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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. 

merci - Is this The Most Stylish Shop in Paris?

Visiting  Merci is like wandering into a lifestyle magazine photo shoot. Everything is perfectly arranged, perfectly chosen and as Kenny Everett would say, "All in the best possible taste". Ok you won't understand this allusion  if you weren't watching English TV in the 1980's, but don't worry it's not essential to my point. If Martha Stewart developed a more modern aesthetic, lost her criminal past, developed a charitable side and moved to Paris perhaps she could have begun to have thought of Merci. No, that does the place a disservice, Martha would never have thought of crocheting a Fiat 500 or giving all the profits to charity.
Frankly it's no surprise that the design blogs have been agog for the place since it opened in 2009. This is one of the new breed of entrepreneurial philanthropy shops. It's a cliche to say it, but this is a place with heart. Everything is chosen with care and every purchase raised money for good. It may sounds ridiculous to say it, but you can feel the difference in the space.
Merci is constantly described as a "concept" store but to me this is one of those empty phrase that just designate something as hot or trendy, I'm not sure it really means anything else. It's a shop that displays thing in decorative tableaus. I particularly love the Jars pottery below, complete with fresh flowers.
If you know the Bay Area, it's like The Gardener in Berkeley relocated to Paris, expanded enormously and added a couple of cafes. 
There's a great mix of custom, vintage and new. You walk through small vignettes of what your body, life or house could look like if you had unlimited funds and exquisite taste. In this sense, it helps you conceptualize their goods into your life. Honestly, I want it all but instead I bought the perfect linen facecloth and took these pictures for you!
I love their tableware. There's a great mix of glass, pottery, china, metal as well as expensive, inexpensive, craft and mass manufactured goods.

Who could resist the simplicity and organic design of the bowls below?
Who doesn't need an animal trough to bathe in, particularly when it comes with a fetching chandelier, below? Please tell me this is just a 'concept'. I'm sure someone would break their hip getting out of this thing, not to mention the environmental waste of filling it up without livestock to drink from it. Shades of Marie Antoinette perhaps?
There are a lot of fabulous chairs, tables and lights, all beautifully displayed. When can I move in?
The store is housed in an old wallpaper factory in the Haut Marais on 111, Rue Beaumarchais conveniently right next to the St. Sebastien Froissart Metro if you're coming from another part of town. This is one of the trendiest parts of town and you can combine a visit with shopping for vintage fashion, the Rose Bakery or a trip to the Marche des Enfants Rouges all of which are within a short distance. 
The main space is constantly changing, currently they have a large paper chandelier installation which you can see above, and looking down at the main entrance below.
Highly recommended, I've just discover it but I can't wait to go back to work out if I have any space left in my suitcase.