i can't imagine a trip to cambria without a stop at the biggest tourist attraction in the area - hearst castle. not that i'm particularly fascinated with the place or anything, but it's just what you do when you head up here. so we made reservations online for a tour of the upstairs suites (there are several different choices, and this was the only one we hadn't been on) and headed up to check it out.
part of the tour includes a bus ride that takes you from the visitor center up the hill to the entrance. it's a fairly sizable drive that takes about 10-15 minutes on the road that was traveled by hearst and his mistress, marion davies, as well as a bunch of old hollywood stars who visited the "ranch" in its heyday. our tour guide was waiting for us at the top of the stairs, and our entrance to the mansion was here. because ol' william apparently couldn't seem to complete the damn house, we could see where the exterior was left unfinished.
we trudged up the stairs to one of the guest rooms. this one was meant for a married couple to share, and just like the rest of the joint, it was ornate as all hell. i seriously couldn't even imagine staying one night here - it just doesn't look very comfy or homey.
if you were single, you got to share a room with a fellow unattached guest. the teen and i dug the vintage clothing that they draped on the beds. and they had a pretty nice view, too.
hearst himself had a room on the very top floor, of course. and it was separate from the homewrecker's. i guess they still felt like they had to keep up appearances, despite the fact that he was still married was common knowledge. psh.
we also got to see the "gothic study" - his personal office where he spent hours upon hours slaving away, toiling into the wee hours to manage his massive holdings.
despite living the good life (i suppose, if you're cool with being known more for your illicit affair with a married man than the fairly successful acting career you've created), marion davies was apparently quite the lush. her sugar daddy kept the liquor locked up in this safe, supposedly to keep guests from swiping bottles and boozin' it up in their rooms. but rumor had it that it was really to monitor ol' marion's alcohol intake.
at the end of our tour, we were set free to roam the grounds for as long as we wanted. this was different from other visits - in the past, the tour ended at the roman pool and then you boarded the bus to return to the visitor center. here, the bean admired one of the many fountains just before she got chastised by a passing tour guide for daring to sit on the marble.
i get it, i really do. they want to keep everything pristine and preserve it for the enjoyment of many generations to come, blah, blah, blah. but man, the lady was all growly and stuff about it. geez. you can see what we thought of that.
so to soothe her hurt feeling box, we decided to go down to the fancy-schmancy neptune pool. it's just as fabulous as i remembered, and there were even cushy lounge chairs to relax in.
but for a four-year-old who's in swimming lessons and always eager to get a little practice in, it pretty much makes zero sense that there's this awesome, ginormous pool that you can't jump into. she wasn't very happy to hear this news.
and so to distract her, we sat down on the steps right at the edge of the pool and chatted about random stuff to change her mood. then she decided she wanted to take a picture of me.
by then, everyone was over it. we headed back down towards the indoor roman pool, where the bean ooh'ed and aah'ed over the 24-karat gold mosaic.
she was pretty pooped, which was to be expected considering we'd climbed 200-ish stairs throughout the tour we'd taken - plus walked her all over the grounds afterwards. so on the ride down, she passed out cold in the hub's arms. i was glad she was getting her nap in, but i was really sad that this meant she was going to miss the elephant seals. they gather on the beach just a few miles north of hearst castle, and we stopped to see them (along with a bazillion other folks).
on the way back, we decided to drive through the tiny town of san simeon and stop at sebastian's general store. this little shop has been in business since 1852, and is a state historical landmark.
our tour guide had mentioned that the store sat on a little chunk of land that was pretty much the last holdout against the mighty william randolph hearst. he would go down and visit the store owner periodically, making small talk and catching up on local gossip before throwing out yet another offer to buy the land and complete his san simeon empire. alas, he was never successful - although the owners did finally sell to the hearst family much later.
inside we found the town's post office, and then i was overly excited to find the perfect snack.
with the bean still sound asleep, we continued to make our way down the highway. eventually we ended up in morro bay, driving right up to the giant rock that's been sitting there for something like 20 million years.
as we drove around town, i noticed a handful of salt water taffy shops. just as i was lamenting the fact that none of them seemed to make their own taffy, we spotted this one:
well, duh. obviously we had to stop.
the guys dropped us off and then headed off in search of i can't even remember what. and after we'd made our salt water taffy purchase, we took a little stroll. this sign made us giggle.
i was taking this picture when the boys showed up to pick us up to search for dinner.
after checking yelp, we ended up at a cute little restaurant on the water.
we were lucky to snag the very last table, because right after we were seated we overheard the hostess telling everyone walked in the door that if they didn't have a reservation, it'd be an hour-plus wait. whew - our timing was impeccable. the food and service were really good, and we walked out the door just in time to see the sunset.
yup, that is one big ass rock.