Hearst Castle, a story of ambition and excess in the Big Sur
The ambitious and megalomaniac William Randolph Hearst could never see his great house finished. The Hearst Castle, open to the public and mandatory stop on the Big Sur route in California, was inspired by Orson Welles to create Xanadu.
His ambition and greed knew no bounds. This is what Orson Welles portrayed in Citizen Kane and, therefore, the communication magnate William Randolph Hearst, which would look so well drawn, did everything possible so that one of the best films in the history of cinema (or was it the best?) was never released. Some qualities that Hearst himself also led to ruin, he always wanted more, and, specifically, never to see his great personal dream, his mansion, his castle, the Hearst Castle, which began to be built in 1919 and finished in 1947, when he became ill without seeing his project completed.
If you are driving on state highway number 1, embobado with the Pacific and its sunsets, You will probably pass the sign for the detour of this monument to the incredible, but like Carmel, Monterrey or the 17-mile road, Hearst Castle It is a mandatory stop on the bestseller trip of recent years, the Californian Big Sur. In fact, the Hearst Castle is built on a hill of San Simeon, the southern origin of this idyllic road trip.
If you decide to stop, when you deviate, the first thing you find is the visitor center, which in the 20s was the airport where the first pilots landed like Amelia Earhart or the movie magnate, Howard Hughes. In the center they offer up to three different tours (for $ 22.50) and even in the spring a quarter, at sunset. The most recommended is the Grand Rooms Museum Tour that takes you through 45 main, most baroque and spectacular halls of the castle, the movie theater, the gardens, plus its two swimming pools.
View of the Hearst Castle © Corbis
From the road you can barely see more than the two tall towers of the main house, Casa Grande (Thus, in Spanish), built in the image and likeness of the Andalusian cathedrals, specifically a church in Ronda, of which the magnate fell in love on one of his trips to Europe. Up to here you arrive by bus, and after climbing the huge staircase you reach the first of the pools: the Neptune. Built between 1924 and 1936, what is seen today is the third version, they grew as the ego and the power of the billionaire grew. From there you can see the entire Big Sur, not a building as far as the eye can see. All property of Hearst during its peak was the Rancho Piedra Blanca, which his father bought in 1865 and he expanded. His eccentricities, as Welles had, always went a little further and with so much ground he couldn't think of anything else to ride a zoo with zebras, lions, chimpanzees, elephant ...
After a walk through the gardens, of course, overflowing with flowers, plants and trees that would never occur naturally in that place of the world (and those lions of the Alhambra in Granada!) You enter the Casa Grande and we start the same a journey that followed the illustrious guests of Hearst in the 20s and early 30s, before his decline began. The Assembly Room is the first stop, a giant hall, without a free space, full of furniture and works of art that Hearst was bringing from Europe: a polychrome Spanish virgin, a sculpture by Antonio Canova ... In this 16th-century room, guests were welcomed, movie stars like Chaplin, Cary Grant and, of course, their famous lover: actress Marion Davies.
After having a drink on the flower sofas (which Carmela Soprano would love) they passed to the refectory, the dining room, come on, named after the architect of such an excessive place, Julia Morgan, as in the European monasteries. And if it weren't for the crystal chandeliers and fancy tableware, You would feel in the Middle Ages in one of them.
After dinner, the fun began: guests could choose between the French and American billiard room, with a 15th-century Spanish roof and Flemish tapestries, or watch a movie, almost always one of their productions, of course, in the projection room of velvet armchairs. Today, as Marion Davies did or, as they say, did the newlyweds Jackie and John Kennedy, during the tour they show you a video of the most famous visitors of the castle.
As only one showman as he could have imagined, the tour ended in a more impressive place than where it began: the Roman pool, indoor, with warm water, imitating Roman baths but that not even Nero would have imagined. Built between 1927 and 1934 from the bottom to the ceiling and the walls it is covered with blue and gold mosaic so that it makes a mirror effect and the gold under water seems almost fluorescent. Around, eight marble sculptures, copies of Roman classics.
Hearst Castle almost reached the ruin of Xanadu, as Welles taught in Citizen Kane, but luckily, the family donated it to the State of California and can be enjoyed as almost imagined by its creator ... Mind you, no sign of Rosebud.