Michael Portillo continues his railroad travels. In the historic port of Monterey, Michael raises the Bear Flag of the one-time Republic of California.
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I have crossed the Atlantic to ride the railroads of North America
with my faithful Appletons' Guide.
Published in the late 19th century,
it will direct me to everything that's novel, beautiful,
memorable and curious...
-..in the United States.
As I travel through this vast continent,
I'll discover gold and silver,
movies and microchips, oil and oranges,
and learn how America's most famous railroad
conquered the wild landscapes of the West.
Many of us have at least a vague knowledge of the history of the east
of what is now the United States.
The arrival of the pilgrims on the Mayflower, the Boston Tea Party,
the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
But I certainly know very little about the colonisation of the West,
by the Spanish in the 16th century, and later by the Mexicans.
I hope to learn more as I travel towards Southern California on
the Coast Starlight.
My route, which began at Reno in the Silver State, brought me over the
Sierra Nevada mountains into California,
and to the birthplace of American counterculture, San Francisco.
From there, I headed inland,
to explore awesome nature in Yosemite National Park.
I'll continue down the Pacific Coast,
stopping at Monterey and San Luis Obispo, bound for the city of stars,
Los Angeles. I'll end my journey in San Diego,
a few miles short of the Mexican border.
On this leg, I'll start in the former fishing port of Monterey.
I'll travel south to Paso Robles, to visit a Californian castle,
and on to the fertile farmland around San Luis Obispo.
My final stop will be the city of Santa Barbara.
On my travels I'll explore a millionaire's mansion...
We had the largest media empire in the United States
in the mid-20th century.
..learn the secret of the perfect guacamole...
You want to just give it a little twist.
Ah! I never knew that.
..and discover a tragic American love story.
It's like Romeo and Juliet, if they lived in Southern California in the 1860s.
I'm alighting at Salinas,
to spend the morning in the nearby seaside community of Monterey.
Today, it's a colourful tourist destination,
but this town has a significant past.
The historic city of Monterey, says Appletons', was, until 1847,
"the seat of government and the principal port of the Californian coast.
"But, since the rise of San Francisco
"its commerce has dwindled away,
"and it's now one of the quietest places, warm in winter, cool in summer,
"dry all year."
Monterey means the mountain of the king, but here,
those in authority were toppled, and brought down low.
Down at the harbour-side, Michael Green, from the town's historic parks,
starts his daily routine.
-Good morning, Michael.
-Very, very good to see you.
You're raising the flag! May I give you a hand with that?
Yes, you can. If you'll take the bottom.
So first, the American flag, then the Californian state flag.
-The Californian state flag?
-Uh-huh. The bear flag.
It's certainly a bear!
So, Michael, two questions. Why a bear?
And California Republic, that's an interesting expression.
The grizzly is the symbol of California, it's the state animal.
During the very beginning of the Mexican-American War,
there was a revolt against Mexican authority.
They designed a flag, and it was, just,
sort of a hand drawn bear with a star in the corner that resembled
the star of the Texas flag. They became a republic before they became part of the United States.
They were their own country for a while. California was its own republic.
The Bear Flag Republic was led by Captain John Fremont,
the renowned explorer and military officer,
but was quickly superseded.
Within a month, the American Navy captured Monterey,
and the grizzly bear was replaced by the Stars and Stripes.
This is the very spot where the American flag was raised over California
for the first time, on July the 7th, 1846.
And this great building is what?
This is Custom House.
This was the most important building during the Mexican era.
It represented both the centre of trade, the centre of commerce,
and it was the social centre as well.
It's the oldest government building in California,
constructed in 1827 to collect taxes on goods entering the harbour.
Ah, thank you.
Michael, what a wonderful display. What does it represent?
The kind of cargo that came into Monterey during the 1830s.
The Mexicans were here, but before then, the Spanish.
Tell me about the Spanish.
