A Traveller's tale: LA, NY and the UK, 2005 - Part 2
Hearst Castle—Casa Grande
The above photo shows the intricate detailing of one of the twin towers. The original towers were demolished on Hearst's orders because he wanted a larger design that included a carillon (set of bells).
This is part of the Assembly Room, 82 ft long and 24 ft to the ceiling. It was here that all the weekend guests gathered before having meals in the Refectory next door. It was obligatory to have all meals in the Refectory—Mr Hearst didn't believe in his guests taking meals in their own rooms in the guesthouses. Breakfast in bed? Forget it!
Despite the grandeur of the room (and no doubt the quality of the food), Hearst insisted that two sauces in their original bottles should be present on the table for every meal—French's mustard and Heinz tomato ketchup, just as you see them here. I guess when you're rich enough you can make up your own etiquette.
Hearst would sit at the centre of the table, with his newest and brightest guests seated closest to him. As your length of stay at the estate increased, you were gradually seated further and further away. When you reached the end it was time to take the hint and leave.
And so we came to the end of what had been a fascinating 2½ hours. We had seen a lot and yet there was a lot more to see, which will have to wait until another time. I can only commend the State of California's Department of Parks & Recreaction for the spendid job it is doing in preserving, maintaining and managing this priceless heirloom. It should be on every traveller's list of things to see.
After a quick coffee and Danish in the Visitor Centre and a browse around the souvenir/bookshops, we prepared to sally forth for the drive up the Ocean road to Monterey. We'd heard how splendid the views were along this scenic highway, and were looking forward to them. Unfortunately, Nature had other plans and sent in a sea mist, as she so often does in this part of the world.
Even the birds looked miserable!
Eventually the sun broke through, enabling us to see the majestic sweep of the coast (above). Because of recent rock falls and being unable to pass a particularly slow vehicle on the narrow, twisting road, we reached Monterey a lot later than we had planned and didn't have much time to explore as we had to get back to LA that night. I can tell you though that there's a lot of boats in the harbour! One thing that did catch my eye was the unusual facade of the Golden State movie theatre (below). I also like the movies they were advertising (Rear Window with James Stewart and Grace Kelly, and the 1927 silent classic The General with Buster Keaton. Plus Dennis James at the organ!).
Not sure if this duck-tailed, dual-tyred pickup (or 'ute' as we say in Australia) is a factory product or chop-shop special. Sure looked strange though. Another strange thing we saw on our travels down US 101 (which is a much faster route than the coast road) were these bell-shaped markers (see photo below), which we came across every couple of miles or so. From my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish I knew that El Camino Real meant The King's (or The Royal) Highway, and since we also knew that Spanish missionaries had set up a chain of religious missions along the coast some 200+ years ago, we figured the bells were a commemorative marker of some sort. As it turns out, we weren't far off the mark (pardon the pun). You can find the whole interesting history of the markers here.
By the time we approached the outskirts of LA I was feeling much more confident about driving on the freeway system, even though it was getting dark. The secret is to drive confidently and at a brisk speed. Unfortunately, this mode of driving also led to the realisation of why so many LA drivers suddenly veer across several lanes to reach an exit: it's due to the peculiar method of signing they use on freeways. So many times we would be following the signs to a particular highway or locality, only to find as we neared it that there would suddenly be two signs pointing to it, in different directions (e.g. one sign would point to an exit, the other would say carry straight on). No doubt you could reach your destination using either way, but when you're travelling at 65+ mph at night, surrounded by hundreds of other vehicles, you don't have much time to make a decision. The classic situation was when we wanted to get off the freeway in the vicinity of LAX (LA International Airport). I knew there were at least two major airports in LA, LAX and Long Beach. Given the importance of LAX, you would think there would be specific signs to it early and often. But no. What did we find? A sign pointing to an exit, saying "LA Airports". Did this include LAX? How many other airports are there in LA besides LAX and Long Beach? To be on the safe side I jammed on my indicator and careered across three lanes to the exit (aha!), only to find at the bottom of the off-ramp that this was NOT the best way to LAX—I should have stayed on the freeway. So we did the right turn, U-turn, right turn onto the on-ramp trick (one that I became very proficient at), and eventually there was a big sign to "LAX". But why, oh why, wasn't it there when I needed it?
Continue to Part 3
Back to Part 1
Written 27 October 2005.
Last updated 27 October 2005.