Let’s forget about roadside America and go
location scouting in “Weird France.”

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WWI National Monument for the Victoire of the Marne, built in 1938 © Archive ARN

I’ve been itching to travel back over the pond for a dose of “strange America,” but I forget that when you walk off the beaten path in my own nation, there are some very bizarre, eccentric, and beautifully nostalgic places to view. Atlas des Régions Naturelles, an online repository of more than 10,000 pictures chronicling French vernacular architecture, aka anything that makes you do a double-take on a road trip, would be Wes Anderson’s dream come true.

It’s been almost two decades in the making and is still a work in progress, thanks to a pair of travelers, Danish-Japanese-French photographer Eric Tabuchi and his spouse, painter Nelly Monnier. Their archive transports us to France’s suburbs, industrial zones, ghost towns, and forgotten villages, far from the most recognized cities. The entire archive can be searched by map or tag (knowing a little French can help you recognize that “vestiges” refers to ruins and “debentures” refers to storefronts), or you can search more randomly by clicking on the shape of a circle, which will lead you to pigeon forts, flying saucer swimming pools, and abandoned Brutalist structures in the middle of nowhere). You may also narrow down your search by selecting a historical period, a construction material, or a roof form. It’s a terrific way to add a dash of”strange France” to a classic French road trip that includes visits to chateaux and lovely towns. I’ve already spent way too much time down this rabbit hole, so I think it’s only right that I lure you with the same carrot and a couple of my personal favorites…

Leisure and amusement


Cinema in Guérigny © Archive ARN


A discotheque in Golfech © Archive ARN 


An abandoned Jurassic themed park in Plougastel-Doualas © Archive ARN 


Bathhouse in Dunkerque © Archive ARN


A discotheque in Allibaudières © Archive ARN 


A swimming pool in Nemours © Archive ARN


Nightclub/ event space in Fontenay-Trésigny © Archive ARN 


A sports facility in Saint-Nazaire © Archive ARN


A cinema in Cosne sur Loire © Archive ARN



The abandoned industrial villa of Charles Albert Keller in Livet-et-Gavet © Archive ARN


Gatehouse in Wasigny, Ardoise © Archive ARN


Abandoned elevation passage in Tremblay-en-France © Archive ARN


A power station in Livet-et-Gavet  © Archive ARN


An old gas station of l’Etoile du Sud, Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine © Archive ARN


A lone tower in Liercourt © Archive ARN 


Château Mennechet in Chiry-Ourscamp, Oise, built in the 19th century for Alphonse Mennechet de Barival, left vacant shortly after World War II. The ruins and some outbuildings have been listed as an official historical monument since 2011 © Archive ARN 

Oddities in Architecture


Marie Antoinette’s old crystal manufacturer at Château de la Verrerie in Le Creusot © Archive ARN


A lighthouse in Binic, Trégor © Archive ARN


Sanatorium Martel de Janville in Plateau d’Assy © Archive ARN


Maison Picassiette in Chartres (built entirely by one man with elaborate mosaics of broken crockery, more about the museum here© Archive ARN


A private home in Minzier © Archive ARN


A house in Bouxwiller © Archive ARN

Old Storefronts with a Twist


Butcher shop in Romilly-sur-Seine © Archive ARN


An old rural post office in the Pas-de-Calais region © Archive ARN


Wine cave in Limoux © Archive ARN


An old facade in the village of Quintin, Goelo © Archive ARN 


An old butcher and meat shop in the village of Rarécourt © Archive ARN 


An old café in the village of Viels-Maison (not in Paris) © Archive ARN 


Pharmacy in Épinac © Archive ARN 



A thermal spa in the Savoie © Archive ARN


Hotel Belvédère du Rayon Vert, Cerbère (more about the railway hotel here© Archive ARN 


Hotel Vindrie in Servant © Archive ARN 


Hotel Frederic in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie © Archive ARN 


Hotel de la Paix in Saint-Gérand-le-Puy © Archive ARN 



A religious souvenir shop in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes © Archive ARN


A catholic church in Le Fayet © Archive ARN


Église Saint-Michel – Le Puy-en-Velay © Archive ARN


A Catholic church in Chartreuse © Archive ARN


A Catholice church in Lunévillois © Archive ARN


A Catholic chapel in an airplane Viuz-en-Sallaz © Archive ARN

Strangeness on the Highway


An Eiffel Tower replica in disrepair in Bray-en-Val © Archive ARN 


A statue of Liberty replica in Barentin © Archive ARN 


A shop for faux landscaping in Montpellierais © Archive ARN 


A fast food stop in Tanis © Archive ARN 


In Vecqueville © Archive ARN 

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