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Coastal California has always been a place of unique opulence and monster mansions. But nothing comes close to Hearst Castle, the flamboyant San Simeon estate of newspaper magnate W. R. Hearst, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

 

A Controversial Millionaire

By the beginning of the 20th century William Randolph Hearst was a rich man. At age 56, after his mother’s death, he finally entered into his inheritance acquiring possession of $10 million and 40,000 acres of ranch land in San Simeon. You know, historically speaking, $10 million was a lot back then, but today that sounds more like an average villa in Beverly Hills.

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So let’s try visualization. It is 1919 and Hearst owns now 40,000 acres of prime California real estate. In the beginning he uses the land as a camping retreat for his family. But shortly after his mother’s passing he hires Julia Morgan –the first female civil engineering graduate from UC Berkeley– to design and build a house for him in San Simeon. “I am tired of camping out in the open at the ranch and I would like to build a little something” he reportedly tells Morgan. And so begins the project of the “little something” that still inspires awe after almost 100 years.

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The Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta, California, has all the essentials of a luxury seaside resort — tennis courts, a full-service spa, several infinity pools, fine dining venues and, of course, dramatic Pacific Ocean views. There is even a 1,000-acre ranch that borders the Los Padres National Forest where guests can take scenic hikes through the avocado and citrus groves. Bacara is all about white-washed, red-tile roofed Mediterranean architecture, long walks along the cliffs above the sea, and superb service. How superb?

The basic rooms start at $520 a night ($700 a night on weekends), going up to $3,800 a night for a private ocean front 2000 square feet suite with fireplace, dining area, kitchenette and a wraparound balcony. In addition to the room price, there is a $27 per day “Hospitality” fee that includes the use of the Spa, two bottles of water in the room and one bottle per stay of a non-descriptive wine. So the superb experience doesn’t come cheap. But is it worth your hard earned money?

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I was kind of worn out as we pulled in front of the four-story building of La Bellasera Hotel that afternoon. Traffic had been a nightmare on Highway 101, coming from Los Angeles. I could hardly wait to kick off my shoes and hop on a clean bed. The lustrous marble floors of the lobby gleamed like polished bronze in the late afternoon sun. After checking in, we followed the bellman towards the elevator through an inviting sitting area with wrought-iron chandeliers and plush couches.

‘You’re on the 4th floor,’ he said as he invited us into the elevator. After a few short minutes we stepped into the long hallway lined up with a accent mirrors, paintings and a vividly colored plush carpet. The bellman stopped in front of a door, sliding a card into the magnetic key slot and, viola! The door swung open to reveal our suite. Ah, it was beautiful! I couldn’t have hoped for more. Read More