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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

A Palace, A Pousada and Medieval Monuments

Lisbon's quiet charm was such that we only made it out of the city on two brief jaunts, once to Sintra for a day trip and for a single weekend away visiting some great medieval monuments. There is so much to say about these sites. Batalha and Alcabaca are both well worth visiting and at the end of our weekend we made a quick stop at Mafra (above) to see the enormous royal palace  which was reminiscent of the endless rooms at Versailles.

I think Alcabaca (above) was my favorite  because give you a real sense of the religious lives of monks with their cloister, dormitory, kitchen and dining room.The church itself has a simple gothic elegance, with a very tall nave.
There are several wonderfully detailed tombs with dogs sitting faithfully at the feet of the deceased. I particularly liked this one.
It's a beautiful stone building and the double cloister is built directly onto the church.
The dining room above has a pulpit for sermons. 

This is the extraordinary kitchen where meals must have been prepared for hundreds. The scale is enormous and we've never seen a mediaeval kitchen like it.  You could roast several oxen under this chimney and there is an elaborate water system filling multiple sinks as well as huge marble tables for butchering or food preparation. 

The monks' dormitory has direct access to the nave which you can see at the end of the room in the photo below.  
The building went on and on and there are extensive areas and gardens that are not open to visitors, see below. Highly recommended and well worth visiting. I'll try to post some pictures of Batalha  and the pousada at Estremoz in another post.