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.

Pierre de Lune – dress shopping in Cotignac

Say hello to Céline, at Pierre de Lune in Cotignac. Céline has some unusual, original, and very pretty Summer dresses for sizes S, M, and L for women who wish to stand out. These are no ordinary dresses – they remind me of how clothing was made many decades ago, when stitch detail counted, and materials were heavier and of better quality. To make the shop even more attractive, it is sandwiched between the lovely Paulette Café (ice creamery, salads, and snacks) and Corinne Hugou’s Atelier Café. So if you get tired from the heat and all that shopping, you have a few choices as to where to catch your breath and enjoy the people watching! -On the Cours Gambetta in Cotignac.


Tigrane expo officially opens in Draguignan

Cotignac’s resident and modern artist (plasticien, painter, and sculptor) Marc Tigrane officially celebrated the opening of his exposition at the Art and History Museum and Chapel d’Observance in the Var’s capital town of Draguignan. The expo is being sponsored by the Municipality and the new Mayor of Draguignan, Richard Strambio, was there to welcome the invitées to the splashy opening. Wine and aperitifs were served after the speaches and everyone had a fine time in the beautiful early evening June sunlight! Continue reading Tigrane expo officially opens in Draguignan

Aups, the Truffle Village

The village of Aups is well worth a stop if you are staying in Cotignac. Outdoor markets there take place on Saturdays and Wednesdays in the Summer but the Saturday one is bigger and if you get there early in the morning (before 9am) you’ll get a near-by parking spot and have the best selection of just about everything from fresh produce and clothing, nougat, olives, breads, oils, and of course TRUFFLES. But if you are a truffle fan (like me, Susana), then you’ll want to come back for the annual Truffle Festival in January where you can watch the famous truffle pig effortlessly locate truffles in a matter of seconds. Continue reading Aups, the Truffle Village

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a must see village

It’s one of Provence Living’s MUST VISIT villages if you visit our region yet it’s one of the least visible (on a map it is hidden behind Parc du Verdon!) making it a bit of a Provence secret. The stunning village, however, is very easy to get to from Cotignac. Plan on spending about a 45 minutes driving and maybe just a little longer in the Summer season. Continue reading Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a must see village

Vide Grenier (flea market) Cotignac

It was sunny and warm on Sunday, the first of June, and the Cotignac Parents’ Committee (AAPE) organised a successful flea market, complete with 4:30am traffic jams at the entry to the village’s Cours Gambetta! Susana was there to see it all, deal with the chaos, and place vendors swiftly and calmly. She then continued as crêpes maker and vendor (alongside other parent-volunteers who helped out) to raise more funds for the association in order to further Continue reading Vide Grenier (flea market) Cotignac

Inside Marguerite’s deco shop in Cotignac

Treats await pretty home-decoration lovers at Marguerite in Cotignac. Marguerite, who is originally Dutch, has had her shop for years now but she is still very active and has a real eye for picking out the type of decorations tourists and residents alike, adore to adorn their homes with. This summer’s colours are very bright; lots of reds, fuscia, pink, and lime-green decorates the exterior of the shop that is located just near the Place de la Mairie, on the Rue des deux places. Inside you’ll find more goodies and perfect gifts for even the fussiest of friends. It’s a great place to find fake flowers, antique reproduction furniture, lampshades, photo frames, candles, and much more. Next time you are in Cotignac, stop by to be enchanted. Closed on Mondays but open all day the rest of the week (without a lunch break!).

Beaches, Lakes, and Rivers, oh my!

There is a plethora of choice when it comes to bathing in the Summer Season here in Provence. Even if you may not be staying (or living) in a villa with swimming pool, there are plenty of choices for cooling down. Close to Cotignac we have the Lac St Croix (35 mins drive), the beaches of St Tropez (Pamplonne) and Bormes Les Mimosas (1 hr 15 mins), as well as River beds like the Plan d’Eau in Salernes (20 mins) or Vallon Sourn in Chateau Vert (20 mins)  or the Verdon in Quinson, where you can picnic or dine nearby, or enjoy sunbathing or naps under the parasol pines. There are also municipal swimming pools in Regusse, Brignoles, and St Maximin but be warned that picnics are not allowed pool-side and most do not allow entry with lounge chairs. You’ll have to make do with a simple towel to lie down on. Continue reading Beaches, Lakes, and Rivers, oh my!

Sharing our village & Practical Information


We get a lot of questions about how much things cost here in Provence, particularly from people living outside of France. Some things are cheaper, other things are MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. Here are a few general answers for those of you interested in the following:

Here in Provence, WHAT WOULD IT COST TO….  Continue reading Sharing our village & Practical Information

A short history of Cotignac

Cotignac’s history can be traced back to Roman times but came alive particularly in the 1100s with the building of their very first chapel, the Chapel St Martin which will soon be given a full renovation to show off its one-of-a-kind old painted frescos which will attract tourists world-wide.  Continue reading A short history of Cotignac

Tapissier, Cotignac (furniture renovation)

Denis Bonnay, who runs the local Tapissier here could not be more proud of his work. It’s skilled, it’s beautiful, and most of all, it’s ecological as it recycles our old furniture and gives it a new and better look. Few Tapissiers exist these days as many people prefer to buy cheap new furniture (like the type found at IKEA) to replace old tattered ones but if it can be salvaged, it should be! Continue reading Tapissier, Cotignac (furniture renovation)

Living in Cotignac: Affordable Real Estate


So what do Angelina & Brad, Eric Idle, Vanessa Paradis, and David and Victoria Beckham have in common? They all have vacation homes in Provence, and in particular, the VAR department of France. Branjelina’s Chateau Miravale is situated in the all-organic village of Correns. This area is so scarcely populated, it’s rare that we see paparazzi bothering to make the drive out from the busier areas like St Tropez, Cannes and Antibes.
Continue reading Living in Cotignac: Affordable Real Estate

Medieval Festival in St Maximin, La Ste Baume

There are Medieval Festivals that take place throughout the year in chosen towns around our region. May 5th, 2014’s festival was held in St Maximin where children and adults alike found themed food and entertainment at the park next to the Couvent Royal Hotel. The markets were full of hand crafted wooden toys, books, clothing, artisanal hams and sausage, cheeses and barbecued delights. Even the shops in the centre of the town were decorated and many vendors were dressed in period costume. It was a beautiful day perfect for a picnic on the grass, a bite from the Medieval Crêpe stand, or just “window” shopping at the markets that were open all day long.

Nearer to Cotignac, Brignoles holds its annual Medieval Festival complete with actors and scenarios and lots more entertainment over several days, in August. See our events section for dates in 2014.


The annual Cotignac Parents’ Committee (AAPE) Pasta Party takes place every 14th of July in celebration of Bastille Day and comes complete with live entertainment AND fireworks at massive tables set up at the end of the Cours Gambetta. For just 17 euros per person for four-course meal AND wine, anyone who books in advance (payment can be made by euros cheque to the order of ” AAPE Cotignac” and sent to: La Presidente AAPE, 30 rue Plan de Giraud, 83570 Cotignac) will be guaranteed a place. The event takes place just after the 10km run here and is extremely popular so reserving your places is highly recommended. Tickets will also go on sale at 4pm on the day at the top of the Cours Gambetta but usually sell out in one hour.  Apero starts at 7:30pm and dinner at 8pm. Contact Provence-Living for more info.