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…
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