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Monday, August 3, 2015

A good deed for the day and elephant seals...

A strange combination of topics surely?
Well the good deed was on our Hearst Castle Day Tour...you might remember we had had an early start and were at the meeting point in plenty of time...half an hour to spare!
The meeting point was actually Starbucks but cousin Adrienne suggested a photo in front of the cafe next door as it's an icon! Lol
         ( Photo by A. Parks) 
The tour was a little late starting. Apparently a translator was supposed to be coming with us to translate for a couple with no English...a young Italian couple. Finally our tour guide/driver found out that the translator was ill and that the company were unable to find a replacement at such short notice. It was interesting watching Rich ( the tour guide) trying to dissuade the couple from coming on the tour and to book for another day or get a refund. The couple didn't really know what he was saying but they seemed to know that they were doing the trip regardless. 
I stepped forward and offered Rich my iPad and suggested he use Google Translate...it's not great but it seems to handle French and Italian translating very well. Being a man, he refused my offer. But as the trip started the teacher in me (still!) thought that this young couple would need to know times to be back to the vehicle after each stop, safety issues needed to be explained and it would be nice for them to be aware of some of the commentary at least. So....
Out came my iPad and away I went...the young couple soon got the idea and sometimes they would indicate they wanted to write a question or statement too.
So my iPad and I worked away throughout the day to just help make the couple feel a bit more part of our small group. The translations are a 'bit wonky' in grammar and syntax but understandable. And of course 'ok' is universal...and they would either say it or type it! I did teach them the Aussie favourite saying of DH...'No worries!' Lol. 
Now the second part of this post...in the next photo, DH and the young Italian couple (who incidentally were on their honeymoon after being married on July 26!) are walking towards that railing in the midground of the photo. It is at San Simeon...
And this is what everyone is standing there and looking at...
Sun baking by the water's edge?
These are elephant seals and this is a rookery or colony of them...
Two of the males were having a bit of a 'set to'!
This fellow was just relaxing; notice that he is shedding an old layer of skin. Our guide told us that with each shedding they become progressively darker.
So knowing that about the colour, there are some youngsters in the next photo...
Hmmm...should I go for a swim perhaps he wonders?
Maybe I will! 
Wondering why they are called elephant seals? Well they have a hook of a nose that could resemble a trunk but...
Full  grown males measure 16 feet and weigh 6600 pounds and females are smaller but still weigh 1200 pounds! We were all advised to stay behind the fence and I had no problem with that! Lol
As well as the seals, we saw another creature darting around our legs...no fear of humans!

And then he ran down near the seals and he didn't seem to be frightened of them either. 

Now I have asked a few people for advice about what this little creature is. I had just assumed he or she is a variety of squirrel, but some people have said it is a chipmunk and others have said a marmot...whatever it is, it was very entertaining! :-)

Backlog...???

This always happens when I travel...I get behind with my blog posts because there is always so much to write about! ( always worth the effort to blog about our adventures as the posts are great to look back back on in future years!)
We are actually in San Francisco now, but I still have posts and photos to share of our time in Huntington Beach. And we fly to Vancouver tomorrow morning so I will still be behind in posting!! Still, I'm sure that when we start the Inside Passage Cruise to Alaska/Canada on August 15, most of that week will possibly be out of range for my trusty US mobile hotspot. 

So this post is about our stroll around Huntington Beach...on the pier...and lunch at the iconic diner at the end of the pier. 
Walking to the pier from the car park...
Adrienne and I standing on the pier with lots of beach goers sun baking or swimming. Out to sea are oil rigs. Huntington Beach is an oil producing area. 

To the right of us out of view are some beach volleyball courses. US beaches seem so much wider than the beaches on the east coast of Australia...


The next photo shows the other side of the pier...


There was a Surfing Championship going on, so there were big crowds of people watching that...this is on the south side of the pier. Adrienne, our cousin, said the waves on the north side of the pier are always flatter, so no good for a surfing comp!
Lots of marquees etc on the southern side!
There was a very large crowd of people watching the US Open of Surfing from the beach and there was nearly as many watching from the pier...(like us for a while!)


