Monday, August 13

Hearst Castle

Day Two of our grand road tour has ended on a real high. We started the day with a quiet wander through the clean, quaint streets of Solvang. I counted at least five replica windmills. The town is littered with Danish bakeries offering all manner of tempting pastries. I was particularly taken by a selection of toffee apples offering all manner of exotic coatings from Rocky Road to English Toffee crumble.

We then headed north, stopping for an hour or so at the nearest Walmart for picnic supplies and food for lunch on the road. Our first picnic this trip was held on the shores of Morro Bay. This is a fascinating location of monolith contrasts. The town of the same name is set on the edge of a picturesque tidal bay. The bay's headland is framed by a large 177 metre high rock outcrop while it northern shore is dominated by a power station sitting on the edge of town.

Our final stop for the day was San Simeon, a small remote village on the Pacific Coast. The area is renown for one unique sight; Hearst Castle. This was once the private home of Randolph Hearst, one of America's greatest publishing moguls. His majestic homestead sits on a hill overlooking the coast. It contains 122 rooms, which made it the second largest private home in the USA at the time of its construction.

Today the home is a state-owned facility. Visitors gain access to the site via a series of shuttle buses continually transferring passengers from the coast to the castle hilltop. The castle itself is set in beautiful grounds filled with gnarled old trees and flowering rose beds. It's interior is an eclectic mix of antique furnishings, fittings and sculpture; paired with modern twists, fakes and tacky imitations. Where else could you see 16th choir cloisters used to line a cavernous dining room dominated by a lengthy imitation banquet table.

Perhaps the most impressive complex on site is Neptune's pool; an oval, outdoor swimming pool encircled by elegant roman colonnades. It takes very little to imagine yourself transported to a pre-war world of silent movie stars lounging and partying along the pool's edge.

More details and photos to follow in the days ahead.

• Posted from my iPhone

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