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Full Circle

Day 231: Los Angeles to Carmel

Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA 
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Travelling in style - by Morgan up the Pacific Coast Highway.
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe Hearst family turned it over to the government in 1957 and it is run, with an iron grip, by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Cars must be left at the bottom of the hill and 'guests' must wear identity clips 'at all times'. I'm given special permission to take the Morgan up the two-mile-long driveway that winds up through parkland to the Enchanted Hill, a collection of guest cottages, landscaped gardens, terraces and pools, dominated by the massive, elaborate towers of the Casa Grande. Three hundred full-time staff are required to maintain what Hearst himself called The Ranch. Although the pervading theme is Spanish, it is full of art treasures, furniture and decoration from every period of European history. The Great Hall is a Gothic baronial fantasy, complete with wooden panels from French churches, Aubusson tapestries, silver candelabra and the like. Elsewhere marble is used like lino, and hardly a ceiling remains that is not coffered, inlaid or painted. Money was never an object. Hearst, one feels, would have had the Pyramids shipped out one by one if he'd lived long enough. As George Bernard Shaw put it, San Simeon is 'the way God would have done it, if he'd had the money.'

At least Hearst enjoyed sharing the place. He not only invited guests up most weekends, he also arranged to have them brought here either by plane to his private airstrip, up the coast on his yacht or on a private train specially hired from the Southern Pacific Railway. The guests, mostly from the world of films and entertainment, were driven up the last few miles to the Ranch by a taxi company whose entire fleet of Packards and Cadillacs was permanently at Hearst's disposal. Banquets were laid on and previews of films shown at his own private movie theatre, often in the presence of their stars and directors.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 231
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: San Simeon - California
  • Book page no: 301

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