Monday Feb 22 – San Simeon, Hearst Castle and to San Diego

We woke up late this morning, with the ocean by the door! It was magical to be able to wander down and just see the waves rolling in – but a little odd, still, to be seeing the Pacific Ocean from this side. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m really not – and my sense of north and south are thorougly confused because that ocean’s on the wrong side! We drove back up the coast a little to see and photograph the lighthouse and lion rock (which we’d missed in the dark last night), and then to Hearst Castle. I’d been debating for weeks whether to do a tour of the castle or not. It hasn’t got good disabled access, and would have been very tiring on foot. We also had to get back to San Diego tonight, so we didn’t have a huge amount of time, either. In the end we compromised – went and had a look around the visitor centre, watched the movie about how it was built, and had a look (and took some photos) from the observation deck, but didn’t actually do a tour.

In lots of ways it reminds me of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. A huge crazy folly built high on a hill in an inaccessible location, by a man with a deep passion for what he was doing, and, maybe, more money than sense, and both are now huge tourist attractions, with more visitors than the site can reasonably handle. But King Ludwig went mad, bankrupted himself and died before it could be finished. Hearst finished his dream, and lived in it (with a continuous stream of guests) for many years.

After the castle we went back and had lunch at the restaurant that provided room service last night – it was so good we figured we wanted to eat there again while we still could! After that, we got moving and drove down to San Diego (about 350mi, 560km), stopping to have a look at some elephant seals on the beach, and also with a brief stop at the pier in Santa Barbara. In the later part of the day it became the first installment of my birthday, as Australia woke up to the morning of the 23rd, and many people sent me birthday wishes – thank you all very much!

We stopped at a random sushi place in Thousand Oaks (just off the interstate north of LA) for dinner – and it was truly spectacular. Great chef, fantastic fresh fish prepared in an amazing combination of flavours. I know, I know, me and fish??? In the past that’s been a flat “no”. But it was great – I think I’ve been converted, at least when it’s as good as this – thanks to Bryan for pulling me out of my comfort zone, although I don’t think he realised he was doing it at the time!