National Geographic : 1966 Jun
At home underground, the family of Jean-Baptiste Marion sits down to lunch. They live near Le Thoureil in a cavern, one of hun dreds in the region. Most consist of two or three rooms; some boast elec tricity and running water. Their coolness makes them popular summer retreats for city folk. Many of the caves date from Roman times, when invading legions of Julius Caesar attempted to smoke out Gauls hiding in the rocky lairs. Mysterious grotto, part of a labyrinth carved out of limestone 30 feet below the village of Doue-la-Fon taine, once sheltered wor shipers. Its pointed arches resemble those of Gothic churches built in the 13th to 15th centuries. A deep dug well suggests that the grotto provided refuge during the Hundred Years' War and the later wars of religion. less easily impressed. A small girl asked if the sphere was full of electricity, and the blase young man, charmed by the thought, intoned: "One has only to open the spigot at the bot tom, et voila! Out pours electricity." THE LEFT-BANK ROAD, leading out of Touraine and into Anjou, crowds the Loire's shore as it moves among its an tiquities to Saumur. The old capital of east ern Anjou is an airy town of white houses, scarred by innumerable bullets and topped by a handsome shell of a chateau. As at Tours, the town has lost its archaic aura. But one great tradition survives from Sau mur's gallant past: horsemanship claimed to rival any in the world. The famed 1763 cav 866 airy school of Saumur, now largely concerned with tanks, continues to produce superb rid ers. The equestrian tradition goes back to the days when the chateau on the heights was the scene of jousts and tourneys (pages 861-3). "We stress riding, even though our young officers will command armored vehicles," a Saumur instructor told me. "An officer should learn to dominate another living creature before he is called upon to dominate men." As we walked among the drab buildings, students hurried past, saluting. Horses' hoofs thumped in the training ring. Engines whined and iron treads clanked near the tank sheds. "It is a school like another," the instructor said with a shrug. "To the eye, I mean. Not to the spirit."