Friday, September 30, 2011

Heart Castle, Revisited

Today we did two tours of Hearst Castle at San Simeon: First, Upstairs Suites and then Cottages and Kitchens. Again, Letha and Tai were with us. We planned both tours for morning so that our afternoon would be free for lunch, a walk and some down time.

The guides are consistently impressive; they prefer to have people ask questions to inform them of our interests (and maybe to keep themselves from becoming stale from constant repetition; but, they are rotated among the several tour offerings--so that helps, too.)

We were able to walk through several levels of the Castle and look into many of the rooms--there are something like 168 rooms in Casa Grande alone! The cottages are larger than many homes--and they don't even have kitchens.

Ready to Wear

Mantle and Fireplace. Hearst collected mantles; so, he built fireplaces to showcase them.

Ceiling. Hearst also collected ceilings--and room sizes (plans for them) would often be modified to accommodate his collection.

Wallpaper. This room has a curtain-like covering on the walls; this means that the hard surfaces need not be finished--and they aren't!


Guest Bedroom. Every guest had their own bathroom, even when the bedroom is shared. This would be unusual even for a grand home in the early 20th Century.

Library. Part of his world-class Greek pottery collection is here; much of the remainder has been sold to important museums around the world. The Castle is now a museum and it is not permitted to dispose of any remaining works of art.

Walk-in Closet

Nepture Pool, Ground Level. There was a function yesterday evening and we were not permitted to be on the pool level. Today, we were able to roam at will.

Study. Hearst had a private floor--shared only with his partner: either his wife or Marion Davies, depending on what time period we consider. Regular guests were not permitted on this level.

Old Ceiling. This ceiling dates from before the time of Christopher Columbus.

Wine Bottles. The wine cellar was never visited by guests and was purely functional--no frills at all. The wine remaining here is no longer meant for consumption, and the upright bottles are empty. There are full bottles packed in straw; these date from the late 1800s.

Bell Tower. We had a clearer view of things, today--there was less fog.

Stairway to Sleeping Loft. A few of the guest rooms were split level--the sleeping area above and the sitting room below. We loved this wooden stairway.

Dispelling the Rumors. Apparently it is not true that this bed once belonged to Cardinal Richelieu. But, David Niven is supposed to have smuggled bottles of booze in here, against all rules, and left the empties in nooks in the bed. Hearst permitted drinking, though it is said he watered down the hard liquor--he liked good conversation, not drunks.

Cute Vase

The last area to view on this tour was the kitchen, which was enormous and state of the art. There was an enormous metal-topped table that served as a preparation area and had an enclosed steam table beneath, to keep food and plates warm.

Tai in the Kitchen

Two German Draft Beers Were Always on Tap

Industrial Grade Mixer

Pressure Cookers

Prototype Costco Roaster

Servant's Dining Room. Servants often ate in here; they were well-paid (by the standards of the day) and they ate what guests did.

Having finished the tour, we walked around the garden and outside a while, to get a final impression of this grandiose place.

Menage a Trois. Just at this picture was being snapped, a guard came scurrying over to remind us that there was no touching of the museum objects!

Leaving the Castle, we were hungry and drove to Cambria to look around and have lunch.

Letha and Claire With Scarecrow. The town of Cambria was having a contest to see who could come up with the most clever idea. There were scarecrow figures all over town doing various things. The Catholic Church had a priest and a group of singing nuns for their entry.

Letha had wanted to eat at this location for several days--they arrived before we did. Today is the day.

Fab Four at Lunch in Cambria

Claire's Lunch of Fish Tacos

Chuck's Breast of Chicken Sandwich

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hearst Castle

Today we met our friends Letha & Tai. We will be doing 3 tours of William Randolph Hearst's Castle, together, one today and two tomorrow. Today we visit Casa Grande.

There is no flash photography inside Hearst Castle and this is the only inside shot we ventured to take. Even some outside shots were difficult, due to the intense fog that always threatened to lift--but never quite managed to do so. We could not see the Castle from the entrance, nor could we see it on the winding road up the hill. The weatherperson had predicted sunny and clear in the pm; but, we all know what liars they are. We hope for clearer weather tomorrow.

