After the bikes of the Tour de France had passed by, and we’d walked back down to our car, we went to check out the eccentric work of a French postman, who single handedly created this most fascinating palace.

This Ideal Palace, or Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, came about after seeing a rock on his walk for the postal route that reminded him of a vivid dream. He then carried this (rather large) rock back home and worked on creating the palace of his dreams – it’s the one on the podium, in front of the penguin.

The story goes that at this point in history, the common man hadn’t seen many images of foreign palaces, other than those that were included on postcards by people on journeys. Being a Postman, he saw many of these foreign destinations.

It’s incredible to think that this entire structure is the work of a single man, who built it using rocks that he collected while on his postal route – which was over 40km over hilly terrain. You can understand that his neighbours thought that he was crazy, and amazingly, his wife and family supported his life-long quest – thankfully he was able to complete it before he was too old to do the heavy and laborious work.

Each of the facades of this palace, North, East, South, West, have different themes and designs to them. At first it looks like an enormous sand castle, due to the strange organic shapes that flow into another, rather than the usual geometric ones that would be found on more traditional construction. He’s even found space to include different buildings of religious prayer, including a mosque and a synagogue.

It was possible to walk through most of the building, getting up close and getting lost in the untold number of details, from tiny palm trees, to birds and other animals – plus many more surreal shapes.

Apparently this is quite famous in Japan – Risa was instrumental in us visiting – and knowing how they like unusual and creative characters, I’m not entirely surprised.