Cotignac Christmas Market

The most exciting time of the year for children is of course Christmas and Cotignac does not miss out on providing heaps of entertainment for them (and for us adults too!) at the annual Marché de Noël. This year it will take place on the 16th of December, a Sunday and stands start selling just before 10am and there will be entertainment all throughout the day (music, concert at the church at 4pm, fireworks at 6:30pm). If you are around it’s one of those festive occasions you will not want to miss, particularly if you are searching for last minute gifts. The photos here are those taken last year so do stay tuned for this year’s (and if you spot me at the market ask me to take a photo of you so I can include it here!).

Fontaine de Vaucluse

From Cotignac Fontaine de Vaucluse is about an hour and 40 mins’ drive but if you have the time and you’re a nature lover, it’s a MUST SEE place! Bring your hiking shoes and take an easy walk up from the centre of town (impressive town hall) to the mysterious “Source” where water fills up every winter and nourishes what is hailed to be the most beautiful river in the Vaucluse, La Sorgue. In the Summer there are stands filled with gift items, snacks, bonbons for kids, along the walk up and also a restaurant (listed in the Michelin guide) called “Restaurant Philip” established in 1926 with pretty yellow chairs right next to the bright teal-coloured water of the river. It’s cold but you could take a dip in it.  Continue reading Fontaine de Vaucluse

Arles

For many the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh come to mind when speaking of Arles. It’s the town where the famous painter’s masterpiece, Café terrace at night, was done.  Van Gogh died just a couple of years after his time here (1888 to 1889) at the age of 37, but the café still honours his work and enjoys a herd of tourists all year ’round.

Arles is also famous for it’s Roman ruins, in particular the old ampitheatre where concerts, events, and the controversial bull fighting take place. Since the 1970s there’s also a well-attended Photography festival that takes place every Summer (July – Sept).

If coming from Cotignac, it’s best to combine a visit to Arles with a stop over at St Remy, a smaller but more quaint and easy-to-walk-around town and shopping is fabulous. Arles is bigger, more of a city, and a little more crowded too but either you can spend a night in one of the other towns or do both towns in one day if you’re on a tight schedule.

Cotignac’s Fête du Coing (quince festival)

If you have never seen a quince before, you’ll be charmed by it’s pear-like appearance and delighted by the variety of cuisine it can be used in. From tarts to tortes and candy to jelly, this multi-purpose fruit goes a long way here in Provence. It’s Cotignac’s pride and joy and every year the village traditionally celebrates its heritage and harvest in October. This year the festival will took place on the 21st of October and if you missed it, do come back for it next year.

Continue reading Cotignac’s Fête du Coing (quince festival)

Bauduen in October 2018

Bauduen in the off season is sublime. Very few people are about, the lake is too cold to swim in so not many come for a dip, there are some on boats and I did see a team of rowers practicing. It’s mid October, and we are having an unusually warm Autumn. Bauduen is about a 35 minute drive from Cotignac, and at 470 metres above sea-level the temperature is slightly lower. Today it was 21 degrees celcius (24 in Cotignac) and perfect for a walk down the Lac St Croix, a kilometre to the tennis courts, and back to the village on the upper road to make it a short circuit of around 45 minutes, just enough to work up an appetite for lunch. From where the market is on Sundays, keep walking down (lake on your left side), past the first boat yard and onto the fire road. Keep going and you’ll eventually come to some tennis courts. Make a right bend back to the village.

You’ll see a lot of cats and dogs in Bauduen this time of year. The wild cats have a colony on the rocks near the water and pet dogs are out and about waiting to catch a friendly walker in the hopes of a little attention in the form of a stroke or pet. Continue reading Bauduen in October 2018

Provence Living – what’s it all about?

This website has a popular facebook page also called Provence Living, www.facebook.com/provenceliving. We get lots of requests to share other peoples’/associations’/businesses’ information on it because of our reach (in high numbers). But I just want to clarify what this page and website are about because sometimes people misunderstand.  It is not about selling houses, or publicising every local event, or advertising summer rentals. Sometimes we share friends’ “for sale” items that include homes but this is not the main goal.

