While in the area we were told numerous times that we should go see the Hearst Castle. Since it was a must see opportunity, we took a beautiful meandering road from Paso Robles to Cambria and then onto San Simeon where back in 1850, George Hearst, a miner from Missouri, was drawn to California by the gold rush. In 1865 he began acquiring property where the castle now sits. When he passed, his wife inherited his entire estate and it was not until she passed in 1919 that their only son, William Randolph Hearst at the age of 30, a media mogul, inherited $11,000,000.00.
William was not just a newspaper publisher, he was a movie producer and an art collector. When young, William would camp at this hilltop with his family and grew to love the property. It was known as Camp Hill and there he offered a place for family and friends to rough it while sheltered by elaborate sleeping and dining tents. He decided to commission, Julia Morgan, the first female engineer who graduated from UC Berkley and the first woman architect licensed in California, to build a “little something on his favorite hill” so he and his family could be a bit more comfortable. Construction of what is now known as the Hearst Castle began in 1919 and at the time of his death in 1951, it was not fully completed. The reason for this was because William kept changing his mind, adding and renovating, etc.
A perfect example was the Neptune Pool, which began as a lotus pond. William’s wife wanted a swimming pool for her and their five children, so the lotus pool was relocated and a swimming pool was built. The third and final renovation of the pool is what we see today, which holds 134,000 gallons of water.
The indoor pool was just as impressive. Its deck had fused gold in the tiles and the intense colors are breathtaking.
William was quite the art collector. He would travel around the world and bring a little of this and a little of that. Everything was of different architecture and perhaps even period. He would find some special wood or a special tapestry every time he bought something new, the building plans had to change to accommodate his new acquisition. Casa Grande, the big house, at Hearst Castle has 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, an airfield, and even used to have his own private zoo.
Regardless of what room you were in, the view from the hilltop was just spectacular. I can just imagine the Hollywood elite back in the 1920’s and 1930’s walking around the grounds and how it must have been.
When we left the Hearst Castle we just drove up the road to see the Northern Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas. The rookery spreads over 6 miles of beach and is the home of about 20,000 elephant seals, except they don’t all visit at the same time. Because we visited the area in May, we did not see any adult males, as they come ashore late November to early December. We did see about 4000 females and juveniles that returned to the beach to go through their yearly molt. They shed both their skin and their hair and do not either eat or drink during this period. It is also common to see the juveniles sparring with each other on the shore.
We had such a wonderful time exploring this area but it’s time to keep going and visit even more of the wonderful sights this country has to offer. Stay with us!