Sunday, February 22, 2009

To Hearst Castle

November 28th to 30th

Leaving Kirk Creek; once more under sullen skies, we head along the final section of Big Sur towards legendary Hearst Castle....

Looking back at spectacular rugged coastal scenery, as the terrain flattens...

We pass the boisterous, raucous and rather smelly sea lion colony compressed on the beach at Ragged Point....

William Randolph Hearst; an American Newspaper magnate inherited a 40,000 acre estate from his father who purchased it for 7 cents and acre in 1865. Loaded, excentric and slightly crazy he travelled extensively throughout Europe. Upon his return he bought most of what he had seen, and set about combining these treasures in to Heast Castle upon "The Enchanted Hill". Driving Julia Morgan (his architect) to distraction, he frequently changed his mind on designs, and the castle was not finished in his lifetime.

The Neptune Pool was ripped out and rebuilt 3 times. But I guess it turned out alright in the end....

This is the small house....

And this is Casa Grande - the big house, modelled on a Spanish cathedral; 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms - I suppose the clue is in the title - it´s BIG....

Inside is a curious mix of styles and design, again not helped by the ongoing conflict between money bags and stoic designer. Parts do seem to indicate a clash between an overenthusiastic exuberance and a more phlegmatic style of restraint. Mainly it´s just exuberant....

Egyptian sarcophagus sit incongruously alongside roman marble, it´s a fascinating spectacle that was enjoyed during it´s 1920´s and 30´s heydays by Hollywood´s 'A' list. Being the largest private zoo in the world, animals were brought in by the truckload from Africa and Asia. Today Zebras and other exotics can still be seen, presumably blinking in astonishment at their change of scenery...

Parts of the estate were donated to the State of California in the 50´s and it´s been a tourist attraction ever since, with the family retaining and still living on carefully screened hidden acreage. It´s definitely a must see destination, even if it does leave this European slightly confused at it´s massively mixed styling.


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