Lou Calen's Mico is the first part of their resort that opened in July of 2021. Until seven years ago there was family vacation home here called Micocouliers (nettle tree, in French) for its tree that boasts a dominant place in front of the outdoor terrace. There was a garden and a pool. Today it comprises twelve rooms (mostly suites), terraces, lobby, lounge areas, enjoying sweeping views of Cotignac's rocher (limescae cliffs) and extensive gardens with ample parking for guests. The Bastide on the property is home to Lou Calen's flagship restaurant Jardin Secret and Didier's Wine Bar. Next year the original Lou Calen building will open above La Tuf (the microbrewery) with 22 additional bedrooms, event halls, an additional terrace brasserie style restaurant and spa. The resort aims to attract visitors from all over the world and at every season, offering cosy fireplaces and shower rooms that double as steam rooms (hammams), perfect for chilly winters. This week my husband and I had the lucky opportunity to test out the premises.
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Instead of distractions like televisions and expensive mini-bars filled with drinks and snacks, we found a Samsung tablet for information and internet connection, a spacious empty fridge to store the beers we brought with us and a perfectly airconditioned suite with lots of windows with mosquito nets. We could choose to open and take in the fragrant air or not. There was a huge bathroom with big double sinks, rain-head showers, hammam controls, and even a high-tech toilet complete with bidet and drying functions, a seat that stays warm and even lights up so you can find it in the dark. There is also a coffee and tea station with biscuits and a retro-style radio that doubled as a bluetooth speaker. We were good.
The views from room 506 were breathtaking. From the furnished terrace, that also boasts a cool swing, we gazed at the cliffs to the North that have been formed over hundreds of thousands of years by limescale and until a few hundred years ago was one big waterfall. History tells us the inhabitants figured out a way to guide the water to fill the Cassole river on the Trompines side of the village allowing for rainy seasons to enjoy two striking waterfalls on the West side of the valley. There were troglodyte dwellings here and you can even take the 2 euros tour and climb up to them during the official tourist season (June to September) to check them out. But a room with views on three sides overlooking Cotignac village to the North, East, and South, was priceless. The windows were well insulated, the curtains were rich and thick and the colour scheme was a soothing teal, brown wood (parquet floors), rust, and dusty blue. Having spent many years in Japan, I especially appreciated the high-tech toilet which one normally finds only in the top echelons of the world's best hotels.
Lou was the young staff member that welcomed us to the hotel. The quaint little desk at the end of the entry hall was where were given the key to my room (a wooden card) and a glass of cold water infused with fresh mint. He was perfect, no-nonsense, polite and helpful and we were in our room in less than 5 minutes. We walked in through the living area that had a desk, a tea and coffee station, a comfortable couch with cushions, rug and coffee tables, then found the huge bed (180cm wide!) that looked and felt like one big cloud. Double pillows, huge cushions - just what it needs, nothing more, nothing less. Looking at all the furnishings: the big closet that lit up inside when opened, the soft rugs, the light fixtures, the woodwork and all the windows, the marble bathroom countertops, the shower fixtures – we could tell that a small fortune had gone into creating this space. It was built to last.
It was a Wednesday evening so the restaurant and wine bar were both closed. But that didnt matter since all we had to do was walk down the driveway and a few more metres to arrive at the Cours Gambetta, an avenue lined with restaurants and shops. We had a selection of around 10 restaurants and bars to choose from but we sat ourselves down at the first one we found on the left, La Table de Marie Alice. We both ordered the duck breast with apricot sauce and it was just perfect. We watched the world go by since there was a night market happening. There were lots masked people walking about, some young families, some old, some beautiful couples, others looked like they were local workers, but it was lively and diverse and we were happy.
After a very good night's sleep on the bed covered with high-thread count cotton sheets, we left our room at 8am and strolled down to the Jardin Secret restaurant, through the colourful, fairy-tale gardens, to enjoy our continental breakfast of fresh crumbly croissants and cappuccinos. The server was a young lady that also offered us some orange juice and we even got to meet the chef, Michelin-starred Benoît Witz, on his way back from harvesting yellow courgette flowers for preparing the dishes of the day. He showed us the variety of ways to cut and fold the flowers into cuisine. For me, this was the true, warm and fuzzy Provençale experience.
In the Summer the dry sunny weather and bright greenery here are enough to attract any type of visitor but for those who want the top-of-the-line comfort combined with easy walking access to an authentic and beautiful Provençale village like Cotignac, Lou Calen's Mico ticks the right boxes. Finally, a hotel in our village that meets the needs of the experienced and exigent global traveller whose mission is to find the right balance of seemless simplicity combined with fresh clean air and dreamy landscapes, but mostly, without all the annoying bling and glitz that is so often visible in five-star establishments on the Cote d'Azur (think Cannes, Saint Tropez, and Monaco). Warning : you may not be comfortable in a shirt and tie, here, nor high heals, but you can relax and feel right at home in a T-shirt and jeans, flip flops, summer dress and flats, shorts and a tank top. Lou Calen is for a different kind of traveller ; one that has the means but doesn't want the formality that often accompanies luxury accommodation, the type that likes casual but wants the best in comfort and convenience. You can get all this in Cotignac on your next vacation- if you can afford it.