Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Hearst Castle

hearst11Five Reasons To Visit (Again)

There’s no shortage of eye candy when you live on the Central Coast. From the scenic hikes and dynamic surfs in Santa Cruz to the breathtaking landscapes of Pebble Beach, Carmel and Big Sur, it’s hard to find yourself bored here.  When the economy began mood swinging back in 2008, locals who were hoping to be more financially responsible began turning to “staycationing” rather than, say, taking longer trips across the country. Naturally, this gave people more of an opportunity to appreciate the scenic gems found in their own backyard.

Hearst Castle in San Simeon is, perhaps, the most breathtaking jewel among the bunch and it will certainly always be worthy of some attention—no matter what the economic conditions.

A recent excursion to the iconic portal built by publishing magnet William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, validates what we already knew: That there really is no place like it on the planet.  

Not that locals and visitors would need much nudging to consider a visit, but here are five more notables:

History

Few people are actually aware of the castle’s backstory. William’s father, George, purchased 40,000 acres of land back in 1865 and by the time William inherited his father’s “estate” in 1919, it had sprawled out to more than 250,000 acres. William's original thought was to give birth to a retreat, but it soon became something more than that once he began collaborating with Morgan, a well-known San Francisco architect at the time. They had no idea, however, that it would take decades to create Hearst’s dream castle, which, by 1947, boasted 165 rooms, more than 100 acres of lush gardens and several dreamy pools. After its unveiling, it soon became a powerful point of interest, yes—Hearst had become famous by that point—but also a haven for celebrated Hollywood stars (Marion Davies among them) and other inventive souls who gathered there with Hearst in many a think-tank.

The Theaters

I visited the castle with several other people and I recommend experiencing the big-screen theater presentation—first—before anything else. It’s just across the patio from the large visitor/check-in center. For starters, the 30-40 minute presentation gives herst 7453bedyou an extensive backstory into how the castle came into being and the acting and story are actually engaging. (You can view historic castle footage here and actually find old film strips and cameras in the lobby.) Once you’re up on the castle grounds, you can see Heart’s in-castle theater. It’s a somewhat haunting yet eye-opening experience once it sinks in that Hearst and Davies always entertained guests in the theater after festive dinner parties.

Grand Room Tours

This seems to be one of the more popular tours as it gives you a memorable if not extensive overview of some of the estate’s history. The tour guides are downright savvy—they have to be because to become a guide one must basically go through an extensive course of Hearst’s history and proper etiquette. Our guide, like most others I imagine, was upbeat and pointed out interesting factoids about several of the rooms—how many people were seated at the monstrous dining room table. for instance, hearst1and, if you were a guest for more than, say, three occasions, where you would have been seated at that table. (Hearst wanted to get to know his guests first-hand so, often, he’d seat them closer toward the middle, where he typically sat. Meanwhile, if you always knew you overstayed your welcome if were seated on the outer edges of that grand table.) Other rooms, those used for socializing, stood out, too, but my entourage and I were impressed by not only how much the guides actually knew but also by how interested they seemed to be in what they were communicating.

The Pools

There are a few of them here—outside and in. Both are mammoth. Both are unforgettable.  But if we had to pick—the outside trumps the inside. Travelers may not know this until they arrive at the castle, but after taking a Grand Rooms tour, or tour of the upstairs suites or cottages, visitors are free to explore the Neptune Pool area outside. It was originally built back in the ’20s, but went through several enlargements. Serpentine tiles and tons—literally—of marble adorn the area. It’s quite a sanctuary. Occasionally, you can find a tour guide nearby. I asked one what he loved most about working at the castle. His broad smile told me everything: “Are you kidding? Look at the view!” Again, the amount of knowledge these guides hold is impressive. He went on and on about the grounds below and the ranchland and got into more details about its evolution. Good to know: You can lounge by the pool as long as you want, so plan on staying a while and feeling spoiled. We did.

The Gardens

We spent about 45 minutes exploring the lush areas just outside of the castle itself and definitely worth checking out. Fun game: find a statue and pose just like that figure in front of it.

The Landscape

The ride up to and down from Hearst Castle from the main visitor center takes about 15-20 minutes. It’s a spirited trip and you learn more about the castle and the land it was built on, on the way up. Those familiar with the landscape of Big Sur will appreciate the views of San Simeon and the powerful Pacific, but you can learn more about what Heart’s father envisioned for the ranch and what Hearst himself used some of the property for—his zoo was a huge attraction for his Hollywood guests, for instance. There’s a vast array of native animals still living on the ranchlands.


Learn more about Hearst Castle, prices and look into various tours by clicking here.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.