Sunday, June 1, 2008

Travels ~ Fort Hunter-Liggett and Beyond ~ Day 2

The morning of our 2nd day at Fort Hunter Liggett started fairly early. We had tickets for a 1pm tour at Hearst Castle and we weren't sure how long it would take us to get down there. We also wanted to stop somewhere along the road for breakfast. A month or so ago, my Mom and Stepdad bought a TomTom GPS unit so we wouldn't have to be trying to read maps as we went down the road. So we set the GPS unit for San Simeon and headed back over to Highway 101 and then South. The GPS unit was pretty neat. It got us where we wanted to go, but the pronunciation of the towns and street names was kind of funny. (I should say that the GPS got us where we wanted to go most of the time, but I'll write more on that later.. lol)

Anyway, we stopped at the Paso Robles Inn for breakfast, which pleased my Stepdad. He had a lot of memories of hanging out there back when he was stationed at Camp Roberts. The next stop was San Simeon and the GPS unit directed us right into the parking area for the Visitor's Center for Hearst Castle. We got there a little after 11am, so we checked in at the desk and they told us to trade our 1pm tickets in and get on an earlier tour. We had plenty of time to watch the movie about the building of the Castle. Very interesting movie, I might add. After the movie, we boarded the bus for the 5 mile trip up to the Castle. My "seat-mate" was a nice lady from Germany, her husband was sitting across the aisle.

I took this shot from the viewing area at the back of the Visitor's Center. They've got a lovely patio out there with telescopes set up to look up at the Castle (Or "The Ranch" as Mr. Hearst called it.) I just set my camera up on one of the posts in the wall there and zoomed it in.

The visitor's center at Hearst Castle. Look closely at the hilltop above and to the right of the visitor's center building. You can almost see the Castle! lol... (I took this shot after we got back down from the Castle, but it fits into the page better right here.. lol)

One of the many fountains at Hearst Castle. One of the guest houses, Casa Del Sol, is behind it. We were on Tour #1 which is "The Experience Tour".

The Neptune Pool was our second stop on the tour. Just beautiful! It was kind of hard to get a good shot of the pool without getting the heads and bodies of all the other folks on the tour.. It seemed like every time I lifted the camera up to my eyes, someone would step in front of me with their camera!

Statues at The Neptune Pool. With the sun shining on them, they almost seemed to glow.

Statuary near the gardens, which were absolutely gorgeous. Many, many varieties of flowers and all in glorious color.

The main entrance to the Castle, which we didn't enter. Apparently over the years, the tile mosaic that is on the floor in the entrance had been seriously damaged by all the people walking over them through the years. They've closed and locked the gates and no one uses the front door anymore. Not even the people who work there. We entered through a side door which is just out of sight off to the right.

After taking the picture of the main entrance, I turned around and just had to take a shot of the view from the terrace there. There were many many places where Hearst and his guests had these fantastic views of the ocean, the hills and mountains around the Castle.

Fountain and pools right outside the main entrance to the Castle. After listening to our guide give us stories and more of the history of the buildings, we went inside the Castle.

I didn't take many pictures inside the Castle because of the crowd of people in the tour and how dark it was. Flash photos are prohibited inside the building, so the pictures I did take are kind of dim and don't really show how beautiful everything is inside the rooms, but this one turned out pretty fair. The fellow on the left is our guide. This is in the dining room for the Castle. I never knew that there was only one kitchen and one dining room for the whole Castle. There were no breakfasts in bed or cozy dinners for all those movie stars and notables that visited Mr. Hearst at "The Ranch".

Now, here I could take some nice pictures inside. The "Roman Pool" is an indoor pool built under the tennis court. The pool is 10 feet deep from one end to the other. The only shallow area is in an alcove to the right beneath the dive platform. A lot of the tiles on the floor, walls and ceilings are made with gold, real gold. All of the yellow that you see in the pictures are the tiles made with gold!

This shows the dive platform and shallow portion of the indoor pool. Beautiful, isn't it? That was the last stop on tour number 1. The bus was parked right outside the building to take us back down to the visitor's center. The road goes right past where Mr. Hearst had his zoo. Some of the pens for the bears are still there. The guides say that there are still zebras and a few other range animals that still roam free on the Ranch, although we didn't happen to see any. I guess it just wasn't the right day for seeing them.

After we left San Simeon and the beautiful Castle, we drove a few miles North on Highway 1 to a view point where there are beaches full of elephant seals. And the parking area had bunches of little squirrels running around. I tried to get a few shots of the squirrels, but they just moved too fast.. All I got were blurs.. lol

A couple of the elephant seals were having a disagreement about which one gets that spot to sun themselves in. The noise was incredible...

We found a beautiful view from one of the vista points a few more miles north of where the elephant seals are. Near the town of Gorda, I think. The colors of the water was so vivid, the photo just doesn't do it justice. After we pulled out of the vista point we found a lovely place for a late lunch in Gorda. Very picturesque little inn there. After we ate, we followed Highway 1 North again until we came to the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a narrow and winding road that heads east back into Fort Hunter Liggett. We had a bit of a scare on that road. For most of the way, we saw no traffic at all, but once we got past the ranger station that is near the summit, we met several of the forestry trucks that were headed towards the ranger station or the coast. I had been hugging the right hand side of the road for most of the way, thank goodness, because on one of the blind curves, we met one of those trucks. And he wasn't hugging his side of the road! I swear, there were only inches between our front bumper and the rear end of that truck! It gave us quite a scare! That narrow, winding road is only about 18 to 20 miles long, but it took us about almost an hour to get from Highway 1 back to the Fort.

Once back at the Hacienda, we spent the evening relaxing and enjoying the evening. The Hacienda has quite a flock of swallows that flutter around. We also saw buzzards, hawks and of course, the cotton tail rabbits munching on the lawn.


Sprocket said...

I've been to the Castle a few times over the years. I think I've taken two different tours, one for sure includes the private bedrooms of Hearst and Marion. I remember they each had an old time scale in the bathrooms.

Everything is quite stunning and the views are spectacular.

Anakerie said...

I'm ready to go back to the Castle and take more of the tours. I'm sure that the other 3 they had listed would be just as spectacular as the one we took!

And yes, the views from just about anywhere on the hill up there are spectacular. You turn around and the view just takes your breath away!