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Part 4: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club

The very grand exterior of Hearst Castle.

In the fourth installment of his Great Drives series, guest blogger Nick Kurczewski stops at Hearst Castle with the Porsche Travel Club.

By Nick Kurczewski

“I could stay here all day,” whispered one of my fellow Porsche Travel Club companions during a tour of the magnificent Hearst Castle. Located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this breathtaking residence once owned by William Randolph Hearst includes the extensive main residence (more than 165 rooms!), along with several opulent guest cottages. There are also acres of outdoor pools and manicured gardens, all surrounded by marble fountains and statues.

Stretching to 250,000 acres, on clear days the Castle offers sweeping views of the California coastline. At one point, the estate included its own private airfield—still in occasional use by the Hearst family—and what was at the time the world’s largest private zoo. A small herd of zebras and several other exotic species can often be spotted roaming the surrounding countryside.

William Randolph Hearst had the vision, and money, to build this hilltop escape that he liked to call La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill). The property had belonged to Hearst’s father since 1865, though for years it remained largely undeveloped. In 1919, architect Julia Morgan was tasked with designing the property. It would take nearly 30 years to complete and had to encompass Hearst’s dizzying array of precious art and antiquities.

In the Assembly Room, the tour’s first stop, the walls are lined with a series of tapestries that once hung in the palace of Versailles. Antonio Canova’s seemingly bashful “Venus Italica” stands modestly in one corner. Once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother, Lucien, our guide estimates the statue’s current value at approximately $20 million dollars. Renovations to the house, and the vast job of cataloging the artwork contained within, are still ongoing.

Hearst Castle's Roman Pool.

For many visitors, myself included, one of the tour highlights is the Roman Pool. The interior tile-work makes stepping inside like finding yourself in a jewelry box of epic proportions. Every surface is covered in vibrant colors that, much like the crystal clear water, look as though you could dip your fingers into them. Occasionally, charitable auctions and special events allow a lucky few to take a dip in the pool, or savor sparkling wines and a gourmet dinner served on the Main Terrace.

Photos by Nick Kurczewski


Related:
Part 1: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club
Part 2: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club

Part 3: Great Drives, Porsche Travel Club

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About Sarah Elbert

Sarah Elbert

As executive editor of Delta Sky, Sarah Elbert lassos the best writers she can find to cover the world—as well as contributing some prose of her own. Before coming to Sky, Sarah was editorial director of magazines including Northwest WorldTraveler and Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Postcards. She has been a newspaper editor, a freelance writer and an Associated Press reporter, riding with the White House travel pool (back in the Clinton days) and covering everything from natural disasters to a cat kidney transplant. Sarah has written for The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun—but not the NY Daily News. She now lives in Minneapolis, which she finds lovely and underrated, but does occasionally miss Manhattan and the Staten Island Ferry. Sarah would like to think she could again go backpacking across Europe, and she still loves to travel, but she knows that train has left the station. It's just so much quicker to fly.

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Deborah Caulfield Rybak

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