Well, the Spanish arrived here officially in 1602,
and actually named the bay "Monterey" after the Count of Monterrey,
the sponsor of the expedition,
but it was 168 years before the Spanish actually acted on that claim.
It wasn't until 1770 that the Franciscans came in and created a mission.
How did it fall into Mexican hands?
Well, the Mexicans were living here under Spanish rule,
and Spanish rule was kind of corrupt.
Spain was thousands of miles away. They prohibited international trade.
The Mexicans wanted to open up trade to the world,
and so the Mexicans eventually revolted in 1821.
-What was the Mexican administration like?
-In many ways,
it wasn't much better than the Spanish administration.
There were already many Americans living here in Monterey, and inter-marrying
into Mexican families, and influencing these people into the idea of American governance.
And they held the territory then,
until the moment when the flag was raised on that flagpole which was 1846?
-This really is the beginning of the modern Californian story.
You know, it really is.
We like to say that California history begins in Monterey.
Following its distinguished role as a political capital,
in the 20th century this town became decidedly less respectable.
Monterey was famous for its fish processing industries,
portrayed by John Steinbeck in his novel Cannery Row.
It was shown as a stinking and decrepit place,
full of whorehouses and doss houses.
But like so many locations of its sort, it's cleaned up its act.
It's now a tourist attraction, complete with aquarium.
Fish stocks declined sharply in the mid-20th century,
and the local economy collapsed.
But this aquarium, which opened in 1984,
has breathed new life into the town,
attracting around two million visitors every year.
The aquarium really is spectacular,
with this lovely light penetrating the water,
illuminating shoals of silverfish.
These enormous panes of glass are restraining tonnes of water,
and revealing some really mean-looking specimens.
Up on the roof, one of the aquarium's directors,
Jim Covel, has invited me to feed the fish.
-Hello, Michael. Welcome to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Well, I love it! I never suspected it was going to have an open top like this.
This is critical to the health of the plants.
We have over 40 kinds of seaweed in here.
And all of those marine plants need to absorb sunlight in order to produce their food.
I've got a glove here. You may want to put that on,
just to keep the krill juice off your hands.
Otherwise every whale in Monterey Bay will want to follow you home.
-Wow! A quick response, eh?
-They catch on very quickly.
-They certainly do.
Are these fish in here reliant on what you feed them?
No. We have water circulating out of Monterey Bay, directly into this exhibit, 24/7.
So these fish can grab a snack,
of the plankton which flows through the sea water, any time they want.
Are there special features to Monterey Bay?
Monterey Bay is one of the most studied parts of the ocean anywhere on the planet.
There's a huge canyon beneath the surface here that's twice as
deep as the Grand Canyon,
and there's still so many mysteries to be revealed.
How is it that this town has gone from the Cannery, from Cannery Row,
-to an aquarium?
-It's quite a change up.
There used to be 20 canneries up and down Cannery Row.
For years and years, this was the sardine capital of the world.
The fishery collapsed, and they were several decades of pretty hard times here.
Right here, there used to be the old Hovden sardine cannery
where they used to put fish in cans here, and sell them to eat.
Now people come to see them swim around.
Back on my Californian trail...
..I'm heading 100 miles further down the coast.
I'll leave this train at Paso Robles, where according to Appletons',
"there are hot and cold sulphur springs in the beautiful valley of
"the Salinas River. The climate is good, and salubrious,
"and the accommodations for visitors, excellent."
Which is good news. I was thinking of a place with maybe, 165 rooms,
set in 127 acres?
California has more than its fair share of mansions.
But set up on a hilltop overlooking the ocean,
the magnificent Hearst Castle is surely the most striking.
The dream home of William Randolph Hearst,
the greatest newspaper baron in American history,
the inspiration for Orson Welles's masterpiece film, Citizen Kane.
The flamboyant multimillionaire held lavish parties here,
for movie stars and the rich and powerful.
I arrive at the top of the steps, and I'm confronted by a Spanish cathedral,
and it seems kind of absurd to recreate it in California.
