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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. 

Chateau de Castel Nouvel

On our trip through the Dordogne we spent two nights at Chateau de Castel Nouvel outside of Brive. I wouldn't rave but at the price we paid it was a good value and I was happy with the stay. The chateau is attractive and has some historic interest as it was the country home of the French writer Colette and her husband. It has been a hotel since the 1950s and the architecture is predominantly Nineteenth century revival.

There's a lovely view and a pleasant terrace which must be fabulous in good weather.
The public interior spaces have been refreshed, though our large room had a much more old fashioned floral decoration.

We enjoyed the solidly good meal we had at their Michelin starred restaurant. As you can see the dining room has a traditional feel. 

The meal which showcased seasonal flavors, included the lobster, asparagus and morel dish above. As well as beautiful desserts and the most extraordinary petit four cart I've ever seen (below).

 The macaroon were great as were the marshmallows.

Our meal was good but we found the menu  a little too rich. At  Bastide de Capelongue on the same trip, we enjoyed similarly rich ingredients  but overall the composition of the menu was more balanced. Here the food was good but not sublime, each dish stood well on its own but in aggravate the meal was a little too heavy.

As you can see the public areas have an elegant and yet homey feel. Overall we were happy with the service and particularly liked their wine recommendations. One evening we went down for drinks, but not dinner, and due to a delay bringing us our wine they brought a series of complimentary pre-dinner amuse bouche.  It was very kind of them and much appreciated.
Because of the weather we didn't investigate the grounds, pool or tennis courts, though I liked the small vineyard planted just below the main entrance to the hotel. Given what we paid I was happy with the hotel and would recommend it as a good value.
Tip: It's a surprisingly economical option if you book their two nights for the price of one. We paid only 222 euro for two nights in a chateau room with breakfast on one morning. if you stay here you don't want to stay in the annex rooms where you'll just feel like a poor relation!