Inside Hearst Castle

castle 6

Dear readers

In this post, we continue with our gripping West Coast saga, from inside William Randolph Hearst’s fantasy fortress.

Leaving the spacious Visitor’s Center, hubby and I, together with our ‘psychedelically sated’ travel companions, are ushered onto buses and hastily herded up the hill to the Enchanted Castle, in a scene strangely reminiscent of a famous Walt Disney movie, starring a bunch of ill-fated lemmings

lemmings

We have chosen to take the ‘Grand Rooms Tour’, which includes the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, Theater, Gardens, Neptune Pool and Roman Pool.

pool

Dr. Guissi and Taemour (G&T) are instantly smitten with the Greek and Roman statues, scattered around the pool areas. Are they admirers of the classics? No, they merely enjoy appraising naked male bodies, although at some point, Dr. G remarks, “marble leaves me cold”.

marbleWilliam Randolph Hearst, as well as being a savvy and ruthless businessman, was also extremely good at appropriating modern and ancient works of art from every corner of the globe. In most cases, he would be labeled a HOARDER, but because of his vast wealth and fame, Hearst is hailed as a COLLECTOR!

Hoarding

Hoarding

Collecting

Collecting

Most notable is his array of Greek vases, Spanish and Italian furniture, oriental carpets, renaissance vestments, and an extensive library filled with manuscripts, rare books, and autographs.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 4.23.16 PMHelmut feels a deep connection with William Randolph Hearst, because he too, is a well-known collector of autographs, although hubby’s come courtesy of a BAILIFF, and are delivered by a uniformed police officer.

baliff

police

During our tour of the magnificent Baroque dining room, named the ‘Refectory’, our guide relates how, when the Castle was ready for full occupancy in 1927, WRH would show off his largesse by inviting a host of celebrities and intellectuals to stay – often for days at a time –to entertain him and fellow guests.

guest

When distinguished guests arrived, Hearst would give them the red-carpet treatment and on their first evening at supper, would seat them on either side of him, at the center of the refectory’s ultra-long, walnut dining table.

table

On the second evening of their visit, these same guests might discover that their name cards had been moved one space down the table, and then the next evening, another space down, and so on, towards the very end of the table, thereby discreetly heralding the end of their visit.

Guest reluctant to leave Hearst Castle

Guest reluctant to leave Hearst Castle

Later, in our San Simeon motel, Hubby Helmut, eager to employ the  ‘Hearst Method’ for getting rid of clingy guests, finishes the day by scanning the short wooden table section of our own trusty bedside ‘bible’ – the IKEA catalogue!

ikea

GETTING RID OF GUESTS: AN ALTERNATIVE

But why wait to assemble an IKEA table, when only two thousand miles north-east of California, in the US state of Wisconsin, getting rid of tenacious and undesirable guests has become a culinary art form!

Nothing says LEAVE! like an obnoxious stench, so below is a recipe for Wisconsin Lutefisk, a foul-smelling fish dish, brought to America by Norwegians, and traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

lutefisk

So pungently shocking is the lutefisk experience, that only those with a drastically impaired sense of smell would wish to be invited to dine at a Norwegian-American home in Wisconsin, around this time of year.

fish2

To make lutefisk, skin some cod, salt it, and hang it out (or up) to dry, for several weeks until it hardens. Note that the emanating stink will ensure an entirely guest-free environment! After the fish has hardened, soak it for several days in LYE, a strong caustic alkaline solution of potassium salts, which is obtained by leaching wood ashes. When not in use poisoning Norwegian-Americans, lye plays a vital part in the soap-making process.

Ingredients:

1 
piece of dried lutefisk, sawn into 6-inch lengths

2 
tablespoons lye

Directions:

Soak the fish in clear water for 3 days.

Add 2 tbsp lye into a gallon of water.

Soak for 3 days in this solution.

Then soak for 4 days in clear water, changing the water every day

To cook the lutefisk

Place the well-rinsed cod in an ovenproof dish, cover with aluminum foil. Put in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Top with hot melted butter and serve with boiled potatoes and mashed peas.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.33.08 PM

Dear readers, after surviving one malodorous batch, the mere threat of preparing the offending lutefisk a second time, is guaranteed to prevent even the most die-hard of guests from ever visiting again. Success achieved!

goaway

Happy Holidaying!

