Category Archives: Practical Information

Update from France on the 29th of May, 2020

Dear Provence Living followers, thank you for tuning in!

It’s been a couple of weeks since France came out of official “lockdown” but life is not yet back to normal. The restaurants, bars, and cafés are still closed and since travel to and from overseas is still not allowed for vacationing there are almost no tourists here in Cotignac.

The weather at this time of year is simply perfect. The days’ temperatures range from between 18 and 26 degrees centigrade and skies are almost blindingly bright with crystal clear air and cobalt blue skies. It rains at times too, but never for long and contributing to much growth and shades of rich green in Provence.

Since for the moment everyone is allowed to drive up to a radius of 100 km from home, I drove over to the Hyper U in Les Arcs, to shop and see what that was like earlier this week. There were not many people there at the usually very busy “centre commerciale.” The restaurants were open only for take out so all their chairs were stacked on top of the tables. The restrooms that are usually a bit grungy and never have enough soap in the dispensers had completely transformed into the cleanest, fresh-smelling lavatories stocked to the brim with soap, what a lovely surprise!

Since starting to sew masks by hand on a daily basis I had run out of used elastic for them (made from recycled kids’ cotton dresses and other bits around my house) so I thought I’d check at the Hyper U after being unsuccessful at closer-to-home shops. I was disappointed to see that they, too, had been sold out. In fact even on-line there is almost nothing available that could be shipped out within the next month. And everything needed to sew seems to have gone up at least five-fold in price, it’s depressing. So I have been making ties out of material and even finding little plastic length adjusters that I thought previously were useless, now working out well as comfortable-around-the-ears-bits. I’m very much enjoying the relaxing and therapeutic work of sewing by hand and use only 100 per cent cotton and silk (from dresses I never wore). I want to make sure the masks are comfortable, washable, and tasteful/classy rather than something that looks like it belongs in hospital or circus act. I get so many advertisements on facebook that show some really ugly masks that look cheap but cost a bundle! I will carry on making them as 1) I really enjoy it and 2) I know this trend is going to last until at least a vaccine for coronavirus has been carried out to the masses – which can be up to 5 years from now, even though one may be available in the next year to year and a half. I read that dministering vaccines for Smallpox took five years so I think my prediction is realistic.

When I see the likes of the American president refusing to wear a mask it makes me want to wear one even more.

Incidentally I recently took part in an official event in Cotignac where the public was not invited because of the coronavirus situation and the new but temporary laws forbidding large gatherings. It was the confirmation ceremony of the new village Council. The team that ran for election with mayor Jean Pierre Véran had no competition since there wasn’t anyone running against them this time. They were therefore confirmed alongside members of the previous council (including myself) and images were fed live on Facebook on the evening of the 24th of May 2020. The mayor was kind in expressing his appreciation of his previous team and also expressed his thanks for each councillor’s contribution to the village. He mentioned that I had delivered excellent service to the members of our foreign residents and worked hard to edit and layout end-of-year village magazines (called the bulletins municipales), and that was short but very nice. However, he failed to mention that I had been their unofficial photographer for practicallly every function as well as the one responsible for almost daily communication to the public on facebook and website for the mairie. After working tirelessly for six years I admit I felt a little short-changed by the lack of acknowledgement but then isn’t life so often about wanting to be acknowledged when working hard? I consoled and reminded myself that what is important is knowing that I accomplished those things that helped to keep people informed, that they looked good in photos that then made the magazines look more professional and Cotignac even more attractive. I am not a professional photographer which helped them (and the taxpayers) save money in areas of communication and image marketing. I hope I served them well and paved the way for the next team to pick up, more easily, where we left off. For me, it’s actually enough to know I did my best, and I did, darnit! The evening ended with champagne and pizza, followed by some patisserie from Lou Gourmandises (the bakery on the place de la mairie), which were divine.

Yesterday afternoon I listened to “Mr. drool-worthy”, the prime minister Edouard Philippe, address the nation about the process of further opening up the economy. And guess what, the restaurants, bars, and cafés will finally be allowed to open on the 2nd of June, that’s next Tuesday! However, there will be conditions that help to keep up the social distancing rules like: staff must wear masks, patrons also need to wear masks when moving around (but can take them off at the tables), no standing room at the bars and people will need to sit down at tables spread apart more than normal. For now the borders will open up on the 15th of June so if you’re in another country and wish to vacation in France, you will technically be able to… but here’s the catch: the laws can change at a moment’s notice and we can easily go back into lockdown if the numbers at the hospitals crawl back up again. I’m also wondering if there will be enough flights (?) as many will still take off at only half full…? Anyway, if you book that ticket, make sure you will be able to cancel and get your money back should things change. If you get over here, let’s just hope that you will be able to get out of here on time as well (and that changes do not happen while you are here). Or maybe best to wait until further notice about the coronavirus situation here.

