Excerpt from

Cave Life in France

 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. ..."



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