After months of penny-pinching I finally got a few rolls of film developed from the last leg of our American road trip. I thought processing in the US was costly but heck it has nothing on the land down under! In this 'On the Road' series I'll be sharing my favourite road trip destinations, some cheeky tips for living on the road and answering any other questions you might have.
The first post is from Heart Castle in San Simeon, California. I'm usually not one for guided tours but I couldn't bear to leave the USA without seeing this garish display of decadence in the flesh. Nestled in the clouds 1,600 feet above sea level, 'The Ranch' is a pastiche of historical European architecture and a showcase of Hearst's extensive art collection. As the tour bus slowly winds its way up the steep incline towards the Mediterrian Revivalist castle, Zebras and other exotic animals can still be seen roaming the grounds, relics of what was once the worlds largest privately owned zoo.
The guided tour through the main building was short and sweet. Each room in the house is a mishmash of historical styles. It's so bizarre walking through the Refectory and into the Baroque style Billard Room, the Rectory is reminiscent of a church from the Middle Ages whilst the Billard Room boasts 14th century Flemish tapestries and an intricate 15th century Spanish ceiling. The highlight for me was the screening of home videos in the incredible theater. Candid footage of Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin and countless others 1920s Hollywood A-Listers goofing around in resort wear made my heart skip a beat. Knowing that some of my favourite stars of the silver screen would've lounged in the very same velvet armchairs to watch the very same footage over 80 years ago left me filled with glee.
After the tour we meandered around the gardens for a few hours, checking out the famous Neptune Pool, the mesmerising indoor Roman Pool and countless ancient artefacts. I've always desired a simple life in the country so needless to say this opulent display of wealth was all a little overwhelming. However, as I gazed out at the stunning vista of Californian coastline, there was nowhere in the world I'd rather of been.
If you're a history buff like me, be sure to pop over to the Hearst Castle website. The story of this estate is so fascinating, you can even take a virtual tour which is almost as good as the real thing!