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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. 

Livia's Dining Room, Rome

Livia's dining room at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome may be my favorite museum room in the world, which given how many museums I love is no faint praise. Believed to be a cool triclinium for summer banquets this windowless room is anything but confining. The walls are decorated in a naturalistic  style and are covered in trees, foliage and birds which were painted at Livia's  suburban villa between 20-30 BCE. I could spend hours looking at these walls and it seems incredible to me that I'm looking at something built for the wife of the Emperor Augustus. No doubt this was the very best of domestic decoration! 
Unfortunately my pictures don't do the place justice, in person the blues and greens are more vivid and the sense of stepping back in time is incomparable. Having spent so much time in Paris last year the room evoked a similar feeling of peace that you can feel between the crowds in the Monet rooms at the L'Orangerie, where you are also immersed in the art which surrounds you.


The frescoed walls are filled with a sense of the natural world, trees, fruits, birds and flowers surround you with a transcendent sense of beauty that speaks to us across two millennium. It is breathtaking and well worth sitting for a couple of minutes to get the entire place to yourself. Yes there are lots of other magnificent decorative pieces to see at the Palazzo Massimo Terme including sculpture, mosaics and other domestic wall paintings - but for me this room alone is reason enough to come to the museum.
I love the combination of birds and pomegranates below!
I can't resist a couple of close ups...
There is just so much movement throughout….
You can practically hear these doves cooing after two thousand years.
Quite a number of the plants and flowers are identifiable but I particularly like the irises below...
Overall this is one of my favorite places in Rome and somewhere I know I will always come back to. Some how this is something I can relate to, a domestic aesthetic that resonates across time and space. Indeed there is something deeply reassuring that we can share a sense of beauty despite our differences. 

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