One of the highlights of my Spring was heading out to the coast of central California and visiting Hearst Castle! I have always wanted to go there, especially after studying Julia Morgan in design class so naturally when my mom asked me if we would like to go with her, I said a resounding, ‘yes!’
My mom works for the Fresno City College library and they had teamed up with the Fresno County Public Library for their annual Great Read program. This year, their book choice was The Great Gatsby, which I have been a little obsessed with lately so I was very excited!
We left the college on a tour bus to San Simeon and the friends of the library had thought of everything from snacks and drinks to movies and word games based on The Great Gatsby. They even passed around books about the art and architecture of Hearst Castle and showed a documentary on the life of William Randolf Hearst. They made the entire experience so unique and informative.
We stopped in Morro Bay for dinner and it was so nice to be close to the ocean, even if just for a little while. My mom and Eli got fish and chips, while I went all out with chicken strips and garlic fries!
Next up was our tour of Hearst Castle, where they had a special evening tour with docents dressed up in costumes and they walked us through what an evening as a guest would be like. The initial drive up the mountain to the estate was amazing. The radio on the shuttle cooed songs of the 1920’s and 1930’s. I could envision being in an old car, driving up like Marion Davies and her friends had! The grounds and the views were so beautiful and everything was so amazing! I really felt like I was visiting just as so many had during that time and I wished that I actually could have! The front of the castle faced the ocean and at that time of day, the sky melted through the horizon and into the sea so much so that it was hard to tell where one started and the other began. It felt like being on top of the world but also very small at the same time.
They walked us through the guest rooms where bathing suits and pajamas would be waiting for the guests, through the living where they would be served drinks and chocolates, to the dining room where each person was assigned a seat for dinner. They even tour us through the massive kitchen where 20 or more people would prepare the food for the evening. It was amazing to see how much William Randolph went through to please and entertain his guests. Lastly, we saw his bedroom as well as Marion Davies’, where her clothes still hung in the closet.
The castle and estate, or the “ranch” as Marion Davies would call it, were both so beautiful and it was so stunning to see. There was so much history designed into the castle with ceilings from cathedrals in Europe to the statues on the grounds. It really was a very inspiring tour and I would recommend that everyone should go at least once. Throughout our time there, I was wondering what it must have been like to be there in its glory days and it confirmed a little for me that I was for sure born in the wrong era!