If you ever visit California (or even if you already live here), I want to take this moment to suggest that you take a tour at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. While I don't particularly care about the actual history of why the castle was built (read: William Randolph Hearst, spoiled rich kid grows up and builds a fancy house, yada yada yada), I very much appreciate all that it entails pertaining to architecture, nature and the incredible relics that are on display within. Hearst Castle during the daytime is quite a beautiful sight, but let me tell you, the castle at night, is even twice as enchanting. Combined with a wonderful tour guide and docents who actually dressed up as if they were from the appropriate time period (late 1920's and 1930's), on this particular evening, I let my imagination run away with me as I stepped off the tour bus and into the crisp night air that led up the stone steps to the majestic site.
The brilliant night started off with a nice hot chocolate (my goal this Fall/Winter is to try a hot chocolate at every place I visit) and a double chocolate chip cookie from the snack bar, while we waited for the tour bus to arrive. After 30 minutes of wait time, we hopped onto the bus and headed back in time to the 1920's. Even the bus ride in itself is an adventure in the form of a spiraling 15 minute drive up the hilltop all while listening to the jazzy hits of the decade (quite Gatsby-esque, if you ask me).
Once we reached the castle grounds, we were given an engaging tour of one of the two guest homes (that can almost be classified as two small mansions). I forget if it was Casa del Mar or Casa del Sol- I just know it was Casa del SOMETHING! Afterwards, we continued through the luscious garden of flowers, statues, and a fountain, to which we eventually reached the front doors of the castle. We quietly entered and instantly I wished I had been invited for dinner or socializing back when the castle was "all the rage". Beautiful lights and over-the-top European decor- usually not my thing- but in this case, it's quite enthralling and certainly has a magical feel especially with all the authentic Art pieces (the Art History geek in me did not want to blink for fear that I would miss seeing a famous art piece of which I saw and recognized many thanks to all the Art History classes I've taken- probably one of the few times I feel that getting a college education hasn't been in vain).
You'll notice that some of these pictures are blurry and I just have to blame that on the fact that no flash photography is allowed (and they will repeat that to you about 438 billion times as well as STAY ON THE CARPET, DON'T STEP ON THE MARBLE FLOORS!)
The kitchen was one of my favorite parts of the tour. As soon as you walked into the room, it literally smelled like baked bread and all kinds of baked goodies. I think the tour guide said they were actually baking bread that day but I can't be certain as I was too busy admiring the fake food that was sprawled out on the counter tops (I have a weird obsession with fake food and always loved playing "house" when I was little just so I could pretend I was eating the fake food).
The tour lasted nearly 2 hours which was just the right amount of time to take it all in. It ended with the viewing of the indoor pool which, in my opinion, is even more spectacular than the outdoor one (although I wouldn't have wanted to swim in the indoor one- the bottom is too dark and I fear a non existent shark monster would grab me and take me under never to be seen again!). That said, I can't recommend this night tour enough! It was truly unforgettable and I hope I can go back and visit during Christmas time (I've heard the decorations are dazzling). Oh, and I just had to take a picture of my shoes- which, proudly, did not roam off the carpets and onto the forbidden floors even once!