Whilst cruising on the barge “Nymphea,”:http://frenchcanalboatcompany.com/nymphea-loire-hotel-barge on the Loire Valley’s River Cher, we’d visited the chateaux of “Nitray”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/198244-review-chateau-de-nitray, “Amboise”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/198270-review-chateau-d-amboise, “Clos Luce”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/198301 and Chenonceau. All had been made from white tuffeau stone from the Loire Valley.
For the final excursion of our six night river trip, we visited “La Magnanerie”:http://www.magnanerie-troglo.fr/fr/index.php La Magnanerie de Bourré the troglodytic site where the tuffeau stones were quarried and where people lived out of necessity whilst working. However, many of the caves have now been turned into more modern homes where people choose to live.
We joined a 75-minute guided tour which was in French only, but with a little schoolgirl French, Captain Francisco translating, and an English information card we were able to follow.
As we arrived, people were gathering in one of the caves which resembled an antique shop. There were at least 20 of us so we were pleased when we were divided into two: family groups and adults.
Our guide was very theatrical and, having got us sat under a shady tree, gave a long, animated explanation about life in a cave. He asked the audience to suggest what they thought cave life would be like, so he could dispel these as myths as we went around. He suggested we read the opening paragraph of Wind in the Willows which we have yet to do.
We then entered a series of ground floor rooms built into the cave. The first, was the original kitchen which was fairly basic with a sink and dining table, this was in contrast to the strikingly modern kitchen with every appliance you could want. The living room had white-washed walls, squashy sofas, a TV and lots more object d’art and bric a brac. It looked very comfortable and led us back into the ‘antique shop’. With more time to look round we noticed the amount of memorabilia devoted to the British and Belgian royal families, which included a large portrait of a young Prince Charles. The bedrooms were private and we were told that the bathroom and loo were housed in the nearby office block: not exactly convenient.
Moving through the caves and upstairs, we were told about silkworms. The history of silk production in the region dates back to 1740 when King Louis XI created the first silk manufacture in nearby Tours. We learned that the word ‘magnanerie’ refers to a heated room where silkworms are reared. After seeing a large basket of rattling cocoons, we were led further into the cave network to learn more about the process and see live silkworms chomping away at mulberry leaves. We saw eggs which had been laid under flowerpots and which can be kept in a refrigerated state before hatching. A cocoon was put in a glass of water and when swished around, a natural end to the strong thread appeared which can be 2km in length.
The ‘galleries’ or tunnels which had been quarried can be very long and deep and mushrooms were formerly grown in them, although this practice has now ceased.