Stay The Night: Earthship Perrine, Normandy

You can be sure of the green credentials of this zero-carbon gîte. But is it a comfortable place to stay? Fiona Sturges reports

These days, it's pretty much compulsory for hotels and holiday rentals to flag up their eco-credentials, be they investing in low-energy technology or merely urging guests to reuse their towels. If such efforts appear feeble in the face of our ailing planet, there are no such concerns at Earthship, a self-sustainable, zero-carbon gîte in rural Normandy.

The first Earthships were built 30 years ago in Taos, New Mexico, by Michael Reynolds, an eco-architect and proponent of sustainable living. Discernible by their sloping glass fronts and roughly finished adobe walls, his semi-underground dwellings resemble something from Mad Max.

The style hasn't changed much. The Normandy Earthship in Ger isn't pretty, but what it lacks in aesthetic appeal it makes up for in intelligent design. It is constructed from recycled materials: the thick exterior is insulated with old tyres crammed with earth, while the interior walls have multicoloured bottles embedded in cement made from mud and straw. It is also entirely off-grid, operating independently of mainstream services thanks to natural resources – sunlight, wind and rainfall.

Of course, sustainable living isn't always easy. Drinking water is harvested from rainfall, so on dry days making a cup of tea can take a while. (Bottled water is provided for impatient guests.) A more pressing problem is the lack of ventilation, which, combined with the abundant indoor foliage (see below), results in an overwhelming damp smell. If you're asthmatic, as I am, the poor air quality is a real problem. I resorted to lighting the wood-burning stove to dry the place out. It worked a treat, though, given the Earthship's no-waste philosophy – and the fact it was high summer – this felt very wrong indeed.



The rooms

Being half underground, the three bedrooms are inevitably dark but also wonderfully quiet. Magenta and navy fabrics, introduced in a recent make-over by owners Kevan and Gillian, provide a rich and elegant counterpoint to the mud-coloured walls. Four-poster beds and wrought-iron tables, meanwhile, bring a quirky stylishness to the sleeping quarters. The same can't be said for the main living area, where uncomfortable, throw-covered sofas and a tired-looking kitchen let the place down.

The food and drink

While Earthship hasn't yet stretched to growing its own baguettes, its aim is to produce a significant amount of food in the garden, in which a small orchard has been planted, and in interior "botanical cells", containing grape vines, banana plants and orange and lemon trees. Guests may help themselves to whatever looks ripe – we plundered the outdoor blackcurrant and raspberry bushes. For further supplies, Ger has a butcher, boulangerie and a small supermarket, while there are plenty of restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets in nearby Mortain.



The extras

There's Wi-Fi access along with a small television and DVD player. Eco-friendly cleaning products are provided, though guests are asked to bring their own biodegradable toiletries so as not to damage the sensitive water filtration system. There are lots of good days out nearby, most of them free. An assortment of trails and cycling routes allows visitors to explore local woodland, and there are some spectacular waterfalls in Mortain. Fosse Arthour, a large lake, is a 10-minute drive away and provides a terrific spot for a picnic.



The access

With all the rooms situated on one floor, Earthship is ideal for wheelchair users. Children and pets are welcome.



The bill

Fiona Sturges travelled to France with Brittany Ferries (0871 244 0744; brittany-ferries.co.uk). A week's self-catering break at Earthship through One-Off Places (01285 750713; oneoffplaces.co.uk) costs from £480 to £599 per week. There are deals for shorter stays available in winter.



The address

Earthship Perrine, 42b Rue de la Sélune, Ger 50850, Normandy, France.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Front of House Receptionist / Receptionist

    £21K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Front of House Receptionist to provide th...

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders