As you may have read around here...I turned the big 5-0 back in June. In celebration of having achieved the half-century mark, I planned a trip up the California coast through Santa Barbara, Cambria, Big Sur and Monterey. Thought I'd start sharing some of the adventures that we (took my mom and my 12-year-old son along with me) had along the way.
We spent the first four days in Cambria which is a tiny little one-street, seaside town north of Morro Bay and south of San Simeon. We stayed at a lovely little beachfront motel right overlooking beautiful Moonstone Beach. I was able to hear the surf crashing from my room even with the windows closed. It was awesome.
Of course, one of the most famous nearby attractions is Hearst Castle. Built by William Randolph Hearst high in the hills overlooking San Simeon Cove - it's an amazing architectural accomplishment. I had visited once before when I was back in high school and my mom had visited when she was a girl, but we both thought it would be interesting to see it again. I'm not sure my son was all that keen on it, but he was a good sport about it.
I'm not really one for photos of buildings - I was more interested in the exterior gardens and animals - but I did take a few shots just to give an idea of what the place is like. This is the front entrance of what Hearst referred to as "La Casa Grande" or "The Big House." It's the main house on the property. And yes, if it looks gold in the picture...it is real actual gold.
This is a closeup of one of the bell towers. In addition to having bells, the middle sections (with all the crescent stonework) of both towers are actually giant cisterns which provide all the running water for the house.
Interior shots were hard to get due to no flash allowed and multiple people in each tour group crammed into each room that we stopped in. However, I had to take a few shots of the amazing ceilings - every room has carved and painted ceilings that were originally from buildings in Europe and were brought over to New York after WWI where they were purchased by Hearst for the castle.
This is another one of the ceilings - I think this is the one the docent said is Poseidon giving the horse to the city of Athens (he lost to Athena who gave them the olive tree which is why it's named Athens and not Poseidonia).
Each room is also filled with amazing artwork including paintings, carvings and sculptures. This piece is a Madonna and child carved from wood and painted.
This is the mantelpiece over the fireplace in one of the guest bedrooms.
More art from the same bedroom.
One room had a whole bunch of these ceramic pieces and I loved the color scheme and wanted to remember it for future jewelry projects so I took quite a few shots of these pieces.
Two vases and a centerpiece on the sideboard in this bedroom.
A closeup of one of the vases.
I was really taken with this metal and Lalique crystal box. According to the docent, this is just the "wrapping" that was used to present a birthday gift to Hearst at some point. The photo doesn't do it justice - it was gorgeous.
There are multiple pools on the property. The most famous is the Neptune Pool - which is almost a miniature replica of the Roman coliseum with a pool at the center. Unfortunately, when we were there it was drained and under repair for some cracks (although personally, I thought it was more likely it was drained due to our drought) in the bottom. So, instead, I took a few shots of the amazing sculptures of the indoor pool. I think this is Artemis, but I don't remember for sure.
This is looking down the length of the pool. There's a diving platform halfway down on the left. Oh, and all the tiles have a layer of gold sandwiched between them so everything glows and twinkles. It's really stunning.
Now on to my favorite part - the outside. When we first walked up, there were banks and banks of these incredibly lush hydrangeas.
One area was all shades of lavender and cream.
And then there was the pink section - gosh they were gorgeous. I can't get mine to look anywhere near this good (okay, let's be honest, I can't even keep mine alive).
Then, during a break between the two tours that we took, I heard "tap, tap, tap." Looked up and realized there were Acorn Woodpeckers hanging out on the huge palm trees above us.
Really active and swooping all over the place...and then I realized why...
They had a nest in the top section of another palm tree nearby. Caught this one peeking out - I think I see a bit of a gape so maybe this is an almost-fledged youngster?
Here's mom and dad working hard!
One interesting problem we ran into at the Castle - they have shut down all the public restrooms due to the drought (it's a historical site owned by the State of California so they fall under the Governor's new water restrictions). After determining that the porta-potties in the parking lot were...well...unusable...we decided to have a late lunch (and hopefully find a bathroom) in nearby San Simeon Cove.
Um...there's ONE place to eat there with ONE bathroom so it was...interesting. Better than the porta-potties (but not by much). However, at that point, we were all so desperate for both food and facilities, that we made do. One plus to eating lunch there...caught this Steller's Jay sitting on a tree stump.
He posed quite nicely for me.
And squawked a lot. I think he wanted a piece of my lunch.
So, after all the necessities were taken care of, we meandered down to the cove itself and walked out on the pier. This is a view looking south down the coast from the pier.
And this is a view looking north at the surf crashing on the rocks at the end of the cove.
I looked over the edge of the pier and found this Western Gull posing perfectly on this wooden piling. Ignore the bird poop.
There were hundreds of barn swallows swooping down over the waters of the cove and then heading UNDER the pier where they had built their nests. The gull is keeping an eye on one that was swooping a little too close.
Back up in the parking lot as we were getting ready to leave for the day, I spotted what I initially thought was just a House Finch (stupid 50 year old eyes can only see "brown, streaky, small bird" - I have to take a photo and then blow it up to figure out what I actually saw) but turned out to be a juvenile Western Bluebird.
You can just see a tiny hint of blue on his wing feathers as he contemplates moving to a better perch to get away from the Crazy Camera Lady.
Here he is posing on a old, rusted-out barbecue.
And giving me the annoyed Bluebird look...
Or maybe it's the wind blowing his feathers that he finds so annoying.
And...off he goes. You can really see the blue in his wings now...plus I love that shadow on the barbecue behind him. Maybe he's pretending he's a hawk?
Other denizens of the parking area field included a whole flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds.
I cannot get a photo of one at home to save my life...had to go all the way to San Simeon and there was an entire flock just hanging around.
Finally, we were ready to head back to our rooms after a full day. Just before we left, we tried to stop at the little marine wildlife center in the parking lot only to realize it was already closed. Fortunately, mom noticed a sign on the door advising that there would be a guided beach tour the next day so we decided to come back and check it out.
I am so glad we did - it was an amazing experience which I'll talk more about in my next trip post so stay tuned!