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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Hearst Castle captivates tourists

My visit to Hearst Castle became the highlight of my Thanksgiving vacation. During the two hours allotted for the Experience Tour I attended, tourists feel completely transplanted from reality, finding themselves rather in a plush pocket of grandeur. Lauded with magnificent designs and tasteful decorations, Hearst Castle is a tourist hotspot which I recommend to anyone visiting the central California coast.

This gaudy “castle,” situated atop the rolling seaside hills of San Simeon, CA, is reminiscent of a European palace. Built to the taste of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s, this estate’s buildings occupy a total of 90,000 square feet. The Experience Tour highlights a few of the rooms in the main house, the two pools and a guesthouse.

I started my visit in the visitor’s center, browsing in the gift shop until the time for my scheduled tour. Due to its lofty location, the castle requires its visitors to take a motor coach up the hill. I expected a rather boring 10-minute ride, but was pleasantly surprised. A voice-over played during the drive, telling of the history of the ranch and the many species of exotic wildlife that roamed around the road.

I found the view from the winding road quite captivating. The sea lapped up against the beach below, and the sun peeked out from behind clouds. Slowly, as the coastline grew more distant, the gleaming white building grew bigger — and with it, my anticipation.

Disembarking from the motor coach, I gaped at the colossal buildings set before me. A marble double staircase rose in front of me, edged with blooming miniature trees and sculpted plants. The sound of trickling water played in the distance, betraying the presence of the famous Neptune Pool.

First my group ventured to the Neptune Pool, led by our friendly guide. Shimmering blue in the sun and dribbling water from fountains, this immense pool immediately entranced all of us. Black and white Grecian designs at the bottom harmoniously set off the light aqua of the water.

Upon entering a 5,000-square foot guesthouse, I began to understand the opulence that not only Hearst once lived in, but also his company. I enjoyed learning about the different people who came to visit the Hearst Castle, including celebrities, movie stars, government officials and other friends of Hearst. Clothing from the late ’30s lay on beds and hung in closets, seeming to fill the house with guests.

The main house, or the “Casa Grande,” escalated before the landscape spectacularly. Every article of furniture and decoration flaunted the most extreme detail, making it hard to take in the surroundings. Ornamented on the exterior with a Spanish feel, the inside reverberated European roots with pieces once found in cathedrals and castles. Our guide informed us of how Hearst did not build his guesthouses with kitchens so he would be assured of having the visitors at the main house for meals.

Following the roll of carpet through some of the house, I found room beyond room filled with tapestries, paintings, rugs, fireplaces, accessories and furniture from all areas of the globe. The elegance and intricacy astounded me. Gold literally glowed, radiating light and grandeur into the darkest corner. It seemed every rich aspect of the house became even more luxurious when pooled together at such a concentration.

I then boarded the motor coach once again to ferry a short distance down to the stunning Roman Pool. Mosaics covered every surface of this indoor pool. Deep shades of cobalt, orange and turquoise tiles displayed a sky of golden stars and a sea of golden fish. The yellow lamps surrounding the “underground” pool seemed to warm the atmosphere and reflected off the smooth water below.

Sadly I discovered that my tour came to an end. Yet I left the hill with a much lighter heart. Although I resumed life’s reality somewhere between the castle and the visitor’s center, I know that I will always have the memories of this glorious spot to escape back to.

Anyone interested in architecture, history, artwork or antiques tends to enjoy a visit to Heart Castle. Although the castle mainly features specimens from Europe, Hearst seemed to enjoy collecting artwork from a variety of nations, including Egypt.

I left the ranch more than pleased with the experience I encountered at Hearst Castle. The mesmeric quality the castle placed on me and the way that it transplanted visitors from reality into the dazzling culture of the affluent draws me back to savor another facet. I hope to find myself back at the grounds one day soon, enveloped in the castle’s enchantment.

Hearst Castle offers 11 different tours, most occurring at day and one at night. Ranging from $12 to $75 for a ticket, I found a variety of tours and budgets to choose from. On the normal day, offerings include one group of about 50 people for every tour for every hour. While some tours focus on specific parts of the estate, others make a broad overview. The tours are expected to range in duration from 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes.

San Simeon is located about 150 miles from Fresno. For more information, visit the Hearst Castle Web site.

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