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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. 

Josephine Baker's Chateau Milandes

I first read about Josephine Baker in an African American Studies class at Berkeley and was delighted to stumble upon Chateau Milandes in the Dordogne which was her home from 1940. If you're not familiar with Baker she was a dancer, singer and cabaret star best known for  dancing in a banana skirt and as an outspoken advocate for Civil Rights, world peace  and cultural understanding.
Baker was a huge cabaret star in the 1920's, but worked on the stage for her entire life. The museum at the Chateau chronicles her career, and while  I was well aware of her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the US, I was not aware of her work with the French Resistance  for which she was awarded the Croix du Guerre.
What is great about visiting Chateau Milandes is that they've ensured there's plenty for everyone. There are so many Chateaus in the Dordogne the question is which ones to visit? Consequently they all lay on additional entertainments to lure you and Milandes offers more than most. 
In addition to the gardens and castle, which in this case was mostly rebuilt, they have  the museum of Baker's life, a nice outdoor cafe and a fascinating falconry/raptor show which has no apparent  link to either the building or Baker but is nonetheless popular with the tourists and most entertaining! You're not allowed to take photos inside the building so I can't show you the collection of Baker's stage costumes but I couldn't resist an illicit photo of her bathroom which could be in a design magazine today!

After touring the museum and learning about Baker's children who she adopted from all over the world we had a quick lunch...
and headed to the bird show. It  was quite extraordinary and included an enormous eagle owl and an even larger bald eagle, both of which you can see below.
Overall it's an interesting place and I would highly recommended it for anyone with an interest in cabaret or the intersections between French and African American history. 
PS There are so many castles in the area, not all of them open to the public. Here are a few more photos I can't resist including!