A great human odyssey
Lou Calen is a 3-hectare magnificient domain of green nature located in the very heart of Cotignac, a village in the area called « Haut-Var ». Its history is closely tied to the village’s and makes it an inevitable place in Provence. Its lands now spread on what used to be the property of the monastery of White Penitents back in the early 16th century and still house sumptuous buildings.
The sanctuary of Notre Dame de Grâces was built to recognize those divine apparitions. This place is steeped in history and welcomed a special visit from Anne of Austria in 1637, who came to gather with the hope of giving birth to a boy, and then the Sun King Louis XIV, who came in 1660 to pray and give thanks for its own birth.
Read the story of the apparition of Holy Mary
Read the story of the apparition of St. Joseph
Various families succeeded one another in this master house, and by the end of the 1940’s, it was turned into a holiday house for young ward-of-the-nation orphan girls.
Then in 1971, Huguette Caren, a native of the area, bought Lou Calen, formerly known as « The Providence » at that time. Without the necessary hotel educational experience, Huguette managed to turn the old building into a magnificient 16-room hotel and restaurant, whose reputation would extend far beyond the borders of Provence…
Huguette’s talent, smile, generosity pave the way for the hotel’s great exposure. Many customers come to discover and enjoy her favorite meals: pistou soup, stuffed vegetables ‘a la Provençale’ or her famous assortment of desserts on Sundays. Huguette often says ‘Nothing is to good for my customers!’
Always taking care of everyone, she is the key figure of Lou Calen for more than 15 years from the 70s to the 86s, with her authentic, warm and home-baked cooking, fairly recognized as one the best address of Green Provence. Huguette is awarded by the Gault & Millau in 1973.
Back in 1968, Joe Dassin agreed to give a concert in Cotignac, and as a compensation he was offered a piece of land by the city. They had come to this deal because Huguette, at that time in charge of organizing the concert, had no money to pay the artist. The city staff approved the idea, and this was how this extraordinary situation sealed a real, everlasting link between Joe Dassin and Cotignac, where he came frequently. He stayed in Lou Calen for a long time before he had his house built in the village, where he finally got married in 1978.
Now close friends, Joe and Huguette talked about the uncommon dream – especially at that time – to build a Californian Lou Calen in Palm Springs, where the singer owned a house. Huguette eventually made the dream come true alone, after a friend passed away in 1980. The Californian Lou Calen had its own great time. Its reputation attracted stars like Eric Iddle or Robin Williams. Lou Calen in Cotignac came to an end in 1999, when Huguette developed her activity of cloth painting before she started writing. She wrote two books and is now working on a third one, a compilation of her best provencal recipes, flavoured with personal little stories tied to the heritage of Lou Calen.
Far from its original hotel activity, Lou Calen is now both a human and cultural project, giving life to multiple actions in the heart of the village, linked to the restoration of cultural heritage and the conservation of the environment, with a very tight collaboration with the economic and social resources of the area.
The first flagship project was 2015 is the creation of the Art Center La Falaise, hosting 3 exhibitions each year in Cotignac.
Discover the Art center program
In 2019, the micro-brewery named « Le Tailleur de Bière » opens its doors. This second project was elaborated in close partnership with Renaud, a local brewer craftman (and a former stone cutter, « tailleur de pierre » in French!). A real living place, the brewpub has improved the dynamism of the village thanks to its 7/7 opening hours, an eclectic and creative programme, and has also created several jobs in Cotignac.
Discover the Brewpub program
All our efforts are now focused on breathing new life into the historic building of Lou Calen and all its dependecies, for a total of 3 hectares of nature in the very heart of Cotignac.
Located in the very heart of Cotignac, the domain invites visitors to relax and recharge their batteries, while offering them the opportunity to enjoy unique experiences with the village’s inhabitants, to discover and share their expertise. Visitors will find the vitality of enthusiasm of a typical Provence village, with its market, small typical shops, restaurants, as well as a natural sanctuary made of wooded terraces, vine and olive trees.
The very essence of Lou Calen lies in an environment-friendly, sustainable approach. Every team member is devoted to preserve the biodiversity of this unique place and work in partnership with local associations dedicated to protect our environment. Follower of the slowlife movement, Lou Calen offers a moment of peaceful introspection where visitors take control over their everyday habits, at their own rythm and awareness, with the only desire to thrive, amaze and intellectually enrich thanks to key figures of our area.
You will enjoy our wide range of luxury services in a friendly and casual atmosphere. Our various workshops based on well-being, sport, culture or gastronomy will guide you to discover and share the wealth of the local heritage and regional history of Provence.
A unique project in Provence
Think about a place totally dedicated to Man and Nature, steeped in history and offering immersive experiences in Provence…
With its 3 hectares of untouched nature, the domain of Lou Calen is an eco-friendly place where any indivual can come to relax and reconnect to himself, others and nature. Located in the very heart of Cotignac, the domain invites visitors to relax and recharge their batteries, while offering them the opportunity to enjoy unique experiences with the village’s inhabitants, to discover and share their expertise. Visitors will find the vitality and enthusiasm of a typical Provence village, with its market, small typical shops, restaurants, as well as a natural sanctuary made of wooded terraces, vine and olive trees.