Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Trip to an American Castle

It takes about three hours to drive to Hearst Castle from downtown San Francisco. It is a beautiful drive-one that everyone who visits San Francisco should take. There are a couple of possible routes. The fastest route is to take US 101 South to San Simeon, although I do not recommend this one. I would suggest taking US Route 1 south, as one can drive along the Pacific Ocean coast. The Pacific Ocean will be on the right-hand side for almost the entire trip.

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We were planning to visit a California sightseeing spot at the end of 2010 with my wife's mother, who came to join us in that year's summer. This was her fifth trip to California, and she had visited most of the popular places, especially San Francisco. She had visited Monterrey and Carmel, and she had seen the gold mines in 2009. My wife gathered sightseeing information from nearby hotels, and we decided that this trip to the American Castle would be interesting.

Photo of Hearst Castle outdoor pool
Source: Wikipedia    Attribution: Stan Shebs

We took US Highway 1 south. We made several stops at Monterrey and Carmel to play with our dog, Xuer. We ate lunch in one of the fashionable restaurants in Carmel. By the time we reached San Simeon, it was already dark. The hotel kindly upgraded our accommodation to a semi-suite for the three of us and our dog for a very reasonable fee.

Next morning, after playing with our dog, we drove to the American Castle. This is a castle built by an American newspaper tycoon, W.R. Hearst.

W.R. was born in 1863 into a family who would become wealthy during the Gold Rush. However, his father did not become rich because of gold but rather through finding silver during the Gold Rush. W.R. was mostly educated by his mother until he was accepted into Harvard University in 1885. He later dropped out of the university to start his own business. Although many of his businesses failed at first, he became extremely rich through the newspaper business. He later expanded his fortune in the movie and magazine industries. He began to design and build Hearst Castle in 1919. His castle, rather than being a medieval period European Fortress, is a big mansion. W.R. was a world-class collector of art and antiques. His castle contains a combination of historical exhibits, such as the Greek statues situated in the middle yard, next to the pool. Pictures with a Christian theme are featured extravagantly in the guest dining room. It was impressive to learn that Mr. Hearst attempted to avoid damaging the natural surroundings by transplanting trees in the process of building his castle.

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The two hour basic tour includes the viewing of a movie showing the history of Mr. Hearst on an enormous IMAX style screen. Ironically his business began to decline around the same time his castle was completed. My mother-in-law and I found the tour of Mr. Heart's castle quite entertaining and felt that we experienced good old America and the American history of business.

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