New Year’s day walk in Bauduen (Lac St Croix)

Happy new year! If you’re like me, you’re a bit fed up with all the drinking and partying of the month before and ready for a detox and healthy start to the new year 2018.  What better way to start then but with a nice walk in the January sunshine (it was rather warm at 13 degrees C) by the lake, just 35 minutes’ drive from our home village of Cotignac! The bonus was discovering a new casual restaurant that serves fresh crepes sweet and savory, with fresh and organic ingredients and even catering to vegetarians and gluten-free diets. Don’t let the photos fool you, this place was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS and the price was right too! The  four of us ate rather well for just 52 euros. A good lunch, followed by a brisk walk in the sunshine around the village and up near the olive groves on the mountain (West side). There’s a spectacular sight by the old church there too, where climbers will find challenging and steep rocks to climb. Bauduen is of course a very popular place for Summer visitors who come to enjoy the spectacular lake and water sports but it’s just as pretty in January.

Luxurious pampering at Chateau de Berne’s spa in Lorgues

I once had the invitation to do a write-up about Chateau de Berne back in 2006 in exchange for a night in one of their suites and a dining experience. It was the first of March and they had just reopened for the season. Back then it wasn’t as luxurious but the service was excellent and the establishment was eyeing for higher sights.  Ten years ago the “auberge” was more cosy and less classy but the accommodation very comfortable albeit neo-provençale in decor.

In 2017 Chateau de Berne has come a long ways. With a ton more money invested in their interior and exterior beautification, the addition of their super spa has cemented their position as a competitive 5-star establishment here in the Var. The new interior decoration is sublime and would impress even the fussiest clientelle. The spa products were exquisite and from the uber-quality brand Cinq Monde (https://www.cinqmondes.com/). But if a massage, facial, or body treatment isn’t your desire you can opt for the 77 euros per person -3-hour free use of hammam, sauna, jacuzzi and well-heated indoor swimming pool AND lunch at the bistro in the cold months which will probably relax and pamper you just as much. I had the body scrub treatment which made me feel like I had the smoothest of baby’s skin afterwards (and it even seemed to last a good 48 hours!) I would definitely go back just to use their amenities.  Monthly to annual club memberships are also available. For more information go to: http://www.chateauberne.com/en/hotel-spa-provence.html

 

 

Day trip to Bandol in October

Sunday is market day in Bandol so it’s a little busy but it’s not too touristy which is what I love about the place. Unlike St Tropez, Cannes, and Nice, you don’t hear too many other languages being spoken here (other than French!). And yet it has everything – a beautiful port, fantastic restaurants and shops, and of course great wine. Continue reading Day trip to Bandol in October

Esparron-de-Verdon on an October afternoon

On the far West side of the Verdon is the little village of Esparron with it’s own lake and stunning castle. In October it’s particularly pleasant because there are few people around (the village has a population of 450). We parked on the Northern side of the village and took a nice walk through the ruelles and charming village houses, took photos from outside the castle (unfortunately it’s private but a bed-and-breakfast worth a look. Click on https://chateau-esparron.com/en/ ). Further down the road towards the lake are some lovely cafés where lunch was being served all afternoon on a Sunday. We stopped and had a beer and the kids munched on ice cream bars. From there the views just got better and better. The afternoon sun was glittering on the water (dont forget to bring your sunnies even this time of year). The lake here has  their own sailing club, electric boats for hire (all year ’round) and even a tour boat (check the schedule) with a guide. It was October 8th and there were people swimming although we felt it was too cold. But the water was clear and a gorgeous turquoise colour and pleasant for a foot-dip. This place was only a 40 – 45 mins drive away from Cotignac through some lavender fields (N.B. lavender is in bloom in Provence in June and early July only). If you felt more adventurous you can continue driving to Gréoux les Bains afterwards or stop in Quinson on the way. Either way, a great afternoon out!

 

The unexpected benefits of living in rural South of France

We all have a good idea about the expected benefits of living in this Mediterranean region: the clean air, water, the relaxing slow paced life with good wine and olive oil, the fantastic weather (so much sunshine!), and the outdoor markets full of organically grown produce…the list is long. Continue reading The unexpected benefits of living in rural South of France

Aups and her market in August

Located just 20 minutes from Cotignac, and on the way to the Lac St Croix, is the medieval village of Aups, famous for Truffles and their annual Truffle Festival in January. In Summer the village is bustling with life and their twice-weekly markets are really worth going to because it’s cheap and there is an abundance of choice.  Aups has their market on Saturdays and Wednesdays. See also http://provence-living.net/aups-truffle-village

Great Summer Vibes at Cotignac’s Rosé festival 2017

What a night! For over seven hours Cotignac was partying the night away in epic fashion. We loved all the pink-clad men and women, the groovy tunes by DJ Nick Boot (UK DJs Abroad) https://www.facebook.com/ukdjsabroad/, and all the top quality local rosé producers and the best of Mirabeau-en-Provence wine too. For three euros anyone could buy a glass with their choice of rosé wine (and get to take the 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! There were pink Italian sandwiches, hamburgers, shaved ice cream with water melon, and lots more in the name of food stands and food trucks too.  Locals and tourists alike were all having a blast and the good vibes continued into the wee hours. La vie en rosé is alive and well in Cotignac!

“En Face à Face” – Summer exhibition at Centre d’Art La Falaise

Another dynamite exhibit at Cotignac’s Centre d’Art La Falaise, a private foundation that puts up fine art temporary expos from a variety of different private collections and museums in the region. The village of Cotignac is lucky to house such beautiful pieces that wow both local residents and tourists alike! The photos in the gallery here are from the exhibit itself as well as the opening party held on the 8th of July, 2017. The art will be displayed until the end of September 2017. Open daily (except Mondays) from 10am until 12:30pm, then again from 3:30pm until 6:30pm or by appointment.