French residents are still being told to NOT vacation overseas this summer, to stick to within France. Overseas travel will be at your own risk. Vacation colonies (places designated to vacationers like camping grounds) can open from the 22nd of June. Large museums can also open too. Philippe reminded us that the virus is still around, that everyone must stay vigilent and cautious. Masks are not obligatory in public but highly recommended and will continue to be so. It’s a good idea to keep a couple handy in your bag since many indoor shops and markets require them to enter, even in Cotignac. More detailed information on what will open when here:

I’m very happy with the idea that I can soon go to the beach or the lake and not feel like I HAVE TO swim or walk. We will be able to sit and lounge about as long as we wish. Or I can just stay at home and continue to hand-sew as I’m now addicted! I have attached photos of some of my work with cotton and silk. Some are now available on Etsy under ProvencelivingFrance. I’ll be adding to the collection every day so stay tuned. If you are interested but live outside of France, I can quote you a reasonable shipping fee so do contact me directly. Thank you!

Have a great weekend! – Susana

Adventures in getting a French driving license

Part I: The theory exam (code de la route)

If you have a European driving license or are from a country or state in the US that has an agreement with France you are lucky in that you can usually exchange your license for a French one by doing some paperwork via the nearest “prefecture.” This can take a long time but I have heard that most people who succeed at this get it back within a year. My unfortunate circumstance was having a California driver’s license which I renewed every five years but was stuck in the grey area of legality. Since it was coming up for another renewal and I felt I was paying too much money for automobile insurance I decided to put my foot down, pay the 1,000 euros to the local “auto-ecole” and start my lessons while complimenting those with practice tests on the internet (an extra 40 euros but well worth it).

Continue reading Adventures in getting a French driving license

Hardware shop in Cotignac: Coti Brico

You can find almost everything you need to DIY in Cotignac at Coti Brico, just near the post office and across the street from the fire station. It’s easy to park there too, you can drive right in! They even sell garden furniture and stuff for your swimming pool, light bulbs, tools, batteries, garden needs, paint, and lots more. Take a peek the next time you need something like…rope or a ladder or even a hoe!

My favourite things to do (by Susana)

I get a lot of questions particularly about restaurants and wine and what to do in the area so I thought I’d share my personal recommendations with you. These are a culmination of my many years of experience here and I do hope the information contributes towards either a better visiting or living experience for you. Any questions, please feel free to ask! – Susana 🙂

Continue reading My favourite things to do (by Susana)

Free child care in Cotignac!

It’s something the French take for granted: gratuitous education from the age of two and a half, so long as your child is propre or nappy-free. All children living here, no matter what nationality, have the right to this benefit and it’s a huge bonus to any family wanting to try out living in France temporarily. Of course if the language is an obstacle the experience could be a little less seemless, but for children between the ages of two and five, a foreign language is acquired effortlessly, by immersion. Continue reading Free child care in Cotignac!

Cotignac Snow

Cotignac is very very popular as a tourist destination in the Summer, but what’s life like in the Winter time? Well, as an all-season resident, I can tell you: it can get very cold here, unlike the coastal areas (Cote d’Azur’s beach towns like Nice, Cannes, St Laurent du Var, Hyeres, St Tropez etc) and exceptionally this year (2014) we escaped the coldest temps and snow we had seen for at least five years in a row. The cold can bring with it some snow in January or February causing havoc for drivers and those housed in badly insulated houses. If you are thinking of living here, you should be prepared for cold weather well into MINUS 0 degrees centigrade, and invest in good down jackets and cozy boots (and double glazed windows if you can!). The snow never lasts more than a couple of weeks but it does bring with it some excellent photo opportunities and absolutely stunning scenery amongst the trees and cliffs that are white-washed with it. If you insist on seeing this, the best time to visit is mid to late February to chance it. Just make sure you have enough firewood in your house!


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

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

Living in Provence-Verte

Four years ago I moved my young family from the glamorous, cosmopolitan and touristy Côte d’Azur to the slow-moving, vine-growing, peaceful life in Provence, in the heart of the Var department of France. What I expected was boredom, isolation, a country-bumpkin life-style with equally parochial people, dull and most of all very French. To my pleasant surprise, however, I had it all topsy-turvy.
Continue reading Living in Provence-Verte