Galleries

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!

The down sides of living in a small rural village in Southern France

We’ve all heard about the joys, the wonders, and the benefits of living in the countryside and particularly in the South of France: the clean air, the abundant warm and sunny days, the cheap delicious wine, the long lunches surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, the fresh local produce and open air markets, the list goes on and on. But if you are looking into living here long term you’ll probably want to know about the down sides too, and better yet, how to avoid them (if possible). My observations and list of negative aspects to living here certainly do not compare to the much longer list of positives and the blessed aspects and are of course relative because they are my personal views based on my own experience of living in this region (PACA) for the last 15 years as an “etrangere.” It should also be noted too that my views stem from being of several nationalities and cultures (American, Japanese, and British)as well as from my age: I am currently 49 years old and live with my French husband and our children who are 9 and 13 years old.

No.1 Lack of jobs. The biggest downside to living in rural Southern France is the lack of jobs available. And the unemployment rates here are very high. In the PACA region the average is currently around 12 to 14 per cent. In Cotignac the rate is as high as 16 per cent according to JDN’s Emploi et chômage

So if you think you’ll find a job easily here, think again. Unless you are willing to commute long distances and drive over 3 hours every day (to larger cities like Marseille, Toulon, or Nice) you may well find yourself jobless or taking on remenial jobs in the service industry (restaurants and cleaning for example). If you have a teaching qualification English is always popular but public school posts are extremely difficult to come by and private lessons are not so popular for many here who do not make much more than the SMIC (minimum wage) of just over 1,000 euros per month. You would be in luck, however, if your full time job requires that you simply have an internet connection. However this too can cause some problems if you are dependent on high speed connection as most rural villages here are not equipped yet. The current president Macron has pledged to make all of France connected to high speed by the year 2022.  On the otherhand if you like the idea of running a holiday villas rental service/agency, there is always room for that. But it’s no easy business to be in. More on that later in another article.

No. 2  Nothing ever gets done on time. Building work, paper work, dealing with businesses, etc, can test your patience here in the South of France. If you come from the big cities of the West like I did, you’ll find this one especially mind boggling and very frustrating. Getting an immediate response is so rare when it does happen it will make your entire year and you’ll be giddy with happiness. No joke: plumbers, electricians, builders, bankers, painters, etc, seem to have little competition here and often appear aloof and authoritative when you meet them. The French culture has been shaped also by Socialism and we need to remember that the business relations culture also reflects the political ideals. The notion of “customer is king” simply does not exist here. So if you find a good worker, you’ll want to not only keep their contact details to yourself but will find yourself “kissing the ground they walk on” and doing just about anything to keep them reponsive to your calls. It will be you that ends up meeting them at their convenience and not yours. You’ll need to adjust your schedules to fit them in when they say they’ll come ’round.

No. 3 The Small village gossip syndrome. Rural French villages are often small. Cotignac’s current population is 2, 336. Over 60 per cent of the population is above retirement age (65 plus). The active population is around 730. So we’re a small active community. Which means everyone knows everyone’s business, generally speaking. Unless you are anti-social, you will be seen and noticed which means people will talk about you. If someone got married, had a baby, had an accident, gotten divorced, or – and here’s the worst – caused a scandal involving breakups of families, you’ll hear about it.  If you caused the scandal, you’ll be shamed. So if you’re addicted to drama, it’s best to stay in a large city where anonymity may save some face. In the small villages (and this is probably true anywhere in the world) life can feel a little suffocating when someone asks you about your friends’ recent car accident or someone else’s husband running off with the babysitter or why you think so-and-so jumped off a bridge. And that is if the stories are even true. Sometimes rumours spread that destroy reputations and cause people to move to another village or as far as another country. Of course this happens everywhere but in a village where you hear about it so often it feels like it’s constant. So a good rule of thumb to follow is that if you don’t want people to know about something just don’t talk about it – to anyone.

