This Tiny House Tour in France is a guest post by Chris Wenban of Tiny Footprint
While spending time with family in Europe I was fortunate to find myself with a week to spare. I have a good friend in Paris and decided to be multi-functional (as all good tiny obsessives are) and arrange a tiny house tour in France, culminating in a tiny themed weekend in Paris.
Via the wonders of google I managed to find 2 tiny houses to stay in relatively close to each other to the west of Paris near Nantes, this also happens to be the home region of Baluchon who have been one of the key ground-breakers and tiny house builders in the movement in France. With a tiny hire car, a Renault Twizy, I left Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and headed west toward Bretagne (Brittany) and the Loire Valley, not to find castles, but to find tiny houses.
Chris Wenban of Tiny Footprint Takes Us on a Tiny House Tour of France!
I was impressed by the French motorway/freeway out to the west and covered a huge amount of ground heading into Bretagne and the Loire Valley. Through my journey it seemed there were endless very gently rolling hills full of bright yellow rapeseed flowers and trees full of mistletoe plants hanging in balls. With spring just peeking through and the trees still quite bare they looked like old tarnished Christmas decorations! If had not been aiming for Nantes in such a hurry it would have been nice to turn of the péage and take the backroads.
First Stop: Tiny House Ossatur
I arrived in Martigné-Ferchaud where the Tiny House Ossatur tiny house is located on a campground right next to the lake, in a peaceful little village. My host Aurélie was quick to head over when I arrived to show me how everything worked in the tiny house. I discovered the house was one of a number they were building in their workshop in the same village. She very kindly invited me to come over the next morning and see the workshop.
As do all good tourists in France, I had bought some bread, cheese and charcuterie for dinner and although I could have cooked something more ambitious in the well-stocked kitchen, I was extremely happy with my choice. France, the only place you can get incredible cheese and bread at a service station on the motorway/freeway!
I was delighted to find the tiny had its own minibar with an honesty box, a lovely touch! The small bottle of local rosé wine really added to my French meal.
The facilities included a full-size shower with instant hot water, a traditional dry toilet with sawdust – this seems to be the standard for French tiny houses. They are economical and of courses reduce the need for water.
The lounge area had a fantastic comfy sofa and the table was the IKEA standard you see in a lot of tiny houses but cleverly incorporated to create a continuous bar shelf under the window, great for gazing out onto the lake.
The ladder to the huge loft bed had an ingenious system to hold it out of the way when not in use and all the little style details in the curtain and pillows made it hard to leave bed in the morning, it was a really cozy corner.
I had my complimentary breakfast the next morning to the sounds of the birds and sadly packed up, but was glad to be heading over to meet Aurelie and Arnaud at their workshop.
Aurelie showed me 1 tiny house ready to go, the customer wanted the frame, walls and plumbing done and after delivery would finish off the kitchen and painting themselves. It had 2 rooms and would use a separate bathroom. Another tiny with a loft was being renovated, yes even tiny houses need updating!
The real surprise was Ossatur’s innovative range of mobile toilets and a toilet/shower on wheels that can be used at festivals and for parties. A great idea to use the same concepts used in a tiny house. Surely no respectable sustainability festival or green festival could use chemical portaloos – this must be the answer instead!
It was great to spend time with Aurélie and Arnaud and with some French and English on both sides, and the help of google translate we proved that communication is very easy when you are passionate and interested in the same things!
Second Stop: Baluchon
Leaving Martigné-Ferchaud I drove south to Le Pallet where I had arranged to go to the Baluchon workshop and talked to Laëtitia and Vincent, and got jumped on by Apex the dog. The workshop is a fantastic and very professionals setup with a great busy atmosphere with the team they have there.
Photos of their previous builds and their owners are evidence of the pride they take in their work and Laëtitia explained that all their tiny houses are being lived in by their owners. I am not surprised seeing the beautiful custom design and work they have done. I was privileged to be shown 2 of the houses in progress, that even the owners have not seen yet. Be sure to follow them on Facebook to see pictures when they are delivered.
