Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Karen and David Webster moved to Eygalières in Provence from the UK five years ago. In the course of doing home renovations they found a great source for custom hand-crafted stonework in Les Baux--the Carriere Sarragan—and they ordered a fireplace. Karen says they were delighted with the craftsmanship, service and price so I asked her to share the info.
The foundation of Provence is laid on a bedrock of limestone, itself the mortal remains of billions of tiny crustaceans. From this bedrock climb the Alpilles, a jagged backdrop to the landscape and also the source of the stone from which the charming local houses are built. Since Roman times and probably before, the stone has been quarried, dug out by hand, cut, carved and carried to the towns by the strength and sweat of the local men. Two thousand years on some things have changed--but not much.
Down from the Cathedral d' Images, next to the Cave de Sarragan is the Carriere de Sarragan, the quarry from which local stone is still cut, carved and carried--straight to your door, if you need it. A fascinating place from where you can order pretty much whatever you want. Fireplaces, doorframes, spiral stone staircases, ornate window casings, balustrades and a replica roman temple should you desire; there’s one standing in the quarry grounds amongst stone urns and massive tumbled rocks.
As dangerous a place as a working quarry sounds you can go in there, just park next to the Cave de Sarragan, walk past the entrance and continue until you find yourself looking down into the huge entrance of the quarry mouth. Go left, past the Roman temple and down between the massive white pillars, following the tracks of lorries in the thick white dust. Continue amongst the pillars soaring above your head, past the spiral staircase on your left and fireplaces and fountains on your right until you see a dusty sign carved from the rock stating ’bureau’. Follow this further underground - beware the lorries and stone cutting machines--and knock at the bureau door. The ‘chef’ is usually around and can help with your designs, give advice and a quoted price. A fireplace can cost as little as 400€ and be ready within a week…replica roman temples take a little longer.
Part of the fascination of France is the way it seems to leap forward and stand still at the same time. Here, in the heart of the Alpilles is yet another industry, that--like France--is still supplying the modern world, but from a foundation as old as time itself.--Karen Webster
13520 Les Baux-de-Provence