I started the day with a tour of Hearst Castle, which lies less than 10 minutes from San Simeon. Or, the visitor centre does. You are crammed into a bus which will then take you the rest of the 15 minute ride up to the castle itself, while the driver tells you about the estate. Around San Simeon the weather was gorgeous, with clear views over the land below the castle – just a little mist here and there.
The castle still has a ranch producing meat. We were told that the zebras of the zoo that Hearst had are still out there with the cows.. somewhere.
Our guide, Shawn, was waiting for us when the bus pulled in. Now, this man was extraordinary. There was not the snippet of information about Hearst, his family or anything pertaining to them that he did not know. Birthdays? You got it. Family relations? 17 generations back. What is that particular statue made of? Why, it comes from XX and is a hardness 8 on the hardness scale where diamond is a 10. Blown. A. Way.
The estate itself was impressive. Shawn told us that what we were seeing was actually something that wasn’t done at all – when William Randall Hearst died, he said that the castle was only half finished.
The guest ‘rooms’. Guests would be told a date to arrive, but no date to depart – they could stay for as long as they wanted.
They had already set up the Christmas decorations when I visited in November, which I thought added a nice extra layer of atmosphere. It was interesting to see the rooms – such wealth is always impressive.
There is always a ton of staff scattered around the property, but they mostly keep out of sight. Anything flat is dusted twice a day and the silverware is polished every two weeks.
I was especially taken with the gorgeous Roman bath.
The tour ended with a short video showing in the house movie theater – home recordings from when the castle was in use, with characters like Charlie Chaplin making appearances playing tennis sans stage makeup. Surreal in the best way possible.
Have you visited Hearst Castle? What did you think? Comment below!