Living in caves - Pottering round Poitiers - in the rain - CycleBlaze

April 10, 2018

Living in caves

Abandoned home ready for immediate occupation
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Chavigny, Lauthiers, Paizay-le-Sec, La bruissière, St-Pierre-de-Maillé, Angles-sur-Angin, Tournon-St-Martin, Lurais, Mérigny, Nalliers, St-Sauvin

PEOPLE who live in caves are called troglodytes. I used to think they were like Barney Rubble, banging rocks together and making friends with dinosaurs. People from a long time ago, in other words.

More recently I found that people still lived in caves into the 1950s. By then the dinosaurs had gone and it was no longer polite to club women over the head and drag them off by their hair. And the caves had taken a turn for the better, too, with proper front doors and accommodation in every sense normal except, of course, that it was in a cave.

Steph happened to see one this afternoon as she looked over her shoulder to admire some cliffs. There is still enough of the small boy in me that living in a cave appeals to me. So we turned round to look. The door had gone and so had any plush fittings and furnishings. But there was still enough rusting junk to show that, yes, this had once been someone's home.

Who could resist going to look?
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Not much left now of somebody's soft furnishings
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Our cave came towards the end of an often wet and sublimely wriggling route that had us riding to the north-east and then to the south-west. We followed quiet roads connecting places known only to those who lived there and to the tax office. We stood and admired the old mill and stationary paddle wheel of several watermills. We pedalled on roads so little used that people stared and then smiled as we passed.

We stopped, too, at one of the many memorials to the Resistance that dot the country. This was more unusual, though. Moïse Thuillier and Pierre Imbert were shot by their own side. An Allied pilot saw their vehicle driving fast down the road and only too late realised it had a white star on its roof. That was a signal not to shoot. And the men were hurrying to warn their neighbours that the RAF were about to bomb the surrounding Germans. But by then the pilot had opened fire and the two Resistance men lay dead.

Fallen for France - shot by their own side
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The men have never been forgotten since that day in September 1944; there were flowers on the memorial more than 70 years later.

By mid-afternoon we were in St-Sauvin, crossing the river on the 13th-centry bridge built with repeated bulging refuges so that Middle-Ages peasants and their donkeys could avoid the wheels of their betters. In town we looked astonished at the wall painting of the giant monastery. This was early interior decorating. Instead of wallpaper and picture frames there were painted whirls and scrolls where artists had climbed the walls to the ceiling.

Over the ancient bridge and into town
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Just part of the wall and ceiling paintings in S-Savin monastery
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Scott AndersonI loved this monastery when we biked through here ten years back, great to be reminded of it.
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4 years ago
Leo WoodlandIt's always fun to find that someone else has discovered something you know, isn't it? I sometimes wonder how often I am just out of sight of another bike tourist just up the road, or on a parallel road. And one day I expect to find that I have camped in a field with another cyclist on the other side of the hedge. Happy days - léo
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4 years ago

The effect was startling, at the same time pleasant and an example of what would happen if you let a five-year-old loose with a paint pot.

Tonight we are sleeping in the town's campsite, beside the giant mill house and its stilled wheel. The river flows by angered by the rain. It is clear that many cyclists have passed this way before. "Oh, the first of the year," the campground owner smiled as she opened her office. "The others will start coming soon, I'm sure."

Chance discovery in a roadside garden: a row of musicians made from scrap. They all work, too, once they're plugged into the electricity
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Today's ride: 72 km (45 miles)
Total: 109 km (68 miles)

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