Courtesy Hearst CastleⓇ/State of California. All Rights Reserved.

Hearst Castle: A Great Gatsby Affair in California

In Activities, Travel, Travel Resources by Jenny CavcicLeave a Comment

It sits on the pedestal of the enchanted hill along the Pacific Coast Highway. Its incredible location, architecture and history, make Hearst Castle a must-see attraction when visiting California!

Forbes Travel listed it as “one of 10 amazing castles in America”. Overlooking the magnificent central Californian coast, this extravagant estate is a symbol of 20th century luxury and wealth. Better still… one man’s American dream come true!

Courtesy Hearst CastleⓇ/State of California. All Rights Reserved.

This Image and the Featured Image are a Courtesy Hearst CastleⓇ/State of California. All Rights Reserved.

The Zebra Mystery:

A herd of zebras grazing the land… That’s what caught my eye first.

Amused by these wild beasts, I noticed Hearst Castle second. It was once a family favourite retreat of William Randolph Hearst, the greatest newspaper baron in the history of America. Today, it serves as a museum and work of art, owned by the state of California.

The zebras couldn’t have been bothered to acknowledge the line of visitors staring in awe. It felt a bit surreal. But, had it not been for them, I probably wouldn’t have seen the castle.Hearst Castle when visiting california

I’ve been visiting California for years not knowing it was there! Perfectly sheltered, up high and behind an isolated forest… From afar, it looks like an enchanted but unattainable hideaway estate.

A $195 Million View:

“The panoramic view from the castle must be worth a million dollars!” – I thought, as we made our way up the hill. I later found out it’s worth is $195 million… the castle, not the view. But the two inevitably go hand in hand.Hearst Castle when visiting californiaHearst Castle when visiting california

During the windy 5-mile drive up to Hearst Castle, I listened to a narration by Alex Trebek of Jeopardy. He solved the zebra mystery… They were imported additions to Hearst’s private zoo of wild animals.

We eagerly piled out of the bus and made our way up a gorgeous set of decorative steps.

Hearst Castle when visiting californiaA woman greeted us as though honoured guests of the late media tycoon. Befitting a 20th century butler with her elegant white gloves and well-tailored suit, she warped us back in time.

I was in for a surprise!

The Great Gatsby Affair:

Gazing at the remarkable outdoor Roman pool and it’s terraces, I imagined a socialite gala below me. I lost myself listening to our host (the one dressed like the 20th century butler).

I found myself at an exclusive dinner party. I’m obviously a person of importance; a political leader, a famous socialite, a flapper or even better…a Hollywood icon. My hosts are Mr. Hearst himself and his mistress – the highly regarded actress, Marion Davies.Hearst Castle when visiting californiaHearst Castle when visiting californiaOur venue is Hearst Castle. It has 165 rooms, and 123 acres made up of gardens, terraces, pools and romantic walkways. Owned by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country, my invitation here is gold!

The large terrace overlooking the Californian Bay steals my attention. I walk over for a breathtaking view and marvel at the strikingly blue pacific ocean and array of stunning palm trees.Hearst Castle when visiting californiaSigh… I reminisce scenes from The Great Gatsby, my favourite 20th century American fiction novel. But Jay Gatsby had nothing on Hearst. Unlike Gatsby, Hearst collected zebras for pets!

Harry Potter and the Hearst Castle:

We continued our tour of the Grand Rooms. She cordially walked us through the entertainment room, dining area, billiard room and private theatre.

Let’s Pause here… Have you seen any of the Harry Potter movies? Take a second and picture the inside of Hogwarts. The dining room at Hearst Castle served as an inspiration for the designers of Hogwarts. Now let’s continue…

Hearst Castle harbours an array of extravagantly expensive art from all over the world. The theme? Unconventional, antique and gothic. My observation? The late William Hearst was an art hoarder!
Hearst Castle when visiting californiaHearst Castle when visiting california

The Great Hearst:

But that’s just it! The antique, unconventional and gothic styles, all serve a purpose. Today, they speak of one man’s legacy, and legacies wouldn’t be called such if they were conventional, unremarkable, jejune…

Conservative. Manipulative. Power hungry. Influential.

“Hearst had a great life. I mean he made lots and lots of enemies. But along the way, he had a grand time!”
– David Nasaw (Author of “The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst”)

Our host revealed characteristics of William Hearst that disappointed me. I wanted for him to be like The Great Gatsby, a much softer character. Jay Gatsby’s style was an expression of love, William Hearst’s was of power…Hearst Castle when visiting california“And what a strange feeling it is to be entertained in a place with such abnormal style” – I thought. And that’s when I laid eyes on it… the masterpiece.

When Visiting Hearts Castle, Do like the Romans do:

An indoor Roman pool, ornamented from top to bottom with the most luxurious elements.The master architect, Julia Morgan, had modelled it after an ancient Roman bath. Its magnificence alone is a great reason to stop at Hearst Castle when visiting California.Hearst Castle when visiting californiaIt took me right back to where I started; A 20th century Hollywood icon holding a golden invitation to Hearst Castle. Just like that, I saw myself spending all day at this pool, admiring its intricate design, until it was over…

The tour ended and so did my imaginary Great Gatsby affair. It ended in the best part for the most beautiful memories. But I’ll definitely come back to Hearst Castle. I’m intrigued check out the other tours and see how Hearst lived when he wasn’t hosting upscales parties!
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Note: All general expenses at Hearst Castle were paid out of pocket. My entrance fee and Grand Rooms Tour were covered by the Hearst Castle Museum and State Park.
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Planning your Trip to Hearst Castle while Visiting California:

Below are 5 things you should know when planning your trip to Hearst Castle while visiting California:

  1. Tours are popular and often sell out, so be sure to book your tour in advance. Typically a day or two is enough lead time. Call (800) 444 4445 or visit www.HearstCastle.org
  2. The castle is open every day, year around (except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day).
  3. If you’re a first-time visitors, the ‘Grand Rooms Tour’ is recommended.
  4. There are several tours to choose from. Each tour explores a different area of the estate. Details can be found at: http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/
  5. Be sure to allow enough time for your visit to explore the exhibits in the Visitor Center and see the giant screen film, “Hearst Castle-Building the Dream”. You can visit http://hearstcastle.org/theater/ for showtimes.

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