Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


Hearst Castle

Hearst surprised me. It enchanted me. It left me breathless around every corner and speechless room and after room. I've had it on the list of places to go since we moved to California, but I wasn't in a huge hurry to get there. Now I wish I had gone sooner and taken more visitors as well. I guess having to been some grand palaces and castles in Europe, I assumed I wouldn't be too impressed with anything in the US. I saw some bad reviews on tripadvisor too and thought it wouldn't be much more than a big house with a nice view. I couldn't have been more wrong! I think it's more beautiful than Versailles (granted I didn't see the fountains on ... and the Hall of Mirrors was more like the Hall of Scaffolding ...), more impressive than Windsor, and in a more beautiful setting than Leeds Castle. It reminded me of a toned-down version of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portgual. The only difference is that Hearst is much more impressive on the inside. If you come to California (and you should!), and you drive down Hwy 1 (and you should!), Hearst Castle should be the number one stop along on the way. 

There's so much I could say and share about Hearst Castle, but I also took sooooo many pictures. This will probably be my most photo-heavy post ever, but just know I'm not even sharing half of them. I could have filled up my phone with pictures of this place and unfortunately Adam wasn't there to document it better. That just means we will have to go back! I think I could go back many times and still be just as impressed. There's so much to see it's almost too much to take in all at once.

My Dad and Step-mom came for a visit over my Dad's birthday and they decided they'd like to take a trip down Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle. We had a picture perfect day driving from San Francisco down to San Simeon. We stopped for lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea and spent some time strolling around the adorable little town. We stopped for breathtaking views of the coast and made it to Seal Lookout just before dark to view the mass of seals along the road. It was a perfect day and I didn't think anything could compare, but the next day proved me wrong. We got up early to bipolar weather with heavy winds and sporadic downpours. After some breakfast, we headed over to Hearst Castle just down the road.

We arrived at the visitors center just of Hwy 1 and practically at sea level. There are three tours to choose from; (1) The grand rooms, (2) upstairs suites, and (3) the kitchen/cottages tour.  We decided to do the grand rooms and upstairs suites.  After getting our tickets, we hopped on a bus to take a 15 minute ride to the very top of the property where Hearst built his castle. As you curve up the road, Alex Trebek narrates some background of Hearst Castle and the famous man, William Hearst. Once you arrive and get off the bus, a myriad of stairs and fruit trees await you. You can't even see the house or much of anything else at this point. It's just that vast.

The first veranda brings you to the outdoor pool, also called the Neptune pool. This is where you start to get an idea of just how grand a place this is. The pool is currently and under construction (very European...), but it didn't take away from the awe of it. It is grand, elaborate and just plain stunning. Even the ceiling of the covered colonnades are ornate and grand up to every detail.

Walking up another level to the pool house, you get a view of the pool from above with the rolling hills in the background. Amazing!

We walked through the 16 room pool house, with the Men's and Women's sides. Full dressing rooms in green and pink were the first glimpse how perfectly everything was executed.

The next level takes you to the guest houses. Two separate guest houses overlook the pool. Of course they are each bigger than most normal houses. The decks alone on this Estate are just spectacular! I loved the statue lights that covered the entire property.

We didn't go inside the guest houses, but the outsides were gorgeous. If I had three words to explain the Castle it would be details, details, details. Every inch of every space was done to perfection, inside and out. There wasn't a single item on the property that was boring, plain, or even just normal.

This includes the flooring of the decks. Each level was different and just as stunning as the next.

We walked up to another level of deck and the main house finally came into view. It was spectacular!

You can probably see what I mean about how much it is to look at. The towers, the windows, the front...all were ornate and unique. It is eclectic, but tasteful. I just loved it all!

And did I mention the views?

The inside, held its own. It was a treasure trove of collectibles. From the carved fireplaces, to the panels lining the walls. The statues, the carpets, and tapestries hanging from the walls. Everywhere you looked there was something more spectacular than the last. All artifacts and antiques and every piece hand picked for their exact spot and space.

