comprising ornately framed paintings.
Hearst’s own bedroom is comparatively sparse, with a canopied bed sitting under a 14th-century wood ceiling carved with medieval figures; a similarly modest space across the hall was used by actress Marion Davies, his long-time companion.
Also on this tour is his office, another church-like space with Gothic-style arches, and a comparatively intimate, low-ceilinged library lined with thousands of books and 150 ancient Greek vases.
Outdoors, visitors can wander the grounds at their own pace. Esplanades around the property are fragrant with flowers and fruit trees, and populated with sculptures and fountains.
The jaw-dropping Neptune pool is surrounded by ancient Roman columns, a temple pediment and 17th-century Italian basreliefs; its terrace offers spectacular views down to the sea.
The path back to the bus takes you through the stunning indoor Roman pool, its blue-and-yellow mosaic tiles accented by marble statues, standing lamps and the occasional sunbeam through a skylight.
The Cottages and Kitchens tour includes Hearst’s extensive wine cellar and three guest homes, one of which has a ceiling decorated with 22-karat gold leaf.
Most tours last about 40 minutes each, although that length is a bit deceiving.
The only way to get to the castle from the well-appointed visitors centre is a 15minute bus ride. It takes you five miles up a winding mountain road to 1,600 feet above sea level.
As you ascend, a recording by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek narrates the history of the property.
Any questions you still have when you get off can likely be answered by the extremely knowledgeable tour guides on the hilltop.
Each tour also includes a ticket for a 40minute movie about Hearst at the visitors centre.
In addition, there are several biographies for sale in the extensive gift shop.
Truth be told, had I ever merited an invitation to the castle back in Hearst’s day, I would have been terrified to touch the furniture, much less sleep in the lavishly-decorated guest suites.
It’s hard to imagine people living, dining and socialising in what today feels more like a museum. Turns out I’m not alone. So during winter and spring, the park system offers a night tour in which tourists can mingle with people in period costume.
Or, if you have some major cash to spare, you can populate the estate with your own friends. The Hearst Castle is available for rent. – AP
ancient roman columns, dating from the first to fourth centuries, surround the outdoor Neptune Pool.
the blue-tiled, indoor roman pool.