Dear Diva Readers,
hat antique lover hasn’t dreamed of hunting for treasures in Provence? The gorgeous landscape, the French lifestyle, the tiny villages dotting the hillsides, and lots of small shops and brocantes tucked away just waiting to be discovered…sounds like Antiques Diva Heaven! One of the idyllic villages we take clients to when they’re on an Antiques Diva Provence Tour is Cotignac. Nestled on a hillside, the village of Cotignac in the Var is surrounded by majestic cliffs which have played host to the town for centuries, and have provided shelter and refuge to humans for millennia. The Provencal village is the ideal place to take a stroll, admiring the charming architecture, quaint shops, and intoxicating blend of colors, both on the buildings and in nature.
Driving up to the village is part of the pleasure of visiting this enchanting place. Most of the surrounding area is “zone vert” or green zone, meaning it’s protected for its natural beauty. As you weave your way through the road on the hill, you get a nice view of the village, which dates back to Roman times. Much of what must have attracted the Romans to this area still remains unchanged— the sunny climate, the excellent soil perfect for growing vines, and the picturesque views of the French countryside. But there is one more thing that attracts a Diva like me, and that is…antiques of course!
After parking the car, the first place to head to is the raised pedestrian road in the middle of the town called the Cours Gambetta. Line with large Plane trees which cast their shadows over the stone streets, this bustling little street is where you can often find locals perched on a bench, watching passersby or admiring the fountain which no doubt has seen thousands of people make a wish.
For an antique lover, the first thing to do after grabbing a quick coffee is to hit some of the local shops. Our Diva Guide knows exactly which off the beaten path places to take you to, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of the best inventory. One of the shops we often take clients to is called MODES. Rounding a corner at the top of one of the hills, you’ll see antiques spilling out into the square from a tiny door which faces the hillside. Each piece at MODES is a work of art, and although it’s a small shop, it certainly has big style! Original works of art, vintage furniture, fine antiques, and Italian marble sculptures are all curated by the shops stylish owners, John and Simon.
Upon entering their treasure chest filled with antiques and vintage pieces, you’ll find there is a story behind each item they have. In fact, their home—which has been featured in several international shelter magazines– is just a short walk away, and is filled with even more antiques, all of which are quite special. And the view from this house on the hill is absolutely spectacular!
After weaving your way between the tables that spill onto the pavement from restaurants and cafes, you may find yourself in the mood for a nice meal al fresco. The popular Cafe du Cours is certainly Diva worthy, as there is a view of the main pedestrian road, along with a nice breeze coming from the valley– and the food is divine! After lunch, Stop into several other shops which dot the hill, offering everything from perfectly packable souvenirs to mid-century modern to antique artwork.
If you happen to be there on market day (Tuesday mornings until noon), you’ll find the village square is transformed into a colorful array of stalls filled with all kinds of French goodies! Whether you want to buy some homemade cheeses, local honey, ceramics, or baskets, the market is a lively place to spend an afternoon. Complete your glimpse into the French village life by sitting at a cafe with a coffee and people watching. You won’t be sorry!
If you would like information on our Antiques Diva Provence Tours, where we can incorporate a day in Cotignac for you, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
ur locally-based Provence Antiques Diva Guide recently led a tour for some lovely American clients and they had such a wonderful time on this dream-like adventure, treasure hunting and soaking up the scenery of Provence that Diva Guide Caren had to write to share with our readers their adventure!
Provence is especially seductive in May and June. Not too hot, nor too cold. And so alive with the colour and sounds of spring. The hillsides are covered with carpets of wild-flowers, the greens on the trees are still young and fresh, and the radiant blues of the skies are kept clear by the fresh winds of the mistral. It’s as if the wind is blowing away the final cob-webs of winter and opening the gates towards summer.
But this time, the beauty of Provence was enhanced by the unbridled enthusiasm and joyfulness of the two interior designers that hailed for an Antiques Diva tour, from their home-town in Alabama. Their gusto for this corner of the world was infectious and their appreciation and wonder of all things French made their three day antiquing foray into the south a delight for everyone. Vendors and clients alike!
I am always a little nervous when visitors come on buying tours to Provence, given the relaxed way of life here. It is the smaller, simpler things that matter. People here, in general, are not interested in the trappings of wealth. They are far more interested in what they will be having for lunch, which wine will be a good accompaniment, what their neighbours are up to and their dogs.
And so with antiquing, my concerns cover areas like, will the clients understand, for example, that the French have a two hour break for lunch, come what may, or if another client happens to be in front of us, we will be completely ignored until it is our turn to shop, after all in France, everything is at its own time.
But these ladies took to the French way of life like ducks to water.
When was the last time they actually stopped for lunch back home, I asked them? They couldn’t remember. Sometime before the children were born, one of them thought.
We spent three days exploring Provence.
We found antique doors that had once adorned the very fashionable and chic Royal Hotel in Vichy before the 2nd World War. The door-seller still had 68 of them left. His father had bought every door in the hotel. My clients bought 24 of them. This door-stop is like a museum. We found a door from the 1600s that was once a cell door in the prison in Draguignan. The door was so heavy, and had been located so deep in the dungeon, that it took 2 men and a great deal of rope to bring it up to the surface.
Don’t be fooled. Although the majority of antiques here hail from Provence, the sellers scour the French country-side as far as Normandy and Brittany as well as the neighbouring countries of Italy and Spain, so there is a wonderful choice of items to be had here. Everything from the typical provincial furniture, with wonderful patinas, to fountains and chimney places. And the brocante markets offer a wealth of smaller treasures.
Really, antiquing is the nicest possible way to spend the day in Provence if you are lucky enough to to come here. The vistas, the food and the choice of antiques cannot be surpassed anywhere else.
Just ask my clients.
By the end of the tour, their lives were changed. As one of them so aptly put it. ‘I’m spending all my summers here from now one. Where can the kids go to take French classes? How easy is it to rent a house for the summer? Should we rent by the beach or in the hills? My husband doesn’t know it yet….but it won’t be long before we’re back’.
Caren Trafford is our Antique Diva guide for Provence. She also writes children’s books (www.planetkids.biz) and lives with her two dogs and husband in a mas covered with bougainvillea over-looking the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Diva Guide Caren & The Antiques Diva® & Co
Dear Diva Readers,
Toma Clark Haines
hile doing an Antique Buying Tour in Provence is divine pretty much any time of year, when you take an Antiques Diva Provence Tour in the summer months you get to combine Lavender & Antiques! The prime season for viewing the lavender is from mid-June through early August when it’s harvested. The scent of lavender is the essence of Provence. Each time I visit the south of France I bring home a tiny bit of Provence with me. At the markets you can buy hand-made linen sachets filled with dried lavender. Tuck them in your chest of drawers and armoires so that when you open them you’re immediately transported to the south of France.
The Antiques Diva®