That includes the ceilings. From the living room to the dinning room, they were never plain and held their own among the treasure troves of amazing pieces in each room.

I think the dinning room gave this residence the right to be called a castle. It could  pass for a dinning room in an castle. 

Many of the rooms had fireplaces, but of course they were not your ordinary fireplaces. They were massive floor to ceiling carved works of stone that easily could have swallowed Landon whole.

As we continued through the house, every room was vastly different from the next. Pieces were brought in from all over the world and made to fit the walls, ceilings, and floors. It was like traveling to all of the museums of Europe all at once.

Our grand rooms tour concluded in the biggest room of the house, the theater room. Very much involved in the Hollywood scene, it was only fitting that he have such an elaborate theater room. These lady columned lights flanked the entire room along with crimson fabric walls. Then my favorite part of the tour, we sat down and watched some old home movies. They were silent and short, but it was such a special touch as the tour guide explained who and what we were watching right there, in the house, on the screen. It was really awesome to see.

We exited the house and strolled the property for a bit while we waited for our upstairs suites tour to start. I didn't think the suites could compare to the main rooms, but I was wrong again. The rooms were not large, but they were stunning!! Each one was different from the next and there were so many beautiful pieces in each that you didn't even know where to look. I could have spent hours in each room admiring every little detail.

A few times we passed from one room to the next via an outside hallway. Even these hallways were beautiful. And did I mention the views?

The main library was beautiful as well! A real book lovers dream. The shelves were topped with vases, many of them ancient. 

The master bedroom wasn't large, but felt almost spiritual with the most stunning ceiling in the entire house. 

This spiritual feeling continued into Hearst's private sitting area and the women's master bedroom. Although religious pieces were scattered all over the house, the fact that these personal quarters were overwhelmed with them really made it feel personal. I also think said it a lot about him. The lamp shades are made of hymns which I thought was an amazing touch. Details I would never have even dreamed of.

My favorite piece was this panel in one of the sitting areas.

His personal office/library was a beautiful oasis. After seeing his personal space, I don't know why he'd spend time anywhere else.

The two towers each have a bedroom at the top of them called the celestial rooms. Golden from top to bottom, I'm sure it was a celestial feeling staying in one of them.

And did I mention the views? From every window they are jaw dropping.

And when you are finally able to pull yourself away from the window, the furniture, the art, the rugs, the lamps, the statues, even the doors, the stairs and the trim are all perfectly formed and placed exactly right.

Outside their are more antique statues, canons, marble wells, and even ancient roman sarcophagi. It's insane really. 

And just when you think you've seen it all, on your way back to the bus, after passing the tennis courts, you walk underneath them to the indoor Roman pool and it's the most spectacular place you've ever seen. Bright, beautiful tiles line every single inch of this massive indoor oasis.  

As a pool lover, one thing that struck me where the marble ladders at both pools. Any other "fancy" pool would have simply put inlaid steps in the pools walls, but Hearst took it to the next level. He was a perfectionist and paired with his vast fortune makes for one amazing house!

We all had an amazing time at Hearst castle and I'm so happy my Dad and Step-Mom chose Hearst Castle. It was great getting to experience it and being with to explore a new place together. Paired with the day before, it was a great weekend together. One I think we will all always remember.

Landon did soooo well listening and not touching ANYTHING on both 60 minute tours so he got an extra special treat...he got to sit in the back of the bus going down! Kids get the biggest kicks from the littlest things, but whatever works.

And did I mention the views?

Hearst Castle is an experience, a sight to see and a true California gem. Their slogan is "A museum like no other", but it's really more than just that. A place like no other! After all these pictures, I'm sure youre thinking there's no need to go, I've seen it all. I guarantee you haven't and so much of the story, the history, the background I didn't even talk about. It is a fascinating place that even kids can enjoy. I think the best time of the year to go is probably April or May when the flowers are in full bloom. I'm hoping to steal away for a weekend to share this place with Adam. I'd like to see the kitchen and cottages to round out the full experience and be enchanted with this special place once again. 

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