Helga

 

 

 

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Once Upon A High In The West

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.31.38 AMIn these posts Helmut and I record our travels from culturally-diverse California all the way to Vancouver, the majestic capital of British Columbia. Throughout our scenic journey, totaling 1,200 miles, we pass a lot of trees that require hugging  – or is it logging?

photo-31

Dear readers,

While husband Helmut and I thoroughly enjoy our smug lifestyle, courtesy of successful insurance scams (or schemes, as Helmut insists on calling them), we often receive letters from dotty fans commenting on what they perceive, is our unhealthy dependence on alcohol. This assumption is grossly unfair because, as our probation officer knows only too well, we are equal opportunity substance abusers.

equal

With this in mind, imagine our uncontained excitement as we jet off across the Atlantic to test the west coast of America’s tolerance towards marijuana. Yes, after decades starring as the villain in the 1936 cult movie ‘Reefer Madnessand being (according to the film) the cause of “violent, uncontrollable laughter”, marijuana has now become an acceptable recreational substance in Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, Colorado and DC. But dear readers, despite this innocuous plant achieving a new and heightened level of respectability, Helmut and I continue to enjoy its effect immensely!

reefer

To explore our inner ‘Reefer Madness’ in comfort, Helmut and I are chauffeured the entire west coast – from California to Vancouver – by Vallejo artist and friend, Dr. Giussi (pronounced Juicy), and his young Afghan paramour, Tamour. We choose these lovely boys not only for their amusing company, but also for the fact that they are skilled at acquiring the strain of marijuana most suited to us pernickety, old coffin-dodgers – in other words, any strain that comes their way…

oldweed

For those unfortunates who are not acquainted with America’s majestic west coast route – its scenery and forests are feasts for the eyes. But oh dear, the jutting cliffs, the windswept trees, and the winding, twisty roads can make one quite dizzy! Which reminds me, in addition to legal highs, gin cocktails – disguised as fruit juice to evade a puritanical law enforcement system – are essential!

barcar

As luck would have it, we are on the road for only five minutes, when our Chevy Equinox SUV is pulled over by a uniformed young officer from the California Highway Patrol. How could he possibly suspect that we Silver Slouchers have a quantity of fine drugs and alcohol onboard? But all is well dear readers, because back-seat driver Helmut plays his ‘lost tourist from England’ card to perfection. What a superb actor! In reality, hubby is three times over the ‘lost tourist’ limit.

patrol

So where do we kick-off on our marvelous marijuana marathon? We decide to commence at San Simeon in central California. This seaside village lies at the foot of one of the most spectacular castles in America, an enormous Spanish Baroque structure commissioned in 1919, by larger-than-life publishing tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. Set high on a hill, ‘Hearst Castle’ as it is currently known, is a fitting monument to the man’s vast wealth and priceless collection of art treasures.

castle

Dr. Giussi comments that he too, would like to be ‘high’ on a hill, and for some unknown reason, this statement precipitates a sustained outburst of manic laughter from the boys, who cannot stop even when we are parked and ready to enter the ‘World of William’. As if on cue, we all rush frantically towards the sacred hub of the Visitor Center: THE SNACK BAR

visitor 2

After a well-deserved lunch, we merry band of travelers are now ready for our tour and the full Hearst Castle experience, which naturally begins with a discreet smoke in the Visitor Center rest-rooms.

smoke

RECOMMENDED SNACK FOR VISITING HEARST CASTLE:

777burger

What a pity one has to nip over to Nevada to purchase this mega-expensive Las Vegas burger, which is made with Kobe beef, fresh Maine lobster, caramelized onions, imported Brie cheese, crispy prosciutto and 100-year-old aged balsamic vinegar. The $777 burger would be the perfect snack for Hearst Castle –  ‘rich’ and with oodles of fat, rather like an aged William Randolph himself!

WRH

Happy Highs!

Helga

NEXT POST: Inside Hearst Castle

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ANNUAL EASTER POEM

Let Me Be Your Easter Egg 

easter egg

(a poem dedicated to John Cooper Clarke)

Let me be your Easter egg
Your post-Lent cocoa-powder-keg
Wrap me, tap me, roll me, chase me
Use your paintbrush to deface me
Let me be your Easter gift
Your springtime Chocoholic lift
Hide me in a secret place
Or lay me in a cardboard case
Let me be your Easter thrill
A giant chocolate-coated pill
Boil me, foil me, colour-dye me
Decorate and string thread tie me
From willow branch to reign supreme
A resurrected pagan theme
Seal me, peel me, jewel inlay me
Decoupage and Fabergé me
Make me wholly chocolate cream
I wanna be your Easter dream…
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