Tuesday, April 9, 2013

California Dreamin' - Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, and Beyond!

View of Morro Rock from the marina.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Morning came, and off we went to Morro Bay as we continued our drive up Highway 1. Thank you, Steve and Jessie and boys, for your welcoming hospitality. And the homemade bread was pretty tasty, too, Jessie!

Morro Bay is not a very big town, but its waterfront shops and restaurants and marina are all absolutely lovely. There's this big rock (Morro Rock) in the bay that's a major landmark...and also a power plant that's been closed down. There's kind of a love/hate relationship with that particular landmark, but there it still is, begging for a photo.

The power plant from the marina.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
It was yet another spectacular day, with bright sunshine and calm breezes and balmy temperatures. We stopped for a latte at a little indoor/outdoor place right on the water. Again, the waitress gave Harry a hard time. Either they all think he's awfully cute, or they are going for the big tip. Either way, it makes him a happy camper. It's all good. Just for good measure, I happened to find a few tiny things to purchase. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I hope I'll have occasion to wear the clothing at some point.

The Central California Coast
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We made our way up Highway 1, stopping here and there to admire the sand and surf of the California coast, a different panorama appearing with every twist and turn. What an enjoyable drive! We walked along the water's edge wherever we felt like stopping. There was no agenda and no schedule. It was awesome.

Hearst Castle appears.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Suddenly, we saw Hearst Castle appear on a hilltop, floating over a majestic sweep of undulating countryside. The setting is magical and overlooks miles of coastline. Really, what could we? Of course we stopped for a tour. Without a reservation! I know!

Hearst Castle
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
We toured the sumptuous upstairs suites and the expansive gardens and, of course, the swimming pools that everyone has seen in dozens of pictures already. Oh, my. My imagination ran wild. What must it have been like to be a guest of William Randolph Hearst for the weekend at this fanciful place, secluded on the coast, being flown in from Los Angeles on Mr. Hearst's plane and landing on the private airstrip and being chauffeured up the hill, the buildings appearing and disappearing and reappearing as the road curved to the right and the left and the right and the left, higher and higher, and closer and closer on approach? How many gowns and tennis outfits and swimsuits would be packed carefully into how many suitcases and bags? Would I arrive, only to find I'd left my shoes at home? Oh, the horror!

One of the guest cottages.
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
And, because our daughter is soon to be married, I imagined what it would be like to reserve the gardens and terraces for a wedding. Which you can totally do, if you happen to have the considerable rental fee handy in your bank account. One of the docents regaled us with stories of parties past, which I won't share here (as it wouldn't be prudent), of the super wealthy and entitled. At any rate, the stories were entirely entertaining and delightful, and I'm sure the parties concerned wouldn't mind at all if I knew about how their guests were throwing up in the flower pots and falling into the swimming pools and behaving in a manner generally unacceptable to average people. But I digress.

If you happen to be driving up the coast and find yourself in the general vicinity of San Simeon, you really must stop at Hearst Castle. What a treat for the senses. The vistas are superb. The gardens are made for meandering. The rooms are luxuriously appointed. The library is stocked with all sorts of rare volumes. The pools are enticing, yet forbidden. Really, what could be more appealing? And though we were perfect guests, we were not invited to stay for a few days. Tragic! I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment; however, I managed to maintain a stiff upper lip as our shuttle returned to the visitor center.

See all those rocks on the beach? They are elephant seals.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Heading north on Highway 1 once again, we came upon a stretch of beach that was absolutely overrun by enormous elephant seals, sunning themselves and occasionally moving just enough to add a thin layer of sand. Perhaps it helps to avoid sunburn, I wondered? Amazing! We were glad we stopped.

And then we headed north again, past Big Sur and Carmel and Monterey and Seaside and Salinas and San Jose. We had dinner at a new Chinese restaurant in Milpitas that had the very best tofu I've ever tasted. Creamy. Light. Coated in just the right amount of sauce. When I complimented the chef to the waitperson, she just looked at me with a bemused expression on her face. The sort of look that makes you feel stupid for saying anything.

And then we were home again, having fully intended to spend more time on the coast, yet not realizing how quick the drive really is. Besides, when you find yourself within an hour or two of home, wouldn't you rather sleep in your own bed than toss and turn in a hotel room, punching the pillow to make it fit the contours of your neck and head? Of course you would.

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