Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Neptune's Pool is on my Bucket List

I have wanted to swim in this pool since the first time I visited Hearst Castle.

Not sure how old I was.

But the desire to do so is just as strong today!

Right now, the beautiful pool is going through a restoration project and the website states: the Neptune Pool was drained in order to perform maintenance projects on the plumbing and the tile work, as well as conservation work on the marble statuary.

Blah blah blah this just means that it will be in better shape when I dive in at some future date.

Yes, only employees can swim (and then just a few times during the summer months) and yes, there is a hiring freeze at the castle right now.*

No problem, I will not be deterred.

Some day I plan to swim in this pool. When the construction is done. When it is full of water again.

Fingers crossed, I will get an opportunity!

* How do I know all this? It is common knowledge if you search the internet and I grilled the ticket taker, the bus driver and just about every employee I could get my hands on last week, for verification.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Hearst Castle

High up on a hill in San Simeon California is a castle.

At the bottom is a huge parking lot, gift shop and an auditorium to watch a movie called 'Enchanted Castle'.

There are ticket booths and decisions to be made about which tour to take:  Evening Tour (sold out), Grand Rooms Tour (fabulous, would suggest to every first-time visitor), Upstairs Suites Tour (the one we chose on this trip) and finally the Cottages & Kitchen Tour.

And then there is a 15-minute bus ride to the top, to see the castle.

Surprisingly, Alex Trebek's voice comes through the speaker on the bus.

Telling us not to bring food, even gum, aboard and then presents interesting facts about the grounds and the castle.

He does not do this in the form of a question.

Our tour guide, Peter, was quite clear about keeping us all in line, DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING and STAY ON THE GRAY CARPET inside the house, at all times.

Which was hard to do because we are all so busy staring staring staring that you forget where your feet are at any given moment.

Busy looking forward and up and around and zooming…..so much to see.

The picture below was taken from the balcony above bent over backward and staring up.

Love the elephant.


Ok Peter, but even the doorways are rich with detail and demand a glance or photo or two.

William Randolph's bedroom.

His library. The ornate soffits on the ceiling provide incredible acoustics.

His books.

My favorite room on the tour.

His home office.

Every day, a messenger drove up from Los Angeles (later a messenger flew up) with a copy of his newspapers.

Grandiose entrance.

The guest cottages. Seriously?

Had to remind myself to look down occasionally.

This mosaic is one of my favorite shots from the tour.

A glimpse of the indoor pool. 

Then back on the bus to drive past enclosures built for animals -- such as grizzly bears, lions, tigers, monkeys and elephants.

Because frankly if one is going to live in a castle it only makes sense to have a zoo on the premises.

During the movie and the tour, we learned that Hearst chose this particular site for his castle because he spent time there with his father, camping and horseback riding on the mountain when he was a child and then did so in later years with his wife and sons.

When he tired of tents, he built himself a castle.


And so apropos that we left the grounds and headed back to our campsite!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Seasonal Store Displays

If memory serves, Christmas displays started popping up in August. Or at least bits and pieces of Christmas-specific products.

As we wind down to New Year's and then quickly get into the plethora of red hearts that will mark the coming of Valentine's Day, let's take a moment to reflect.

Here are my top 3 favorite retail displays of 2014.

All found this past week on the Central Coast of California.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Holiday Spirit in Los Osos

Spotted this house, down a side street while we we flying down the main road…turned around to get a closer look.

Imagine how bright this place would be at night!!!

Came this close to leaving a note but felt I might have exceeded the age requirement that they were expecting.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Scattered Shots from Santa Monica

Cross between a whirligig and a weather vane - cool art in the park.

Water feature in front of City Hall.

Hmmm, I bet this car gets a lot of attention.

Love this sculpture.

Lounging near the back exit facing the beach….for a split second I thought this gal was real.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas Tree Stand 2014

Last year and the year before that and well just about every year it has been a major ordeal setting up the Christmas tree.

The picking out is fun and easy - we go to Evergreen Nursery - walk up and down the rows, bypassing the Spruce and heading straight for the Nobles.

We narrow down our selection, spin one or two to determine symmetry and then choose.

Tree is bagged, I mean netted, and paid for and then the hard work begins.

We have an old, red and green, slightly rusty, a bit wonky, tree stand. My husband and I have used it for as long as I can remember putting up a tree.

Until this year.

Very dear friends from back east took pity on us once I posted these photos and sent us this for Christmas 2013.

Which we put to use this past weekend.

So easy-to-use that we kept waiting for the tree to fall.

Or at least lean.

Or spring water leaks.


Didn't happen.

4 days and counting…

I think we have a winner!

Thanks Dan and Linda, you're the best.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Camping at Idyllwild State Park

Instead of basting a turkey and then sitting around a table eating ourselves silly, we opted for a low-key Thanksgiving this year.

A healthier alternative that included hiking and shivering.

Packed the tent, sleeping bags, chairs, cooler and cold-weather clothes and headed to the campground in Idyllwild.

Fall colors were incredible.

We were one of about six families in the entire place when we arrived and set up.

Used the family canvas tent my parents passed down to us. Years of memories and overwhelming musty smell (took care of that with a vinegar bath in the driveway before we left town).

Spotted a home-made bow hanging at our site.

All ready for four days of fun in the wilderness.

Summit Loop --- steep uphill and meandering downhill.

Unusual rock indentations.

Stopping to catch our breath.

Reached 80 degrees by midday.

Trees and trees and then some more trees.

With mountain tops peeking through.

View from our campsite.

Thanksgiving Meal: baked potatoes wrapped in foil and turkey balls (mixture of ground turkey, panko, egg, peppers and onions).

Giving thanks late into the night as we burned log after log in the campfire...

Because the minute we stepped away from the fire it was FREEZING COLD.

Layers of clothes, wool mittens and wool hat and wool socks, stuffed into my mummy sleeping bag and still managed to shiver through the night.