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17th Nov 2017 - 18th Nov 2017
William and Barbara by the sea

Yesterday we drove from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara, stopping for a tour of the Hearst Castle on the way. In 1919 the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst hired a San Francisco woman architect Julia Morgan to build him a “ranch” as a holiday house on family land overlooking the coast at San Simeon. He spent the rest of his life (till the 1950s) adding more and more lavish buildings in a jumble of styles, with a total of 46 bedrooms, crammed full of loot from Europe and Asia: Italian wooden ceilings and paintings, carved choir stalls from German churches, Egyptian and Roman statuary, Persian tiles and carpets, Flemish tapestries, Irish silverware etc etc. It was never finished, but became a gathering place and playground for politicians, movie stars and others of the fast set, and a place at different times to house his wife and his mistress.  If you have ever seen the film Citizen Kane, then you will have seen a similar story. It is a spectacular setting, 490m up on top of a mountain that you can only approach on a winding road in a tour bus from the coast. It’s a pastiche of course but with some lovely parts, like the indoor Roman pool that Geoff would be very happy to swim in.

The drive south to Santa Barbara showed us how dry the Californian countryside can be, but it is still beautiful with constantly changing mountain views. Poor old Barbara has been demoted as a Catholic saint, but her town here is a lovely playground for the rich just north of Los Angeles (and home to Ronald Reagan). Surrounded by high hills, with a long palm-fronted beach, there are familiar trees everywhere: Moreton Bay figs, eucalypts, she-oaks and jacarandas, and even a Billabong shop, so it feels a lot like home. We toured the beautiful Mission here, established in 1786 by Spanish Franciscans, sent from Mexico to convert the local Chumash Indians and keep Spanish control of this area, which was at the time also being explored by Russians farming seal furs on the Channel Islands nearby off the coast. The mission has been continuously run by Franciscans to this day. The church was built with Indian labour, and based faithfully on the only plans the brothers had to hand - in a book written by the Roman architect Vitruvius in 27BC, so it looks very much like a Roman temple in many ways! Of course much of the rest of the town is definitely secular: shopping, eating and drinking seem to be the main activities, but the Spanish/Mexican building style is very appealing. You do feel Mexico is very close.

Tomorrow we are going to travel by train to Los Angeles, instead of driving as we had originally planned (we have left the car here). We figured this would be less stressful than negotiating LA traffic, and more scenic and convenient, since we will be staying near the Union station downtown. The weather is a sunny 21 degrees, just delightful and probably why we are noticing quite a few homeless people here, pushing shopping trolleys piled high with their possessions. This would be a much better place to sleep out at this time of year than Chicago, or even San Francisco.

Next: LA Confidential
Previous: To Morro Today

Diary Photos

A Hummingbird - we have never seen one in real life. (Hearst Castle)

The wings are going so fast you cannot see them in the photo.

Beautiful statute (Hearst Castle)

Hearst Castle

One of the bungalows at Hearst Castle.

Main entrance to the building at Hearst Castle (a collection of buildings).

View from the Hearst Castle (way up on the top of a hill).

Christmas at Hearst Castle (Assembly room).

Hearst Castle Refectory room.

Building mosiacs and ceiling that money has bought from ancient Europe.

Hearst Castle movie room.

OK, I'm gay!

Spectacular double fuschias. (Hearst Castle)

Hearst Castle Indoor Roman Pool. Yes, there is an outside pool being renovated.


Oh, to swim here!

Taken from the bottom of the hill on a cloudy day. Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

Peter under a HUGE Moreton Bay Fig

SB State Street - their main drag.

The biggest sox shop we have ever seen (SB)

Lovely. We bought a pair of sox for our grandson that he colours in the pattern!

Better than rain and snow.

Thoreau meets SB via the Unitarians.

A beautiful garden in SB.

A good option for a very dry California.

Will this stop the intruders?

You don't have to feed this dog.

Mission Santa Barbara.

The Franciscan friars' cloister and quadrangle at the Mission.

SB Mission church

So Mexican - well it was until the Yanks got hold of it.


Inside the SB Mission church

This Jesus sculpture must have been done by a Californian gay man.

Unusual ceiling decorations in the Mission church.

Saint (Santa) Barbara herself. You have heard of her haven't you?

Australian presence in the Mission cemetery.

Tall trees all the way to the ceiling.

SB lizard.

Oh a eucalypt - I feel quite at home.

Tranquillity it was. The house name was spelt with two ll's.

A house wall.

Colour in suburban SB.

SB main drag: State Street.

Sculpture plus man.

SB beside the sea.

Try this!


Fisherman, oil rig and boat.

Birds of America.

Kayaking in SB.

A small whale - yes!

Sunset in Santa Barbara.

Boys and their toys.

Boats at sunset. That is an island in the background.

We bid farewell to sunny SB on route to LA mayhem.

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