All posts by Susana Iwase Hanson

Susana grew up in Asia and California and received a Bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley and a Masters degree in International Marketing from Bradford University in the UK. She moved to Provence in 2002 and learned French. She also speaks Japanese. Susana is active in the village of Cotignac where she is mother to two girls, two cats, and wife to a ski-freak Frenchman who now works for Mirabeau Wine. She runs a property management business (Provence Living Consulting) and in her spare time likes to entertain and make sushi whilst drinking lots of rosé. Susana also serves Cotignac as an elected official in charge of Communications and foreign resident relations under Mayor Jean Pierre Véran.

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 🙂

 

 

Cotignac’s 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

Pretty Village House for longterm or holiday let

DATES AVAILABLE FOR HOLIDAY RENTALS at 2 nights’ minimum stay as of 18th April 2018: June 13 – 16, 19-21, 24-28, July 7 – 9, 29 July to 2nd August, and 19th to 31st August and 31st August to September 12th. Please email Susana at provencelivingconsulting@gmail.com to confirm availability and best price!

The village house is also available for long term let starting October 2018 until end of April 2019. In the heart of the gorgeous village of Cotignac:

Also available for short term let over Summer 2018:
Preferred minimum of 2 nights’ stay. Discounted rate of 99 euros per night when you mention Provence Living! A cleaning fee and linens’ rental charged at the end of your stay.
Details of accommodation:
The village house, suitable for two couples or a four to five-member- family is just steps away from the centre of the village, but in a quiet neighbourhood (near the outdoor Théâtre du Rocher and the Place de la Mairie), has a new kitchen fully equipped with dining area on the ground floor, a master bedroom (one King size bed) with ensuite on the first floor, an additional bedroom (with 2 single beds that can be used separately or together to make one super king size) with separate bathroom on the second floor, and a large living room (convertible 4-poster futon bed) with bar and kitchenette on the top floor with 3 velux windows for lots of light. A mezzanine is just above this floor where there is an additional single sized bed suitable for a child or an adult guest. In total, the house has 124 square metres of living space (loi carré). Parking can be found about 30 metres away.
Nightly rate: 99 -130  euros (depending on season), one week minimum at 670 euros and 1,200 euros per month (minimum of 3 month’s stay over Winter) or if staying more than 3 months, the rent drops to 1,000 per month plus bills).  There is a mandatory cleaning charge of 55 – 70 euros (includes laundry of linens and depends on number of people staying) requested at the end of the stay.

If you are interested in booking this house for your next holiday, please contact Susana directly at provencelivingconsulting@gmail.com or call +33 624 23 26 55. You can also book through AirBnB (site service charges apply): https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3771828?guests=4&s=pdK7

NB: interior furnishings may change slightly without notice

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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. Continue reading Luxurious pampering at Chateau de Berne’s spa in Lorgues

Christmas shop fronts in Cotignac 2017

It’s most wonderful time of the year and Cotignac’s got lots of inspiration for those of you shopping for presents. Tuesday is market day so it’s a good time to check that out and browse the shops at the same time.  Or join us for our Christmas market on Sunday, the 17th of December. There is a contest for “prettiest shop window” going on too so all the merchants have put a little extra effort into decorating. The village lighting this year is also impressive with a giant tree covered in decorations and sparkling lights at the bottom of the Cours, across from Mirabeau Wine.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season!

 

 

Fall 2017 Exhibit BOTANIC’ART at Cotignac’s Centre d’Art

The opening party of the Fall exhibit, Botanic’art was held last Saturday the 28th October at 11:30am. The centre was packed with locals, artists, and Cotignac council members and the party was an outstanding success. Visitors were treated to chilled rosé and lots of freshly catered aperos.

The art will be on show until the 3rd of December.  Opening hours: Every day except Mondays and Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm then 2pm until 5:30pm. The centre is located at number 5, Cours Gambetta, Cotignac 83570.

Nature inspired artists include: Jean ARNAUD, Sylviane BYKOWSKI, Jean-Marie CARTEREAU, François JALAIN, Damien GENTAUD, Sylvie MAURICE, Patricia NEWMAN, and Daniel VAN DE VELDE. I highly recommend visiting this exhibit, awe-inspiration guaranteed!

Autumn in Aix-en-Provence

The university town of Aix is of course full of young people so there’s a lot to do here, including dining on a huge variety of international cuisine. Just walking around the old part of town I saw over three Japanese restaurants, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, French, bistro-style, bars, both cheap and upscale and everything in between! The Cours Mirabeau (main strip) is like a miniature version of the Champs Elysée with businesses and restaurants and huge sidewalks for anyone to stroll down without having to fight any traffic. This time of year (in Autumn) it is pure joy to see the deep yellows, reds, and brown colours of the falling sycamore leaves in contrast to the bright green moss on the fountains. There are museums, shopping centres, live bands entertaining the café crowds, and some great people watching to do here. The famous sweet is called the “Calisson” and although I am an almond lover I always thought these specialties look better than they taste. But the cakes in the cake shops are drool worthy! Never a dull day spent in Aix. The outdoor market takes place every day at the place de la mairie and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at the palais de justice. For more information about Aix cick here: http://www.aixenprovencetourism.com/en/