Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California
What do split pea soup and a castle in northern California have in common? A man named William Randolph Hearst. Years ago I read an article about the Hearst Castle® and its famous Neptune Pool which sits on a mountaintop in San Simeon, California. I was fascinated by this amazing home and the owners, William Randolph Hearst, storied life, so it was added to my list of “must see, must do” places. On my first visit to San Simeon with my family, we discovered Anderson’s restaurant a small café opened in 1924 by Anton and Juliette Anderson. The café was on the road to the Hearst Castle and frequented by writers and reporters from the Hearst newspaper who wrote about the great service and great food which also included their, now famous, split pea soup.
William Randolph Hearst was the only child of a self-made millionaire and newspaper magnum. He lived a life of privilege most people could only dream about, albeit a messy one. His adult life reads like a soap opera, complete with a mistress on the west coast, a wife and family on the east coast, Hollywood stars, and jealousy and rage that ended in an accidental death on his yacht. Oh, and did I mention the name William Randolph Hearst is synonymous with yellow journalism? All of this and more inspired the critically acclaimed movie by Orson Welles entitled Citizen Kane which became another “soap opera” moment in his life that, it is said, neither he nor Mr. Welles ever fully recovered from.
In the midst of all the drama that ensued, Mr. Hearst found time to collaborate with a famous architect, Julia Morgan, to build a country estate on the family ranch that he “camped” on with his parents as a child (how would you like to inherit hundreds of acres of prime real estate that included 50 miles of coastline in California?). Camping for this little prince included silk covered tents with Persian carpets and all the furnishings from home including maids and servants. He spent almost 30 years building this amazing sanctuary that included a vast collection of European artwork and antiques, exotic gardens and he even had his own zoo on the property. He along with his mistress, Marion Davies, would host elaborate weekend retreats for their equally famous friends including Winston Churchill, President Calvin Coolidge, and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few.
In 1957 the Hearst Corporation donated the property to the State of California and has since been maintained as a state historic park. Driving time from San Francisco or Los Angeles is about 4 to 6 hours depending on the traffic, so pick your airport and head west.
- If time allows, enjoy the scenic coastal drive on Highway 1 for part of your trip. If you’re like me, after about an hour, I was ready to hit the highway.
- Book a hotel in San Simeon. The Marriot offers some nice tour packages and you may even find time for a wine tour.
And, don't forget the famous split pea soup at Anderson’s restaurant.
Thanks again for joining me on my weekend journey's. Talk to you soon.