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A 30-something living in the foothills of the Virginia mountains; I'm saved by grace, addicted to coffee and my little sister is my best friend! I devote most of my time to exploring, reading, attending as many Nationals games as possible and documenting life here. My Prince Charming got lost somewhere along the way...but I'm trying to remain hopeful that true love exists.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

California Dreamin 2016 - San Simeon & Seals

It's Friday and that would normally mean Five on Friday - but I decided for the sake of getting through my vacation wrap up, I'd instead keep things going with my vacation recap and we'll get right back to Five on Friday next week! Sound good? I think so! However...I think I'll still link up!



One of the highlights of my families' recent trip to California was Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark and was built between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The "castle" can be seen from the highway, towering on it's precipice high above the crashing waves of San Simeon and it looks exactly as you'd imagine a California castle to look. 

Hearst Castle from the Highway
We had a twelve noon tour and the tour began with a 15 minute bus ride to the top of the mountain; a very twisty, turn-y, watch the valley expand in front of you and the sea and sky blend together as you climb higher bus ride. Our tour started at the Neptune Pool, which was unfortunately drained for renovations and therefore my picture(s) of it are rather sad. *sigh* Apparently the pool had been leaking for so long that underneath the foundation of the pool, stalactites had begun to form on the ceiling. Yikes! Definitely sad I missed the pool in all it's usual glory...but the rest of the tour certainly made up for that. 

I took a LOT of pictures - so this post will certainly be more pictures than words - I can assure you, my pictures are worth far more than a thousand words. 

No water...
One of the three guest "houses" 
Stunning views looking across the Santa Lucia mountain range...
The property is filled with Hearst's art collection - including numerous sculptures...
The view looking toward the ocean - where the sea & sky bleed together...
The tour that my family took was the Grand Room Tour, which showcased four of the larger rooms in the mansion including the main entrance, the dining room, a billiards room/smoking room and the movie theater. The house has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 19 sitting rooms on 127 acres, so their are multiple tours that showcase different portions of the main house - Casa Grande - and the three guest houses: Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte and Casa del Sol. The exterior of the house and grounds was my favorite aspect of the tour and where most of my pictures were taken. It was easily the part that most captivated me in the three hours or so we spent on the mountaintop...

Casa Grande - The Main House
A view from the courtyard(s) of the castle...
Casa Grande & one of the many pieces of art from around the world that Hearst collected.
Sekhmet - The Egyptian Goddess of War
A lily pond outside the main entrance of Casa Grande
The views - I could have sat all day & stared at the horizon.
I find that I didn't take very many pictures indoors - not that the indoors weren't impressive - they certainly were. The interior of the house was; for me, a bit overwhelming. The house is filled with very dark woods, tapestries and in my thoughts...very Gothic art pieces and design...certainly decor that was fitting of a "castle" but I felt like the interior of the house was in stark contrast to the light and airy exterior of the house. I guess I was just far more interested in the outdoors...the absolutely amazing views just captivated me from the moment we arrived at the top of the mountain and that was all I could focus on, ha-ha!

The Dining Room
Our tour ended in the theater that Hearst had built in the main house, where we watched film from the Hearst collection of home movies that showed the many visitors that spent time at Hearst Castle in it's heyday - people like Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford...to name a few. Our tour allowed us the option to wander the grounds for as long as we wanted after the tour - the areas surrounding the house were open until 6 PM! We didn't wander for quite that long, although I'm sure I could have. There was so much to look at...and that's why there are so many pictures below!

The side of Casa Grande, with beautiful trees & gardens...
Relaxing in a lounge chair in the courtyard...
I can't say enough about the views...so amazing.
I almost got a picture without any people...almost...
*sigh*
Can I just set up a chair here...& stare all day...
One of the guest houses...
.....
Where does the sky start? Where does the sea start?
Our final stop before leaving the top of the mountain was the tennis courts and the indoor pool. The tennis courts were just that...tennis courts...albeit with a really nice view, but then again everywhere you looked at Hearst Castle there was a nice view. The indoor pool was something else entirely - and my sister and I were pretty enchanted. The pool is built underneath the tennis courts, is ten feet deep and tiled with 22 karat gold and blue Murano glass tiles from Italy and surrounded by Greek and Roman statues. To say it was impressive is an understatement...it was beautiful and I'd have loved to do a lap or two through the gorgeous blue waters., although I'd have probably left the diving platform to someone else! 

The tennis courts...
The indoor pool...amazing.
The water looked so cool & inviting...plus...22 karat gold tiles? Yes please!
You could see clear to the bottom...
The diving platform.
Saying good-bye as Hearst Castle shrinks into the distance...
I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Hearst Castle and if you are planning a trip to California and will be anywhere near the Central California coast and San Simeon, I would highly suggest visiting. The one thing I would let you know is that (at least for the time being) the only toilet facilities at Hearst Castle are Porta Potties! I was kind of taken off guard by this but it's a side effect of the drought conditions California is facing...and while Hearst Castle is the last place I expected to find those...as long as you can stand using those, I'd say definitely make a visit!

One of the sites our bus driver mentioned on the ride down from Hearst Castle was the Elephant Seal viewing that was approximately three miles up the highway and we set out for that lookout as soon as we pulled away from Hearst Castle. I'm not certain what I was expecting but I can say it was more than I'd imagined - seals everywhere - seals as far as the eye could see! 

The elephant seals were in this area to molt and rest before making a 25,000 mile swim to the Aleutian Islands and I could not have begun to number all the seals on the beach! Most of the seals lay in the warm sun, simply soaking up it's rays but here and there a seal could be spotted tossing some of the sand onto itself, taking a quick dip in the ocean or hopping around the beach and "talking" with other seals. A volunteer nearby spoke with my sister and Dad, telling them about the the seals long voyage ahead and also mentioned that the voyage wouldn't be without risk; sharks would be waiting in the deeper water and they'd already had several "ping" off the coast, waiting for the seals to start their voyage. So sad....but I guess that's nature.

Seals chill.
Have you ever seen so many seals? I hadn't...
I'd like to imagine these seal are singing the song of their people...la la la!
Godspeed little seals..may you not be shark bait...
Our journey continued but I'll pause for now - I took so many photos at Hearst Castle that I wanted to share but I didn't want this post to go on for eternity...so, I'll leave off here. No food or lodging to report on this post, as everything pictured within this post took place over the course of about four hours, ha-ha! 

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