The California diaries – Hiding in the woods and the Ketchup castle


Betty Draper’s romantic hideaway

We didn’t die after visiting Carmel, luckily enough. But we continued exploring the region after settling for the weekend in a wood cabin a few miles from Big Sur. It was cozy, eco-efficient and all decorated in a 50s spirit. I basically felt like Betty Draper minus the chronically unfaithful (first) husband and the noisy kids. (Mine can be noisy too but right now they are being noisy to their grandparents, thousands of miles from my cool cabin in the woods). The weather was warm during the day and rainy at nights so we made it through the bad forecasts without much damage.

On the way to L.A. (long, this was loooong) we stopped an undetermined number of times for vista points.


Driving along endless vista points

I didn’t even went out anymore after the first two. It’s beautiful, fine, but once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. Husband is affected by the viewpoint syndrome. He needs to stop as many times as the road signs tell him to and take so many photos that a whole bus of japanese retired ladies couldn’t even compete. Once he brought me to Ireland and insisted in doing the whole ring of Kerry on a Saturday morning with brief pauses to take pictures of the scenic views. Pictures I was supposed to smile and look happy in. But I am digressing here so let’s go back to the journey to L.A. Hearst Castle was our main stop on the way and it was definitely worth it. I can’t post any pictures because they have a strict policy on that  but if you don’t know it you can look it up here.

It’s….kitsch of course as can be the result of a rich man neurosis but it’s also beautiful and somehow moving. None could build anything like that nowadays. All the money in the world couldn’t buy whole Spanish abbeys and Canova statues (well, I have to admit that if Spain and Italy keep going this bad they might want to sell something again) and even the grandest man wouldn’t dare to invest all of his fortune and almost three decades in pursuing such an unreasonable dream. The somewhat childish pursuit of the craziest dream moved me. This world might do with a little more craziness and passion.

While I was lost in that outrageous display of wealth two things brought me back on earth:

1. Our extremely dynamic and enthusiastic guide kept saying of any piece of art :”Look at that!! It’s 400 years old!”. But then everything was, according to him, “400 years old”. In Europe we would say something like: “The tapestry on your right dates back to 1425…” and “The Venus statue on your left was sculpted by Canova in the early years of XIX century”. But none seemed to care so it’s maybe just us Europeans being know-it-all. The group attention seemed awakened by trivia though: when the guide said Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin had danced in that ballroom everybody started asking questions.

2. There is this grand dining room in the castle. Siena’s Palio contrades flags hanged from the wall while “400 years old” silver candelabras, caskets and other objects I don’t know the name or the use of were on display all around. Well, the table is set  – for the pleasure of the visitors – as it was when William R. Hearst was living there. So, it’s really interesting to see these precious dutch porcelaine plates and the ancient silver cutlery with….a jar of mayo and a bottle of plebeian Heinz’s ketchup. Yes. On the center of the table there’s mayo and ketchup. I wonder if the curators even realize how weird that is.


Plebeian details in the grand castle

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