But, on the other hand, Hearst has done it with absolute skill and
craftsmanship, and grace.
This room has all the feel of a heavy, dark,
sombre Spanish baronial hall.
But its treasures, in particular these tapestries, are just exquisite.
The castle became a museum in 1958. Scott Stec is my guide.
Scott, hello. I'm Michael.
-Michael, very nice to meet you.
-Well, as it were,
against my better instincts, I'm hugely impressed.
It is a formidable place.
What was it that inspired Hearst to build a castle to look like this?
I'll say it started at a very young age for William.
He was taken on a tour of Europe by his mother, at age 11,
and he fell in love with the art and architecture he saw.
So when he finally had the means to build something,
he took advantage of his knowledge of travelling to Europe.
So it is absolutely his taste.
Presumably, he was helped by an architect?
Yes. He hired a singular architect, for this project.
Her name was Miss Julia Morgan.
She was one of the first licensed architects in California.
And he worked with her, and only her, for 28 years on this project.
I imagine then, that this is a combination of his collection,
-and then some elements of pastiche?
The majority of what you're seeing here are pieces that
he collected, and then put together by himself and Julia Morgan.
And the setting? It is a stunning setting.
What was this place?
Originally, this was just a blank hilltop.
This was property, a ranch that his father,
George Hearst, had purchased.
As a young boy, William used to camp up on this hilltop with his parents.
So it's called Camp Hill.
Hearst used the magnificent collection of elegant rooms in the
main building, the Casagrande, to entertain.
But his private spaces were equally impressive.
The Gothic Suite on the third floor includes two luxurious bedrooms,
with views across the estate, and a vast private study.
Scott, this room is rampantly Gothic!
It's very elegant,
and the man's clearly comforted by books. All around us, the books.
Yes. A lot of his books have his handwritten notes in them.
He loved books, and read furiously.
His parents were clearly rich?
His father was a miner and made a fortune in gold,
copper and silver mines throughout the United States and he owned a
newspaper called the San Francisco Examiner that was losing money and
young William convinced his father, over time, to give him that newspaper.
That was his first newspaper success.
Hearst was inspired by Joseph Pulitzer,
the newspaper publisher who went on to establish an annual prize for
journalism in 1917.
His first newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner,
modelled Pulitzer's New York World.
The model really was sensationalist journalism.
He wanted the common man to purchase these newspapers.
That is what Pulitzer was all about
and Hearst followed in that same vein.
Can you give me any measure of how successful, how rich,
how influential Hearst was at his peak?
He had 28 newspapers by 1935.
He also had 13 magazines, magazines you would know today like Elle, Cosmopolitan.
He also had radio stations and he produced over 170 movies.
So he had the largest media empire
in the United States in the mid-20th century.
He died at the age of 88 in 1951.
He was worth approximately 250 million at that time.
You are so fortunate, you have the run of the castle.
When you reflect upon the man who sat in here,
what is it you feel about him?
This was his Gothic study, he's bringing his business
constituents up here, like Howard Hughes,
other people of that ilk.
So I always feel a sense of power when I walk in this room.
That sensation of power, which I feel too,
is very persuasive.
After all that decadence, a moment of quiet reflection on the beach.
This morning, I am continuing my journey down the Californian coast.
My next stop will be 30 miles south.
San Luis Obispo, says
Appletons', "partially surrounded by hills of singular beauty
"and by a fertile and well-tilled agricultural region.
"Railroad connections, both north and south,
"it's sure to become a flourishing city."
And so it has proved to be,
but who could have predicted the success of an imported fruit
of which I am an advocate?
San Luis Obispo, known as SLO to the locals,
lies roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It's surrounded by rich, agricultural land
and in the hills above Morro Bay,
Jim Shanley has been running a fruit business for almost 20 years.
-Very good to see you.
-Nice to see you.
-Harvesting your avocados?
-Can I give you a hand with that?
