Saturday 9/22/12 (note: previous day, Day 12 on the Santa Barbara forum should have been posted as 9/21/12)
Driving from Santa Barbara (Carpinteria) up Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle today....with the constraints of having booked a 1:40pm Upstairs Suites Tour and planning for a 12:40 Grand Rooms Tour....so need to be there by around noon (no later tours this day, due to a fundraiser)
Took Hwy 154 north of Santa Barbara, thru the Santa Ynez Mountains...it was a nice drive, but not as sensational as expected....maybe better going the other way, south into Santa Barbara. Lake Cachuma was nice tho....and so was Solvang!....Solvang was a last-minute addition to the trip...hadn't heard a thing about that town....but noticed a brochure at the hotel in carpinteria the previous night...read up on it...and decided it was worth a stop. Solvang is a touristy Dutch village, on 246 near Santa Ynez, just off 101....has several windmills, lots of cute shops and plenty of bakeries. Tried some Aebelskiver at the Solvang Restaurant...and had some delicious pastries from one of the bakeries....could easily spend more time here...put this town on your list...it is unique.
Back on 101...it was now a race against time....had hoped to explore the coastal communities more....but would have to settle for fleeting glances of Pismo Beach...near the Holiday Inn on the beach...very nice, very nice.
San Louis Obispo....a friend called me and said....you've got to stop at The Madonna Inn....the sign was right on the Hwy, so checked it out....quite extravagant...there were tourist buses....pink booths in the restaurant...massive stone fireplace....pink everywhere....this would be fun place to stay overnight....and yes, worth a stop for the curious tourist.
Taking Hwy 1 now...towards Morro Bay...saw a huge rock off the shore...just had to investigate....turned out to be--what else--Morro Rock...wonder if it is a sea stack?...whatever, it is a very scenic spot, this Morro Rock in Morro Bay....don't want to get my Morro Rocks mixed up now...didn't just see one in SEKI??
From Morro it was slow going until finally reaching San Simeon around noon....straight to the Hearst Castle Visitor Center...lined up for the 12:30 Grand Rooms Tour...would take the 2 tours back-to-back...1:40 Upstairs suites was limited to 14 people.
Boarded the bus...barely made it on time. The drive up the hill to the castle was great...narrated....once up at the castle....what time was it??...it was "WOW" time again. In recent years have visited "The Breakers" and other mansions in Newport RI....as well as The Biltmore (which costs $75 to tour) in Asheville NC....Nothing imho can touch Hearst Castle....it is THE most spectacular house you will ever see...admittedly, part of the allure comes from the setting....up that steep hill, overlooking the ocean...it is almost beyond description....how was this place ever built?...how did they do it?
The tours themselves were great...try to do 2, back-to-back...if you can...unlike The breakers, you can take all the pictures you like....plenty of security around...and access to the Neptune Pool was limited, due to the evening fundraiser.
After the Hearst Castle...drove the 7 miles north on Hwy 1 to Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals....absolutely amazing...do not miss this.
Had some California Halibut at the San Simeon Beach Grill...a nice way to end another great day...Day 13...Hwy 1 to Hearst castle. Next up for day 14....up Hwy 1 to Monterey, on the Monterey Peninsula forum.