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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. 

Musée Jaquemart-André, Paris

I loved the Jaquemart-André Museum which I visited last week on Boulevard Haussmann in the Eight Arrondissement. I always enjoy private collections,  particularly when they are preserved in period interiors, so I knew this was a good pick for me! It's a museum built around the personal collection and home of an extraordinary couple, the wealthy Edouard André and his wife the portraitist Nélie Jaquemart. Together and individually they travelled across Europe, the Near East, India and Burma, collecting and exploring while ongoing renovations where made on their Parisian home. The couple, their mansion and its artwork were much admired in the contemporary press and continue to captivate today, in part by providing a glimpse into Belle Epoque society. 
Their home was a repository of their taste and it was constructed and then modified to contain their treasures; wooden ceilings, a large Tiepelo fresco,  statues, decorative arts and paintings by Bellini, Uccello, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Canaletto and many others. It's a wonderful collection and because it has been a museum for so long (100 years this year) it is housed as it was, giving you a sense of the works in the aesthetic context of the collectors' home.
The rooms open up beautifully one into another with sumptuous artwork, curtains, moldings and decorative details. I found it spellbinding, in part because it was quiet and almost empty, a delight after spending time at the Louvre! I was astonished to turn a corner and see a version of one of my favorite pictures in the National Gallery in London, Uccello's St George and the Dragon.
Upstairs are several rooms of Italian and classical art that were kept as a private museum, though some of the works were roped off which made them rather hard to appreciate. 

The winter garden  (which reminded me of Frederick Leighton's house in London) had enormous charm even on a dull day, you can see it in the first photograph above. While the red music room, with it's galleried mezzanine, and the ballroom, with its removable walls, spoke to the lavish social life of this wealthy couple, see below.

This is also a great place to stop for lunch or a pot of tea. The cafe is charming with a beautiful terrace, though it was too cold for me at this time of year. I am very keen on a good cup of tea and you can get one here. There may even be change from your five euro note which  makes it reasonably priced by Parisian standards!

Note: The museum is run by Culturespaces which also runs the astonishing Villa Kerylos which we have visited on the Cote d'Azur. I blogged about it here, it's somewhere well worth checking out. The audio tour is included in your ticket at both sites and is highly recommended.