Yeah, sure, grab a bag. Here's a cluster.
Ah-ha. So I'd snip them right up close to the avocado, like that?
Where does the fruit originate from?
It comes from the Central American Highlands.
The fruit was actually propagated by a large sloth that no longer exists.
Do we know the origins of the word?
Yes, the word is from the Aztec for a body part,
the aguacate is a reference to the male testicle.
That is how we get the name of the avocado?
Yes, that is approximately the shape.
Avocados are pretty big in California aren't they, Jim?
Absolutely, consumption has been rising at an almost unbelievable
rate for the last ten years or so.
90% of America's avocados are grown in California on about 5,000 farms.
The fruit was first brought here in 1871 by a judge,
who discovered the trees in Mexico.
And by the 1950s, 25 different types were being sold.
There's been a lot of hybridisation.
The most popular variety worldwide is the Hass,
which actually originated in the back yard of a postman
named Rudolph Hass in Pasadena, California.
These trees seem very full of fruit, you get a good crop, do you?
The trees themselves, on average,
produce about 100lbs a year when cared for properly.
May I ask how many trees you have?
-I have 4,000.
-That's a lot of avocados.
So, they need very particular growth conditions, I assume?
Yes, frost-free is the most important thing.
Jim, I can't help noticing that
I'm carrying the avocados for both of us.
Yeah, that wasn't an accident.
-Do you mind if I empty my sack?
-Wow, look at that! We have been productive.
-That's all right.
Jim and his family have invited me to their farm to try one of their
favourite avocado recipes.
Here we go.
My name is Michael.
-Nice to meet you.
Megan joined her father
as a director of the business nine years ago.
She's offered to teach me how to make guacamole.
Right, tell me what to do.
So, slice this avocado in half
and then careful when taking out the pit.
We'd like you to leave with just as many fingers as you came with.
-Split the avocado.
-Let me show you how to do that.
-All right, you want to just give it a little twist.
Ah, I never knew that!
Scoop it all out. Fairly kind of roughly, or does it need to be...?
It doesn't need to have any consistency,
it's all going to get mashed.
Lovely, ripe avocado.
-Let me see whether I learnt my lesson.
-Good so far. OK.
-Think you got it.
-I'm really proud of myself.
-You make me a little nervous there.
This is our secret ingredient in our guacamole.
Called a finger lime. Slice this in half.
It's filled with little pearls of citrus juice.
So you just take that and sprinkle it over the avocados.
Next, grab a jar of our favourite salsa.
Then I like to sprinkle some garlic powder over.
Right, mash it up.
I think we are ready for a taste test.
Ladies and gentlemen, a toast to guacamole and margaritas.
I'm continuing my route south along America's west coast
on the last leg of my Californian journey.
Santa Barbara, says Appletons',
"has grown out of an old Spanish mission
"which gradually drew around it
"the native cultivators of the adjacent lands.
"The town contains a Spanish quarter,
"which will prove interesting to strangers by its tumbledown
It seems that race is about to raise its ugly head again,
but in a novel form.
Today, Santa Barbara is an affluent beach community.
But its hilltop mission is still run by Franciscan friars.
East of here lies another monument to the state's colonial past.
This beautifully-preserved cattle ranch, Rancho Camulos,
was established in 1835
by a prominent Hispanic family, the Del Valles.
The Rancho sits in magnificent landscape.
The buildings have verandas where you could enjoy the shade in the
evenings. There are tall trees and flowers.
It's really delightful.
It was built on the site of a former Native American village,
whose local population came to work for the Mexican owners.
Now a national historic monument, it became part of literary folklore.
Museum guide Maria Christopher plays
the part of the novelist who made it famous.
-Good afternoon, sir.
May I introduce myself, I'm called Michael.
Hello, Michael. I'm Helen Hunt Jackson.
A great pleasure to greet you indeed.
What was it that made you want to come to this part of California?
