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March 14, 2013

A few weeks ago we visited Hearst Castle, high on a hill, near San Simeon overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I had always  remembered the mansion in Citizen Kane and had hoped to someday visit it. As I grew older, I learned that the mansion in the movie was mostly painted screens and the exteriors were photographs of another castle (on Long Island?). But, by then I had seen real photographs of the castle’s indoor Roman and outdoor Neptune swimming pools... and my design tastes as I hit my teens were nothing if not opulent.

Hearst Castle

Look closely, you can see me swimming in the 104 foot long Neptune Pool overlooking the Pacific ocean.

Also, I considered myself to be Esther Williams, so only those pools were really worthy of my aquatic ambitions. I dreamily envisioned a slimmer version of chubby me swimming gracefully amongst the white statues, water spouts, blue tiles and columns. I always pictured myself gliding serenely backwards across the Neptune Pool as Fernando Lamas stroked along in my wake.

The enormous buildings and estate are no longer my idea of enjoyable living, but in my dreams I am still swimming backwards...

And so, in Mom’s honor, we bought our tickets, watched the Kind to William Randolph Hearst hype-film and rode the tourist bus up through the hills to the castle. Yes, we were doing it for Mom! (Although she never approved of the man or his yellow journalism, she would have loved the “house.”)

Hearst Castle

Those arches lead between the statues to small swimming canals off the main pool.

To each his or her own vision of heaven. In my mother’s case, heaven always took the form of lovely and tasteful gift shops attached to a cultural or historical institution. The bigger and more glittery, the better. Think the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store.

Esther Williams wannabe

Me, circa 1950, dreaming that I would one day grow up to be Esther and wear a one-piece bathing and sparkling flowers in my hair.

One of my favorite  cultural moments with Mom was at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe. Preparing to enter the museum,  she demurred, saying she would really just like to go to the gift shop, and not waste time in the museum....!

However, nothing, as I have mentioned in the past, could deter her from entering another’s open home - the more fabulous the better. I am so sorry she missed this one.

The mansion/castle is extravagant, opulent, lavish and grand - very grand. If you like luxurious ornamentation and lots of tapestries and dark wood, this is the place for you.

I guess I still think I’m Esther... you will recognize me smiling, swimming, diving and posing in this dazzling video montage. It was more than worth the price of admission, just to stand beside the pools and be lifted by a magical fountain and carried away by imagination.

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Esther Williams and Fernando Llamas - really takes me back. Our kids would say who?? Thank you for this glimpse of the Hearst mansion, truly over the top.


We went to Hearst Castle over the summer. A friend of mine went over the summer too and they were lucky enough to spot some of the wild zebra on the grounds (animals that were part of Hearst's on site zoo and were later set free and still survive). I'm picturing you driving PCH in the RV - did you do that!? That drive is scary in an SUV let alone and RV. Have fun!

Abby (Favortie Niece)

Abby, we took opposite window seats up and down on the bus, hoping to see some zebra. No luck.

Yes I too would love to go through the Mansion of the wealthy. I too can see you standing on the side of pool fixin to dive in while wearing one of those little yellow polka-dot bikinis and Bernie in his little red speedo.


Kathy, Me in a little bikini? Bernie in a tiny red speedo? I'm so worried you have been having nightmares.

Simply fabulous - I'd settle for the guest house!


But it was the model, as was "Rosebud" & and the man.


Sam, we always wish you could be in our passenger seat enriching the road as we go.

I too always wanted to visit the Hearst mansion.,,I picture myself in the outdoor swimming pool having a "jolly good swim". Then off to my huge bedroom with my huge walk-in closet. Okay, time to wake-up


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