I live in a region in France – the Loire Valley – known for its troglodyte houses so it was rather fun to discover the same concept in Spain, but with an entirely different result. The cliffs here are clay and the cave houses in Guadix have white chimneys. Altogether, there are about 2000 troglodyte houses inhabited by 3000 people. It’s believed they date back to 1492 when Grenada was taken over by the Catholic kings, causing the Moors to flee to the surrounding mountains where they dug houses in the clay hills. The name Guadix comes from the Arabic Wadi Ash meaning the River of life.
The first time I heard someone use the word troglodyte in France, I was a little surprised. It conjured up cave dwellers for me. But apparently I was going to be shown their houses – cave dwellers have houses? However, it turns out that in French, it also means a house dug out of a cliff.
The Loire Valley is very old and in many places both the Loire and Cher rivers are flanked by tufa hills. If someone needed a house or a cellar, they simply dug into the tufa, which is a fairly soft stone. It was then relatively easy to add doors and windows. Ventilation is a problem of course but not insurmountable. I really was intrigued when I saw them. It reminded me of Peter Pan and Wendy and their underground house.
The photos here were taken as we rode from Montou along the Cher River to Montrichard. Don’t you just love the details? One even has a TV antenna. And the doors are so low. They weren’t very tall in those days of course.
Another area in the Loire Valley well-known for its troglodyte houses is Vouvray, the home of a very good natural sparkling wine made with a local grape called chenin blanc. It may not be champagne but it’s still very palatable – and much cheaper. Most of the cellars have been dug out of the tufa cliffs. We once visited the most extraordinary vouvray cellar with very, very old wines, that seemed to go on forever. The label on the bottle shows the door of their troglodyte cellar. Vouvray is also a very pleasant sweet wine made with the same grape.
After the visit, we went for lunch in a troglodyte restaurant, which is also a local speciality! Very atmospheric with its rough-finished walls and candles in their niches. Unfortunately, it was a few years ago, so I don’t remember the name …Vouvray wine Domaine Freslier Jean Pierre 90 – 92, rue de la Vallée Coquette – 37210 Vouvray 02.47.52.76.61