Thursday Doors – Casa Del Mar

img_0534This lovely ornate door belongs to Casa Del Mar, also known as House A, at Hearst Castle, California. Casa Del Mar, which translates to House Of The Sea, is one of three guest houses on the site, and is where William Randolph Hearst and his family stayed while Casa Grande, the main house, was being built.

img_0505Hearst was a collector on a grand scale, spending months travelling through Europe buying up art and antiquities, even parts of buildings, then shipping them back to California to be incorporated into his dream home. So this lovely door may have started life long before it came to live on the Enchanted Hill. Nowadays Hearst Castle is a National Monument, open to the public for tours and events. However, there is still enchantment to be found on the hill high above the ocean, and the castle remains a place of fascination for me.

img_0504This is my entry for Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge – for more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


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A Journey Through Ambeth, Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the real landscapes that had inspired Oak and Mist, my first Ambeth book. With the release of Hills And Valleys, the third book in the series, that landscape has now expanded somewhat. So, with the past week being what it was, I thought I might take a wander through my fantasy world, and share it with you 🙂

I hope this isn’t too much like Toto pulling back the wizard’s curtain in Oz – I just wanted to share the landscapes I had in mind when I wrote the Chronicles. For Alma’s adventures in the human world, I used real locations – places I’d lived in or visited many times that had left an impression on me. However, when I created Ambeth, I didn’t have specific places in mind, wanting instead to write the world I could see in my mind’s eye. Later, when I looked back, I could see where the influences had come from.

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Hearst Castle, California

‘From out of an immense structure of white stone came towers topped with tiles that gleamed like mother of pearl… It shone so brightly in the sun that Alma blinked, shading her eyes.’  Oak and Mist

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Criccieth Castle, Wales

‘My heart rejoices at the thought that our old castle will guard my secret, high on its mound behind its twin-towered gate.’ Hills and Valleys

Notre Dame Doors
Doors to Notre Dame, Paris

‘The large wooden doors… were wondrously crafted, with hinges made from intricately shaped and figured metal that curved across the… wood like living things.’ Oak and Mist

Criccieth, Wales
Criccieth, Wales

‘Alma sat with Merewyn on a low wall near the jetty, looking along the curving beach to the mountains beyond.’ Hills And Valleys

Inspiration comes to us from many places. I recently walked past a grove of trees in my neighbourhood and immediately had another book idea. An unusual outside light on a neighbour’s house inspired a short story. So how about my fellow writers out there? Do you write from the real world, or gather influences to shape a new landscape? And where have you been that has inspired you?

Thursday Doors – Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

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You might think, looking at these pictures, that the doors are from some castle in Europe, home of an ancient king. In fact, both can be found in Hearst Castle, California, high above the winding Pacific coast road. That’s not to say the doors couldn’t have started life in a European castle somewhere – Hearst was a lifelong collector of antiquities and, when Hearst Castle was being built in the early part of the twentieth century, he would visit Europe and buy up bits of castles and monasteries and churches that were being demolished, sending them back to his long-suffering architect, Julia Morgan, with instructions to ‘fit them in’ somewhere.

IMG_0591I think the door at the top, with its overwrought carvings of cherubs and masks and dolphins, looks rococo in style, possibly Italian in origin. The other door looks more ecclesiastical, as though it came from a British or French church, built long before the United States even came into existence. You can see how Morgan fitted it into the fabric of the building, matching the colour of the stone and building a space to fit it into.

The photos are not the best, but they’re the best I could do, trying not to include either our tour group or the unattractive carpet laid underfoot to protect the old floors. If you are in that part of California, I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Castle – it’s a place layered with history in a visually stunning location, with a magic that shuffling crowds and roped off areas cannot touch.

This is my entry to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s page and click the link.

Wednesday Wander – Indoor Pool, Hearst Castle

IMG_0652I’ve written about Hearst Castle, on the California Coast, before. I went there the first time when I was fifteen, and still remember it as somewhere magical. On a recent trip back to California it was on my to-see list and, even though the visitor centre was much larger than I remember, the tours more crowded, the magic remains.

This is the indoor swimming pool at Hearst Castle. During Hearst’s lifetime it wasn’t used much, Hearst and his guests preferring the larger and more showy outdoor pool, with its colonnades, statues and real Roman temple. Apparently some of his guests didn’t even realise this pool existed, set away from the main house as it is.

The tiles are real gold, 24-carat, brilliant against the lapis blue, and the warm lantern light entices. If this were my pool I would swim in it all the time, like floating in a dream.

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Thank you for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – see you next time 🙂