Tuesday, February 7, 2017

California Part 2 - Hearst Castle OMFG

We really liked Paso Robles. It had a cool little town centre, with some galleries and lots of wine tastings and people who clearly enjoyed living there. It wasn't too busy or too touristy or too glossy; just interesting. Our accommodation was a bit retro though. Quite comfortable, but a bit of a classic motel.

We woke up to fog and below zero temperatures that then burned off into a glorious winter's day. We spent the morning wandering around the town, including an incursion into the Historical Society where we got waylaid by some very enthusiastic volunteers.  I trekked my way across the railway lines to a local quilt shop but it was closed! I had more luck with the bookstore. Then off we drove back down to the coast to go to Hearst Castle.

They said it would blow our minds, and it did. What an extraordinary building (or set of buildings) full of such astonishing things! If you are in Europe and you like something old, then buy it and ship it back. Ceilings, doors, tapestries, furniture, paintings, frescoes, statues .... where does rescuing end and pillaging begin? Not a question our tour guide could answer.

But what really blew us away was the setting. It was a perfect clear sunny day - the views were glorious. I would have built my house there too, and never left. What a wonderful spot. I would perhaps have built something a bit smaller, and with more windows ... but we're so glad we went. Mind blown.

We then spent the night in Cambria, just south of Hearst Castle, in a cool old inn building. Cambria is a quite hilarious little town with antique shops and bakeries .... ageing hippies, artisanal sourdough types and a good bar where everyone was watching an american football game. They were taking it very seriously  - Brad could explain the rules to me thanks to his high school exchange year in Ohio back when dinosaurs roamed the earth - but it seemed (and still does) like a very peculiar sport. Beer was good though.

Our next stop was Monterey, and we had planned to drive up the Big Sur road - up the coast on Highway 1 - but the road was closed due to a slip. So back we got onto Highway 101 inland and back through Paso Robles to do a hike in Pinnacles National Park. I'm sure it wasn't as pretty as the coast road but still interesting - through lots of agricultural land and stopping for lunch in King City which doesn't have a lot going for it ... except we had yet another amazing lunch! The food was generally awesome.

The walk was fabulous - another gorgeous day and we did a gentle two-hour walk on a well-marked track through some stunning terrain. The rocks were great. There were sets of truly insane climbers that you would see as a pinpoint against the skyline in some completely impossible place. The track we were on came back through some caves ... which turned out to be real caves (no light at all, and scrambling through enclosed spaces) which I cowardly vetoed. Just too claustrophobic for that, and it was such a nice day. Why be under metres of rock? that could fall on you? Blahhh.

We were thinking about stopping at Salinas but by then it was getting late so we just drove on to Monterey ... or Pacific Grove actually ... to check in and head out again for an excellent Mexican meal. Did I mention the food? On our holiday? The food was great.


  1. i laughed at your last post and the smell of pot everywhere. yeah, california is pretty laid back. took me years to figure out how football was played, so don't feel bad!

  2. Very interesting! I went to a football game at West Point (where a cousin was playing). That was in 1970 when no one here had any idea what American football was like. It seemed absolutely mad. Previously the recruits had had a parade and in which they were wearing thin white trousers under which their boxer shorts (which no one wore here) showed clearly. Again, seemed very strange to me.