HISTORY, WITH BELLS ON: To call yourself a devoted fan of sweeping historic series, the kind that delve into the tangly lives of at least two dozen characters over twelve or more epic years, is to approach your favorite TV pastimes with a lot of asterisks. We want the costumes to be fabulous and detailed but accurate. We want the sets to be sumptuous but easy to live in, too. And we want our holiday episodes to fully transform the central location of the story from handsome mansion to Christmas wonderland. Each one of these series has a holiday episode, and each episode looks as though it cleared out the local holly 'n baubles warehouse, with every surface of the set decorated to the hilt. How, though, to enter such a series, and, specifically, the Christmas episode? Without, of course, getting involved in any of the fictional family's shenanigans or over-the-top fireworks? There is a way, in San Simeon, to become ensconced in such a world, and another time, during the yuletide, while forgoing any unfortunate plot twists or new character surprises. We speak of Hearst Castle, of course, an abode that could rival, and pass, pretty much any stately home seen on the small or large screen.
AND, YES, WE SPEAK OF... the landmark's Holiday Twilight Tour, an end-of-the-year treat which ably performs the tasks described by all three descriptive words in its name. It happens over the holidays, natch; it occurs right around early evening; and, indeed, it is a walk-around the lavish estate. A lavish estate, mind you, that's been made even lavisher -- likely not a word, but so very fitting for Hearst Castle -- by the bows and greenery and ornaments that dot the walls and tables. You'll peek at the "grand social rooms" of Casa Grande, the main house, and you'll view fine art while the surrounding seasonal twinkle adds atmos. And will a "knowledgeable guide" fill you in on how things went during William Randolph Hearst's day, in terms of holiday celebrations? Count on it. The tours run from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, a chillier time of year that close to the coast. That simply means you'll have to pull your cloche hat closer, and tie the belt on your woolly coat, as you stroll the grounds. Oh, forgive us. We were assuming you'd be dressed as your favorite TV character for your visit, the better to blend it, time-wise, to the sparkly surroundings. (Maybe you should.)