Provence Living is about sharing what is important in life and in rural Southern France and in particular, Cotignac. What’s important may be relative to different cultures but here it is: a great, low-key lifestyle geared around good weather, having clean water, pollution free nature, beautiful scenery, bringing together interesting people who love to share and are generous with their time which in turn churns out fabulous food, a variety of cooking methods, quality wines and time spent sharing outdoor entertainment. But it’s also about sharing what we know about how the French live. We are under their laws and cultural norms. We accept them and try our best to assimilate with them, learn their language, and take in the best of their traditions and joie de vivre. Provence Living is not about the newest technological gadgets for travelling, designer clothing or expensive interior decorations. Luxury is great on the odd occasion but it’s not a popular lifestyle here in the Var (see the Côte d’Azur for that kind of stuff). We try and share what’s useful, fun and affordable (with an occasional splash-out treat that might be merited), discoveries that may sometimes be delicious and other times just beautiful, like a glass of quality, chilled rosé sipped on the top of the Bessillon mountain overlooking a picturesque sunset (violins, please), or just cool photos of what can be seen here on a daily basis. Continue reading Provence Living – what’s it all about?

La Table de Bruno, Saint-Maximin-La-Ste-Baume

These days it seems rare to find a restaurant and feel like it deserved every penny you spent on it but this one’s a true gem and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you.

It takes about 35 minutes to get out to Saint Maximin from Cotignac. There’s little traffic after 7pm during the week and during the Summer so it was a pleasant drive. When we got there the sun was still out and the light was a lovely gold. We parked in the lot next to the Credit Agricole bank (rue Mirabeau, easy to remember!) and strolled across to rue Maréchal Foch where we were pleasantly surprised by the double entrance to the restaurant which was fully air-conditioned. It was a very hot day and just as heavy in the evening so that felt like a relief.

We were greeted by a typical French hostess/waitress (that means not outright friendly but reserved) that allowed us to choose our table. She brought over some aperos (little toasts with tapenade), some warm bread, and asked us if we would like a drink to start. We ordered a 50ml bottle of Saint Marguerite rosé (La Londe), my partner ordered a starter of the Mozarella buffalo, we each ordered a main dish of sautéed Iberic pork, and finished with a baked peach with strawberry ice cream. There was not one fault in this meal, it was simply sublime. The mozarella was perfect, the pork was succulent and absolutely delicious (10 out of 10), and the dessert was perfect, everything was home made, even the wine was fantastic. Our final bill came to 84 euros.  Worth every cent so of course I highly recommend this place but book early as they book up even during the week and I’m not surprised.

The only negative point for me, personally, was the decor. The purple chairs were okay, but the purple themed flower paintings were just ugly. And the background music that sounded like elevator music from the 80s wasn’t the best choice and maybe a restaurant consultant would notice these things but the good food made up for all these little details, honest!

La Table de Bruno, 2 Avenue Maréchal Foch, 83470 Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

Phone04 94 80 50 39

Restaurant Le Chrissandier in Lorgues

The last time I was at this restaurant was in 2006 when I wrote a review of the then 4 star-auberge at Chateau de Berne (which is now a 5 star establisment).  I had been invited to spend the night at the newly decorated suite at the auberge and since it was the first night they opened, the gastronomic restaurant was closed for the evening, so they suggested we try Le Chrissandier in the village. We were not disappointed, my husband and I each ordered the beef filet with truffle sauce and it was divine.

So it had been a while since I dined here but the restaurant’s reputation seems to have kept a high standard. Their Trip Advisor reviews are very good overall but I was surprised by the kitch decor: every single table (on the outdoor terrace) was decorated with fake (ie, plastic) red and white flowers. It reminded me of Christmas. Add to that the green and white striped shirt I was wearing and I felt much like a mint flavoured candy cane. Then when I ordered their special dessert of Mojito sorbet covered in Rum, well, you get the completed festive visual!

The first course of my 32 euros menu (formula of appetiser, main, and dessert) was a plate of scallops pan fried and covered in a light but sweet sauce and this, I admit, was pretty darn good. Then came my duck though and my first thought was “wow, that’s sliced pretty thin.” There must not have been more than 50 grams of duck on my plate if you put all the slices together, but it did look attractive fanned out on the plate with a cylinder of what I thought was Dauphinoise potatoes but turned out to be baked pasta (surprise!). The duck was covered in soy-based sweet sauce and so I couldn’t really tell if it was properly cooked “medium rare” like I wanted it. It just showed no colour at all. But with portions so small it was easy, of course, to enjoy my dessert of what they called “Mojito ice-cream” but it was more a sorbet in rum with real mint leaves on top. It was very good.

The service at the restaurant was “would-be-formal.” The waiters tried really hard to mimic Michelin starred and properly trained staff but you can tell they were very young and just starting or were temporary Summer staff. The dessert course took over 30 mins to serve but everything else was well timed. All in all, I give this restaurant a 7/10. If you are in the village and want to treat yourself, I recommend it. But at 84 euros for dinner (2 persons) just be warned, it’s not cheap.

