December in Provence : Tradition, Nature and Magic

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With the festive season upon us, Provence gets its Christmas traditions ready. The villages light up at night while the streets fill with joyful spirit. There is much to see and experience: provençal Christmas markets, art and cultural events, seasonal outdoor activities, and other traditional events, in Cotignac and the wider region. Enjoy a beautiful winter season at Lou Calen and experience a December like no other.

Provençal Christmas markets

Christmas markets are an essential part of the provençal winter season. Take a walk through the decorated stalls and chalets to find that special gift or that delicious local food speciality. Let the little ones have a photo with Father Christmas while you glug a hot mulled wine!

Villages are not the only ones to host Christmas markets. Domaine de Fontainebleau welcomes you on Saturday, December 11th to peruse the fresh, local products and gift ideas from 15 artisans and to enjoy free activities for the whole family.

Saturday 11th December 2021 : Barjols and Domaine de Fontainebleau Christmas market

Sunday 12th December 2021 : Cotignac and Lorgues Christmas market

Saturday 18th December 2021 : Cotignac Christmas market

Tuesday 21st December 2021 : Salernes Christmas market

Cultural Places

The sanctuaries of Notre-Dame de Grâces and Saint Joseph in Cotignac

The apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1519, and then Saint Joseph in 1660, gives the village an enormous sacred value within the Catholic faith. Louis XIV visited the village accompanied by his mother, to give thanks for his miraculous birth. The sanctuaries are very popular with pilgrims from all over the world, seeking grace, joy, and prosperity. For our religious or culturally curious guests, every day at 5pm at the Saint Joseph church Vespers are sung by the nuns who inhabit the sanctuary.

The church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Villecroze

The church of Villecroze is spectacular and very unusual to the region. Vast and full of light thanks to its vaulted ceiling, it is decorated with statues of saints, as well as more modern paintings and stained-glass windows from the 19th century. A special sight not to be missed is the Marianne fountain under the arch beside the church, which is one of the seven magnificent fountains found within Villecroze village.

The Cistercian Abbey in Le Thoronet

Just 20 minutes from Cotignac, the Thoronet Abbey is one of the three Cistercian wonders of Provence. Founded in 1146 by an order of monks from Ardèche and built in 1190, the simple architecture of the abbey and its surroundings expresses the purity and the humility of their spiritual life. Designed in an austere, geometric and Romanesque style, it is devoid of any sculpted decoration. The abbey also hosts contemporary art exhibitions all year round.

Gospel concert at the St Pierre church in Cotignac

The Vaison Gospel Choir is made up of around 40 gospel and negro-spiritual singers. Led by Jean-Paul Fages, the choir delights every audience with their extraordinary vocal abilities and contagious joie de vivre. The energy, fervour and warmth of the songs promises intense emotion and joyful unity – whether you’re a believer or non-believer. This is one not to miss! Sunday December 12th at 3:30pm.

Contemporary Art spots

The La Falaise Art Centre in Cotignac

The La Falaise Art Centre in Cotignac exhibits works by recognised or emerging artists all year round. In partnership with the schools of Cotignac, Carcès, Barjols and Brignoles, it follows the initiative of the “Les Artistes en herbe” project. Currently, aided by their teachers, the students are creating their own work in the style of Robert Combas, a leading figure in the French contemporary art world.

The Galerie Jas de la Rimade in Carcès

Nestled between vineyards and pine forests just 10 minutes from Cotignac, the Jas de la Rimade art gallery awaits. It is a former Templar estate, now converted to exhibit art and open since 1986. The Jas de la Rimade is well-known gallery and has exhibited the works of international contemporary artists in its various exhibition rooms and its large sculpture park.

The Chateauvert Art Centre

The Châteauvert Contemporary Art Centre is a wonderful arts apace along the Argens river.  Stroll between the exhibition room, the media library and the collection of sculptures exhibited in the garden room, in the midst of nature. In winter, the sculpture garden remains accessible 24/7. Don’t hesitate to come and walk around at any time to admire these extraordinary artworks which are in harmony with nature.

The Commanderie de Peyrassol in Flassans-sur-Issole

The Commanderie de Peyrassol merges contemporary art and the art of living. The Philippe Austruy Collection, which brings together more than a hundred works by the greatest artists of the 20th century, are displayed via an indoor-outdoor journey between contemporary buildings, vineyards and open fields. Visitors can discover the art installations within the heart of nature or design that interacts with the idyllic landscape, before returning to the estate for a wine tasting.

Local cultural activities

The prehistoric museum and the Baume Bonne Cave in Quinson

This region is rich in prehistoric sites, and the Museum of Prehistory of the Gorges du Verdon presents a collection of local archaeological pieces across fifty years of excavation, including life-size representations of the first men and their prehistoric animals. Nearby, the Baume Bonne presents evidence of human presence in the gorges around 400,000 years ago, and has been listed as a historic monument.

The ‘santons’ of Provence

by a man named Laurent. This was after the French Revolution, which unfortunately led to the closing of all churches, so that the “santoun” or “little saints” were created to enable every Provencal family to celebrate the nativity properly. Lou Calen invites you to visit the workshops of three craftsmen specialising in ‘santons’ creation: “Closer to Provence” in Brignoles, “Les Santons Paul Garrel” in Rocbaron, and “Santons Denizou” in Tourves. Furthermore, from December 11th to 31st, the commune of Cotignac has organised a ‘santons’ competition at the Cercle des Arts.

The cliff and the cave dwellings of Cotignac

Cotignac is located at the foot of an impressive ‘tuff’ cliff 80 m high and 400 m long, which is locally named ‘Le Rocher’. This natural wonder is the remains of a medieval waterfall, originally from the Cassole river, which would have tumbled down over the cliff. The rock then became a troglodyte habitat and an historical fortress, which our guests can visit today.

The Marcel Pagnol cinema in Cotignac

The Marcel Pagnol cinema offers an exciting, up-to-date and diverse programme of films, opera, ballet and theatre for the general public. The space is also used for locally-organised debates, conferences, and even exercise spaces, so the building is very much a hub of creativity and artistic form.

December’s regional favourites

To enhance your stay in Provence, Lou Calen has curated unique experiences for our guests to enjoy, all of which are available throughout the month of December.

The truffle season

Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Canut family welcomes our guests to their farm in Aups to explore truffle-hunting. Accompanied by truffle dogs, you will discover the different techniques for finding and harvesting black truffles from the earth. Then, every Thursday, Didier Romieux offers to accompany our guests to the Aups truffle market to meet local producers. The wander through in Aups ends with a visit to the essential Maison de la Truffe to learn all about the ‘black diamond’ of the Haut-Var.

The olive harvest

From December 13th to 19th, Lou Calen invites you to accompany the gardening teams during the olive harvest! In Provence, the “olivade” season runs from September to February. While green olives are harvested in early autumn, black olives are usually picked in December. These are usually prepared for eating but can also be transformed into a rich oil. This oil has an old-fashioned taste thanks to the maturity of the olives, and is known as “black and fruity”; more recently this aromatic oil has gained enthusiasm with the more curious palettes.

Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking

Explore the natural areas of the Haut-Var in any way you like, while enjoying the superb panoramic views of Provence. On foot, on horseback or by mountain bike, venture along lakes, country lanes, or into small villages. Lou Calen can suggest the very best local service providers or guides to accompany you and enrich your active holiday.

Botanical walks, gourmet events, or concerts at the brasserie – discover what’s on in December. Peruse the program curated by Lou Calen to ensure our guests enjoy Provence to the full during their stay.