80,000 square feet. 58 bedrooms. 60 bathrooms. 41 fireplaces. 127 acres of landscaped gardens. Designed and built for the wealthy publisher, William Randolph Hearst, the palatial Hearst Castle sits atop a hill overlooking the town of San Simeon, California and the Pacific Ocean. The home was under construction nearly continuously between 1919 and 1947, but some areas remain unfinished to this day.
We went for a visit – how could we not when we were staying just down the road in Morro Bay? The grounds and home are accessible to the public only by taking a guided tour, but it’s well worth the money to learn about Mr. Hearst – his work, family, friends, personality, and lifestyle – from the friendly and knowledgeable docents.
The buildings (four total), gardens, and views are stunning.
Hearst was a voracious collector – sculptures, antiquities, paintings, tapestries, books, and more. He desired to make the Castle “a museum of the best things that I can secure.” (quote from Wikipedia)
We only saw a handful of rooms during our tour, and they were opulent – reminiscent of the palaces we saw in Portugal and Spain, with so many features and points of interest both large and small that we couldn’t even begin to absorb it all.
I was especially intrigued with the architect who collaborated with Mr. Hearst during the 28-year construction period – Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in the state of California. Although the Hearst Castle was by far her largest project, she designed hundreds of commercial and residential buildings in California and throughout the West during her career.
In March 2019, the New York Times published a short bio about this remarkable woman entitled, “Overlooked No More: Julia Morgan, Pioneering Female Architect.” You can find the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/obituaries/julia-morgan-overlooked.html.
Our visit to the Hearst Castle was fascinating – you gotta see it to believe it. But would we go back for additional tours? Unlikely. Once was enough.
We traveled to Cambria in search of a nice lunch and found much more. The seaside community with about 5,700 residents lies exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Highway 1. It would be picturesque at any time of year, with cozy cafes, charming shops, and numerous art galleries.
But on this particular day, we stumbled upon the annual Scarecrow Festival. Now in its 11th year, Cambria’s celebration was previously named as one of the top ten scarecrow festivals in the U.S. by the Travel Channel.
This year, more than 400 scarecrows were on display throughout the month of October. It’s not an exaggeration to say that scarecrows were everywhere! The self-guided tour was great fun. We were delighted by the creativity and whimsy, and despite spending several hours wandering through the streets, we only scratched the surface.
As you might imagine, I couldn’t stop taking pictures. My favorite scarecrows are shown in the photo gallery below – enjoy!
If you find yourself in Cambria during the Scarecrow Festival, I guarantee it will make you smile.
Did I mention that I couldn’t stop taking pictures?
just wanted to add that the most enjoyable book related to the Hearst Castle was called The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven, He was a guest at the house for many a star-studded affair. Funny stories, some gossip, great history telling!
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Hi Gloria – thanks for your comment and for the book tip. It sounds like something I will enjoy reading!