September 01, 2011

Photo Essay: Hearst Castle

I drove a few hours north today and finally got to take a tour (actually, two) of Hearst Castle.

To be honest, I was kind of bored.

I think I've just lost my interest in opulence. I'd rather see the abandoned polar bear grottos and ranch relics than Italian tapestries and Persian rugs worth millions of dollars. I don't care much for French Renaissance mantles and gold leaf fixtures and Spanish cathedral wood carvings.

Beyond the buildings that sprawl across the hilltop, the property itself is quite interesting and has a rich history of ranching, which continues today (evidenced by my dinner: sirloin from a Hearst Ranch grass-fed cow, washed down with a glass of Hearst Ranch Malbec). You can still see a number of animals grazing on the hillside, including zebras left over from W.R. Hearst's on-site zoo. But the public only has access to the castle at the top of the hill, which the Hearst Corporation turned over to California State to preserve and run as a state park. The family still owns and operates the ranchland below, allowing the state to drive their shuttle busses up the road to get to the top.

I think after years of touring historic homes (everything from Greystone Mansion to the Newport mansions), I'd just rather be in the wild. Show me some cattle. Let me climb to the top of the hill. But if you're going to put me on a bus with a bunch of overweight, older people walking with canes, and take me to preserved, restored pristine rooms with everything just as Hearst left it (and, if not, just as he would have left it), then I'm going to yawn. And sneeze. And get bored.

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