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Full Circle

Day 231: Los Angeles to Carmel

San Simeon, California, USA 
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The Enchanted Hill. The Casa Grande.
Michael Palin - Full CircleMuch of Hearst's fabulous world has been carefully and lovingly preserved. But what cannot be preserved is Hearst's joy in devising such a place. The place is a shell, a glorious, mind-bogglingly rich shell, but its spirit has long gone. You can look, if you have an identity clip on, but if you try to touch, alarm sensors will sound, and sharp voices will ring out if you stand on an unauthorized piece of marble.

As I walk out of the main entrance to the Casa Grande, modelled on the finely detailed stonework of Seville cathedral, a party is waiting to be shown inside. Their guide addresses them solemnly.

'Would anyone using chewing gum please deposit it now.'

A man steps forward with a plastic bucket.

Further up the coast, patches of sea mist have begun to drift inshore, catching me and my open car in sudden pockets of icy-cold air and fifty-yard visibility. Between the fog patches I can see the road rising steeply above the Pacific. Thick, dark tree-cover closes in. This is the area around Big Sur. A secretive place, squeezed between mist, mountains and forest. I try not to take my eye off the road but it's hard not to be distracted by the drama of the surroundings. Razor sharp cliffs rise sheer from rocky bays into which the Pacific rolls, white-capped and irritable.

Reach Carmel by evening. It's affluent and arboreal; tidy and temperate. Clint Eastwood was once mayor here, and Carmel people have enough money to install low-flow faucets to conserve water.
San Simeon, California, USA 
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The Neptune Pool. Hearst brought Europe to America.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 231
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Carmel - California
  • Book page no: 302

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