This castle is something to behold, but its renovation is so much more than merely beautiful.

Helping the Earth never looked so beautiful.

Take a look at the gorgeous Chateau Gudanes.

"After the storm ..." Image via chateaugudanes/Instagram. Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.


It has an even more gorgeous story behind it.

This chateau was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the same architect who designed Marie Antoinette's personal mini-chateau, the Petit Trianon, and parts of Place de la Concorde in Paris. Beautiful, right?

"Morning mists retreating from Chateau de Gudanes..." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

The Chateau Gudanes, located in the south of France, was built in 1741 for Marquis Louis Gaspard de Sales. Apparently, he threw some pretty lavish parties. It's rumored that even Voltaire allegedly attended a few. The chateau managed to survive the French Revolution (some didn't fare so well), but soon the era of aristocratic parties was over and the chateau sat vacant.

Until the 1990s, when developers bought it with the plan to transform the 94-room castle into 17 luxury apartments. They weren't granted the renovation permits to so drastically alter a historical monument, so the chateau just sat there, crumbling.

Then, in 2013, the crumbling chateau found its new loving owners.

Those owners are Karina and Craig Waters. They're from Perth, Australia, and they have two kids. After deciding they wanted to purchase a home in France, they took many trips and saw a whole bunch of places that were "renovated, clean, and neat" ... but that's not what they wanted.

They wanted someplace with a little more life.

"Days like these with the sun high in the sky remind us of the simple pleasures in life..." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Thanks to an online search by their 16-year-old kid, they stumbled across Chateau Gudanes. When they visited it in person, they knew. This was the one. They signed their final contract to purchase the chateau in 2013.

This is more than a story of some well-to-do Australians buying a cool place in France. It's an amazing expression of how valuing history, caring for a community, and listening to each other pays off. It pays off by helping the Earth. Really!

For starters, a 2011 report from Preservation Green Lab found that reusing a building can actually help an entire community reduce its carbon footprint!

How's that for an unintended consequence?

Now, to logistics of castle reuse: The couple decided that Craig would return to Australia while Karina supervised renovations (while she lived in the stables!).

"Hello from our base of operations! Dreams and plans taking shape..." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Such a massive renovation project hasn't always been an easy process.

They've been renovating since November 2013. Karina's taken intensive language courses and had to persuade the very strict — and very slow — French bureaucracy that decides whether owners can renovate historic monuments to allow her to proceed. She got permission, but not easily, and getting the necessary permissions to continue the work continues to be a struggle. But she keeps going!


"We have a building permit!" Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

And it's all been worth it.

"Builder arrived today, well at least a big truck, wheelbarrows and some scaffolding." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

The blog they started to document the whole process beautifully captures their intent:

"Our aim is to tread lightly and gently — to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible. She will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased, but instead integrated."

"First time I have opened the window, such a joyous moment." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

It's beautiful. Even the mere first opening of a window is cause for celebration.

Much more beautiful than luxury apartments ... and it's not just about what looks good. They're also preserving history.

And get this: Renovating this older building also turns out to be better for the planet than building a fancy new place.

You might think newer buildings are more efficient and so better for the environment, but it's actually a little more complicated than that. Preservation Green Lab's 2011 study found that there's a possibility it could take 10-80 years for a new building to be a net positive on climate change.

Helping the Earth never looked so beautiful.

"Builders onsite, working hard." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Look at all the beautiful elements of the renovations ... all helping the Earth, bit by bit.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Many of the "new" items in the chateau aren't new at all. They're found from "brocantes" or vintage and antique stores from the Ariege region, where the chateau is located.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

While their goal is to renovate the castle and preserve history, such a cool choice is made even cooler by the fact that such a renovation benefits the planet!

And they've got big plans for 2016, too. As they have stated on the website where they're tracking their progress:

"Our plans for the future keep changing and evolving, and they are only in their infancy, but we hope to welcome you as soon as possible. Ideally, to begin, a cafe and tours, even in its well worn state. By 2016 we would like to also offer you accommodation, a gift shop, and facilities for weddings, music festivals, local fêtes, workshops, conferences, seminars and courses.

"Have been sharing the château with friends this week. Everyday is full of surprise!" Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

And their renovations are moving right along.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

To encourage others to follow their lead, they're hosting on-site historical renovation classes.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

As the renovations continue, the chateau has opened its doors to The Messors, a group of conservationists whose tagline is "A way of life so far behind, it's ahead," and they hosted a 15-day workshop "to immerse participants in the conservation of cultural heritage encompassing decorative art, architecture, history and regional culinary culture."

Cool!

Life is truly returning — literally and figuratively — to the Chateau Gudanes.

"That darn chateau cat almost taking a selfie!" Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

And visiting them virtually (their blog, Instagram, and Facebook are amazing) is a true get-overwhelmed-with-beauty experience.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Each day, a new discovery.

"Hidden behind pink coloured wood panelling is a 1700's wall mural we have discovered." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

"During the clean up of the terraces, these treasures were unearthed ... these may be Moustiers faience - a high quality glazed earthenware produced from 1679." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

"A new discovery — not sure where this leads!" Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

They recently hosted a wedding at the chateau to give their future plans a trial run.

"I love you for all that you are, all that you have been, and all you are yet to be..." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Even though they're nowhere near done with renovations, their vision is clear.

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

"The Chateau won't be a pretentious museum piece, but rather, a place to visit, reconnect with the earth and people, and restore the senses, just like she herself has been restored."

The world is already too full of luxury apartments. But it's not too full of unique historical places like this. (Could it ever be?)

Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

By putting their money into historical preservation and renovation, this couple isn't just investing in themselves and their own finances. No. They're investing in something that they can share with everyone.

They're keeping our world beautiful and interesting, full of history and full of life.

They're restoring something that the public, even centuries from now, can enjoy and experience.

A recent blog entry sums up the reasoning behind their effort: " ..to be led by our dreams rather than be pushed by problems. "

It's a beautiful message of hope.

"A magical day in the Pyrénées..." Image via chateauduganes/Instagram.

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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