Let’s talk Troglodytes, specifically the French Troglodytes of the area around the city of Tours, in the Loire Valley which has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site. This location is what makes the local troglos (caves) so unique.
The Troglodytes were cave dwellers and what makes their caves so interesting is their unique reason for being. It happens that the renowned chateaux of the Loire Valle were constructed during the Renaissance era of a particular local limestone called tuffeau. This tuffeau was soft and easily formed into the blocks used for the construction. It was quarried out of the hillsides and cliffs and eventually gave the castles a luminous beauty.
The quarries left caves in the hillsides which proved to be very convenient
for housing the workers (troglodytes) over the centuries, right up into the 1930’s in fact.
These days, many of the troglos (caves) house hotels, restaurants, art
studios, and shops, and there are small villages of restored troglos to wander through. After spending a day or two exploring the castles around Tours, perhaps Chambord, Chenonceaux, or Amboise, take a day or two off the
beaten path to explore the Troglodyte villages by car.
Here are a few suggestions for exploring the Troglodyte villages:
Rochemenier, which is a Troglodyte Museum and well worth a stop on the way to Saumur.
Saumur, a small town right on the Loire that offers many of the activieies that the Loire Valley is famous for; wines, gourmet cuisine, castles, the
troglos, and even a cavalry riding school. Saumur has enough attractions to
keep you busy for 2-3 days including a boat ride on the river, equestrian eventa (check the schedules), hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Turquant, just a 10-minte drive from Saumur is ideal for visiting the actual Troglodyte dwellings and possibly a good spot to spend a night or two. There is a footpath in the village that leads past these cave dwellings, up the hill for a view over the valley and then back into the village where you can dine at your choice of bistros or restaurants.
Whatever your interests are, history, culture, shopping, cuisine,
wine tasting, or even architecture, you can be sure to find something interesting among the Troglodytes of the Loire Valley.
PS. The idea for this article came from an article by Linda Smalley published in the DesertLeaf, July/August 2016.
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