They had 1 tiny house completed and ready for a long journey the next day, it was a unique house made for a customer who would be both living in it and using it has his massage studio. Japanese inspired décor was really enhanced by the incredible detail in the woodwork.
Third Stop: Vagabonde House
Leaving Le Pallet it was a short trip through some more stunning countryside to the Les Génaudières Winery, the location of the Vagabonde Tiny House. It does not get much more impressive than seeing a tiny house looking out over the Loire and sitting amongst the vines. The pictures on the website are beautiful but still cannot do justice to the 360 views this tiny house has.
I was directed to a local boulangerie in the small village of Oudon nearby which was well worth the short drive for both the village and the bread and cakes. I think if I had ordered the picnic basket prior to my arrival, it would have come from the same bakery, but it was worth a visit to Oudon.
If a bottle of wine from the cellar door was not already included in the price of my stay I would have bought one anyway as after tasting a number of their impressive range and having the opportunity to speak to a very patient Anne in my very very bad schoolgirl French, it seemed the perfect end to a fantastic day to sit on the beautiful little deck of my tiny house, finishing my cheese with my amazing Oudon bread and a sneaky chocolate éclair – as they say “when in France..”
Breakfast was brioche of course and fresh oranges to juice. I was heading back to Paris at the end of my tiny house tour. Very happy with my experience but a little sad my tour was only tiny.. I think I will be back to do a big tiny tour one day.
Fourth Stop: Paris
When thinking about Paris, tiny houses are not very common in the centre. Tiny apartments are the norm in Paris, with families used to living in close quarters and using space efficiently. With not much space inside, Parisians use the amenities in their city to the full and so a tiny tour of Paris was easy to find.
Meeting friends and eating out mean that tiny Cafés and bars are on every street corner. Their distinctive tiny tables and chairs, all facing out for the ultimate Parisian pass time of people watching. I did find Le Tiny Café but unfortunately it was shut on both my visits, no real problem though when so many tiny cafes are open, if not called tiny!
Bars used for socialising in the evening when you do not have room to invite friends back to your apartment are often tiny too and ‘The Small Red Door’ had a beautiful and distinctive front door!
Living in a tiny Parisian apartment with children means that getting out into the fresh air is a priority. The tiny parks around Paris are the perfect place to do that. A particularly lovely find was the Parc de Bercy. It has a number of beautiful themed areas and feel like a village garden, so it is hard to see it sit under the eye of the apartment blocks around it. My favourite was the community vegetable garden, dotted with its own tiny insect houses, and the tiny chateau style house with bird houses taking up the prime real estate. I was all an inspiration that I will take away with me. Another tiny park with a great view is Square du Vert-Galant just under the Pony Neuf. It was a view of the beautiful Pont des Arts one way and is on an island with Notre Dame.
A surprise tiny find was in fact rather big, but smaller than expected! The 22m Statue of Liberty was given to the people of Paris by the American community there in thanks for the real, and big one. It sits by the Pont de Grenelle in the west of the city. Funny how some ‘tiny’ finds are sometimes not even that small!
I managed to meet with another tiny enthusiastic downing amazing things on my way back to the airport. Romain Minod at Quatorze is working to put tiny houses to fantastic use through the ‘In My Backyard’ project. This project will provide hospitality and community services support to those currently excluded from housing, and will be an inspiration to many around the world. It shows how the combination of living tiny and the support of local people and government agencies can put the space we have around us to the best use and benefit all those involved. I look forward to seeing this project grow and succeed.
Thanks to all those who shared their stories and showed me such fabulous French hospitality, Aurélie and Arnaud from Tiny-House Ossatur; Laëtitia and Vincent from Baluchon; Antoine, Yann and Anne at Les Génaudières and Vagabonde-House; Romain Minod from Quatorze and finally Ilana, my Parisian friend, host and inspiration for my trip. I look forward to more tiny tours with you around the globe!
For more photos see the Facebook album https://www.facebook.com/pg/tinyfootprinthomes/photos/?tab=album&album_id=208526776405116
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