In November 2004 (just one month after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years) I was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia at a cultural landscapes conference. Over drinks at that meeting the idea of working on a Cultural Landscape Report for Hearst Castle first came up and I lobbied for the honor to work on it. Less than six months later I was given the project.
Little did I know what kind of journey that project had in store for me. It was a journey that contained the highest highs and the lowest lows. The trajectory it put me on led me (in no small part) to leave Boston and move 3000 miles away to Portland, Oregon in 2007. Prior to moving I completed two of three parts of the project.
This last week that project was finally completed and I was invited to attend a party and presentation celebrating its completion. For me it was both a celebration and much needed closure. You can’t second guess decisions, but I learned a valuable lesson which I never want to repeat – to never let someone bully me off a project that I want to work on or take away an opportunity that I have earned. Just by being there I was able to simultaneously celebrate and be recognized for my contributions to the project AND stand up to a bully. It was an amazing experience.
I revisited old haunts and relived highlights of my participation in the project – lunch at my favorite deli (Soto’s in Cambria), a latte from my favorite coffee shop (French Corner Cafe in Cambria), and driving around my favorite curves along the approach road to the hilltop. Plus I finally took the scenic drive from San Simeon to San Francisco through Big Sur and Carmel. Such a treat!
The highlight was a swim in the Neptune Pool along with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres under the portico in the late afternoon sun. Few people outside the Hearst family and those who work at Hearst Castle get the opportunity to swim in the outdoor pool. It’s a rare honor and I loved every minute of it, especially watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and the moon rise over Casa Grande.
At times, especially during the low lows I thought the Hearst Castle project was a curse. Fortunately it didn’t take 86 years of heartbreaking losses to break it (if indeed a curse existed). All it took was a little reflection and a lovely dip in the pool.
soto’s deli in cambria
french corner bakery in cambria
pier at san simeon
pier at san simeon
dipping my toes in the pacific
door to the pool dressing rooms
swimming in the neptune pool
sculpture on the neptune terrace
shadows on casa del sol
casa del sol’s curved staircase
casa del sol
moon rise over hearst castle
elephant seals napping in san simeon
Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo – I arrived just as they were starting mass