Mon, 12/24/12 7:41 AM
Wednesday November 28, 2012 Before leaving the hotel, Mariton ate a breakfast of oatmeal and yogurt, while I passed. It was a little more than a half hour drive north to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. Cousin Johnny and I visited here about a decade ago and we thought it was nothing short of spectacular. I bought a coffee table book about the place, which Mariton looked through and now she was very excited about seeing it for the first time. The weather was fine when we arrived around 8:00AM, so we posed for photos with the sign. By the time, we paid for our tour and watched the movie, it was now raining out. You get on a shuttle from the visitor's center and it takes you on a several mile winding driveway up to the castle. We had read that the weather at the visitor's center can be different from up on top of the hill. And when we disembarked from the shuttle, it was now pouring out, along with a serious wind. Mariton paused to take a couple of photos and you can see how bad the wind is blowing, which was driving the rain into your face sideways. It was really ugly! Little did we know this was the best outside photos we were going to get. They led us inside through a side door into a main room, known as the assembly room. Unlike the tour guide on the art deco tour, this guide was outstanding. He was extremely knowledgeable, witty and fun. He also made fun of me for being the only person in just shorts and a t-shirt, while everyone else was dressed for Winter. Some photos from the inside. Sorry about the quality of the pictures, but it is very dark and you are not allowed to use the flash. While our guide was speaking, there was another security person who really had his hands full. There were three rules we had to follow, which was: 1) no flash photography 2) stay on the plastic mats and off the carpet 3) don't touch the furniture or any other belongings. Unfortunately, with the group being approximately 60% non-English speaking, many did not understand this, which is not their fault. As soon as the guard would chide a man for walking across the carpet, another woman would walk over and pick up an old book. He was getting exasperated and honestly, it was a little amusing to watch! Next up was an amazing dining hall, a.k.a. the refectory, followed by a couple of smaller rooms and then into the billard room. From there, it was into a theater, where they showed home movies of the Hearst family and visiting film stars from Hollywood. And that was it! Mariton was very disappointed that this is all of the castle you get to see on this particular tour. They do offer other tours, but that meant going back to the visitor's center at the bottom of the hill and braving the elements all over again. And it seemed all the tours were parcelled up to only seeing a small portion of the castle at a time. So, to see a good chunk of the castle, you would have to see at least three of the tours. When Cousin Johnny and I visited years before, we paid for one tour and saw everything. Why did they change this? I felt bad for Mariton because she really was disappointed. After the theater, we were allowed to wander the grounds at our leisure. But with the weather the way it was, this was practically impossible. We desperately wanted to go visit the incredible outdoor Neptune pool, but with the wind and the rain, it really wasn't worth it. Not wanting to get my camera wet, I had it tucked inside my t-shirt. So, to take any outside photos, I just lifted my shirt and pointed it in the general direction without being able to see. Considering this is from belly-cam, this didn't turn out too bad! At least the Roman pool was indoors and we got some decent shots there. There are statues of eight Roman gods and goddesses around the pool and that is real gold inside the tiles. The shuttle bus picks you up right outside here, between the Roman pool and the tennis courts, so at least we didn't have to get rained on again. It was raining much less down at the bottom of the hill. What an amazing difference a few miles and some elevation can do. Just across from the entrance to the Hearst Castle is WR Hearst Memorial State Beach. This place is best known for being a good place to spot elephant seals. Alas, the seals decided they didn't even want to be on shore in this weather and there were none to be seen. Still, we walked quite a distance out on the pier, despite how cold and windy it was. This was as far north as we went on the California coast and we started our way back south. Driving back through Morro Bay, you can see how foggy and gloomy out it had gotten. When we reached San Luis Obispo, we got off the highway, so I could visit Cal Poly University and buy a t-shirt. But, the traffic around campus was brutal, we couldn't find a parking spot nearby and the rain was now really coming down again, so we gave up and got back on the highway.
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