For years now I’ve been writing books that are set in France, in small hillside villages dotted with troglos–troglodyte cave dwellings–which are basically homes made either by using existing caves or by carving holes out of rock. I first learned about troglos about fifteen years ago and knew that I wanted to have them in my novels.

My Outsiders mystery series and my book The Handyman are set in villages with troglos. But until two days ago I had never been inside a real troglo. I’d only seen them in photos, in videos, and from the outside.

While vacationing in Germany a couple of years ago, we took a train to Salzburg, Austria to sightsee. We loved the city and seeing the history and beauty, especially taking the tram up the hillside to reach the castle at the top of the hill. It had started to rain before we reached the tram, so we stopped for a while and ate lunch in a quaint cafe. After lunch, the rain was more of a drizzle, and we ventured back outside and strolled the rest of the way to the tram.

To my amazement, a church was set in the stone wall near the tram. A troglo! It wasn’t a house, obviously, but it was still technically a cave dwelling. I wanted to go inside and have a look around, but didn’t get to because we weren’t sure if that was allowed. I got lots of photos of the outside, though.

Flash forward to two days ago. We took a short day trip east of Phoenix to an area we’d never been before. Our first stop was the Boyd Thompson Arboretum State Park near the town of Superior, Arizona. Of course I took tons of photos. I’ll post some photos of the garden later today or tomorrow, but for now I want to tell you about the tiny troglo we saw there. We certainly didn’t expect to see one in the middle of a desert arboretum.

It was called Clevenger House, and a sign inside the house said that it had at one time been a home for a family of five. The tiny house consisted of two small rooms, one with a fireplace. One room was pretty much entirely cave, and the other room was an add-on with regular walls, ceiling, and floor.

After leaving the park, we drove to the old copper mining town of Globe and looked around, then drove to Tonto National Monument where–believe it or not, we saw cave dwellings. These dwellings were more primitive–they were dwellings carved by Native Americans hundreds of years ago into the cliff high up for added protection. We had to walk uphill in 103 degree temperature to get close to the dwellings. I have to admit that I didn’t make it all the way up there, but at least I got three-quarters of the way. I was getting close to heat stroke and had to go back. My husband and daughter made it all the way up to the top.