Les Refuges Périurbains were dreamed up by a young architect, Yvan Detraz, in the late 1990s. The first shelter, the Cloud, opened in Parc de l’Ermitage in 2010. It was joined by a further five structures over the next couple of years, including a family of owls on the banks of the Garonne and a falling star in a country estate. Today there are 10 shelters around the outskirts of Bordeaux, with one more planned for 2018.Bordeau
The designs may be fantastical but the facilities are basic: no water, electricity or heating. Guests must bring their own bedding and supplies, and use dry toilets or nearby public loos. The upside is they are free to stay in. Booking opens for one day a month (the next booking slot is on 8 September for stays in October), and the cabins are snapped up in minutes. Each sleeps six, and guests can stay for one night only, from 2pm to noon.
The shelters are close to the Boucle Vert, a 160km walking loop around the city and hikers can apply to stay for consecutive nights in different cabins along the route. And, if owls and ice-creams don’t appeal, other designs include a hammock, a prism and a fallen tree. It is a cut above the average walking and camping holiday – but well within the strictest of budge
• Shelters open 1 March to 30 November, lesrefuges.bordeaux-metropole.fr