Hearst Castle

Imagine Rupert Murdoch finding a remote, inaccessible mountaintop and spending the next 15 years building a palace atop it.  Then, when completed, fill it with Roman, Renaissance and other valuable antiquities and invite the Beckhams, George Clooney, Scarlett Johanson, Tom Cruise and every other A-List Celeb to come stay and party there as freely as they like…

This is pretty much what William Randolph Hearst, the 20th century media baron, did from 1919 til his death in 1951.

Hearst Castle is a testament to opulence.  It’s a truly beautiful palace in a stunning setting.  Moving from room to room you are surrounded by items from around the world – mostly Europe.  15th century fireplaces taken from French Chateau, floor tiling from Roman villa’s, 2000 year old Roman busts, Gothic and Medieval hangings and flags from the British Isles. Roaming the grounds and palace feels like roaming Pompeii or another lost civilization, it is truly awe-inspiring.

I’ve put together a gallery of some of my photo’s from my day here.  I strongly recommend visiting the palace if you get chance, but one tip – try and avoid peak periods as the crowds can give it a Disneyland feel.  Such opulence deserves exclusivity.

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Roadtrip

Long weekend – what better reason than to get out of the city and explore some of Central California.

Surely one of the most scenic drives in the world is the Pacific Coast Highway down the coast and through an area called Big Sur.

Rural, rustic and rugged are three words I’d use to describe the area.  Here are a few snapshots I took on the way down:

 

 

 

 

Of the many twists and surprises the journey took, I’m not sure if I was more surprised by the beach full of Elephant Seals (boy, they smell!) or the 30+ German Harley Davidson bikers I came across (who also smelt) that had just driven across from Florida.

Commuting

In London my commute was a distance of 4 miles.   Usually in the rain… in traffic… weaving between buses and dodging pedestrians… it vaguely looked like this:

cycling to work

In California my commute is approx. 40 miles and looks like this:

Commuting Bus

The work shuttles provided are a progression from the Yellow School Buses you see pottering around the USA – they pick me up from the end of my street and deposit me at the work campus, returning me at the end of the day.

This being Silicon Valley though, the buses are fully equipped with (semi) hi-speed wi-fi internet and comfy leather seats.

Inside Work Shuttle

Normally it’s a nice journey under blue sunny skies… except days like this when the shuttle sets on fire…

Smoking Bus

Don’t worry, nobody was hurt, just an electrical fire this time…

My Day In Photos

Slightly different theme with this blog post….

I woke up to a sunny March morning with a most beautiful sky.  I leapt out of bed, grabbed my camera and my bike and went for an early morning ride round the city.  Here are some of the shots I took:

I’m The Mayor!

Mayor badge

When I get over here I got hooked on a phone app call `Foursquare` where you check in at different locations for points, kudos and even financial discounts.

As you check-in at a location more than anyone else you become the `mayor` of that place.

Well, I’m pleased to say, I got my first Mayorship!

Yay!  I’m the Mayor of… my local bus stop to work!  Start low… aim high J

Happy Anniversary

Mendocino Plate

5 years ago, on February 3rd 2007, I got married.  This was probably the best day of my life.

As is customary on these occasions we decided to celebrate it by heading out of town for a weekend break in the country.

Our chosen destination was the former logging town of Mendocino, 200 miles north of San Francisco.

Perched on a cliff bluff Mendocino has a wonderful setting and offers the kind of view that makes you go ‘wow’ when you first see it.  Strangely enough, it may be somewhere you’re already familiar with – it’s the location where the TV-show Murder She Wrote was filmed.

view of Mendocino

This time of year is whale migration season.  From the shore we could see a constant stream of them spurting water into the air through their blow holes.

So what better way to get close to them than to head out on a fishing boat and see them close up… well, it seems Whales get shy as you get close and decide to play hide and seek…  we didn’t see any Whales close up but we did get some great shots of Seals, Sealions and Dolphins.

Sea lions

 

 

 

 

And, of course, allowed plenty of time to dip into my own personal outdoor hot-tub at the hotel!

January

January:  Back-to-work.  Wet.  Cold.  Snow.  Dark Nights.  Skint post-Xmas-hangover.

I’m used to January being pretty darn grim so imagine my surprise to find January in San Francisco refreshingly different!

For the last two weekends I’ve been basking in 18-20C temperatures, eating al fresco lunches under blue skies, picnicking in the park, cycling around the bay in t-shirts and even hanging out at the beach in shorts…  It does not feel like the January I know.

Apparently this isn’t normal.  It’s supposed to be cold and wet here too.  However, this not normal weather has been the norm for months now…  Winter just seems to have forgotten to come just yet…  I’ll raise a glass to that (from my outdoor hot-tub under sunny blue skies!)

I’m Dreaming of a Grey Christmas

With weather like this – thank god for Xbox!

The Ewok Trail

Before California was `discovered` by the west, a tribe of Native Americans called the Miwok lived in this part of the world.

Fishing, hunting, scalping westerners… doing all the things Native Americans did before they picked up our viruses and were offloaded to `reservations` for their `safety`.

Hmmm, before I get too cynical with what became of the Miwok’s I’d better get to my purpose – the Miwok Trail.

Across the Golden Gate are the Marin Headlands.  Only 3 miles by road… it feels more like 300 miles as you plunge into wilderness.

The hiking and mountain biking across here is wonderful.  You may recognize the name `Marin` from the mountain bike company that sells bikes across the world.  Mountain Biking was actually invented in these environs.

We didn’t get on bikes today but did take in some wonderful scenes by foot.  Here are a few samples of the views:

And as for ‘Ewok’s`?   Well, George Lucas used to be a resident of this area before he made Star Wars.  It does make you wonder if the Miwok’s did perhaps influence George in the naming of those fluffy teddy bear critters…

December

Christmas in the UK starts in August.  Well, it feels like that.  By September shops are decorated with Xmas bunting, by October the Xmas songs have started and by November you’re usually sick of the whole damned thing.

The US has a much better approach to the almighty festival of commercialism.

Due to Halloween in October, and Thanksgiving in November there is less of a vacuum to fill.  This means the Christmas build-up only really starts in December.

Now it’s started and I’m loving trying to feel Christmassy in shorts, t-shirt and sun!

Here’s our tree for 2011 from conception to decoration: