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.
PASS THROUGH QUICKLY and DON'T BLOCK DOORWAYS.
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.
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.
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!