Monday, July 18, 2011
You Mean Someone LIVES There?
I’ve seen my share of quirky homes during my years in France and on my travels back and forth across the Héxagone, as France is called because of its six-sided shape.
The photo in that article was of a house in Portugal built between two stones. It reminded me of Castel Meur on the north coast of Brittany. I’m showing it here at my own risk, because the present owner is so tired of having it photographed that she has acquired the right to sue anyone who reproduces it. I think her breaking point was that busload of Japanese tourists, one of whom climbed up on the roof to have his picture taken. As you can see, the house is sandwiched between two of the massive rock outcrops that are frequent along this New Englandesque coastline.
The other dreamer’s home is in the Rhone Valley: the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval. Ferdinand Cheval was a rural postmaster who walked miles and miles across the countryside every day to deliver mail. One day he tripped over a rock and found it so strangely shaped that he took it home with him. That started off something remarkable. Every day, after his rounds, he would take his wheelbarrow and walk miles back to gather more strange rocks. It took him 33 years to carry back enough stones to build his "Ideal Palace". I think his wife must have been very understanding. Although parts of his Palace look strikingly like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Cheval never saw a photo of it, or anything else Cambodian. His handiwork sprang from his bubbling imagination and what the stones reminded him of. (My favorite detail is what I see as the Three Little Pigs.) The life’s work of Ferdinand Cheval has been praised by Picasso and by surrealist author André Breton and immortalized in a collage by Max Ernst and an essay by Anaïs Nin. Since 1969, Culture Minister (and famed author) André Malraux listed it as part of France’s official cultural heritage. It’s been restored and is now open year round to the public. Technically not his house - his wife let him just "play in the garden" - it’s still on my list of incredible places people lived. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=PORBy6-whWY)