We saw the end of that day's comp...just 2 surfers...

Adrienne went on ahead and put our names on the waiting list for Ruby's Diner at the end of the pier.
We waited patiently on a very convenient bench seat outside Ruby's...

DH preferred to stand and look for more things to photograph...
              (Photograph by A. Parks)

And it wasn't long before a 'table for 3' became available and in we went.
Wow! We'd stepped back in time to the 1950s and all those movies and TV shows like 'Happy Days'!

The staff were dressed just like those at Arnold's in Happy Days :-)
There was even a young staff member walking around making balloon animals for all the children who were there...
            (Photo by A. Parks)
Our meals arrived and they were delicious...
So a nice meal with a lovely view...pretty good I reckon. 
When we left the diner we got talking to the group of young staff outside; these staff organise the wait list. Realising we were Australian, one young man said he had a question that he has always wanted to ask...'In Australia, do you have pet kangaroos in your backyards?'. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Our trip to Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

This post will not give full details about this magnificent edifice built for William Randolph Hearst (whose father started making the family millions millions as a mining 'magnate') 'newspaper Baron' or as the guide said on Wednesday, 'the Rupert Murdoch' of his time. William's parents had used the land as a working ranch, with extremely humble accomodation, but when William's mother Phoebe died, he set to, to build a BIG house!! The property is still a working ranch of the Hearst Family but the house was 'handed over' to 'the people'...a bit like the National Trust I suppose. If you would like more information, here is a link. http://hearstcastle.org/

All visitors meet at the visitor centre and are taken up to the ' Castle' by shuttle buses...the house is high on a hill! 


The bus journey is along a steep and twisting road, and it takes a while to get to the house...and there, visitors are met by sets of steep stairs!...so more climbing!

We could see glimpses of this big house...puff puff...near the top in the next photo but still more stairs to the right. Surely all those movie stars who were guests of Hearst's   in the 1920s, 30s didn't have to walk up that way!!

Soon though, we were standing outside the main entrance for a talk by our guide...and a perfect chance to look at all the art work on the front of the house!
The floor tiles in the main entrance are deteriorating so our tour group went in by a side entrance...we only were shown a few rooms. They were all filled with old art work...some, like the huge tapestries were 500 years old. Others, were thousands of years old. Apparently Hearst was a keen collector of old antiquities and we were assured that all items in the house had the bills of sale. 
Some of those huge, 500 year old tapestries...the carved walls looked like they had come from old cathedrals or maybe just old manor houses.
  Lovely floors and lots of art work inside...


A view of the banquet hall...

A sitting room to withdraw to after dinner...after while in this room, guests would then make their way to the movie theatre room in the house. 
The games room...


Hearst liked to treat his many guests well and during the day they had the choice if many activities, be it horse riding, wandering through the Rose arbour ( just the remnants of that left) or going to Hearst's private zoo on the property. Hearst modelled  it on the then progressive Berin Zoo. We saw the polar bear enclosure which has been left as it was. In the 1930s Hearst suffered business setbacks and decided to dismantle the zoo with most animals going to various zoos. But the zebras were set free to wander...they were not cared for...they were on their own. And they thrived and their numbers grew...so now you can come across scenes like this which was on the road to San Simeon...
Zebras grazing with cattle!!!!!

Another pastime for guests was the beautiful gardens...which were my favourite part I think!




The artworks in the garden were amazing!


The views were also amazing...

The tennis courts...
There were 2 pools...outdoor and this indoor pool...



Hearst started the building program for this home in 1919...I wonder how much it cost? The hostess at all the entertaining that Hearst did here was not his wife and mother of his children. Nope...she stayed back east in the family mansion there. Mr Hearst's girlfriend/mistress played that role. She was the actress  Marion Davies...so now you know! Lol