Brad and I ended 2010 with a trip to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, which is a four hour drive from L.A.. Armed with 5 hours of mix CDs, sushi, tangerines and three types of coconut water, we drove past rolling green hills dotted with cows, windmills and trees. The scenery just left me in awe the entire way there.
Hearst Castle is San Simeon's main attraction. The little town of Cambria just five minutes south of it is filled with tourists who have come to see the castle. I had seen pictures of the place, but I had no idea how large it really was--250,000 acres!
William Hearst was a newspaper magnate, politician, and inspiration for the film Citizen Kane. Hearst Castle was just one of his many dwellings around the world, and he called it "the Ranch". Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers, Franklin Roosevelt and Joan Crawford are just some of the famous people who have stayed at the Ranch.
We booked the Experience Tour, which lasted about 1.5 hours. The tour starts with a short bus ride from the visitors center up to the castle. A group of about 25 of us were led by a docent who showed us the two pools, one guest house, the dining hall, main hall and outdoor sculptures. Everything was over the top, as you can imagine--from the carved ceiling of the dining hall to the real gold tiles in the pool room.
Tours cost $24 for adults and $12 for children. Included in the price is an IMAX screening of a short documentary about William Hearst. The documentary was quite entertaining, although Brad (true to form) fell asleep halfway through. Something about dark crowded rooms...