Of Grailly Dynasties & Limestone Fortunes

Needing a few pieces of furniture for our new, yet ancient home in France, we decided to check out some of the antique dealers or ‘Brocantes’, second-hand shops, in our area. When we arrived, they were still closed for lunch for another 35 minutes. What to do? The sun is shining, the tank is full, let’s just go for a ride. 

Let’s learn a little about the Département de la Charente-Maritime, the pleasantly undulating countryside surrounding Saintes, our new hometown. Driving between bright green pre-spring growth, alternating with freshly plowed fields of heavy, clumpy, black dirt, ready for sowing, passing by draft horses chewing drowsily and sheep dotting the peaceful landscape here and there, we soon reach the village of Port-d’Envaux. At roughly 10 Km distance from Saintes, Port-d’Envaux clearly qualifies as another ‘closer-than-the-mailbox’ location, as mentioned before. 
We parked in front of La Mairie, the town hall, and began a leisurely perambulation through this exceedingly pretty village. Soon it became quite apparent that this village had a rich history. A history of riches, to be precise. One rarely sees that many stately homes lining village roads, as we noticed here in Port-d’Envaux. Another, nearby, village by the name of Crazannes might offer an explanation. The quarries of Crazannes have produced the famous Crazannes limestone for thousands of years. The nearly white stone, incidentally quite similar to Austin limestone, with which we clad our ranch house in Texas, was already well known 2000 years ago, when Caius Julius Rufus used it to erect his homage to Imperator Tiberius Caesar Augustus (tristissimus hominum, as Pliny the Elder thought) in the shape of our Honor Arch in Saintes, now called the Arch of Germanicus. Crazannes limestone is said to have been used to build the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral, Germany) and Emperor Napoleon’s Fort Boyard off Île d’Oléron. It may have been used also to build the base for the Statue of Liberty, or so the legend goes. We’re planning a trip to Crazannes soon, to visit the quarries and the local museum, but we have to be patient until the usual winter hiatus is over. Given the proximity of Port-d’Envaux to the quarries, one might imagine that the Marquis de Grailly, master of Castle Panloy in Port-d’Envaux got lucrative shipping contracts for the barges pilots in his domain, giving them exclusive rights to transport the stones to major ports up and down the Charente river. Then again, Crazannes itself is located on the river and could’ve shipped the stones … 

We, on the other hand, just enjoyed the tranquillity of an ancient French village, only wishing that the ‘Gabarier‘, the Barge pilot’s restaurant hadn’t been as shuttered as the quarry museum.

Looking uphill …


Looking downhill. The Charente river is never far.




Wickerwork, seat restoration, and general caning offered – skills not often found anymore!
La Poste: Letters, Telegraphs, Telephone services
and saving’s accounts! (Now a private home)



Shutters and Lace Curtains: French village life


La Charente got darn greedy this year!!
Normally this is a pretty park, but the heavy rains this winter flooded many a low-lying area.


The Firefighters at the ready in the main square

Leda, Leda, where art thou … lace curtains?
Considering that we just wanted to spend a few minutes, until the antique dealer opened his doors, we enjoyed a lovely diversion! 

3 thoughts on “Of Grailly Dynasties & Limestone Fortunes

  1. interesting history, beautiful countryside- beautiful photos- I am amazed that the “Schwertlilien” are already in blossom!
    Thanks for letting us take part in your eventful new life!


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