Even after watching Citizen Kane twenty-plus times and seeing endless photos of the real palace, the first sight of Hearst Castle is an overwhelming spectacle of architectural and decorative awe. Only four hours from LA, the castle sits atop 250,000 acres of ranch land in San Simeon, CA., with 360° views as far as the eye can see. Architect Julia Morgan was commissioned to build a grand estate for the Hearst family, and over a span of nearly 30 years, Hearst and Morgan built 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways, including the world’s largest private zoo. Quite accurate by Xanadu’s description, Hearst collected countless artifacts, art and antiques from all over the world, which led to the continual expansion of the property to warehouse his goods.
Since it was our first visit, we chose the Grand Room Tour which included the main assembly hall, the refectory, the billiard room and the theatre. Although the tour hardly covered a fraction of the estate, it was evident that the artifact collection was quite serious.