by Judy Bereza, guest blogger
Fifty years ago my husband and I drove down the coast of California on Highway 1 San Francisco to Los Angelos. We were on our honeymoon, but that fact doesn’t excuse us from barely taking note of the entrance sign to Hearst Castle, a jaw dropping edifice high on a hill and visible from the world.
Often in life we get second chances, and while in Los Angelos last fall on active grandparent duty, we headed to Highway 1 once more. This time we climbed aboard a tour bus on a clear California day and headed up the winding road constructed by William Randolph Hearst.
The road itself is a marvel. It ascends 1600 feet and affords stunning views alternately of the castle and the Pacific Ocean at every turn.
Once there, we understood why this is one of the most spectacular and celebrated house museums in America. My History of Architecture class had prepared me for the story of its construction , and how Julia Morgan, the first celebrated female architect in America, was commissioned by Mr. Hearst to be his partner in his quest to build an estate to showcase his ever increasing art collection. What followed over 28 years of collaboration was one of the most significant architectural masterpieces in American history.
Several themed tours are offered to visitors. With 165 rooms, 127 acres of gardens, pools, statuary, and rare works of art and artifacts incorporated into the rooms, you really need more than one day to see it all.
Added on to all this is a film which tells the story of the castle shown in a theatre with a five story screen.
In an ironic twist, I’m sure Mr. Hearst and Miss Morgan would be horrified to see the 20-plus port-johns lined up outside the Visitors Center, a reminder of the five year California drought and the effort by the state government to conserve water. Oh well, a small price to pay for a chance to see this magnificent and lasting gift to the American people.
Judy Bereza is a retired interior designer/kitchen expert, constant walker and “Nana” to five adorable grand children. With friends she has hiked in Wales, Cornwall, Switzerland, Smokey Mountain National Park, Ireland and California.
Occasionally she veers off the trail to explore a different kind of travel adventure that includes her husband..