Momma Told Me: Pacific Coast Vacation: Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

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Pacific Coast Vacation: Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
Momma Told Me: There's always something new to behold.

It's hard to believe one of my very first blog posts was of  a Winter trip to Morro Bay and Hearst Castle, 5 years ago. While time has flown here on the blog, with over 2000 posts since, so much has also happened among family and friends. Not only have I been, happily, divorced for 3 years now, but the nieces and nephews I love so very much insist on growing up right before my eyes. Time is so very fickle; nothing is ever exactly the same from one moment to the next, everything is constantly changing, evolving, growing. So, when I was asked where I would be taking my gorgeous tween niece, Sabrina, on our road trip this past Summer, I didn't hesitate to add Hearst Castle to the list.
I don't have any children of my own quite yet- I assure my grandparents not to worry, in my own time, I will. Truth is, I have so much fun spoiling the children of others it's hard to be so anxious to take on the role of the 'bad guy.' Regardless, it's just as magical to share the memories of beloved vacation spots, such as Hearst Castle, through my own childhood experiences, to the estate as it stands today. Considered both a National and California Historical Landmark, this sprawling estate, which was very much more like a living theme park and playground for the starlets of the 1920s and 1930s, continues to grow and transform through the renovations of modern day.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
For those unfamiliar with this Central California Coast gem, The Hearst Castle is not truly a castle, but actually an estate with a main house and several guest houses, attached to a rather large piece of farm land. Began by William Randolph Hearst in 1919 alongside the talented female architect Julia Morgan, the estate was truly never finished- construction continued right up until, and beyond, his final breath in 1947. You may recognize the Hearst name from the publications which still bear the family's namesake, and, in fact, William Hearst was quite a jovial playboy, who never married and most fancied collecting tales from the wide array of noble, famous, and intellectual personalities which would vacation at his home from all across the world.
As beautiful as the estate is, it is equally large. Very few eyes have ever seen all of the 90,000 sq ft property, or inside each of the 56 bedrooms, 61 washrooms, and 19 sitting rooms. In fact, it would take you days to go on all of the individual tours offered at Hearst Castle, and you still would only have but a brief minute or two in only 50 of the estates rooms. The grounds outside as truly just as breathtaking, and an evening tour of the gardens is highly suggested for anyone in town and lucky enough to partake them.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
At the time of our most recent visit a multi-million dollar (charitably funded) renovation was taking place on the main Greek themed, outdoor, Neptune's pool. We were told that we were but a rare few to ever see the pool empty, without water, but I know, from my previous visits, the pool with water is truly a magnificent site to behold! Sadly, as with most architecture of this magnitude and extravagance from such era, the construction led to necessary renovations. California is indeed amidst a terrible drought and it's estimated hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were being lost annually due to cracks in the Italian imported granite floors. As a fun side-note, the 'park's' volunteers and their families are invited once a year to go for a dip in this timeless, breathtaking, pool!
Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
Unfortunately, with a house of this age, there is no central cooling. In fact, trolleys of ice used to be carted up the 2 mile hilltop entrance to the estate for basic sanitation and food preparation in the main house! Thankfully there is electricity in the main house and some basic floor fans were on- though the temperatures exceeded 95F outdoors, and the cramped nature of such furnished rooms made the heat almost unbearable to our tour group. Visiting in the Winter is most preferred- though I quite think I could just spend hours in a single room, a different room every day, discovering all of the fine details of design and craftsmanship. Even the furnishings are each unique and handmade.
While the estate is considered an historical landmark, and in some cases staged as you would see a room in a museum, most of the belongings you'll see are authentic. Each hand picked and imported by, or gifted to, Mr. Hearst. On this trip I noticed the beauty in several lamps spanning hundreds of years and varied continents. Many were quite different, yet eerily similar- picked by the late architect and designer Ms. Morgan for their chaotic harmony that brought cultures colliding in each of the estate's intricately themed rooms.
Roman Pool-Hearst Castle
Roman pool, Hearst Castle
Most of the tours of the estate wrap with a trip through the indoor, Roman, pool- easily one of the most astounding and favored sights on this hilltop. It never ceases to captivate me, or any of my party's guests. I do believe my niece's eyes went wide as she was told she was quite literally 'walking on gold.' No expense was spared in this lavish room featuring it's own private swimming alcove and diving balcony. With walls carefully handset with beautiful mosaics and gold leafed tiles, Hollywood starlet Loretta Young has written some vivid accounts of diving into the seemingly mirrored waters that truly bring this room to life. If you have a chance, be sure to ask your tour guide to wander through the attached changing rooms- all 13 of which are uniquely detailed with mosaic sea creatures!
And, while there were many more organically roaming Hearst's estate during the visits of my childhood, some of the residents of Mr. Hearst's zoo can still be found roaming the grounds today. Quite a large heard of wild Zebra lounge in the pastures stretching miles across Hearst's land, and down to the highway. If you're lucky, like we were, you'll spot a few on your drive up and down to the main house! Yes, this is one landmark that is no less magical today than it was on my first visit, or 90 years ago. Sabrina (13) thoroughly enjoyed her visit, and was sure to remark, "Mr. Hearst was such an interesting, and funny man!" Something I'm sure Mr. Hearst would smile at, if he were here to hear today. Do you have a similar fantastic travel destination you enjoy returning to?

What Daughter Says: Never hesitate to look twice, there just may be something wonderful you missed!


  1. Holy moly that is gorgeous. It's so nice to be the Aunt who gets to take her niece on such a trip! My kids would flip to walk on gold too. haha. When I lived in California I didn't get a chance to visit but it definitely looks like it's worth the trip!

  2. It's quite opulent. Nieces and nephews do have nerve growing up like that. I ask you - should you venture to Florence would you "star" Michelangelo's David?

  3. That estate looks gorgeous. I toured one in Florida this year that was similar, but this one actually reminds me of Versailles, which I traveled to in 2012 - very pretty.

  4. What amazing photographs. I would love to visit there some day.

  5. First the photos just drew me in. Wow, you know how to spin a tale to get someone to go somewhere. Next, to answer your question, yes I have been back to several places of fascination over and over...and usually there are houses. Maybe I admire the fact that one man can create such a mesmerizing place. I have returned to Neuschwanstein and The Biltmore in such a manner. Hearst is on my list and apparently, we need to set aside a week or so for that! BUCKET LIST

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