Billiards Room Ceiling. This European ceiling, the second oldest on the estate, dates from before Columbus sailed to the New World.

According to Wikipedia, "The estate is a pastiche of historic architectural styles that its owner admired in his travels around Europe. Hearst was an omnivorous buyer who did not so much purchase art and antiques to furnish his home as built his home to get his bulging collection out of warehouses. This led to incongruous elements such as the private cinema whose walls were lined with shelves of rare books. The floor plan of the Main Building is chaotic due to his habit of buying centuries-old ceilings, which dictated the proportions and decor of various rooms."

The guide noted several times that Hearst never referred to this home as a 'castle.' He usually called it "the ranch"--there was a 250,000 acre ranch he owned surrounding the home. As a child (long before construction on the castle began), he referred to it as "camp hill." Formally, he later named it "La Cuesta Encantada" (Enchanted Hill).

Outside, we browsed around the colorful gardens until it was time to take the bus down the 5 mile drive back to the Visitor Center at sea level. There is a drop of approximately 1600 feet on this trip.

Cottage With Flowers

The decor and architecture actually work well together; but, it is an actual hodge podge of styles from across the world and the centuries--from Egypt in 3,000 BC to Europe in the 1600s.

Cottage Exterior

I thought several of the statues were very appealing. I was especially touched by the first one for its tender sentimentality.

Statue in Garden

Another Statue in Garden

Statue in Garden, Finale

Teak Exterior, Front, Casa Grande

Castle Bell Tower

Neptune Pool is a gorgeous construction that we were unable to approach closely, today; they were preparing for an event this evening.

Work on the castle stopped in 1947 when Hearst stopped living here because of ill health. Here is evidence of this incomplete state of construction.

Unfinished Castle

Monarch in the Garden

On the descent we were on the lookout for wildlife remaining from the zoo. We spotted several zebras grazing near a small herd of cattle at the bottom of the ranch.

We had a quick lunch nearby and drove to our Motel 6 to check in and prepare for a brief 3 mile hike.

On the Trail With Letha & Tai

Tai & Letha Stop On the Trail

Completing the hike we drove around til we located a family style bar and grill for a quick meal: beer and burgers for Tai and I, clam chowder in a bread bowl for Letha, and salad and a cup of clam chowder for Claire. A delicious end to a lovely day.

I would like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I'm getting a little too old for that. I'd like to get something that would be a little more comfortable. ~ William Randolph Hearst to Architect Julia Morgan

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Santa Barbara

All we had to do today was drive from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara--Goleta, really. This is our waystation on the way to Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

We decided to wait until the commuter traffic died down to hit the road. For the most part, we managed to avoid heavy traffic and there were no mid-road stops--not even slowdowns for our lanes. It was already 91 degrees at 9:30am on US Interstate 10 as we were leaving the Palm Springs Area; by the time we were nearing Santa Barbara at 1:30pm it was down to 69!

We were appalled to see what we thought was a wall of smog as far as we could see in front of us as we drove West; but, Claire finally checked her iPhone to confirm this and found that we were also looking at coastal fog. This relieved us greatly.

This Smart car actually had the audacity to pass us on our journey--Shouldn't it be in a special lane for smaller vehicles and toys?

Smart Car in the Fast Lane

Along the way, we determined for sure that we wanted to visit the UC Santa Barbara campus. This was from a combination of motives: We both worked at UC campuses, our friend, Mick, attended UCSB, our grandaughter, Sarah, might come here one day, and we thought it would be a pretty site to walk around.

We found the campus information kiosk and the friendly clerk directed us to the parking garage. We decided we could do what we wanted in an hour, bought the appropriate permit and headed on down the path.

UCSB Campus

Claire thought the campus was probably very White in composition; but, as I looked around, I thought it was a pretty fair mix of ethnicities--except that we only saw one person who seemed to be African-American. He was singing Gospel tunes, loudly, as he walked across campus. I suspect that Latinos may be similarly under-represented--that is certainly true at our former campus at UC Davis.

