For sale: France’s first invisible home
It’s not often that you see an invisible house, but look hard enough and you can spot this magical cottage tucked away in the French Alps.
Hidden between the mountain and the sky, the five-bedroom property blends in seamlessly with the landscape around it; a natural piece of camouflage that continues to boggle the mind even after you have been inside.
“It belonged to my family for generations but was left abandoned,” its owner Nadège tells me.
I smile, convinced that she is joking: there is no sign of her home anywhere. Look at it from the North and you can see a small sliver of the roof and the cosily converted attic. It is only when your reach the South face that the whole imposing structure is revealed: a stone, rock, wood and lime creation spread across three floors, almost as if the builder had hewn it out of the rock face.
“Years ago, men who were practically self-sufficient, were able to shape this architecture and its earth with their hands,” says Nadège in awe. “I always loved its character, full of past history, so I decided to buy it and fully restore it into a warm and welcoming home.”
It is certainly both. Two staircases wind their way from the ground floor entrance past the lounge and kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs. The vaulted entrance hall, complete with fireplace and terracotta floor, is a grand way to start, while every floor offers a bay window or balcony from which to appreciate the view. Even the cellar is accessed by a terrace.
And what a view. Nestled against a corner of the mountain, the estate has a panoramic vista of the surrounding valley. It may only be a short bus ride from Nice, but the French Riviera coast feels a long way away.
“It’s like a beautiful natural painting that’s alive, changing colour with each hour,” she gushes.
It is hard to disagree.
But what stays with you the most is the noise: there is none. As you might expect from a nearly-invisible house, silence hangs in the air.
Throughout my visit, I can only hear the breeze and the odd cricket or bird.
A quiet getaway is all well and good, but does it not get lonely up in the mountains?
“Oh, we have visitors,” she says. Of course, with so many bedrooms and in such a great location – just close enough to the French Riviera for private summer tourists and right by the ski resorts in the Alps – it would make an excellent bed and breakfast, I say.
She laughs. “I meant deer! Our evenings are livened up by their surprise visits. Sometimes stoats too!”
“But seriously,” she adds, “we do rent it out all year round. It’s great for people who like trekking through the hills, even in the non-summer months. During October, you can actually hear the call of the deer, which echoes through the bottom of the valley…”
I nod. If you could understand the deer, they would probably be saying to each other: where on earth did that house come from?
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