Re­nais­sance charm

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TRAVEL - > FROM PAGE 4

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.

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