When we visited California at the end of 2012, our trip involved visiting the homes of some of the richest men in America, and by extension, the world: William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, and Henry E. Huntington, the railroad magnate. They both had large estates in San Simeon and Pasadena respectively, and both were put into trust for the public after their deaths. The latter is especially worth a visit with its beautiful botanic garden, large library, magnificent building and extensive grounds for walking. Whereas Hearst Castle is just weird, really, and they’re not wrong to call it “a museum like no other”. Every room of the ‘castle’ is themed a different period of European history and crammed full of priceless artefacts from the old world in the kind of garish display of excess that only exists in America. At the time when Hearst was alive, there were many impoverished European aristocrats around, so their valuables were ripe for the picking. It became a passion project of his to have all that history concentrated in one place. It’s very interesting to visit nonetheless and has a particularly beautiful aspect on the hill by the ocean.
Visiting those two homes reinforced the mythology of California for me somehow, of it being all about possibilities, people going ‘west’ in search of their fortunes. California has always loomed large in my imagination, mainly because of what I saw on tv and in films. When I finally visited it was one of the few places I’ve ever been to where I instantly felt at home exactly because it felt full of possibilities.
I previously made a little video about Japan and here’s my second very short video. I stitched together bits of footage from our time on the West Coast, where we drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles:
San Francisco and the Bay Area were the highlights so it’s a pity we didn’t take any footage of our stay there. But we recorded a lot more after the US when we hit Mexico and Guatemala, and I’ll post that up next!