I went to San Simeon on the same Chinese bus that I went to Solvang and of course the main destination of the trip – San Francisco. At first, I wasn’t so keen on keeping silent the whole three-day trip, as I don’t speak Chinese, but I ended up making a friend who was a Korean girl, who also didn’t understand a thing when the tour guide talked about sights around us.
So not talking for half a trip was quite okay, the music in my ears made up for it.
We arrived to the wonderful place of San Simeon on a sunny day (obviously), we were greeted with green hills and blue sparkling ocean, and it definitely set the mood for the Hearst Castle visit.
When you arrive at the Visitor Centre at Hearst Castle, which is the main attraction in San Simeon, and is usually referred to as “San Simeon”, apart from all the beautiful scenery that’s surrounding you, you need to buy tickets to the Castle itself, which includes a tour guide.
The tickets cost differently depending on what tour you want to have. Our Chinese/Korean/Russian bus went for the Grand Rooms Tour, which is, according to their website, is recommended for first time visitors, and lasts an hour, while costing $25. Any additional rooms would cost you another $25, all of this you can ask at the reception of the Visitor Centre. Once you have purchased the tickets (in-store or online), you are given the time of your special Hearst Castle bus. I suggest booking in advance, because there were a lot of people there, but fortunately we didn’t wait long, only ten minutes maybe.
It was a 15 minute ride to the Castle itself which is located at the very top of a hill in San Simeon.
Once you step off the bus, you are in the mysterious Hearst Castle, of which I have never heard before in my life. However, as it turned out, it is a historic place with lots of… well… history.
Hearst Castle “Bio”
This National Historic Landmark and a State Historical Monument was built by an American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. He was a very cool dude with lots of connections and famous friends, whom he took to this place. Your tour guide will tell you all about him and his celeb buddies, which is quite fascinating for someone who loves movies. Yes, most of the famous people inhabiting or visiting the castle in the days of its prosperity and prominence were Hollywood icons. The tour was so interesting for me, that I still remember these details almost 7 years later.
Without further ado, let me show you this magnificent and breathtaking place, which was, in its time, admired by the likes of Howard Hughes, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and others.
The Neptune Pool
The absolute highlight of the Castle visit for me was the Neptune Pool, as I have never seen such beauty before and only imagined this to be found somewhere in the fabled Atlantis. I literally gasped when I saw it, and then we were told that we are not to touch any marble of that million-dollar swimming pool.
Okay, so I don’t want to be a buzzkill or whatever, but at the moment of creating this article the Neptune Pool has been drained since 2014 due to droughts in California, in order to conserve water. That spring water had to go some place else. I really hope they refill it asap.
Inside the castle you will find many beautiful sculptures, trees, stairs, fountains, flowers and animals that will be of interest for you. Apparently, a few zebras are still roaming the vasts of Hearst Castle Grounds.
The Grand Rooms
After enjoying the outside, are being taken inside the castle itself, in which you can hide from that midday Californian sun and feel the coolness of the rooms that hold some interesting secrets, which will never be found out… The celebrity secrets.
During this tour you will see the ground floor rooms of La Casa Grande (the official name of the main house in the ranch) where Mr. Hearst met his guests and where they were entertained during their stay at La Cuesta Encantada (the Enchanted Hill – official booking website info). You will visit the Morning Room (pictured above), the Assembly Room, where guests met for cocktails, the Dining Hall (Refectory), and Theater, where all the cool people watched moving pictures.
If you ask me now, I would also get the Upstairs Rooms Tour as well, if I had the time that day. The Cottages and Kitchen too. I think it’s a bit sad that you can’t access all of the rooms and buildings for a fair price of, say, $50. Each tour costs $25 and that’s a bit of a bummer for cheapskates like me.
The Roman Pool
The Roman Pool is another fascinating part of the Hearst Estate. Its peace and quiet were absolutely extremely loud back in its heyday. I wonder if the guests ever noticed the beauty of the indoor pool while having cocktails and canapes in their evening gowns or morning dress robes.
All in all, I recommend a visit here, if only for an hour, if only for the Grand Rooms. You will be enchanted by the beauty and styles of the castle built over several decades, and which welcomed so many distinguished guests. Now you can be one of them.
Thank you for reading.
Have a look at my previous post about the “Danish Capital of America“, the town of Solvang.