Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

April 18, 2001 - Trôo

Monday was the annual Easter randonnée pedestre in Lavardin. It is always held on the Monday after Easter Sunday and is a very popular event. Aprille got up very early to help Les Amis de Lavardin prepare the casse-croute which is provided at a point on the trail that the average Frenchmen would feel a need for a glass of vin rouge. There is nothing like a glass of red wine and a ham sandwich to give one the energy to finish a long hike. We got started a little late because Aprille was helping with food. So we hiked alone for the first couple of miles. Aprille was in high spirits and was talking (lecturing) non-stop about post-modern fin de siecle irony or something like that when I had to laugh. Her bavardage reminded me of the legend of the singing well of Trôo I heard just the day before. When she asked why I was laughing, I told her the story.

A gentleman of Trôo found and married a pretty young girl that made him extremely happy. But after a couple of months of their marriage, he discovered that the pretty young thing had one fault. She talked non-stop, even in her sleep. After some months, he was at wits end, and exclaimed, "If the devil would take you, I would gladly give you away." Suddenly a bolt of lightening from the sky struck the ground in front of them and the devil appeared. The devil who was delighted to see such a pretty young girl said, "I accept your offer and few off with the girl in his arms." The girl instead of being horrified was delighted that she had someone new to talk to and commenced to drive the devil crazy with her pratter. The devil, understanding his mistake, threw the girl back to the ground where she landed with such force that she made hole hundreds of feet deep. Having no one to talk to in her hole she commenced to talk with herself and repeat the same things over and over. This same echo can still be heard today when one leans over the mouth of the singing well of Trôo and speaks to the chanter.

Now Trôo in spite of its singing well is, well, rather tweedy for France. One is more likely to hear English spoken in Trôo than anywhere else in the Vendômois. Perhaps the English still feel that they have certain rights to this town since it was originally part of the English Plantagenêt domain in France. Or perhaps it is because legend that Trôo was named when Richard the Lion Hearted first contemplated a siege of this fortified city, he said, "C'est trop haut". Phonetically, trop haut is pronounced TRO O with long O's. It is an odd pronunciation and a very unusual village.
In the middle ages it was a troglodyte village of more than four thousand people, most of whom resided in the miles of caves carved into the mountain. Today it is still a cave town but its population has shrunk to less than five hundred people. Although the village does still has more English vacation homes than rest of the area, the British have had no luck convincing their Gallic neighbors of the benefits of afternoon tea.

Although it pains the Brits greatly the Plantagenêts were more French than English and their title of King of England meant less than being Duke of Anjou. The three most famous of the Plantagenêts, Richard the Lion Hearted, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, are buried just south of here in the Abbaye of Fontevault. To add insult to injury, none of Plantagenêts ever bothered to learn English. Even Trôo is derived from French. The English have petitioned to have the tombs moved to England but these English Kings and Queens had so very little to do with England that the French refuse to make the transfer.

Still it was Richard the Lion Hearted and his Plantagenet ancestors who built the abbeys, churches and the chateau-fortress at Trôo, but the caves of the village have a history stretching back to the Gallic tribes who used them as a system of defense against the Roman invaders. Today, Trôo offers the best in cave tourism. Visitors can tour an ancient habitation troglodyte and visit the miles of Cafort de Lusignan which was successively a cave-fort and quarry in the middle ages, and more recently, a mushroom farm and community rooms for parties and celebrations.

It was in investigating these caves that I found a Gîte (Bed and Breakfast) entirely in a cave that visitors could rent for a night, a week or by the month. It is owned by Barbara and Bernard Savaete. Bernard is French and his wife Barbara is American. They kindly showed me around their gite and I can give it a thumbs up. They can be reached by writing to Barbara and Bernard Savaete, Escalier Saint Gabriel, 41800 Trôo, France, Tel. 02 54 72 50 34, E-mail: bandbcave@minitel.net. For more traditional accomadations and information about Trôo, visit a very nice site about the village and its history at troglosites.asso.fr. For anyone interested in living in a cave, a visit to Trôo is a good place to start.

Remember to look for the puit qui parle (talking well) when you visit. If you happen to come upon a fast-talking red head on the same trip remember to smile and say hello you must be Bill's wife....

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April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
March 28, 2001 - Pissenlit
March 21, 2001 - The Egg
March 14, 2001 - Reliquary
March 7, 2001 - The Source of the Loir
February 28, 2001 - La Marseillaise
February 21, 2001 - Still on Wheels
February 14, 2001 - Marcel Proust
February 7, 2001 - La Chandeleur
January 31, 2001 - Winter Comfort Food
January 24, 2001 - Festival of Saint Vincent
January 17, 2001 - Guest Columnist Aprille Glover
January 10, 2001 - Muscadet
January 3, 2001 - Ode to Protein
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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