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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

Chantilly


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!

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