If you were the who’s who of Hollywood in the 1930s then you were likely to receive an invitation to William Randolph Hearst’s castle in San Simeon, California. Equipped with all the glamour of its day it was the perfect getaway with over 250,000 acres of land along the California coast.
William Hearst’s castle was an empire of its time and as because William ran all of the media outlets of his time (radio and newspaper companies) he was sought after by film directors, actors, and orchestrators alike for his influence, and apparently he knew how to throw a party.
Today this majestic castle remains in excellent condition and holds tours through almost every day of the year. Because of the vastness of the property, there are different tours available and must be purchased separately. Amanda and I opted for the first grand rooms tour of the morning and were up early to catch the bus to the castle, you aren’t able to drive up there yourselves and have to park at the welcome centre at the bottom of the hill.
From the top, you can see all the way to the sea. Because we were on the first tour up to the castle, we were able to walk around the grounds with very few tourists meandering around, which was quite delightful. I suggest the earlier tours if you have the time.
Do you see that tapestry hanging on the wall? There were 10 originals that were destroyed in a fire and all 10 replicas hang in the Louvre museum in Paris. These tapestries are four of the originals that William Hearst was able to buy after they were thought to have been destroyed!
His art fills up all of the grand rooms and there is a lot of space to be filled with the high ceilings.
The table can hold quite a few guests and all the guests that were invited to stay at the castle were allowed to do as they wished around the castle grounds but were required to come to the dining hall for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You could not be served in your room as William enjoyed the company of all guests he extended an invitation to.
Retiring to Williams movie theater, you were able to watch the latest films months before they were released to the public. Perks of having the film directors as your friends, and also having them eager for you to publicize their films. It’s a deal that is win-win for everybody around these parts.
Our tour only lasted about an hour if that and afterward you have free reign to walk around the grounds or get in line for your next tour if you have one scheduled. The buses run back down to the welcome center every few minutes so there is no rush if you choose not to hurry.
On the acres of land surrounding the castle, William had an entire safari worth of animals to include zebras and giraffes that you could go out and see. There are still zebras roaming free on the grounds even today! We didn’t see any of them during the tour. He even kept polar bears in state of the art zoo exhibits that were the latest technology of the day. Suffice it to say you would not run out of entertainments at the castle if you were visiting, even if there was no cell phones or internet available.
The castle itself sits in the center gardens that form a circle around the house. It’s a very interesting setup considering most buildings are set on squares or rectangles. It’s pretty cool though because there are lookouts all the way around for you to see from.
Walking behind the castle you stroll past the tennis courts and down to the indoor mosaic pool where the bus picks you up and drives you back down the mountain.
I’ll definitely be headed back for a second tour when I get a chance and I’m going to go on the upstairs tour next.
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