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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 …

The ArtFund Pass

Yes, it's a well kept secret you need to know about....

In the past we’ve joined the Royal Oak Foundation (the US arm of the National Trust) but this time we are mainly in London so we've joined the ArtFund. Membership gives you free entrance to many of the smaller house museums and a 50% discount on special exhibits at the larger museums, think places like the British Museum, the Tate or the National Gallery.  It’s a good deal for anyone staying for a substantial period and/or looking to visit a lot of small museums and historic houses, particularly in London. 

On first full day in London  the sun came out, though unfortunately this didn't continue. However,  that alone was enough to get me out of the house. So we decided to walk to The Courtauld which seemed a good place to start our art adventure, something familiar but somewhere that never disappoints. The joy of the ArtFund pass is that because the entrance is free, you can just drop in for just an hour to admire this Gaugin...
The ArtFund pass worked like a charm and that's just what we did with only an hour to go before closing. It's such a charming gallery and it wasn't too busy so there was plenty of room to admire. Who could complain about a room of Cezannes, or a tiny room filled with small studies by Seurat? I've been there lots of times but somehow had forgotten a second version (not as large as the one in the D'Orsay) of Dejeuner sur L'Herbes, magnificent. An hour made for a brief visit but after a full day that was more than enough.
The Red House, along with a many  National Trust and English Heritage properties in and around London, offers free entry with the ArtFund pass. However, the pass doesn't cover all National Trust or English Heritage sites, for example it covers 2, Willow Road in Hampstead but not Fenton House, although they are both National Trust properties. I think which properties are covered has something to do with whether  the ArtFund has purchased artworks for the site.
One of the things I'm enjoying most about the membership is that it's drawing my attention to places I've never heard of and might have missed, such as the Wernher Collection housed at the Ranger House in Greenwich, photo above. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rangers-house-the-wernher-collection/

Here's a list of the places we visited on the pass so far;
The Courtauld
The Dickens Museum
Apsley House
Ranger House
Leighton House
Keats House and Museum
Chiswick House

The Fashion Museum, Bath
Number One Royal Crescent, Bath
The Architecture Museum, Bath
Moffisant House
Uppark House
Eltham Palace
Red House
Kensington Palace

The card has also given us fifty percent off the following exhibitions:
The Design Museum - Women, Fashion Power
The Fashion and Textile Museum - Thea Porter
The National Portrait Gallery -Seargent
The Tate - Sculpture Victorious
The British Library -The Magna Carta Exhibit
The National Gallery -Inventing Impressionism
The Dulwich Picture Gallery- Ravillious
The British Museum- Defining Beauty
These special exhibits are often quite expensive so as you can see the savings really add up. Here's the Dulwich Picture Gallery designed by Sir John Soane.
I still have lots of places on "The List" including the Jewish Museum, the Estorick Collection, 2, Willow Rd, The Foundling Museum, The Handel House Museum, Carlye's House as well as several sites in Richmond including Strawberry Hill House, Marble House and Ham House but I'm not sure I'll be making all of these in the next month, or if I do I'll need a holiday in the Maldives to recover!

In fact the only problems with the card is that I'm inclined towards maximizing the whole thing - which leads to me running around like a maniac. You can see it as a character flaw or an advantage, but either way it's exhausting! The one thing is guarantees is that you'll  be seeing some of these destinations on the blog in the next few months.

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