Monday, December 19, 2011


Mission Inn and Spa in Riverside, California is a Historical Landmark Hotel. The construction was started by Christopher Columbus Miller in 1876. Over the next thirty years he and his son Frank, created a masterpiece of architecture, drawing inspiration from Spanish Colonial, Spanish Gothic, Mission Revival and Moorish Colonial Revival styles, among others.

For the 19th time the Annual Festival of Lights transforms this historical hotel into a land of enchantment with more than 3.5 million lights. The festival lasts through Sunday, January 8, 2012.

My husband and I stayed at the hotel over 15 years ago and were totally charmed by it. We returned this last weekend and were charmed again, in addition to the architecture, by the charming Christmas Decorations and lights. Above and below are some of my favorites.

Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, much in demand for weddings.

I have heard claims that the hotel is haunted and especially rooms on the fourth floor, where ours was. No paranormal activity this time, but some strange building decisions, like the steps that led nowhere in our closet area, above.

The doors were quite massif and very detailed. The above door leads to a clothes closet with a
dome ceiling.T

The bedroom featured this interesting window, above. Below you can see how it looks from the outside.

Interesting marble tile floor on the fourth level.

Flying buttresses.

This painting hangs in the 4 Diamond restaurant Duane's. I stared at it for the duration of our three hour dinner with friends who had come to join us at the hotel. The painting is quite large and is the focal point of the restaurant. It is titled "Charge up San Juan Hill", painted in 1900 by Russian artist Vasili Vereschcagin. It shows Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders storming a hill during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Amid the mixture of architectural periods, classical restrain can be found at the hotel.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Did the Age of Opulence in Hollywood end with Elizabeth Taylor? Perhaps. Her collection of jewelry and gowns will be dispersed to highest bidders at Christie's in London on December 13 and in New York December 14 and 15. Selected items are touring the world and can be seen this weekend in Los Angeles at MOCA at the Pacific Design Center.
The emerald necklace from Bulgari was given to her by Richard Burton. "I introduced Elizabeth to beer and she introduced me to Bulgari" he said.

Andy Warhol claimed that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Elizabeth Taylor of course was not "everyone". In fact she once said "I can't remember a day when I was not famous." Above is a Warhol lithograph of her, also to be auctioned.

This beaded bolero jacket is by Versace.

The Tiziani black velvet "Scorpio" cape was worn to Princess Grace of Monaco's fortieth birthday
"Scorpio" ball. Princess Grace was a Scorpio. At the time, Karl Lagerfeld was Tiziani's freelance designer and this cape may have been designed by him.

Elizabeth's third husband, Mike Todd, gave her this antique tiara, telling her, "You are my queen and you should have a tiara".

This Prince of Wales brooch originally belonged to Wallis, Duchess of Windsor. When it came up at auction, Elizabeth purchased it for $630,000. The amount went for AIDS research.

The most stunning item is the 33.19 carat Elizabeth Taylor diamond, a gift from Richard Burton.
The auction estimate is $2,500.000-$3,500.000.

Maxi and Mini. I happened to be wearing a modest pearl necklace with a similar clasp as on the David Webb necklace. A better look at the "Maxi" below.

A note from Andy Warhol. Christie's has announced that a portion of the profits generated by exhibition admissions, events and selected publications related to the sale will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


If you have been following my posts, you know that my interests are varied and many. This time I am inside the bowels of the Louvre Museum. Every time I visit, I am not only interested in the art inside, but the interior architecture. The most impressive feature to me is the Escalier Lefuel
or the Lefuel Staircase.

Napoleon III commissioned Hector-Martin Lefuel (1810-1880) to build an addition to the Louvre, known as the New Louvre. (The I.M. Pei renovation with the Pyramid is known as the Grand Louvre.)

In spite of it's imposing scale, it has a feeling of serenity. The light penetrates through the oval windows on the upper level softening the ambiance. The staircase is in the Richelieu wing. These
pictures were taken this June, when the museum was crowded with visitors. yet there is hardly anyone in sight. A wonderful refuge.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Petajavesi Old Church in Central Finland was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
The church was built between 1763 and 1765 by a local peasant master builder. What makes it unique, is it it's log construction and the skills of the peasant population. Stylistically it mixed Renaissance with older Gothic elements. I had the opportunity to visit the church this summer. The church is located on a picturesque peninsula, facilitating the access by boat in the summer and by ice in the winter. The grandson of the builder added the bell tower in 1821. In 1879 a new church was built in the center of Petajavesi and the old church was abandoned. In the 1920s an Austrian art historian Josef Strzygowski brought attention to it's historical and architectural value and since then the church has been repaired several times. Today it is used for weddings and services during the summer months and especially since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been visited by tourists from around the world.

