Friday, 20 September 2013

Hearst Castle, Los Osos, Solvang

The reason I have stayed the night in San Simeon ( there has to be a special reason as the place seems merely a collection of motels along half a mile of highway) is to visit Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle is a National and California Historical Landmark mansion located on the Central Coast of California. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951. In 1957, the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the state of California. Since that time it has been maintained as a state historic park, where the estate, and its considerable collection of art and antiques, is open for public tours. Despite its location far from any urban center, the site attracts about one million visitors per year.

I would like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I'm getting a little too old for that. I'd like to get something that would be a little more comfortable.
Hearst to his architect

The estate is a pastiche of historic architectural styles that its owner admired in his travels around Europe. Hearst was a prolific buyer who did not so much purchase art and antiques to furnish his home as he did build his home to get his bulging collection out of warehouses. This led to incongruous elements such as the private cinema whose walls were lined with shelves of rare books. The floor plan of the Main Building is chaotic due to his habit of buying centuries-old ceilings, which dictated the proportions and decor of various rooms.

Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood and and political elite often visited, usually flying into the estate's own airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train from Los Angeles. 

My favourite, the underground swimming pool. Just two colours, blue and gold.

It was Lara Levy who urged me to visit Hearst Castle, and my next appointment is with her at her home in nearby Los Osos.  Lara is a very good friend of a very good friend, to whose daughter we are the godparents.  

Being in California, the first thing we had to do was go to the beach, in this case at the lovely Morro Bay, with her own young daughter.  

Later, we looked around the town, I checked into the Back Bay Inn - the best location of any on my long trip - had dinner, and talked late into the night. A really pleasant day, catching up with an expat and new friend.

View from my room at the Back Bay Inn

My morning coffee stop was in Solvang, a town of 5,000, in Santa Barbara County, California, one of the communities that make up the Santa Ynez Valley.  Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. 

The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the fa├žades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. 

And that's it for this stretch of the Pacific coast of California.  This afternoon I'll drive into Los Angeles, from where there will surely be lots to record and report. 

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