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Sunday, July 22, 2007

California Central Coast - Day Two

I woke up early around 6 am because of allergies (we had the airconditioning on high the whole night). So I just connected to the internet to blog my previous entry. I couldn't go back to sleep so I decided to take a shower and become everyone's wake-up call. Al and I packed, had our complimentary continental breakfast (waffles, fruits and others) by our room's patio, and checked out of the hotel. We drove along Highway 1 which was a nice coastal drive to different towns. We were interested in this town called Harmony that boasts a population of 18. Mo was joking that it must be a whole family. We also passed by Morro Bay, where we saw the huge Morro Rock landmark.

We drove to Hearst Castle in San Simeon which was almost an hour away from SLO. As soon as we got there, we bought our tickets, bought souvernirs (I got a carved rosewood pen with my name and Hearst Castle engraved which I collect on my travels), checked out the Hearst collection in the visitor center, took pictures, and checked out the view on the observation area. We rode a tour bus to the castle and on the way, we saw the airstrip that Hearst owned, and a reservoir for areas of the town. We also saw exotic plants, wild turkeys, and a running deer on the land. We entered the gates, and we were led to the front steps of the huge Hearst guest house by the tour guide. The ocean views were just magnificent! My favorite part of the house was the outside pool that looked like a mixture of Greek influences, with white pillars and naked sculptures around it.

We entered the house and saw bedrooms, bathrooms, winding staircases, detailed ceilings and chandeliers, beautiful gardens and walkways, and the breathtaking architecture and views. We entered the castle itself that resembled a cathedral-like design, entered the side door, walked into a living/receiving room which is also a game room for poker, entered a secret door that led to a dining room with wooden panels and carvings on walls, antiques, flags, and a century old ceiling. The tour guide mentioned that the dining room was the inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. On the other side of the room is an entrance under an arch leading to an antique piano with 38 keys, one for each bell in the castle. The piano actually activates these bells. The hallway leads to the theater where Hearst usually entertains his guests to a night of movies. We watched some archived film clips of William Hearst and his friends (such as Charlie Chaplain, etc). The back door of the theater lead us to the tennis courts, while we walked further down to reach the pool house. It was a huge room with stars as the swimming pool tiles and a ceiling with fish designs and gold trimmings. So far, this is the most magnificent house I've seen.

After the tour of the castle, our tour bus drove us back to the visitor center. On the way back, we saw the bear caves where Hearst's polar bears stayed. It was said that he would spend around $10,000 a month just for blocks of ice to keep the bears cool. He had his own mini zoo then btw, with zebras, giraffes, horses, bears, etc. There was also a good sized log cabin that served as a shelter for the animals that ran around freely. As soon as we got back, we entered the National Geographic theater that showed a documentary of the Hearst Castle. It was mosdef interesting.

It was past 1 pm when the movie finished, so we drove to a quaint nearby town called Cambria and decided to eat lunch there. One of the staff at the Hearst Castle recommended The Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens so we decided to check it out. It was by the coast so there was a nice panoramic view of the ocean. It also had an art gallery, a wine area, a plant shop and nursery, caged birds, and a nice garden. We ate at the back of the restaurant, patio style. We all ordered fish and chips, played card trick games (oh Al showed Der his favorite trick where he asks questions and writes down his guess on pieces of paper). It was very relaxing to hang out there.

After a hearty lunch, we drove to downtown Cambria where there were little boutique shops with old world charm. Der wanted to check out a magic shop called Spellbinder that also sold Harry Potter books and others. We walked around, took more pictures, and called it a day. We passed by Paso Robles on our way back and drove past a bunch of wineries. Next time, we thought of just doing some wine tasting in that town when we come back in the future. At night, we ate dinner at Black Angus in SJ (yeah I had my prime rib fix). Overall, we all had fun. This weekend was just awesome! Wish our vacation was longer though.


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