No. 4 You need a car. If you’re like me and need to feed a family you’ll need to stock up on groceries which means driving to the supermarkets. The closest to Cotignac is the SPAR on the route de Brignoles. But that is still 4 kilometres away from the village centre. There is a small convenience store on the Cours but you don’t want to carry heavy bags back up a hill every other day (although there is a delivery service if you call ahead). So a minimum-weekly-visit to the larger supermarkets (like E.Leclerc, Intermaché, Hyper U or Casino) needs driving to. The largest shopping mall is in Brignoles (20 kms) and for a big selection or department store you’ll need to go as far as Toulon La Valette (63 kms). Public transportation to these places are poorly scheduled and slow. If you like your life to be surrounded by conveniences and you do not like to drive, a rural village in Southern France is not the place for you. On the other hand the internet is a great place to shop and just about anyone can receive just about anything by post these days. And this has been a god-send to me!

No. 5 Winters are cold. Now, if you come from places like Canada, Scandinavia, or anywhere north of France you’ll laugh at this but it’s not so much the temperatures here that get cold (Cotignac can get as low as minus 8 degrees) but the majority of houses that are ill equipped to keep you warm enough in them. Many houses are not sufficiently insulated and often electric heaters do not provide enough relief or consume so much that electric bills become no longer affordable. Oil is another popular method of radiator heating but unless the house is new or has been properly restored and updated to modern standards (most old village houses are over 300 years old) it can also be cost prohibitive. Newer houses could be equipped with heat pumps (minimum 15K euros) or with considerable investment geothermal energy can be tapped but this is reserved for those with very big budgets. Many people use wood burning stoves here which can heat small spaces well but needs constant attention (and clean up once a day). You’ll also need to order your wood which gets delivered but then dumped in a big mountain in front of your doorstep and if that’s blocking traffic in anyway you’ll have to very quickly stack it in a safe dry place so let’s hope you have the stamina and energy! Heating is needed from around the end of October to end of April and maybe longer if your house is not South-facing.

No. 6 Most shops are closed Mondays, Wednesday afternoons and Sundays. They are also more often closed for lunch between 12 and 3 or even 4pm during their open days. Sometimes it seems nothing is open on Mondays; not banks, not restaurants, not even hairdressers. And that’s just routine around here. The only really safe days to go shopping in the village are Tuesdays (it’s also our market day) and Thursdays. It’s worse in the Winter time and some shops and restaurants close their doors for the entire season.

No. 7 Locals are hard to get to know. I found that it took me about an average of 18 months before I finally got invited over to dinner at my first local friend’s house. Rural French people just take a long time to get to know. They are very discrete and not trusting at first but with perseverance and grit, you’ll be accepted into their hearts. Once they let you in, they tend to be very loyal and warm and will be there to help when you need them the most. And that is something worth its weight in gold and something you cannot live without here in the countryside. If you get invited over to a local French couples’ or family meal, don’t forget to bring them a nice bottle of wine (make it one of quality, nothing cheap) and expect to spend a good 4 hours chatting while dining slowly. Invitation meals are never rushed.

No. 8 Participate in associations. Local associations provide entertainment throughout the year for any village in France but they are also an important source of information and social gatherings for networking. It’s through an association that you’ll meet people on the local council, the mayor, and the various individuals that make the village work all year ’round. Cotignac has a larger than average number of associations that keep locals and tourists busy all year by organising events such as concerts, theatre productions, festivals (the Quince festival in October for example), Christmas markets, feasts, parties, balls, artist expositions, museums, cinema, music lessons, sports activities and popular events like the annual Trail Race in June. Participating in an association is easy. Just contact the president of the association of your choice and let them know you wish to participate. There is a list of associations for Cotignac here. You will be invited to their next meeting and participate in the organisation of their next event. And you’ll make lots of new friends in the process. The downside of this though is that you really do need to commit your time and energy and participate with the association for the entire year at the least. You’ll be frowned upon if you give up mid-way. And remember you’ll be talked about so you need to stay on your best behaviour!