Restaurant Le Chrissandier Telephone: 04 94 67 67 15 18

Blvd de la République
83510 LORGUES (just opposite the town hall)

Website: https://www.lechrissandier.com/

 

 

 

 

What we eat in the Summer

Provençale summers are all about spending long hours dining outdoors whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner – especially dinners! So what do we all eat around here? Well, I’ll share some of the best meals I have had, al fresco, with local friends both French and international. Cotignac is blessed with great weather but we also have a diverse population. Although 60 per cent are over 65 years old, our international residents and secondary home owners are a good chunk of the people here. Twenty percent are from Scandinavia, England, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and even Australia and Canada. Add to that my own cultures of American and Japanese and you get a melange of different cuisines too, which is a bonus. It’s always most economical to cook yourselves of course (as opposed to going out to restaurants) and although it’s work to entertain guests it’s always so enjoyable to relax with friends and family members that make you feel loved and appreciated for the gift of food and good wine.

In the Summer the best meals come with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and here in our local weekly markets you can find very tasty organic and locally grown produce in abundance. Melons, strawberries, flat peaches, apricots and of course grapes are all sun sweetened here. I have raspberries growing in my garden that I pick all Summer long. Apples, pears, and figs come at the end of August and can be eaten alongside fresh goats’ cheese or with parma ham, or just on their own. I turn our pears and apples into tarts and cakes and they last for months in the freezer. I love being offered home made jams made with blackberries or figs and these are quite typical to make here.  And who can forget barbecues with marinated pork, chicken, beef, and lamb – succulently delicious.  People here like to rub their meats with herbes de Provence:  a mixture of sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary. Just smelling the grilled meats reminds me of good times in the Summer evenings next to the pool.

When we get lazy and cannot fathom the idea of baking (too hot), we usually go to the local bakeries and buy cakes and miniardises (little after dessert treats). It’s so easy and not expensive and since it’s local it doesnt feel too much like cheating! The bakeries in Cotignac are Lou Gourmandises at the Place de la Mairie and Fournil de Pascal in the Place Neuve.

I am so grateful to the wonderful people I have met here and continue to socialise with on a regular basis. Personally I love to make sushi and share my knowledge of Japanese cuisine with my local friends as there are no Japanese restaurants close by.  So you’ll see some photos of my own creations too.

I hope some of these photos will give you some idea of what we eat around here and maybe inspire you to cook or simply prepare some aperitifs and simple meals (so much Summer food is more about preparing than cooking with heat) to enjoy with your guests whether in your own home or on vacation.

Bon appetit! -Susana

 

Cotignac Rosé Festival 2018, the photos!

At the third annual Cotignac Rosé Festival local producers (Nestuby, Caseneuve, Clos la Menardière, and the Vignerons de Cotignac) joined forces with Mirabeau-en-Provence for a sumptuous evening of music, dancing, food, and heaps of the finest rosé wine.  The first glass (imprinted in pink with “Cotignac Rosé Festival ’18”) becomes a collectible for just three euros and included a choice of wine.  Top ups cost just 2 euros, making this a very reasonable and convenient way to try the crème de la crème of Cotignac’s finest!

The crowd included locals and visitors, wine buffs and council members, and children too. There was a food truck serving burgers and fries, stands with local specialties like pissaladière, and the restaurants served themed menus and cuisine that went well, of course, with rosé. And the now very popular DJ Nick Boot spun out tunes from the 80s and 90s rock, pop, and disco, making the party atmosphere truly memorable.

There were volunteers too, that made the event one that brought out the true spirit of commaraderie and village unity!

The Rosé Festival aims to make the public more aware of the subtleties of fine rosé, a great deal more sophisticated (there really is an art skill devoted to creating them) than the more run of the mill and less refined rosés that are generally consumed by locals for daily consumption in boxes, for example. Provence rosés really are the best and continue to enjoy their popularity currently exploding and being enjoyed by exigent wine lovers all over the world.

For more information on the participants, check out their websites:

Mirabeau-en-Provence (in English and French): www.mirabeauwine.com

Vignerons de Cotignac (in French) : http://www.vigneronsdecotignac.com/

Clos la Minardière (in French): http://lamenardiere.com/

Domaine de Caseneuve (in French): https://www.vigneron-independant.com/domaine-de-caseneuve

L’Ecole du Sens (in French): https://www.terrisse.eu/

Stay tuned to Provence Living on Facebook (www.facebook.com/provenceliving) for information about the  next Cotignac Rosé Festival 2019!

