As the tour bus wound up the serpentine road to the top of the hill on California's coast, I felt an acute sense of sadness. Tinny 1920s and 30s music piped through the speakers as flashes of the castle on the hill glimmered through the fading light, and I wished with all my heart that I could travel back in time to the golden age of this pleasure palace. It was a time when Hollywood's elite—Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo—descended upon the lavish property of this media magnate for weekends of pure entertainment. A swim in the massive pools, a challenging tennis match, or perhaps an amble among the many fragrant garden paths rounded out langourous days.
As the moon shone its silver light through the spindly palm trees surrounding the main towers, and the fragrant aroma a jasmine wafted through the air, I found my mind transported back to that heyday. I would have worn a slinky silk gown, my hair wound into a sleek chignon. A handsome actor would escort me to the table and pull out my chair as I slid into place next to Hearst. As we discussed the day at the castle or my upcoming film, I would have felt the luckiest girl in the world to have been there, experiencing the ostentatious grandeur that was, and still is, Hearst Castle.