December in California

Here you will find the, admittedly delayed, pictures and description of my trip to California in Dec. of 2007.

The primary purpose of the trip was to take shifts monitoring the BaBar detector. Each institution has a quota of shifts to provide to the experiment, and I took four owl (midnight to 8 AM) shifts because they are worth more towards fulfilling Ohio State’s quota. I arrived on Dec. 11 so that I could renew my training on Dec. 12. My block of shifts ran from Dec. 17-20. When I was not training, on shift, sleeping, or continuing my research, I was visiting, eating, and traveling with friends that I had not seen since Dec. of 2006.

Most of the photographs I took come from our trip to the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, which is better known as Hearst Castle. It was built by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and is probably the basis of Xanadu in Citizen Kane.

Hearst Castle

The drive from Stanford to Hearst Castle is fairly long, but we were able to see some beautiful coastal California scenery along the way.
The castle is actually a compound consisting over several ornate buildings high in the hills. Tourists take a bus to get to it. The bus, as you can see below, provides excellent views of the surrounding landscape and ocean.

The view from the compound itself is also quite spectacular.
We began our tour in one of the guest houses. They had indoor running water, which was quite impressive high in the mountains in the 1920’s.The grounds of the castle are filled with a wide variety of sculptures and other artwork. Some of it is original; some is old or ancient; some of it is copied from other work.

This is Sekhmet; she is the oldest piece of artwork on the grounds. She was sculpted in ancient Egypt about 3,000 years ago.
Look, a nude flapper!
I am not sure who these three marble ladies are, but maybe the more classically educated readers of my blog will know.
This sculpture struck me in a way not easy to capture in a photograph. Despite being made of stone, this really looks like a thin cloth blowing in the wind.

Frequent readers of my blog may recognize this young man from my trip to Italy. It is a copy of Donatello’s bronze sculpture of David.

In addition to sculpture, we also saw some lovely tile work.

Palm trees are a common feature at the Castle.

Mr. Hearst liked his swimming pools. Here you can see several of my friends and other tourists in front of one of the outdoor pools. It is surrounded by authentic and copied Greek and Roman sculpture.

The Castle itself is an ornate and imposing structure, built to resemble the castles of Europe. It is so large, that I could not get far enough from it to photograph it all in one frame. The distortion in the image above is the result of stitching two frames together.

Since we were not allowed to use flash on our cameras, I have few photographs from inside the castle. This one is the indoor swimming pool.

This is one of many beautiful ornate ceilings in the castle and surrounding buildings.


After our tour of Hearst Castle, we drove back to Stanford. We made two stops along the way. The first was to eat a (late) lunch and watch Elephant seals on a beach.
The beach was also home to at least one gregarious and greedy squirrel. This rodent aggressively tried to get the food of all the human tourists at the beach. Here you can see it before it crawled under the fence in pursuit of my sandwich.

It actually jumped on my knee at one point, but it would not stay there long enough for me to get a picture. Despite its efforts, I was triumphant; no one ate my sandwich but me.


After fending of the pesky rodent, we moved on to the main attraction of the beach, which was a group of seals.
They were not very active but did produce a few interesting noises…

…and cute poses.

Gingerbread House

Before this trip to California, I had never build a gingerbread house. Several of my friends share a house in Menlo Park, and they threw a party that involved the construction of an elaborate gingerbread house.
This is the final product, which I found very impressive. The stained glass windows are made of Jolly Ranchers melted in an oven! Many more photographs of the party are available.

Visit from Angela

This is my friend Angela from Ohio, but this photograph was taken in California. If you look closely, you can see what appears to be the headquarters of a famous Internet company on the other side of the street. She and her friend Bill also traveled to the Bay Area in December, and we decided that we had to take advantage of this coincidence. We met for lunch in Palo Alto and discussed their upcoming sightseeing in San Francisco.


While in California, I celebrated my birthday with the InterVaristy small group that I joined while there. We went to the favorite restaurant of one of the members, who also was born on Dec. 20.

The friend with whom I share a birthday is Lumnia; she is in sitting on my right in the photograph above.

Good friends, Ethiopian food, and chocolate cake form an almost unbeatable combination for celebrating a pair of birthdays

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