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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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....