Best Friends Build Own Private Neighborhood to Be Together Forever

For many groups of faithful friends, adulthood means accepting that logistics are often the biggest obstacle to maintaining relationships. As hard as it is to get the gang together for dinner when everyone lives in the same city, it becomes a Herculean (or Sisyphean) task once the winds of change have scattered everyone to lands afar. Rather than succumb to the inevitable growing apart, four close-knit couples in Texas came up with a clever way to live together while maintaining their independence. They've built themselves four tiny houses all in a row, each within a stone’s throw of the next.

Because nothing says friends forever like signing a deed together, eight great pals living in the Austin area purchased ten acres of land outside the city limits, near the Llano River, for what they dubbed the “Llano Exit Strategy.” With a plot of earth to collectively call their own, the environmentally minded landowners enlisted the services of architect Matt Garcia to design four identical residential structures, one for each of the families. In keeping with the pragmatic minimalism of the “tiny house” movement, the homes comprise a mere 350 square feet apiece, with one bedroom, one bathroom, and one living room.

Where the friends’ extremely private community breaks from tiny house tradition is the existence of a fifth building: a big 1500-square-foot cabin with a full kitchen and additional social space for the neighbor-friends to come together as they please—think of it as a ground-level tree house, or a college residence hall lounge with nicer furniture. There are two dishwashers, presumably to avoid fighting over anyone leaving their silverware out too long, a porch, picnic tables, and even six bunk beds to accommodate lucky guests.

It’s not hard to see why the couples chose the Llano River as the site of their ideal idyll. They “had been hunting for a quiet escape from the ever-growing buzz of Austin, a place to ride their bikes, reconnect with nature and recharge,” and the riverfront location checks all those boxes. They’ve made sure to respect their natural surroundings by working with the arid local climate, rather than against it: the homes’ sloped butterfly-style roofs catch rainwater for reuse around the compound, while metal siding and good insulation both reduce heat from the glaring summer sun while preserving indoor warmth during cooler months.

The couples haven’t yet moved to their shared property full-time, escaping their busy city lives mostly on holidays and long weekends, but they do plan to retire there. What a way to grow old together.

7 Historic European Castles Virtually Rebuilt Before Your Very Eyes

A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
Budget Direct

While some centuries-old castles are still standing tall, others haven’t withstood the ravages of time, war, or natural disaster quite as well. To give you an idea of what once was, Australia-based insurance company Budget Direct has digitally reconstructed seven of them for its blog, Simply Savvy.

Watch below as ruins across Europe transform back into the formidable forts and turreted castles they used to be, courtesy of a little modern-day magic we call GIF technology.

1. Samobor Castle // Samobor, Croatia

samobor castle
Samobor Castle in Samobor, Croatia
Budget Direct

The only remaining piece of the 13th-century castle built by Bohemia’s King Ottokar II is the base of the guard tower—the rest of the ruins are from an expansion that happened about 300 years later. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Croatian city of Samobor, which bought the property in 1902.

2. Château Gaillard // Les Andelys, France

Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Budget Direct

King Richard I of England built Château Gaillard in just two years during the late 12th century as a fortress to protect the Duchy of Normandy, which belonged to England at the time, from French invasion. It didn’t last very long—France’s King Philip II captured it six years later.

3. Dunnottar Castle // Stonehaven, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Budget Direct

Dunnottar Castle overlooks the North Sea and is perhaps best known as the fortress that William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson in 1995’s Braveheart) and Scottish forces won back from English occupation in 1297. Later, it became the place where the Scottish monarchy stored their crown jewels, which were smuggled to safety when Oliver Cromwell invaded during the 17th century.

4. Menlo Castle // Galway City, Ireland

Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Budget Direct

This ivy-covered Irish castle was built during the 16th century and all but destroyed in a fire in 1910. For those few centuries, it was home to the Blake family, English nobles who owned property all over the region.

5. Olsztyn Castle // Olsztyn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Budget Direct

The earliest known mention of Olsztyn Castle was in 1306, so we know it was constructed some time before then and expanded later that century by King Casimir III of Poland. It was severely damaged during wars with Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but its highest tower—once a prison—still stands.

6. Spiš Castle // Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia

Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Budget Direct

Slovakia’s massive Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century to mark the boundary of the Hungarian kingdom and fell to ruin after a fire in 1780. However, 20th-century restoration efforts helped fortify the remaining rooms, and it was even used as a filming location for parts of 1996’s DragonHeart.

7. Poenari Castle // Valachia, Romania

Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Budget Direct

This 13th-century Romanian castle boasts one previous resident of some celebrity: Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Dracula, who may have been an early influence for Bram Stoker’s vampire, Dracula. It also boasts a staggering 1480 stone steps, which you can still climb today.

[h/t Simply Savvy]

Drunken Thieves Tried Stealing Stones From Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame.
Notre-Dame.
Athanasio Gioumpasis, Getty Images

With Paris, France, joining a long list of locales shutting down due to coronavirus, two thieves decided the time was right to attempt a clumsy heist—stealing stones from the Notre-Dame cathedral.

The crime occurred last Tuesday, March 17, and appeared from the start to be ill-conceived. The two intruders entered the cathedral and were immediately spotted by guards, who phoned police. When authorities found them, the trespassers were apparently drunk and attempting to hide under a tarpaulin with a collection of stones they had taken from the premises. Both men were arrested.

It’s believed the offenders intended to sell the material for a profit. Stones from the property sometimes come up for sale on the black market, though most are fake.

The crime comes as Paris is not only dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but a massive effort to restore Notre-Dame after the cathedral was ravaged by a fire in 2019. That work has come to a halt in the wake of the health crisis, though would-be looters should take note that guards still patrol the property.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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