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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 few weekends ago we headed out to Chantilly to visit the chateau. It's an easy train ride from either Gare du Nord (25 minutes direct) or from Chatelet (40 minutes on the RER via various suburban stops).
It's an easy walk from the train station. Head straight out (with your back to the station) until you come to some parkland. Cross the street and you have two choices, either through a small wooded section towards the racetrack or around the woods on a path to the left. Either way it's signposted and it's easy to find. The walk was less than half an hour. For variety on the way back we walked through the attractive small town.

The first building we saw was the "Grand Escuries" which we approached from the side....
Surely this is the grandest stables in the world? It's now a "Horse Museum" and I must admit from a distance I thought this was the chateau!
When we turned the corned to see this view my mistake was clear!

The chateau has a wonderful art collection including an enormous quantity of portraits collected over a number of centuries and its well know for its collection of Raphael's work.
I particularly liked seeing the manner in which the paintings were displayed which is highly reminiscent of  pictures I saw at the Louvre displaying the long galleries as they were organized in the eighteenth and  nineteenth century. Here you have the sense of how these art collections looked before they became public spaces, postage stamped and jumbled together at the whim of the owner/collector, added to as each family member inherited.
In the dining room you can see the tapestries displayed in their gargantuan wooden frames. The scale and grandeur of the room from floor to ceiling  is hard to convey.The library was also very beautiful but their famous book of hours is not on display and we were not impressed by the copy they have on show.
There are so many beautiful rooms including an extraordinarily decorated monkey room combining a neoclassical and Chinoiserie elements with monkey characters, wild!
The parade of decorative rooms went on and on along with  grand staircases and the obligatory private chapel.

We hadn't got an early start (for which I am wholly to blame) and by the time we made it to the gardens it was getting rather cold. However I was fascinated to see this small hameau ( or hamlet) which became a model for Marie Antoinette's  rustic retreat   at the Petit Trianon. Certainly the place had the feeling of a pastoral idyll though it would have been even more attractive in the warmth!