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  An Amazing place in France


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at Hauterives, Drôme, France

Palais Ideal Hauterives view     Palais Ideal Hauterives rear view

A few years ago we saw a TV programme  by Jarvis Cocker about naive art  where he visited Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval at Hauterives in the Drôme region of central France about 40 km north-east of Valence.

Our touring itinerary in 1998 took us to that region of France so we decided a visit would be worthwhile and we were amazed at what we saw.

We revisited again in 2006. Little had changed except there is now a much larger information centre and tourist office and it is much more well known as a tourist attraction. The town has capitalised on its fame and there are also a museum of Naïve art and an exhibition hall. 

Palais Ideal detail

The site is hardly undiscovered now with tourist signs to the town from many kilometres away but it is an amazing place to visit and the day we stayed there was an evening Son et Lumiere event which added to the spectacle, including a terrific thunderstorm with lightning which added even more to the sense of mystery.

It is only a few hundred yards from the municipal campsite situated next to a chateau which is now a public museum adjacent to the town's swimming pool and sports complex. The town centre is only a couple of hundred metres away.
There is also a well signposted free camping-car aire

Palais Ideal amazing statues

Who built it?
This monument was the work of one man, Ferdinand Cheval who was a local postman (facteur) in the area from 1869 until he retired in1896.

He started the construction using lime and cement in 1879 working each day after a 20 mile daily post round on foot. After his retirement in 1896 he continued to build the monument until 1912 after which he started to build a vault for this tomb in the local cemetry. He died in 1924 aged 88.

what sort of person built this?

The monument's structure is 26 metres long by 14 metres wide and up to 10 metres high, with internal passages lined with sea shells and external stairs and walkways. It is covered with inscriptions of all sorts,  figures of many animals and famous people such as Julius Caesar and Archimedes. What amazed us most was the intricate detail of the decorated figures and arrangements. An inscription in the north east corner states "10,000 days, 9300 hours , 33 years of toil".

 a riot of decoration

Ferdinand Cheval's wheelbarrow and some of the tools he used are on display. There is also an information centre and gift shop.


The wheelbarrow he used in the constructon

The Palais is illuminated on  certain evenings during the summer when there is a Son et Lumiére presentation

Palais at night

It is certainly a sight that's "worth a detour" as the Michelin Green Guide would say !
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