Friday, February 20, 2009

What a wonderful day we have had, the weather was beautiful, a little on the cool side but I was comfortable just in my top without a jacket, and the scenery today was spectacular.

We had the breakfast here at the motel, fruit, juice, coffee, bagels, muffins etc. – nothing fancy but it was okay. We headed up California Highway 1, which runs along the ocean and the scenery is stunning.

At one of the lookouts we saw a lot of these little prairie dogs and they sure weren't shy.

We had reservations for a tour of Hearst Castle at 11 a.m. and when I picked up the tickets the fellow said they had room on the 10:40 tour so we took that, most of the tour was a group of high school students from Ventura and they were a great group of teenagers.

A bus takes you from the Visitor Centre to the castle which is on a site he called The Enchanted Hill – a five mile drive up the mountain and my, what absolutely beautiful views. We took Tour No. 1 which is recommended for first time visitors and we saw the outdoor Greco-Roman style Neptune Pool, absolutely beautiful and the tour guide said that most of Hearst’s visitors couldn’t swim so the pool didn’t see a lot of use. We then walked around the esplanade that featured marble sculptures and gardens – gorgeous. From there we toured Casa del Sol, an 18 room guesthouse facing the Pacific coastline, we saw four of the bedrooms and fours baths plus a sitting room – just a small sampling of the guesthouse!

Looking Up to the Guest House

The Esplanade

View From the Esplanade

Outdoor Greco-Neptune Style Roman Pool

Looking North From the Esplanade

Entrance to the Guest House - Notice the Tiles and All the Gold is at Least 23 Karat

We then went into Casa Grande, the main house and saw five ground floor rooms – the Assembly Room, the largest of 14 sitting rooms; the Refectory, the only dining room on the Enchanted Hill; the Morning Room, another sitting room; the billiard Room that features two 1920’s era billiard tables and the Theatre, which is the largest room in Casa Grande. The furnishings, tapestries, statutes etc. in Casa Grande are stunning to say the least, it is just mind boggling to see how the rich lived. We finished the tour at the indoor Roman Pool with blue Venetian glass and gold tiles – I have never seen such a gorgeous pool in my life – it was very tempting just to jump in and enjoy it! The tour guide said there is a $750 fine for “falling” into the outdoor pool so heaven only knows what it would cost for a swim in this beautiful indoor one. I didn’t get any inside pictures as we weren’t allowed to use a flash so the only ones I got were the indoor pool.

Front Entrance to Casa Grande (Main House)

Indoor Pool (Can You See the Diving Platform?)

When we returned to the Visitor Centre we ended our tour by seeing a 40 minute Imax film – Hearst Castle – Building the Dream.

From there we headed north on Route 1 and what an absolutely stunning drive, the road is very twisty and turny with awesome views of the ocean and at some spots the ocean was very calm and at others the waves were just crashing in, it depended on how protected the beach was at that point. We stopped at pretty well all of the view points including the beach where all the sea lions spend their days – an amazing site.

Sea Lions

Views Along the Coast

We drove up the coast through Big Sur to Carmel and Monterey then cut across to Highway 101 to head back – a long drive but one we will never forget.

When we got back we stopped for a pizza slice and salad for dinner and now are back in our room relaxing. By the time I finish this and download my pictures I think I will be about ready for bed. There is still no wi-fi so don’t know when I will get this posted but it is done in word and ready to go as soon as I get a connection.

As always, today was another great gift of a day in the sunny south and we look forward to another good day tomorrow.

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