Millions of years of seismic activity, tectonic plate movement and freeze-thaw cycles created the diverse geology of present-day Provence. The region is also known as the Bouches de Rhone where the Mediterranean shoreline runs the gambit of beaches, brackish wetlands and vertigo inducing cliffs. Other natural phenomena in the area include the steep contours of the Gorges de Verdon and the volcano shaped Mont Ventoux.
The caves of Villecroze are carved into the side of a sheer limestone cliff. A grotto formed by hundreds of thousands of years of water flowing over porous rock. The continuous water created tufa rock-hard calcium carbonate deposits along the cliff face. Cycles of natural erosion and deposits formed caves of smooth stone and flowing stalactites.
The 16th century Religious Wars were a period of intense uncertainty, a time when the best defense was to hide. It was in 1566 that local lord Nicolas d’Albertas (powerful family from Aix en Provence) determined that the Grottes Troglodytes could provide shelter for some of the local population in the event of an attack. At that time, some fortification of the natural caves was undertaken. Thankfully, the village of Villecroze was relatively unscathed by the religious hostilities.
The historic village buildings are well preserved, and the town is relatively quiet compared to some of its neighbours in the region – a good place for a shady lunch or a coffee.
The Villecroze grotto continues to be the principal attraction of this small hamlet. A verdant park and stream sit at the base of the caves. Just watching the 40m cascade it is refreshing on a scorching day. You can visit the grotto for two Euros, a quick self-guided tour, although not necessarily recommended for those with limited mobility.
However, no dogs allowed.
Jade did not care much as she had little desire to visit grotto or the botanical gardens. She was quite excited about a dip in the little stream flowing from the caves. The car ride back to the hotel had a slight moist, wet-dog aroma.