I thought that any home built in the 20th century in California and dubbed "castle" would have more in common with the Snow White domicile at Disneyland than a European chateaux, so I've always been a bit of a snob about Hearst Castle. I'll have to admit I was wrong. This weekend G. surprised me with a trip to Cambria and San Simeon for a tour of the mansion. The pools alone were worth the entrance fee and Cary Grant visited the place 90 times (wooing the ladies at 2am in the indoor pool, this by his own account). Hearst had a mania for collecting art and antiques and unlike your typical estate tour, most of it still covers the walls (and floors and ceilings for that matter).
The castle's architect Julia Morgan is responsible for over 60 buildings (indexed here) and was the first woman to complete her engineering degree from UC California and the first woman to study at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Tip: The Little Market just off the beach in nearby Cayucos is filled with yummy gourmet goodies both sweet and savory. I tried a little brown sugar and almond cookie sprinkled with sea salt and it was an inspired combo.