 

 

Lavender, lavender!!

One of the best symbols of Provence is not just a vision but an olfactory-sensory-voyage to the land of purple heaven! So many people swear that the intoxicating fragrance from lavender helps one relax and get some deep sleep. I’m not sure about the scientific findings for this but I’d believe it!

From Cotignac you can get to the fields in about 45 mins (drive north) – you’ll pass them on the way to Moustiers Ste Marie if you’d like to combine that spectacular village visit (go North West via Aups, Moissac Bellevue, and Baudinard).  But remember, they are only in bloom from around mid June to end of first week in July every year. This year (2018) we had more rain over the long Winter and Spring, allowing them to go darker later, and as I type (2nd July) I can see they are still in their prime!

Did you know that lavender do not last long? Once planted they need replanting every 4 to 5 years. Bonne nuit 🙂

 

 

The upcoming Cotignac Rosé festival 2018

It’s the now famous and very popular Rosé Festival here in Cotignac and if you are a fan of rosé (um, who isn’t?) then it’s one party you do not want to miss. This year the fun takes place on the 18th of July, a Wednesday evening (to get over mid-week) and the “high” will take you straight to your weekend because you’ll have had a fabulous time and may even be a bit fatigued, lol. Mirabeau (mirabeauwine.com) hosts this event in collaboration with local producers who all bring out their top wines that make everyone seem to ooh and aah and dance the night away to DJ Nick Boot’s catchy tunes from the 80s all the way up to more recent funk and pop.

Last year’s fête saw Cotignac in grand party mode for a full seven hours. We loved all the pink-clad men and women, the groovy tunes and finger foods like burgers, crêpes, Italian sandwiches, and many other yummy stands. For three euros anyone could buy a glass with their choice of rosé wine (and get to take their souvenir glass home). Two euros topped the glass up. The ambiance and the decoration, the great wine and music combined really got everyone in such a good mood it was a joy to be part of, even though yours truly here worked her butt off.

La vie en rosé is alive and well in Cotignac! Photos here from 2017 to entice you all to join us on the 18th July this year 2018.

Day trip to Moustiers Ste Marie via Verdon Canyon

This is the best way to do a day trip to Moustiers-Ste-Marie from Cotignac:

Head in the direction of Aups via Salernes from Cotignac. If you go on a Wednesday or a Saturday you can stop by the fabulous Aups market in the earlier part of the morning (better chance to find a good parking spot). Then head to Moustiers via Lac St Croix on the East side (the fastest way to get to Moustiers) and you’ll pass the emerald green lake on the left. You’ll also go over the bridge at Quinson that overlooks the pedalos and canooers heading into the canyon waters which is spectacular. You can park just after going over the bridge and walk carefully over to take some photos on the bridge here if you like.

When you arrive at Moustiers, keep climbing to the second level where there is ample paid parking spaces if you get there just before lunch hour. Then head into the village and dine at any of the restaurants overlooking the stunning waterfalls. We had lunch at the Treille Muscates where the pasta with foie gras sauce was absolutely amazing.

From the second week in June, the lavender starts to bloom (it stays purple until about mid July) and you can take the road leading out of the village of Moustiers that goes through the fields. Then follow the signs back to the Lac Ste Croix then Baudinard to Aups (you’ll have done a circuit drive coming down the West side of the lake). You’ll be back in Cotignac by 4pm if you don’t hang around too late in Moustiers shopping, or you can stop and take a dip in the emerald waters. Either way, it’s a really ideal way to see this “must do” part of the Verdon park we’re so famous for in the Var. From Cotignac, Moustiers Ste Marie is about 45 mins to an hour’s drive.

La Table des Coquelicots restaurant in Cotignac

A local favourite, this restaurant has greatly improved over the last year in my personal opinion. I am also hearing more and more stories of positive experiences from visitors which makes me very happy.  La Table des Coquelicots has an extensive menu but their new week-day special formulas (called “menu special”) include three courses for just over 15 euros.  I could not believe the price so I had to try it. To my very pleasant surprise it was copious and delicious. Last week I had a salad and quiche starter followed by stuffed chicken (stuffed with sausage), pilaf rice, and a beautiful crême caramel for dessert. I paired all this with a glass of dry white local wine (extra cost of just 3 euro) and the coffee was also included. You cannot beat this quality for the price, I highly recommend the newly improved La Table des Coquelicots restaurant which also has a nice garden wine bar in the back!

