Last month, I was travelling the byroads of France back to my barn in Spain. Now, I love the drive through Provence for the food and the glorious country roads. Sadly, most of the time as soon as I hit Hotel-Land, I have to grit my teeth and brace myself for a night in soulless concrete. Not anymore! For I have found the Permadise.
It was late August as I swerved this way and that along the tiny bumpy road, fields of sunflowers rolling in yellow waves beside me. Finally I pulled into a remote stone hamlet, and there in front of me a young couple waved from the entrance of a massive stone barn. This was Dustin and Nicole.
Dustin and Nicole are Swiss, and in their former lives Dustin was an engineer while Nicole worked as a mechanic. Yes, already we can see this is a powerful combo for a perma-natural building project. What they have done in five years here at the Permadise is pretty jaw-dropping. A huge barn has been completely renovated using natural and upcycled materials. You cannot imagine how happy I was to see lime mortars in the walls, upcycled wood, and straw bales.
Then there’s the enormous open green house, and I kid you not when I say I was reminded of the Eden Project. Because I’ve never seen such a beautiful, creative way to make a hothouse for your tomatoes as this, and on this scale. Originally a massive ugly old metal hangar, Dustin and Nicole ripped off the corrugated iron and in-filled with all manner of second-hand windows and doors. The result blew me away.
“So what made you move here? Had you always dreamed of this kind of life?” I asked the couple over breakfast. We were looking over a dreamscape of mulched vegetable beds, berry bushes, and fruit trees. It was a world of abundance.
“I had an aunt who lived in the country,” said Nicole. “And I always remember visiting her when I was younger, and enjoying that experience, living close to nature with animals. We were living and working in Basel, a big city, where even the countryside isn’t really nature.”
I nodded knowing exactly what she meant. There’s a huge difference between living and participating in nature, and having it simply sit there as a backdrop.
“I want to be self-sufficient,” said Dustin, pushing a lock of blond hair out of his face. “I can see what’s coming, and if I put the work in now, I can create a self-sustaining permaculture food garden. Eventually it will take care of itself and us.”
As I munched on my egg, probably laid by one of the hens clucking opposite, I revelled in the delights of living as a true Gaian, and talking to people who “get it”.
“It’s always really interesting hearing why people start out on this journey,” I said, laughing. “I did it because I hate working! I just wanted to escape the grind. But once you live in the bosom of nature, you just can’t go back.”
We all nodded at that. There was such a peace pervading the Permadise. It’s an atmosphere so different from that of the modern world we’re used to. It’s not just the quiet, but also the impact of eating home-grown food, the slow rhythm of the day, the sunlight and other elements, and the effect of living in an ancient building made with natural materials. Oxygen literally permeates the walls.
Now, sometimes in these recycled Permie projects, things can look a bit of a mess one way and another, but the thing that so impressed me about the Permadise was just how good it looked. It was a place of beauty, and the building was as stunning as the garden. I really commend the pair of them for taking on this huge project in such a professional way.
This gorgeous rustic door frame is made from wood cut from the land.
The bathroom has been very creatively designed using natural wood forms, and felt incredibly luxurious.
You can see all the walls have been mortared with lime. As is typical with ancient barns, there were gaps between the roof and the walls, which Nicole and Dustin have beautifully filled in with bottles and cob.
One of my favourite features was this gorgeous staircase built from upcycled wood planks and driftwood. It is often the case that the most beautiful elements of a building are created to hide something. In this case it’s pipework. What a stunning flight of stairs though!
So if you happen to be in central France and looking for a very inspiring and healthy place to stay, take a look at the Permadise. As you know, the Mud Home is ad-free and independent, so my recommendations are always from the heart.
The Permadise can be booked on Booking.com. They also have a nice website here.
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