Staying inside a cow-shaped lodge in the middle of Burgundy proved rather amoosing for Carolyn Boyd and her family
“We’re sleeping in a cow!” boasted my four-year-old to friends and family in advance of our visit to Burgundy. Their baffled faces revealed their confusion – was this just childhood nonsense, or was this really a ‘thing’? I nodded in support of her story, but however I tried to further the explanation (“It’s a wooden lodge, built in the shape of a cow – it sleeps nine!”), no one could quite picture what I meant.
How could I blame them? While we’re starting to become used to tree-houses, yurts and gypsy caravans as viable holiday accommodation, a cow was taking the idea of ‘glamping’ several steps, or rather kilometres, further. And so we travelled those kilometres (there are a lot of them, for this eco-lodge is a long way from anywhere, in deepest Burgundy – Toulon-sur-Arroux to be exact) to see what it was all about.
As one of many different unusual accommodation options on a family-friendly tourist attraction called Diverti’Parc, the cow stands four metres high next to gypsy caravans and star-gazing cabins (known as Carré d’Étoiles) on one side and a field full of unusual cow breeds on the other.
It is the latter that goes some way to revealing the thought behind this crazy plan. Owner Flavien Fuchey is a collector of cows, you see, and to date, has 32 breeds from all over the world, and his enthusiasm is infectious: “My father kept Charolais cows,” he explains. “From Britain, we have Galloway cows and Herefords, and others from all over. By building a cow, we’re celebrating this biodiversity.”
Once you understand that, it stands to reason that he would want to build an enormous cow that you can sleep in – doesn’t it?
Thankfully, the experience lives up to the many puns it allows (udderly brilliant, have you ‘herd’ about it? Milking it for all its worth etc.). After Flavien had showed us around and screened the high-tech welcome video message from the Diverti’Parc virtual mascot ‘Noël’, he left us to settle in.
Although it can sleep nine guests, six is a more comfortable number with two tucked up in the cosy bed in the lounge-cum-kitchen area (the ‘tummy’), two in the ‘head’ – two porthole-shaped windows create the eyes – and two in the ‘bell’, a circular room under the head.
It’s all a bit of a squeeze, but what is astounding is Flavien’s attention to detail and thought for guests’ comfort and amusement (or should that be amoooosement? Sorry, couldn’t resist) – the comfortable beds are made up with cow-designed linen, the tiny kitchen is well equipped with cow-designed crockery, and the shower room offers a powerful, hot shower, AstroTurf on the floor and a toilet that boasts not only a bull’s head-shaped lid, but a hoof at its base. The carpenter and joiners who were commissioned for it must have had fun with the jigsaw tools – windows are shaped like a cow’s silhouette and even the kitchen cupboard doors look like a cow’s profile. Up on the terrace on top, there are two hammocks, and a table and chairs. All together, it’s perfect for a night or two.
While we could have prepared dinner in the cow, Flavien invited us to try one of his many barbecue cabins (known as a ‘grill champêtre’, country grill) – the perfect way to barbecue in the rain. This novel adaptation of a circular shed had bench seats around a central table which had a barbecue in the middle and a chimney over the top to funnel out the smoke. So we sat inside enjoying barbecued beef (should we have felt guilty?), pork, salad and bread, accompanied by some of Burgundy’s delicious wines.
After a comfortable night in the cow, the next day gave us the chance to explore Diverti’Parc, with its multitude of mazes, games, slides, swings and obstacle courses for all ages. As a cow collector, it’s unsurprising that Flavien has given many of the games a bovine theme; all of them, of course, looked upon by the enormous cow eco-lodge. It is the craziest place that I’ve stayed in France and a wonderfully whimsical adventure. What better way to finally put to use the French phrase that I’ve never really known how to apply before: “C’est vachement bien!”
La Vache Éco-Lodge
Route de Gueugnon
Les Bruyères du Parc
Tel: (Fr) 3 85 79 59 08
Stays from €189 for two, €15 per additional person.