Category Archives: Things to do

Fun things to do

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

Summer nights in Cotignac

It is dizzying how much goes on here in the Summer time; so much to do, so little time! Sometimes I wish I were on vacation here rather than living and working, sigh… But I try and get out as much as I can, not only to enjoy myself but also to bring you cool photos 😉

Earlier this month my husband and I had dinner in Lorgues and Saint Maximin and on a week-day evening both towns were “dead.” But not here in Cotignac. Almost every night of the Summer months there is some kind of entertainment and with it, many people who come here. Our population quadruples during the busy months, from 2, 300 to over 10,000! During the day you’ll see fruit, veg, and clothing markets or brocantes (antique markets) or boules (petanques) and at night there are concerts, outdoor movies, the restaurants are full of vacationers and it sometimes feels like one big street party particularly on weekends.

Last night (Friday the 17th August) I went out for some rosé and white wine at Chez Didier (Petit bar de vin de Didier) on the Cours and shared a huge platter of Spanish tapas (charcuterie hams, pickles, tortillas and such) with some friends before heading for the closing night of the Summer film festival at the Théâtre du Rocher. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine (Didier is always very knowledgeable about local wines and works hard to please his clientele), greedily downed all the tapas then rushed through the buzzing night market (even happening at the Place de la mairie with more entertainment there by bands) over to see Spike Lee’s latest movie “The Blackkklansmen.” What a great evening! I very much recommend the film, even though I am biased being an American.

At the bottom of the Cours, the now much-in-demand DJ AMAXXY was spinning his cool music too, so last night, basically everyone in the shopping/dining parts of the village were being entertained, it was truly formidable!

If you find yourself in our village and are looking for things to do, here are some suggestions: visit the Cotignac Museum on the rue St Joseph, go see the latest exhibition (the famous artist Arène is having a retrospective show until end of Sept 2018) at the Centre d’Art, check out the temporary expo at Cercle des Arts (next to the church), climb the rocher (if you feel fit enough), shop the shops, and have a nice lunch or dinner at any of the restaurants. Wanna go wine-tasting? Try Mirabeau Wine (and their gorgeous boutique) at number 5 Cours Gambetta, you can’t miss it. Market day is Tuesdays from 8am until 1pm. If you are not that hungry, you can always opt for a wine bar experience with tapas at chez Didier’s on the Cours, Nestuby Wine bar, or La Table des Coquelicots in the back. And of course there are non-alcoholic drinks as well.

The next night market will be held on the 22nd August, Wednesday. The next big event will take place on the evenings of the 24th, 25th, and 26th August when the big village festival descends upon us to remind the kids to enjoy one last hurrah before school starts again.

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/

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

 

 

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

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

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

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

Short brisk circuit walk in Sillans-la-Cascade

If you’re a busy bee like me, you’ll try to fit in a quick brisk walk during the day to keep healthy. This one in Sillans is brilliant because it’s easy but combines clean air with pristine river, a wild path, and some scrambling at the end. Park in the old train station parking lot in Sillans-la-Cascade (the school) then walk across the street to the foot of the bridge. Follow the “panorama de cascade” sign and continue down the river on the left side. Stay on the left the whole way. Eventually you’ll see a floating foot bridge (this is fun to jump on!) but do not cross it, just keep going. The path narrows and you’ll eventually come to a tunnel bridge. Climb up the steep dirt path on its right side and you’ll get to street level. Go over the bridge and continue on the left. Make the next left turn and go down the path going back on the other side of the river. You’ll eventually find yourself behind the castle (you’ll see a couple of picnic tables). Stay left and keep going through the bottom road of the village and you’ll see the old lavoire. Voila, you’ve done your 15 mins circuit walk, bravo!

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