Day 6 – Decadence and paupers

Hearst Castle Photo Gallery

Before going to bed I was concerned about the lack of an alarm clock at the Mariner’s Inn in Cambria. Thankfully California was on hand to wake us up with a 3.2 aftershock from the earthquake earlier in the week just a few miles away. We’d been feeling minor aftershocks throughout the night after I had convinced Pauline it wasn’t people closing doors, but none were as big as the one that woke us up. It was really cool to experience an earthquake without being in one that was dangerous. It was kind of like a thunderclap outside your house with the sound of a rumble instead of a clap.

We weren’t impressed with the Mariner’s Inn, the shower sucked, there wasn’t any coffee/tea making facilities in the room and the heating was non-existant. Pauline didn’t like the front counter service, but I guess we can’t complain about the free continental breakfast. But I guess anything would’ve been a comedown from the place we’d experienced at Monterey.

After a quick breakfast of danishes we headed back up north a few miles to Hearst Castle. This was built for William Randolph Hearst on “the enchanted hill” and designed by Julia Morgan in partnership with Hearst. Hearst had made his millions from newspapers and media (kind of like Rupert Murdoch) but his dad had made his millions in silver and gold. As part of the tour we were shown a movie on a massive screen that hammered home the fact that when WIlliam was 10 he and his mother took a “grand tour” around Europe where William developed a love for antiques that would last for the rest of his life. When he was in his 50s he embarked on a project to build the residence of his dreams in the area of San Simeon where he had camped often as a child on his parents estate. His dream turned out to be a decadent castle filled with art and antiques based on items that he had seen in europe.

The tour starts at the bottom of the hill and we were bussed up the mountain to the castle to be met by two guides. The guides were very millitant about not touching anything and walking on the specified tour carpet. In fact when a guy answered his mobile phone and stepped away from the tour one of the guides told him to get off the phone and listen to the rules or he could leave the tour. I was cheering inside cause I couldn’t hear anything with him on the phone. The castle was incredibly stunning. You can just imagine Greta Garbo and Clark Gable swimming in the Neptune pool, or playing tennis above the heated indoor pool that was gold and cobalt blue colours. The gold on the floor was actual gold. The tour we took was called the experience tour and took about 1hr 45 minutes. It doesn’t go anywhere near showing the whole castle but we did see one of the guest quarters, the dining room, billiard room, cinema and the two pools. Check out the photos to see how stunning this place is. It was well worth the $14 entry. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to use flashes because they wanted to preserve the artwork, so some of the pictures are dark and blurry.

After spending about 3 hours at Hearst Castle we headed to San Louis Obispo (SLO) for lunch. It had another mission, but it wasn’t as pretty as the one in San Juan Bautista. Actually it was really funny because last night on tv they showed Vertigo and I got to check out the San Juan Bautista mission again because that is where they filmed the vital final scenes. For once a mission was open for us so we got to see inside the SLO’s mission. It was a pretty simple church inside, but they had a cool museum that I checked out while waiting for Pauline to stop wandering the shop.

We then hit the road again, passing by Lompok’s Naval base and missile testing centre on the way to Santa Barbara. It was dark by the time we got there, and all the rooms were about $150 a night, so we have ended up in a dodgy Motel 6 in Carpenteria, about 8 miles away from Santa Barbara. This room has the same smell as the Comfort Inn we stayed in and I am certainly not fond of it. Kind of smells like smoke or stale heated air or cleaning spray from a vacuum. We’re keeping our suitcases closed so that our clothes don’t end up smelling like the place like they did the last time. Luckily this drop into cheap, smelly accommodation ends tonight and it is hopefully pure luxury from now on. 🙂

We’re heading for LA tomorrow, but I’m hoping I can convince Pauline to lets us go back to see Santa Barbara in the day. I’m really glad we didn’t end up in Tahoe, it has meant that we could take the coastal journey slower and enjoy it a lot more. Plus they have had lots of traffic jams up there in the snow. But now we are apparently heading towards mudslides in LA. What’s with all these natural disasters lately?? The sun is supposed to be out all weekend. I really hope so.

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