US Trip ’07: Hearst Castle

June 2, 2007. Before leaving San Simeon and continuing with our long drive south to Los Angeles, we decided to visit Hearst Castle, a vast, vast estate used to be owned by one of America’s most affluent, controversial and influential aristocrats, William Randolph Hearst, who made a vast fortune with his controversial newspapers and tabloids.

Now, I didn’t know who the hell William Hearst was, but once our tour guide started narrating his story, it all seemed very familiar. I later realized that this is where Citizen Cane, the quintissential Film 100 movie for film students in UP, is based. And Hearst Castle is what Xanadu alludes to.

Whew, it was really astounding. This guy spending billions of dollars during the period of depression in America for a mansion in what was then in the middle of nowhere in central California, his mansion with hoards of antiques and fixtures imported from all over the world. He also had his own zoo and orchard. When you think about how much was spent building this private estate in the middle of nowhere, you’d be astounded.

The estate has been donated by the Hearsts to the state of California, and is now a state landmark and a monument open for public tours.

US Trip ’07: Brief SFo roundabout (I)

Golden Gate Bridge

May 30, 2007. Just before crossing the Golden Gate, we drove up to the highest vista point from where we could get a view of the bridge from the northern side. It was terribly windy and freezing up there. It felt a little gloomy because it was quite cloudy too.

near the Palace of Fine Arts

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we passed by the Palace of Fine Arts at San Francisco’s Marina district. There was barely anyone in the park, probably because it was almost seven in the evening (with the sun still barely setting). It was a very tranquil walk in a well-landscaped garden.

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

US Trip ’07: Photo ops with the Golden Gate

May 30, 2007. After having a hearty breakfast at the apartment, Aunt Lydia took us to Muir Woods a few hours drive north of San Francisco. We passed by San Francisco proper on the way there. It was the first time we actually got to San Francisco itself. It was really chilly, in fact, much cooler than the temperature in Atlanta and New York.

Golden Gate Bridge

On the way, we dropped by a few vista points to see the Golden Gate Bridge and have photos taken at various angles. The first vista point was at Presidio, which was quite a distance from the bridge itself. We then proceeded towards the end of the bridge itself at the San Francisco side. When we crossed the bridge, we had more pictures taken at the other side. There was quite a crowd then that time, and TV crews. There was some news that day about some stray and sick whales stranded at San Francisco Bay, hence the news crews and onlookers.

Golden Gate Bridge

After a few minutes, we continued driving north of the Bay Area into low lying seaside mountains into Muir Woods, where the air is crisp and cold, but the wind wasn’t as strong as when we were in San Francisco.

US Trip ’07: Empire State Building

May 28, 2007. After taking the Statue of Liberty tour, we walked around Battery Park for a while until we found ourselves buying “cheap” shirts off ambulant vendors on the pedestrian sidewalk just across the Wall Street bull.

view from atop the Empire State Building

After having our photos taken with the famed bull sculpture, we walked a few more blocks before hailing a cab that would take us to the Empire State Building.

Just the other day, the line leading to the Empire State Building observatory stretched all the way around the pedestrian sidewalk surrounding the block. Fortunately for us when we got there, the lines were pretty short and we got ourselves to the top of the building in no time, after of course, paying exorbitant tourist fees. View the rest of the pictures here.

US Trip ’07: Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

May 28, 2007. When our cab dropped us at Battery Park, we were met with a mile-long line leading to the jetty where tourists board on a ferry to Liberty Island. Normally that would discourage me from pursuing the trip. But see, western literature has conspired to make all of us feel the need to step foot on landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty. We couldn’t just go to New York and not go to the famed statue. Fortunately, there were street performers and other tourists to watch in amusement. And the line also moved steadily and surely.

Before getting to board the ferry, everyone had to go through a security check similar to the system used in airports. I guess for being such an important national symbol of America, it is vulnerable to anti-American attacks by anti-American terrorists (note the anti-American qualifier).

The ferry ride to Liberty Island took roughly ten minutes. When tourists get there, they’re free to explore the small island. We lined up for the queue that lead inside the statue and up to the torch, but apparently people had to acquire entrance tickets to the statue a week or more before. We had a quick lunch of overpriced salami sandwiches and coffee at the island. After which, we dropped by the souvenir shop to complete the tourist experience.

We boarded a ferry back to Manhattan an hour or so past noon. The ferry stopped by similarly famed Ellis Island, but we didn’t get off anymore. We got back to Manhattan a few minutes later.

Click here to view the rest of the pictures.