|The front entrance of Hearst Castle, with |
towers inspired by a Spanish cathedral
|The Neptune Pool, heated year round|
A visit to the house, which is now owned and operated by the California State Parks, offers a choice of several different tours: the Upstairs Suites; the Cottages and Kitchen; the Grand Museum Tour. We choose the Grand Tour to get the overall feel for the place. All tours include a 40 minute film about the history of the Hearsts (no mention of the Symbionese Liberation Army) and begin with a five mile bus drive from the Visitor Centre (run with military precision) up the winding road to the hilltop estate. Still a working ranch of 250,000 acres, it is also possible to spot zebra (yes you read that correctly) grazing with the cattle, as for many years Hearst operated the largest privately owned zoo on the grounds. The zoo was dismantled in 1937 when Hearst needed to liquidate some assets. Only the zebra remain.
Hard to spot, but the castle sits atop the hill
Hearst was a great host and invited the Hollywood glitterati and all manner of influential others to stay in the house and guest cottages in the grounds. The food was, apparently, excellent. However, although he had a massive and well stocked wine cellar (to which only he had a key) the abstemious Mr Hearst deplored excessive drinking and rationed his guests. This was particularly hard on the heavy drinkers of the Hollywood set and caused David Niven to remark " the wine would flow like glue during the meal" .
We arrive out on the coast by way of the vineyards of Paso Robles which, locals tell us, is the fastest growing wine area of the US. Currently there are about 26,000 acres planted with over 40 different varieties, some doing better than others. In the early days (1950s and 1960s) Bordeaux varieties were mostly planted, and from the 1980s the emphasis shifted to Rhône varieties including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Viognier. The ubiquitous (in California) Zinfandel is widely grown and often blended with other varieties. "Crazy Blends", is the nickname for Paso Blends, as these wines do not follow traditional rules of wine making. Lots of experimentation and, as you can imagine, the results can be variable.
|Wild Coyote Winery|
Our final port of call before departing for home ex San Francisco, is Monterey.
|Breweries rather than canneries|
Steinbeck wouldn't recognise 2012's Cannery Row, now best described as a cup of clam chowder, a bus of Japanese tourists, shops full of junk trading on Steinbeck's novel, and the zip of a credit card machine. The closest you will get to a sardine is in the Aquarium, as the industry collapsed by the mid 1950s due to overfishing. Even so, it is a pleasant enough area to stroll around and the bay itself is quite beautiful.
And so ends our Pacific Coast Highway trip - we head up to San Francisco to exit the country. Sadly, I do not find a yoga room in the International departures terminal.
|The Pacific Coast Highway stretches ahead|