Detours worth taking: Places in France that celebrate imagination
France is blessed with many attractions that visitors from around the world line up to see. Sometimes it happens that within a few miles of a major monument, museum or chateau there are hidden pearls. All it takes is a little detour from your main itinerary to discover these amazing, out of the way places.
Let’s go on the road and visit three most unusual sites. Their display of fantasy, imagination and whimsy will leave you spellbound.
If you happen to be in Lyon, take the time to visit the Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval, located fifty miles south of the city, in the village of Hauterives. Built over thirty-three years by a humble postal worker, this building, when seen from a distance, looks like a sand castle. Closer inspection reveals that it’s made out of thousands of stones of different sizes. The result is a weird world of fantasy that contains elements from different places and borrows from different styles: a Hindu temple, an Egyptian mummy, a grotto with a statue of Mary.
When visiting Chartres, mosaic aficionados will delight at the sight of the Maison Picassiette, a forty-minute walk from the famous cathedral. Built by graveyard sweeper Raymond Isidore, the monument is a feast for the eyes. Bits of crockery, shards of glass, tea spouts, perfume bottles, and broken ashtrays cover every surface of this house and meld together to create shapes and images about religion, death, the feminine and the exotic.
In the eastern part of the country, about 22 miles from Besançon, a rather grandiose building stands which was used as a factory for the manufacture of salt in the 18th century. Architecture and history buffs will find la
a fascinating site with its early Enlightment-style buildings and museums. The creator of this vision of a salt workers’ paradise was architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, who was hired by King Louie XVI to execute the project.