the “Castle”
in a bus (the castle is high up on a hill) and given a quick history of the origins of the castle as you are driven up and you are met by a guide at the entrance.
The Hearst Lands are extensive and go as far as the eye can see to the east – in this view(just to the left of the middle) there is a hill peeping above the major hill line running across the photo and his lands go as far as that hill which is some 40 miles away.
And to the west, the view goes out across his airfield towards the sea.
Designed by Julia Morgan and built between 1919 and 1947, the castle is a faux construction of steel and concrete designed to withstand earthquakes. A pseudo castle has been created around and inside of this structure, sometimes by recreating something and sometimes by including an genuine antique. In doing so, he did no more than has been done for centuries, build a big house and furnish it with things found / taken from elsewhere in the world.
So much of the doorway is “new” but the statues on either side are originals.
The faux nature of the castle is easily seen by the sides and back if the building which are of undressed concrete.
The first room visitors are taken into is the main hall which is a really massive room designed to impress and evince wealth. All of the fixtures and furnishing have been sourced from Europe – a man with no money problems can buy anything.
No camera flashes are allowed inside the house and hence the quality of these photographs is poor but they give an impression of the room.
The walls are covered with large tapestries
all of the furniture is antique
and the ceiling panels were taken from a castle in Italy and because they were slightly too small for the room, they were stretched out with some false wood lattice work in between the panels.
The dining room is very grand
and has some misericords from Italy along one wall (they serve no real purpose here)
but on the table (as proof of his earthly nature) are bottles of his favourite sauces – an amusing point on a table weighted with fine china and silver.
Again, the ceiling is a beautifully carved affair taken from elsewhere.
The withdrawing room is similar in design and fittings to elsewhere
as is the pool room.
As would be expected of a man who regularly had film stars to stay the weekend, there is a large cinema bedecked with heavy statuary such as that above,
The gardens are quite extensive and those parts which have been restored are beautiful. Above is a sarcophagus in clean white Carrara marble
and beautiful statuary dots the grounds
here it is of a scantily dressed girl feeding an cob of corn to a young goat – they way it has been arranged in the flower bed is simply superb.
There are a number of small houses in the grounds within which his guests used to stay
The Moorish House was one of our favourites because of its running water and tiles.
When he built his outside swimming pool, he did so in style.
The Neptune Pool is enormous and very elegant.
It is very easy to imagine it in use
Again, there are rather beautiful statues dotted around
and the one in the middle above continues the tradition of statutes with little in the way of clothing but seems to feature a 1930’s subject.
To the rear of the house are the tennis courts which are very large but it is beneath them where the big surprise is kept
- a very large indoor swimming pool
of a most beautiful design
and even the steps going into the pool are beautiful works of arts. The water is very clear helped by the blue of tiles.
It is very easy to imagine it in use.
17 Mile Drive
Many miles north up the winding and rather beautiful coastal highway is 17 mile drive. This is a circular route around a peninsula near Monterey. The peninsular is full of very expensive houses and golf courses and visitors like us can pay $9.75 for the privilege of driving around it and seeing a few great views.
Living there must be a nightmare because although the houses are large and expensive and sometimes in massive grounds, the owners are prisoners in their own homes because of all of the tourists who go by. In addition, it would take them a long time to drive off the peninsula because our cars are blocking the roads.
We saw all of the 20+ views / sites along the road and
here is the famous Lonesome Pine seen through the mist and also
the Ghost Tree famous for being a dead tree.
As we drove around, we passed a Tsunami advice sign
so we looked around us for some high ground just in case it was needed
there was not much in the vicinity!