The bevy of bikes is a familiar sight to us on campus. We both commuted a full 1.5 minutes to campus from our present home for a number of years.

UCSB Parking Lot

We thought the traffic lanes were well laid out clearly for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars. They even have separate lanes for skateboards!

Skateboard Lane

The Storke Tower is a new--to me--feature on the UCSB campus. In fact, nothing is familiar to me here. I was last on campus, I think, in 1960 when I came to visit my friend Mick, just after I finished Army Basic Training at Fort Ord.

Storke Campanile

Our impression is of a beautiful campus that would suit well our grandaughter one day. We picked up a brochure to pass along to her upon her return, priming her, perhaps, for a possible future 10 years or so in the future.

UCSB Library

We left the campus and checked into our Motel 6. It had a modern look and feel and was the first place we have stayed that did not have carpeting. We think this is because of the proximity to sandy beaches. The only complaints about the room were that they did not have enough cubbies for towels, and they only gave us one bath towel. It was annoying that the guy in the neighboring room thought it was all right to talk on his cell phone right outside our door in a loud voice--to several different people, despite Claire's request that he move his conversation.

Motel 6 Bathroom

Motel 6 Bedroom

The greatest year of my life was spent in Spain with EAP. Deciding not to take advantage of this program should be thoght of as an awful crime. Do yourself a favor and get out of this country. ~ Samuel DeFranceschi

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Joshua Tree & Palm Springs

We had two destinations in mind for today: Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs.

I neglected to mention, yesterday, things we noticed or discussed along the way:

The humidity here in Twentynine Palms is 15%, vs Davis, 44%. I have not noticed it as much as Claire; she puts on sunscreen in the morning and lip balm several times.

The drive from AZ to CA was dry, uneventful. We were sleepy, probably dehydrated--I thought that we didn't have to worry about this while in the car. The swim was brief, but refreshing. We are very glad we decided to have pools in our motels.

There were numerous towns that barely merit the name--we are clear that these are not places we'd care to live--hot, dry, lacking in amenities, none of our friends.

Today, we were determined to greet the sunrise with camera ready. But, we misjudged the distance to the viewing spot we selected. We also had difficulty finding where we were on the map. But, we managed to see enough to satisfy ourselves and get back to the motel in time to pack, eat breakfast and depart by the 11am check out time.


Sunrise Advancing

Park Namesake

Joshua Tree and Rocks in the early morning light. I was surprised at the number of rocks and mountains--I had expected flat desert.

Joshua Tree

Moribund Tree

Trees. We were fascinated with the yellow blossoms and thought they made the JTs "pop."

Rock and Tree

Arch Rock and Druid Initiate

Arch Rock in Direct Sunlight

Field of Boulders

Chuck's Pre-lunch Snack at A&W

The Motel 6 is located on the edge of town in Palm Springs and has a hot tub and a pool with water at a perfect temperature--you can walk right in, but still feel refreshed. We found--constructed--a shady spot and then alternated reading and dipping.

We met with Claire's cousin, Bruce, tonight; he has lived in Palm Springs for six years. She has not seen him in a very long time; but, since we were near, we made plans to see him.

He has a beautiful one story house in town, with a pool and spa. He showed us around. He has some lovely art from local artists. He was quite proud of his memorabilia from attending Obama's inauguration. We chatted and snacked for a while and left for Lulu's, a hot new bistro downtown.

Claire and Cousin Bruce

Bruce's Chicken Dinner

Claire's Tilapia Dinner

Chuck's Flank Steak

After dinner, Bruce gave us a brief tour around town and we returned to our Motel 6. Claire tried the gate around the pool to see if we could have a midnight swim: Alas, they have a mechanical lock that prevents the entry keys from working. Oh, well, tomorrow is another day, another town.

The most repulsive tree in the vegetable kingdom," ~ Explorer John Fremont, describing Joshua Trees