Imagine waiting to enter one of the most expensive residential real estate listings in the U.S. and watching as its two 12-foot-tall gilded gates open to reveal a $159 million ocean-front compound.
That's exactly where I find myself, invited to Florida's Gold Coast to check out, "Playa Vista Isle," a 60,000-square-foot Versailles-inspired mega-mansion covered in 22-karat gold accents, inside and out.
It's something I get to experience as a producer for CNBC's "Secret Lives of the Super Rich" — there are no precious metals adorning my studio apartment in New York City, so it's a sight to behold.
The owner of the estate spared no expense and spent five years building the one-of-a-kind, Neoclassical castle. And now that his architectural masterpiece is complete, he's decided to auction off the property to the highest bidder on Nov. 15 — with no reserve.
So this is my last chance to see the place.
The mansion is in Hillsboro Beach, half way between Miami and Palm Beach. It sits on a strip of land with the Intracoastal Waterway in front and the Atlantic out back. If I had a 220-foot yacht this would be the perfect place for it.
It's a beautiful day in South Florida (though the mansion is built to withstand a Category 5 Hurricane, with a backup generator system that could keep the place running smoothly for 10 days), and as I walk up the raised circular limestone driveway, I feel the sun and ocean breeze on my face. A 29-foot-high fountain rises up from the courtyard below.
There are also six man-made waterfalls on the property — I see one that's two-stories tall with water cascading over blue tiles and 22-karat gold covered columns into the $4 million, 150,000-gallon resort-sized pool below. (It also has a water slide, grotto and glass bottom Jacuzzi).
Now I'm dying to see the inside.
As you would expect, security is tight here. Instead of traditional locks on the doors, there are biometric fingerprint scanners. Luckily, I'm greeted at the $500,000 gilded mahogany front doors by the house manager who lets me in.
The first thing I'm drawn to are the panoramic views of the sparkling Atlantic ocean thanks to the floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls in the living room; at the moment they are open to let in the fresh, salty air.
There's some French antique furniture in the living room, but it's very clear that no one has ever lived here. Despite the warm sun coming in, the inside feels cold and empty.
Still, there's no shortage of luxury at every turn: When I look up, there's a 100-year old Austrian crystal chandelier over-head. When I turn around, there's a $2 million staircase with Italian railings and steps made of marble mined in Namibia. And of course, it's adorned with gold.
The house is so massive the best way for my videographer to film the place is to get on a motorized Segway with his camera and scoot around. (Watch the tour in the video embedded above.)
On the main level I follow him into the dining room past a table that seats 16 guests and then into the kitchen where there's more mahogany and gold, including a mahogany-framed saltwater aquarium that's so big it would take 16,000 cups of water to fill.
Up the expensive stairs the second floor, there are 11 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms here, but I wanted to see the master suite. It was designed to look like the master in the Vanderbilt family mansion, a French Renaissance Chateau called Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.
Past a second floor library with a gorgeous view of the water is the master wing. In the bedroom, a king-size bed sits on a raised platform surrounded by a railing ornate with gold leaf that looks like it should be in a royal palace.
In the master bath, his and her showers drip with onyx accented by shimmering mother of pearl inlays. And of course, the shower heads and hardware are plated with even more gold.
The luxury continues downstairs where the owner built a 3,000-bottle wine cellar that's fully stocked with a wall of Crystal champagne.
There's also the $2 million residential 3-D IMAX theater, which the owner believes to be the first of its kind in the U.S.
For a test run, the house manager played "Avatar" on the big screen. I only watched for a few minutes, but I can tell you the plush red suede reclining chairs felt luxe, the IMAX system is incredible and when you close the theater doors, its totally sound proof.
There's also a massive 20-car garage that's climate controlled.
While it's not really my style, it's hard not see the appeal of a luxurious hurricane-proof French castle that sits on one of the most pristine stretches of sand in South Florida.
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