LESSONS FROM TV: If "Downton Abbey" has taught us anything it is this: Some really dishy stuff goes on in the kitchen, and we don't mean dishy as in dishes. But isn't that always the way? Everyone everywhere gravitates toward the place in the house that holds the food and the warm stoves and the beverage cart and the pantry. This is the case even grand houses (on "Downton Abbey" it sometimes feels as if Branson and Lady Mary are downstairs as much as they're up). Take Hearst Castle, for example. William Randolph Hearst wasn't just your everyday tycoon who liked to oversee lavish parties but never venture near the larder. He would in fact lead his flapper-fied, tuxedo'd guests to his grand kitchen for a snack of Welsh Rarebit, a cheesy concoction that he himself would cook. You just wonder what the staff made of this, or if they expected it when the house was full of revelers. Look no further than the docents of the San Simeon landmark for stories about this, and more tales, on the Hearst Castle Cottages and Kitchen Tour.
DOMESTIC DAY-TO-DAY: Tour goers are a funny lot. They want to see the grandeur and the silver and the paintings, but just about everyone wonders what went down behind-the-scenes in the house. But tours at Hearst and other American mansions tend not to visit the humbler nooks. The Cottages and Kitchen Tour is truth in advertising: You'll see "the most personal rooms of the property" and not just the halls filled with tapestries. Plus? The wine cellar. You know that has to be Hearstian in its impressiveness. An adult ticket is $25.