Having said all that, I still love it here and would not dream of living anywhere else.

🙂 Susana

 

 

 

 

Pretty Village House with view for longterm or holiday let

CURRENTLY available for long term (minimum 2 months’) let starting December 8th  2017 until mid April 20th 2018. In the heart of the gorgeous village of Cotignac:

Also available for short term let over Summer 2017:
Dates available:
July 2nd – 4th, July 10th – 17,  July 31st – August 2nd,  August 18th – 27th, Sept 3rd – 18th.
Preferred minimum of 3 nights’ stay. Discounted rate of 99 euros per night when you mention Provence Living! A cleaning fee is 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 -135  euros (depending on season), one week minimum at 670 euros and 1,200 euros per month (minimum of 2 month’s stay) 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 euros 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

Village house photos (1) Village house photos (2)

 

 

 

Cotignac Snow (14)

 

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!

Cotignac markets take place every Tuesday throughout the entire year but do come early during the warm season to secure a parking place (there is always a big lot just next to and up from the wine cooperative) and avoid the crowds. 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.

On the menu – there is a choice of moderately priced 3 course menus, but not too much, which is what we like. Dishes include herring salad with crunchy topping, mozzarella and tomato salad (nicely presented), mini octopus in a light dressing, salmon (Asian style) marinated in soy and cooked to perfection, a creamy chicken with lime, and other meat dishes. Desserts were tarte tatin, mango and chocolate mousse, and a salted butter caramel gooey cake which was to-die-for!! As a bonus, they had salt crystals on every table that looked more like large pink crystal rocks but with the little grating dish. You can have “fresh salt”…that’s if you need it, of course, but what a novelty!

They have a good wine selection – for an uplifting rosé try the Chateau des Sarrins with your salad or aperos. Great, attentive service, simple but very tasty food and an uncrowded seating arrangement made for a perfect lunch experience. I give it high recommendation!

Market day in Lorgues is Tuesdays in case you come out this way during the week and wish to shop before hand. Lorgues is a proper town with close to 10K population so there’s a lot going on here: lots of shops, restaurants, and services. It’s about a 20 mins’ drive from Cotignac.

La Table de Pol: 18 Boulevard Georges Clemenceau, 83510 Lorgues Tel: 04 94 47 08 41

Villecroze Park, La Bohème Café, 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!!

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.

The house is well equipped with dishwasher, washing machine, kettle and oven.  There are two bedrooms, two showers with toilets, two double beds, one single bed and an extra single that can be used if necessary in the kitchen/dining area. Comfortable accommodation for two couples or a family and decent for 5 or 6 people, maximum. There is no television but there is wifi throughout. Three nights’ minimum stay for 80 euros per night.

For booking and more detailed information, click here.

 

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

Cotignac at Christmas time

It’s the most wonderful time of year, or so the song goes, but the build-up to Christmas in Cotignac is indeed quite special! All the local merchants do their best at decorating their shop fronts and just before the big day there is always an annual Marché de Noël on a Sunday where all the locals and even many people from other villages come to enjoy the free entertainment (music, museums, mulled wine, local delicacies, etc) and this year was exceptional with our warm sun that decided to make dining on the terrace of the Cours Gambetta a real pleasure. We helped ourselves to some soup made by the international association Club 28, at the bottom of the Cours. For just 2 euros we had hot, scrumptious pumpkin soup and/or split pea with lardons (it really was good) home made by one of the association members. Then we bought a bottle of Mirabeau wine and drank it in the sunshine with treats like fresh apple beignets from a nearby stand. Continue reading Cotignac at Christmas time

Chateau de Berne – hotel, restaurant, and spa

Chateau de Berne used to be a small upscale auberge tucked into the middle of their vast property but nowadays boasts five stars for its hotel and spa facilities. They have invested heavily in making the resort top-notch with super equipment and amenities to excite and attract even the fussiest of upscale visitors. Continue reading Chateau de Berne – hotel, restaurant, and spa