It’s certainly true what they say, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The motel (Sands by the Sea) at San Simeon was actually really comfortable, the food was good in the adjacent restaurant and I had a really good nights sleep. Unfortunately I have now picked up the cold that our friends have had over the last week, which is not great when you’re on holiday.
William Randolph Hearst was in the movie and newspaper industry and was worth millions upon millions of dollars. As a young boy he visited Europe with his mother and was fascinated with the history, architecture and art. About 50 years later he built a “ranch” on the hillside overlooking the bay of San Simeon, which he loved. He bought sculptures, tapestries and furniture. What he could not buy he had made. It took over 20 years and when he died it still wasn’t completed.
The result of all this is what is now known as Hearst Castle. This is a rambling estate built atop a hill, with a 5 mile road that was built especially to reach it. It resembles a Mediterranean village with a castle at its centre and smaller cottages for visitors. It has an indoor and outdoor pool and is dripping in artwork. It was visited by the rich, famous and influential, by invitation only.
We took the grand tour, which covers the downstairs of the main house. Our guide was informative, not only about the building and its history, but also about Mr Hearst himself, who was a quiet man influencing politics and policies from the background. One of the really interesting things was the fact that his chief architect was a woman, Julia Morgan, who was way ahead of her time in her achievements.
Included in the tour was a 40 minute film which told of Hearst’s background, his determined father and his forward thinking mother. It told how Hearst, despite his fortune was a philanthropist and wanted the house that he built to be seen by the people as a museum of architecture.
It is certainly an impressive place. Afterwards we were allowed to wander the gardens and see the indoor pool before getting the bus back down the road to the visitor centre. It was definitely a worthwhile visit, helped immensely by the helpful and informative staff and the lovely sunny day.
A scenic coastal drive
Our journey then took us southwards down the coast, calling off to see a colony of elephant seals, sunbathing on the beach. I have never seen or expected to see so many seals in one place. What a site! We watched them for ages before continuing our journey.
We also called at Moonstone Bay, at the bar and grill, for some lunch. This was recommended by a member of staff at the castle. Lunch was beautiful, as was the view across the bay.
We drove through Cayucos, another beautiful town, before viewing Morro Rock from the bay. Although it was warm it was really windy in the bay, so we took some photos and continued our journey.
Our overnight stay was at Ocean View Hotel at Pismo Beach. What a beautiful hotel, in its own grounds, overlooking the sea. It was not lavish like the Fairmont and Monterey Plaza, but was pretty and practical with a stunning view over the beach. The grounds had BBQ’s , fire pits and tables where families could sit out and play and cook their own food. It had a lovely atmosphere.
We walked along the extremely flat beach to the pier and then back, just as the tide was coming in. I had a very brief paddle in the sea as the water was freezing. The wind was blowing the sand like some kind of mist across the beach, but not up in the air, which something I’ve never seen before.
For our evening we went to The Cool Cat diner, which was a traditional American Diner. The food was great and the staff were friendly and helpful.
We then went back to the hotel and sat by one of the fire pits before going to bed.