Well, I was working as a travel writer
and so I wanted to come and see one of the beautiful old ranchos.
But also I became enamoured with the Native American cause.
Why so? Why were you interested in them?
Well, I had become concerned about
the Government's mistreatment of Native Americans.
I wrote a book called Century Of Dishonour.
It detailed every atrocity that I could uncover.
I even sent a copy to each member of Congress. Nobody paid attention.
I came here and I spoke with the people
and I learnt their stories and I learnt their history.
And so I decided I was going to write a romantic novel.
I called it Ramona and it's like Romeo and Juliet if they lived in
Southern California in the 1860s.
What was it that divided these two star-crossed lovers?
Ramona is this beautiful young lady.
She's being raised as a senorita in the Hispanic culture
in a very wealthy rancho, and she had everything.
And Alessandro was an Indian, a Native American,
and he had come to work on the rancho.
They run off and they get married.
These are people from two cultures, two economic classes.
The Native Americans, the Indians, were living in poor housing.
Health care was not being provided.
There were doctors, but they were in the cities, not in the villages,
not where the Indians lived.
Published in 1884,
Helen Hunt Jackson's tale of romance and injustice was a bestseller and
readers were fascinated to learn about the old rancho way of life.
The popularity of Alessandro and Ramona
caused the first tourism boom to California.
It coincided with the arrival of the trains,
and so in Chicago the posters went up, "Come see the home of Ramona."
And so they came by train cross-country
even though Ramona was a fictitious character.
How would you sum up Helen Hunt Jackson's achievement?
She is still in print today, four movies were done on the story.
She captured old California, but she also opened up to people's minds the
horrors and the inequalities.
Every year since 1923 a pageant has been held telling the story
of Ramona and featuring popular dances from the period.
TRADITIONAL MUSIC PLAYS
That was marvellous. That was lovely.
Oh! HE LAUGHS
-Me invita a bailar?
-Pero que privilegio. Gracias.
What an elegant sombrero.
-And what shall I do with this? Maybe...
-Like that, do you think?
Cinco. Uno, dos.
Spain, which had made ill-gotten fortunes looting Peru and Mexico,
was slow to realise the potential of California
and failed to discover the gold and silver here.
It allowed these fertile territories to slip through its grasp.
They passed first to Mexico.
For a few days in 1846, there was here a self-proclaimed
independent California Republic.
The shrewdest thing that the United States
ever did was to hoist the Stars and Stripes at Monterey
and then to admit California as a new state
with unprecedented haste,
because otherwise it might today face a formidable
Californian competitor to its west.
Next time, I bring Christmas to LA.
-Pretty cool, huh?
-Ha-ha! It's cool indeed!
Discover the Metro's plan to tempt Angelinos from their cars...
You're going to be able to go from Downtown to Westside in 25 minutes.
That's unheard-of during the rush-hour period.
..and become an all-action Hollywood hero.
PUNCHING SOUND EFFECTS
Steered by his late-19th-century Appleton's guidebook, Michael Portillo continues his railroad travels through southern California aboard the Coast Starlight service. In the historic port of Monterey, Michael raises the Bear Flag of the one-time Republic of California and above it, the Stars and Stripes. He discovers the city's Spanish and Mexican heritage and traces how the former fishing port described as 'stinking and decrepit' in John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row has become a beacon for tourists. And how, in place of fish-processing canneries, there now stands a gleaming, state-of-the art aquarium, where Michael is invited to feed the fish.
Michael's next stop is Paso de Robles, where he tours the magnificent Hearst Castle, dream home of the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, to hear the tale of its creation. Onward to San Luis Obispo and the hills of Morro Bay and Michael joins avocado farmer Jim Shanley, amid his 4,000 avocado trees to harvest the pears and then learn how to make guacamole. Michael's last stop on this leg is outside Santa Barbara at Rancho Camulos, a former cattle ranch owned by a prominent Hispanic family and the setting for a best-selling romantic novel of the 19th century.