France has a variety of different building codes, classifications and official architects whose job is to (complicate your existence) assure a certain harmony or style in a given area. The area where we live is under the direction of the Architecte des Bâtiments de France (ABF). This has it’s positive points–no one can move in and build some modern concrete monstrosity next to us or paint their house bright orange–but it also means that we need the ABF’s authorization to do anything that will modify in any way the outside of our house. This hasn’t been an issue for us yet thankfully and I hope it won’t be one when it comes time to replace our roof one day.
Thatched roofs are rare here. At one time considered the poor man’s roof, they are now practically a luxury. Shingled slate roofs are the norm in this part of Brittany. That said, there are a couple of beautiful thatched stone houses just minutes from our home and it was these houses that led me to today’s postcard.
Hida Folk Village is an open-air museum in Takayama. (The official website–Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato)–is only in Japanese but it does contain additional pictures worth checking out.) The village showcases over 30 traditional farmhouses and other buildings like the one above. Called gassho-zukhuri houses due to their steep-thatched roofs which ressemble praying hands, the farmhouses were moved from the Shirakawa-go region to the village for preservation purposes. Today, visitors can explore the houses which range from 100-500 years old. Some of the building are even furnished with artifacts (clothes, utensils, umbrellas, etc) which help bring to life their ancient occupants and purpose. I’ve always enjoyed sites that help bring history alive. Artisans also work at various sites in the village keeping traditional crafts alive. Some even offer workshops where you can try your hand at them too! While aimed at a general audience, I can see Laura and Elise enjoying themselves here as much as my husband and I.
Two other living history sites worth recommending for those of you who can’t get to Japan yet:
–Old Sturbridge Village in the United States which brings to life the New England of 1790-1840–working farm, costumed interpreters, workshops, etc. Another one of my dream destinations!
–Guédelon Castle here in France where a team of over people are building a 13th century fortress using the means, materials and skills of the period! The project is scheduled to last 25 years and is absolutely fascinating. The opening video on their website gives you an idea of the immense scope of the project.