La Table des Coquelicots, Cotignac: 10, Cours Gambetta, 83570 Cotignac Tel: 04 94 69 46 07

The tiny old village of Fox Amphoux

Perched on a hill, the old village of Fox Amphoux does not have a lively atmosphere but the views from the old prison roof are worth the detour! There is parking just at the bottom and you can take a leisurely walk up hill (not steep) and go around the circuit, stopping at the old prison. There is a sleepy Auberge here, next to the church and the most gorgeous Acacia tree, that has some pretty impressive reviews on Trip Advisor (called the Auberge du Vieux Fox) and a couple of restaurants just below and away from the village (Table de la Fanette and Chez Jean, the truck stop/hunters’ den). It’s only 10 km away from Cotignac and an easy 12 mins’ drive so do stop by if you’re on the way to say, Regusse, the Verdon, Montmeyen, etc. You can also come back via Sillans La Cascade for another walk down to the double waterfalls they are famous for (2 km round trip). There are a couple of cafés and a restaurant, Les Pins, in Sillans.

What impressed me the most about Fox Amphoux is how clean it was. The locals here are obviously very house-and-garden-proud, meticulously cleaning and restoring the old medieval houses regularly. Big thumbs up!

Stunning Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence

A stunning “immersion exhibition” of art inside the quarries of Les Baux de Provence, this is a must stop in Provence.  This season’s collection features Picasso and the Spanish Masters which follows last season’s Dutch Rainassance artists Hieronymous Bosch, Pieter Brueghel, and the Italian Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Les Baux de Provence is approximately one hour and forty five minutes’ drive from Cotignac.

For gorgeous photos, videos, and more information in English about the current exhibit click here.  Or go to: http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en/home

Tourtour and their annual “Egg Festival”

Tourtour is set on top of a windy hill (elevation 900 metres) with sweeping views all the way out to Frejus and the Mediterranean with the Mount St Victoire between. The population is just under 500 but the locals are a tight knit group who put on one of the most amazing festivals (fête de l’oeuf or the Egg Festival) over the Easter weekend every year. You’ll find activities for children, live entertainment and restaurants participating with egg-themed menus. There are also food stands if you want to go “cheap and cheerful” with plenty of places to picnic (like next to the church, with a great view). The trees in the village are decorated to the max with colourful, hanging eggs and it’s a really pretty sight.

Tourtour is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France and is well worth a detour when not too cold or windy. The little streets through the village houses are so full of charm and the restaurants serve simple yet freshly made food that of course goes rather well with a nice glass of chilled rosé or anything really. The gastronomic restaurant here is called La Table and the international couple who run it have some very good reviews.

Tourtour is about a 25 minutes’ drive from Cotignac, via either Aups or Villecroze (faster).

 

 

 

Food ‘Amour restaurant, Salernes

Food ‘Amour is stirring a buzz around the area for its outstanding cuisine (refined, gastronomic – worthy of a Michelin star in my opinion). The restaurant opened four years ago but already they are having to turn away diners at the door for being booked up. I had lunch there last Thursday (March 8th) with some lady friends and we were very satisfied with the 25 euro menu that included a main, dessert, coffee, and petit fours. The friendly chef (who runs his restaurant with his pasty chef wife) even offered us two separate amuses bouches that were delectable: a curried chicken with sour cream mousse in a light cone, then crayfish ceviche on toast! Our mains were steemed cod on bed of leeks and other winter vegetables with a sublime leek sauce, I could have eaten two portions. These days they are closed Mondays through Wednesdays but the rest of the time they are open for lunch and dinner.  Food’amour almost always celebrate holidays like Valentines, Mothers’ and Fathers’ day, Easter, Christmas, etc, with special menus that are drool worthy. In my humble opinion this is one of the best restaurants in the Var.  And frankly we are waiting for them to move to Cotignac.

Indoor and outdoor dining in warm weather (next to main church). Food ‘Amour 4 rue Pierre Blanc 83690 Salernes Tel: 0981 93 19 49

-Susana

La Tarente restaurant under new management 2018

The new La Tarente in Cotignac is open for lunch and dinner and from April they’ll be open all day long! In the Winter they specialise in “cuisine montagnard” so fondus, raclette, etc. But they have a rather extensive menu and my kids were thrilled with chicken in basil sauce and cheese on toast (served with salad and fries). They also have pretty good pizzas. Dinner for four including 4 glasses of wine, 2 sodas, a dessert of 4 apple tortons (shared) cost 91 euro. That’s about average for our village. For reservations contact: latarente@orange.fr or 04 94 04 75 31. Continue reading La Tarente restaurant under new management 2018

Sharing information about Cotignac and surrounding villages