The Royal Treatment

0905_btupgradeHearst Castle's Neptune Pool
Andrea Gómez

An all-access tour gives a Maryland couple free rein at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif.

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Tammy Bennett, of Germantown, Md., and her partner, Joanne Miller, had always wanted to take a road trip along the coast of California. So when Tammy's cousin in Los Angeles had a baby, they decided to pay her a visit—after driving down Highway 1 from San Francisco. The highlight? A landmark dear to Joanne: "I'd been to Hearst Castle as a kid, and the experience stuck with me," she says of the 115-room mansion built from 1919 to 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. "I wanted to share it with Tammy."

Though visitors are usually restricted to just a few parts of the property, the couple was given full access to the entire site, including off-limits areas like Hearst's private office and vaults where centuries-old marble sculptures are stored. Their biggest discovery in the 90,080-square-foot complex was a secret rooftop terrace: The view—miles of coastline stretching in either direction—was sublime. Joanne made a joke about bringing up a lounge chair from the pool below to get a little sun, but Tammy had even bigger things in mind: "Why can't we live right here?"

Many thanks to...
Hearst Castle, which overlooks San Simeon, Calif., and was designed in collaboration with architect Julia Morgan. In addition to their private tour, Tammy and Joanne were given an advance copy of the coffee-table book Hearst's San Simeon. It hits shelves this month (800/444-4445,, open to the public every day except major holidays, tours from $20, kids $10; book $50).

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