Some see just caves in a cliff-face...

Rooms with a view...Henri Carton (left) and Yves Rodier outside the caves

... but we saw potential for cool new summer homes

Cave houses, known as maisons troglodytes, are found in many areas of France – but few can be as stunning as those near the mouth of the Gironde estuary.

Carved out of fossil-rich limestone, a couple of metres from the high-tide mark, they have been used by humans for thousands of years.

In the past, the caves at Meschers were refuges for Protestants during the wars of religion, and hiding places for salt when a fierce tax, the gabelle, was imposed.

What is now the Charente-Maritime department was one of the main producers of sea-salt, and silos cut into the floors of the cave houses allowed it to ...

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