Originally Posted by Sarah in SC
...I'd love to hear more about Hearst Castle.
When I told of our castle visit to my aunt, who has lived in the LA area for nearly 35 years, she said she and her husband have not seen it, and yet they love to travel. San Simeon is in the middle of nowhere. It is too far from the LA area for a day trip. Driving from LA, they got there too late to take a tour. One must arrange to stay overnight in a nearby town, and to combine the castle visit with some other activities, such as touring some vineyards in Paso Robles, or as an en-route stop on the way up to Monterey, for example. So, I told them that Cambria, a place a few miles south of Hearst Castle, has been now developed into a motel town for visitors. They said they would try again.
I first expected the visit to Hearst Castle to be like a visit to many European castles. You would pay the entrance fee and then be allowed to roam and look around at your leisure. No, visitors are on strict guided tours, each lasting 1.5 hours. The castle is on the hill a few miles from the ocean, and visitors are bussed to the castle. The photo that I posted was made with the 14X zoom camera from the visitor center.
There are several tours, and each covers a different part of the castle and auxiliary buildings. We took the recommended Tour 1 for first-time visitors, which covered one of the guest houses, the pools, and part of the main mansion. One must take Tour 2 in order to see the kitchen and the 2nd floor, for example. Each tour group is accompanied by a docent and a second guide who makes sure nobody steps out of line. If one wants to take multiple tours, after a tour, he will be bussed back to the visitor center to sign up for the next one.
The tour costs $24 each, and is followed by a documentary movie telling the story about the castle. Not knowing a whole lot about W.R. Hearst, I found the movie interesting. For example, we learned about how his father, a miner from Missouri, made his fortune from mining and bought the land for $0.75 per acre. W.R. Hearst made his own fortune from publishing, and did not inherit that land until he was already 57 year old.
Though I would be interested in taking more tours to see other parts of the castle, I would not want to do that back-to-back. We may come by this area again, and we will pay it another visit. Because a tour and the movie take only 2 hrs, and a visitor would not want to spend the rest of the day in the visitor center and gift shop, one would be wise to line up some other activities for the day of the castle visit.
I took some photos, but am a bit reluctant to post them because of the admonition that photo publication would require authorization. I searched the Web, and there seems to be no lack of posted photos. If I find some of mine that I am proud of, compared to what are on the Web already, I may post them, but that seems unlikely.
The castle was donated to the state of CA, which has been operating it as a recreational park, but the Hearst private corporation still owns the land that surrounds it. It used to be 300 sq.mi, and I do not know how much they have sold off, if any.
Originally Posted by Sarah in SC
... As a southerner, the part of the world you explored is wholly unfamiliar to me.
Someone should start to describe their visits to other parts of the country. There are states that I have not been to, such as Tennessee and Kentucky, for example. I am sure each state has something interesting.