It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to sleep inside of a cow. In fact, the quirky La Balade Des Gnomes hotel, located near the picturesque town of Dubuy in Belgium may in fact be truly one-of-a-kind in this regard. This whimsical wonderland consists of ten intricately decorated bedrooms (plus the aforementioned completely unique separate suite inside of a wooden cow) inspired by fairytales, mythology, history, and outer space. If Tim Burton discovered his inner lumberjack, this wacky and wild lodging might be the result.
Owner-architect Dominique Noel already owned the offbeat La Gargouille restaurant which is renowned for creating delicious dishes from locally-sourced ingredients and bio-organic produce when he decided to open a bed and breakfast. The sustainable ethos embraced by the menu items at La Gargouille carried through when Noel constructed La Balade Des Gnomes right next door to his eco-friendly eatery. La Balade Des Gnomes is crafted from natural materials like wood, stone, and cob. Cob (a mix of mud, lime, straw and other materials) has been used for years by unconventional and influential eco-friendly builders. But while green architecture can, at times, be unwieldy and unstylish, this bizarre hotel stands out as a true architecture marvel in the sustainable building community.
But it’s more than just environmentally-conscious building techniques that make this hotel out of this world. Noel employed local artisans to bring their own flair to the hotel’s décor. It has a completely distinct sense of style and design that is thought-provoking and outlandish (it’s been described as “Dr. Seuss meets a little Salvador Dali”) without sacrificing comfort and elegance. Each room has a fantastical theme and often employs natural and rustic furnishings and architectural details, and yet modern amenities are in no way absent, as each room contains modern electronics for guest comfort.
Ultimately though, the modern technology is far secondary to the magic of each suite’s décor. Some of the most sought-after rooms include The Legend of the Trolls (heavily inspired by the Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe), In A Moon Neighborhood (a conceptually futuristic room which imagines future residents of Earth vacationing in a lunar hotel) and Macquarie Island (a marine-themed space which centers around a boat-shaped bed). And then of course there is the piece de resistance: the two-story Trojan Horse suite inspired by the epic structure from Greek mythology. This incredible wooden structure actually more strongly resembles a cow or a bull from the outside, as bovines are a massive part of Belgian culture both figuratively and literally. But the inside is pure medieval/science fiction glamour, with a sense of style reminiscent of the popular Game of Thrones series. It’s these oddball dichotomies between nature and fantasy that make La Balade Des Gnomes quite unlike any other bed and breakfast.