A big thank you to Middle Easter chef/caterer Sophie Daloyan of Barjols, for her delectable samosas, acras, dolmas, and veggie plates: https://www.facebook.com/lacuisinedesophie0/

Market day in Cotignac June 13th, 2017

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day in Cotignac and the tourists seemed to come out of the woodwork. The market was bustling and there were so many buying temptations from the roasted chickens to big bunches of lavender. I finally succummed to some pretty cotton clothing at the bottom of the Cours Gambetta but oh, if I had all the money in the world I’d buy up half this market, it was so good! Continue reading Market day in Cotignac June 13th, 2017

La Table de Pol – wine bar and restaurant in Lorgues

Quality of ingredients, good service, and a relaxed atmosphere is what you can expect here at the wonderful La Table de Pol in Lorgues.  It’s a little escape, like something we’d find nearer to the coast here or on a beach.  Lots of stretching room, super comfy tables and chairs, benches with cushions for your aperitifs, and a cozy wine bar indoors for a more romantic feel; perfect for couples. Continue reading La Table de Pol – wine bar and restaurant in Lorgues

Villecroze Park, Café La Bohème, and Mr Gum’s

It’s always such a delight to visit Mr Gum at his boutique full of fabulous ceramic necklaces, earrings and bracelets in old Villecroze. Guillaume (owner and creator of the shop) is full of charm too and is always a real pleasure to chat with. What’s best is that his shop is right next to the now famous La Bohème Café with equally charming Liz as owner and hostess. Have a coffee, a piece of cake, a look around at Mr Gum’s then head for the beautiful rose park across the way with its stunning limescale cliffs and cave dwellings (kinda like a miniature Cotignac!!), a beautiful old house, picnic tables, tennis courts, and a great park for younger kids too. All this is just 25 mins’ drive from Cotignac. Worth the detour!! Continue reading Villecroze Park, Café La Bohème, and Mr Gum’s

Comfortable accommodation in Sillans-la-Cascade

The village house in Sillans-la-Cascade is just 2 mins walk to the fabulous bakery and restaurant “Les Pins.”  There is a 30 mins’ walk down to the impressive double waterfalls of Sillans from here. Aups, Cotignac and Salernes are just a few minutes’ drive away. The lac de St Croix just 25 minutes’ drive. Continue reading Comfortable accommodation in Sillans-la-Cascade

Brocante versus Vide Grenier

Tourists often confuse these two outdoor sales events but basically a Brocante is run by professionals and a Vide Grenier by either a local municipality and/or an association.

At a Brocante one can typically find lots of antiques in the form of cutlery, decoration, furniture, and jewelry. You’ll also find art in the form of sculptures, framed paintings, old posters, and textiles. The people behind the stands are professional buyer-sellers who spend much of their time collecting and then selling their treasured items at regular brocante markets around the region. Some travel from as far away as the North of France. My personal experience in shopping at Brocantes is that they often over-price items but if you tell the seller you are local and that you’d like to negotiate the price, they are mostly open to this.  It helps if your French is very good, of course. Continue reading Brocante versus Vide Grenier

Falaise des Arts – Spring expo at the Centre d’art la falaise

There’s a new exposition in town and it opened today at the Centre d’Art La Falaise, in Cotignac. The current collection features regional fine artists, sculptors and photographers (in alphabetical order): Elian Bachini, Jean Marie Cartereau, Chantal Casefont, Martine Doll, Michel Dufresne, Alain Francois, Vonick Laubreton, Stéphane Lovighi-Brougogne, Manuel Pontarelli, Eric Principaud and Carla Van Der Werf.

The centre is a beautiful renovated old chapel and was once a cinema from the 1930s until the early ’60s.  It was then turned into a restaurant until ten years ago when it became a garage until Mirabeau Wine turned the lower floor into its headquarters and boutique two years ago.  Anyone can enter the Centre d’Art on the first floor for a very reasonable fee of just two euros, benefiting the privately run non-profit foundation.  If you are a local or live here most of the year, I highly recommend getting a “Pass Privilège” for just 5 euros with access to all the expositions (not counting other events such as concerts or conferences) throughout the year. For more information and announcements, follow their facebook page here.

Opening hours from 15th April – 14th May: Tuesdays and Fridays  10h00-12h30 15h00-17h30, Thursdays (from 27th April) 10h – 12h30 and
weekends (Saturdays and Sundays):
11h00-12h30 & 15h00-17:30

-mardi – 10h à 12h30
– jeudi – 10h à 12h30

– vendredi – 10h à 12h30 et 15h à 17h30
– samedi – 11h à 12h30 et 15h à 17h30

– dimanche – 11h à 12h30 et 15h à 17h30

Follow their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/centredartlafalaise/?fref=ts

 

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 feature 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 more information in English click here.  Or go to: http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en/home

Tourtour in March, 2017

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) around Easter every year. 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. It’s about a 20 minutes’ drive from Cotignac, via either Aups or Villecroze (fastest). Continue reading Tourtour in March, 2017

Le Mas de Cotignac – accommodation and table d’hôtes

Recently written up in our local newspaper the Var Matin, Le Mas de Cotignac offers Michelin standard “voluptuous” accommodation for even the fussiest of guests. If you are looking for a romantic break, a tranquil vacation, or a weekend getaway without the kids, this is the place to unwind and be luxuriously pampered.  They are located just outside the village. Le Mas de Cotignac is an exceptional bed and breakfast with table d’hôtes (possibility to book lunches and dinners) with swimming pool and jacuzzi.  And their service is also top notch and attentive to guests’ every need. Continue reading Le Mas de Cotignac – accommodation and table d’hôtes

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