Excerpt from Chapter
VIII Deep France
"... Friends have been asking me to
describe our cave. They have a hard time reconciling Fred Flintstone
and bad B movies with the comfortable residence wired for cable
TV that I describe. Our cave is basically just one large room
fifty feet deep and about fifteen feet wide with a small bathroom
in the back. The arched ceiling is about ten feet high. It would
be a large apartment in Manhattan or a small one anywhere else.
Other than the front wall which is made with cut stone blocks
there are no straight lines anywhere. The ceiling and walls are
cut out of the rock to form a continuous arch. The floor is paved
with square bricks like a chateau floor but the rock walls meet
the floor with the gentle irregularity of a river bank. The rock
itself is white washed but potted with the tool marks of its
shaping. In the front of the cave, there is the one door and
a large window overlooking the chateau and the Loir Valley.
The front of the room is dominated by a
huge fireplace that is large enough to stand up inside. Aprille's
favorite part of the front area is surprisingly not the fireplace
but an ancient stone sink in the right front corner beside the
front door. It is made from a hard gray stone and is constructed
with a gentle grade that lets water exit through small hole into
the garden. The sink was made at a time before running water
so it is no longer used as a sink but it is still useful as a
cool place to keep cheese, wine and haunches of meat. The real
sink with city water sits under window so we can look out at
the chateau and listen to the church bells when we wash the dishes.
This has been a great benefit because Aprille now has a greater
interest in faire la vaisselle(dish washing).
Another unique feature of cave living are
the shelves cut directly into the rock walls. There is a large
one with wooden shelves in the kitchen area. There are three
more of various sizes in our living area. Like the cave, each
shelf is arched. They are great places for books, pictures and
for just about anything that sits on a regular shelf. There is
a black iron ring in the center of the ceiling with a matching
iron hook on the wall. This was for a chandelier of candles.
You would thread a rope through the iron ring to raise and lower
the chandelier to light the candles. Then you would tie the chandelier
off to the iron hook on the wall. Aprille found a black iron
chandelier for candles that we have hung but we generally rely
on electricity for lighting. The back quarter section of our
cave room is a raised alcove where there is an old cast iron
wine press that is supported by a huge solid oak beam which is
about two feet square. Below the wine press is the old basin
where the grapes were squeezed. We have turned this area into
a conversation pit with rugs and lots of pillows and cushions.
Behind our pressoir(wine press)
is a wooden door that leads to the bathroom. It has been refitted
with all the modern conveniences, but they all have a special
cave twist. Instead of a single room, the bathroom is more like
a corridor with arching chambers for each function. Directly
in the rear most part of the cave is an alcove just large enough
for the sink and mirror. To the left is a similar sized alcove
that is a closet. To the right, another alcove holds the hot
water heater, a shelf for toiletries and our clothes hamper.
Where the three areas meet the corridor, it forms a miniature
barrel vault like in a gothic cathedral. The front two alcoves
in the bathroom are the most important. There is a toilet on
one side connected to city sewage. On the other side there is
a shower with lots of very, very hot water. Because the roof
is low, you have to step down into the shower. Even a shower
can be a small adventure.
There is a small courtyard in front that
looked wild and overgrown with weeds during the winter. When
we were coming to France this time, we were planning to brick
in the courtyard and get rid of all the weeds. But when we arrived,
we discovered that those weeds were dandelions, tulips, roses,
flowering rosemary, muguettes, and a number of other flowers
that we have not yet identified. ..."