The above floor plan shows the cruciform shape of the church.

The initials of the builders can be seen on the unpainted surface of the beams. The decoration is red ochre.

The pulpit has charming depictions of angels and other religious figures.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The freshest local ingredients, produce grown by local farmers, fish from the nearest fishing harbor, herbs grown in your own herb garden. This is what we expect from our best California restaurants and what we like to serve our guests at home. It was a big surprise to find out that it was exactly what the finest first century Roman meals consisted of as well. Last Thursday night I had a great pleasure to attend a true culinary adventure at the Getty Villa. The evening started with a lecture by food historian Andrew Dalby. It was followed by a dinner planned and prepared by Sally Grainger, a professional chef with a degree in ancient history. The planning of the menu started two years ago and the preparations for the event one year ago! The result was an absolute culinary heaven.

The dinner took place in the Inner Peristyle Garden of the Getty Villa.

The menu consisted of thirteen dishes. Very few recipes of the period exist. Ms. Grainger has used a collection called Apicius on Cookery, compiled for professional cooks, usually slaves.
The principal flavors were honey, vinegar, a fermented fish sauce and various fresh herbs and spices. Ten of the evenings dishes contained fish sauce, liquamen. Whole fish was fermented for up to three months, the liquid was then strained and bottled. Apparently the smell was so pungent that it's production was outlawed in urban areas. Ms. Grainger calls the fish sauce a magic ingredient that enhances and balances flavors.

The main course was Porcellum Hortolanum, Whole Stuffed Roasted Pig. It was stuffed with chicken, pork, pheasant, duck, lucanic sausage, cabbage, leak, dates, celery, eggs, breadcrumbs, cumin, fennel seed, oregano, thyme, pine nuts, parsley, pepper and fish sauce.
Other dishes included Lumbuli Assi, Calf's Kidney Stuffed with Coriander, Fennel Seed and Pine Nuts and Gustum de Cucurbitis Farsilibus, Zucchini stuffed with Calf's Sweetbread. Dressed with Oenogarum (fish sauce) and served with Mixed Greens. The menu also included Ius in Labrix, Sea Bass Fillets in Green Herb Sauce. Various vegetable dishes were also served, including Cymas, Shredded cabbage and Fresh Coriander with a Honey-and-Vinegar Dressing. And yes, it also contained fish sauce.
The dessert consisted of Libum, Honey infused Cake Served with Apricot Patina and Gastris, Sesame Sweetmeat.

Porcellum Hortolanum above

The oysters were served with oenogarum, fish sauce made with Sauternes, which was poured on the oysters. It was absolutely delicious.

With the evening's chef, Sally Grainger, in the Inner Peristyle Garden. It was a magical experience, and dining in the Inner Peristyle Garden brought back many wonderful memories from my Docent days at the Villa from 1984 to 1996, The Golden Era!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I have just returned from a three week trip to Europe. I visited Finland and France. Perhaps the most interesting exhibition I saw in Paris was at the Musee Bourdelle, a retrospective of couture dresses created by Madame Gres. Her simple, draped dresses were displayed among very powerful statues by Antoine Bourdelle creating a striking contrast. Madame Gres (1903-1993) was originally trained as a sculptress, and this clearly shows in her way of using fabric. Madame Gres had a very fashionable clientele, including the Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo and Jacqueline Kennedy. She also created the perfume Cabochard.

Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) started as a woodcarver in his father's cabinet shop, and went to study sculpture in Toulouse. At the age of 24 , he won a scholarship to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He became one of the pioneers of monumental 20th century sculpture. Auguste Rodin became a great admirer and Bourdelle joint him at his atelier, becoming soon a popular teacher.
"Contain, maintain and master are the rules of construction" he told his pupils. The same phrase could be applied to the work of Madame Gres.
The final version of Bourdelle's statue "Hercules the archer" can be seen in the Musee d'Orsay. This is a version on display in the Musee Bourdelle.