Newletter No. 1
February 26th, 2021
Hello and thank you for signing up to my newsletter. I'll only be sending you important news as it relates to us here and will try not to overwhelm you with too many words. Afterall my motto is "keep it simple."
Basically last night the prime minister Castex (I really find him a bore after the dishy Mr Philippe) announced that things don't seem to be improving much and stricter measures are being considered.
We here in the Var will not be seeing any changes to our 6pm-6am curfew or restaurants opening, but on the 6th of March they will look at the Covid case numbers and if the numbers don't look good and continue to get out of control we'll need to crack down and suffer some stricter measures. Voila.
Restaurants continue to stay shut of course and many businesses that attract people (like cinemas, gyms, concert halls, malls over 20,000 square metres (or in the case of the Alpes Maritime 5,000 sq m) remain closed unless they are outdoors. Our neighbours in Nice and Cannes have confinement all weekends now too, and so I don't feel too bad. Travel is being allowed under very strict control and testing measures but is not recommended. I've been asked if you'll be able to travel to France and visit Cotignac this Summer and I'm sure there will be people coming but honestly I cannot say whether we'll be back to nomal by then since the vaccination process here seems to be very slow. If restaurants, bars and cafés stay closed then even I would think, what's the point? So, to get accurate information please check with your nearest French embassy info or go to the French government site https://www.gouvernement.fr/en/coronavirus-covid-19 (info in English).
Newsletter No. 2
April 1st, 2021
Hello to you all from sunny, warm Cotignac. It has really been a pleasure walking around in the sunshine here the last week but no need to be too jealous as temperatures are due to drop again this weekend, boohoo !
Last night president Macron announced the nationwide lockdown of sorts. I say « sorts » because it's not really a strict lockdown even though schools are closed for 4 weeks and we will technically not be allowed to go more than 10km range from home starting Monday the 5th of April until at least the beginning of May. The reality is that we will need « permission slips » but they are all registered on the #tousanticovid applications on our phones and anyone can use just about any of the excuses to travel further. Even going to pick olives or saying you are caring for a relative or working casually can be used as an excuse. So of course there are people who do not adhere to the rules totally. But in the past, to use last year at this time as a point of reference, this has worked well at curbing the numbers of COVID patients that end up in the hospitals (which are overwhelmed at the moment) so this is what needs to be asked of the French residents.
Currently the British variant is dominant in the cases and 44 per cent of the hospital admissions for COVID are younger than 65 years old. The reason the numbers of elderly patients have dropped is because they have now mostly been vaccinated. For my age group of above 50 years, however, I will need to wait until at least mid-May ; the vaccination programme has been frustratingly slow but we'll get there. The EU is being criticised for not securing enough vaccines earlier on for their citizens. It's such a shame. Although I have heard rumours of elderly in the EHPAD (which is the local Municipal elderly nursing home) dying of COVID here in Cotignac I take the information with a pinch of salt. I feel the situation is ripe for people to say whatever they want to say without any real numbers and facts backing their gossipy statements. France has lost over 100,000 people to the disease and this in itself is, of course, a tragedy. Everyone here still has hopes of restaurants opening before the Summer season begins (mid June).
Many foreigners have already gone ahead and booked their holiday homes so we expect the population here to once again top the 10,000 mark (resident population is 2,330). It will be different but it will be busy once again. The one thing that's really amazing is the number of home owners that are currently renovating or restoring their properties. I personally know over 10 home owners that are doing this here. So of course builders, plumbers, electricians and general workers are very busy and hard to come by. There is little competition here already in this sector so this can lead to scarcity and frustration. I do wonder how long this trend will last but the building industry is experiencing quite a boom at the moment and although the builders seem tired, they are happy to have the extra income.
Now for the happiest of news : Lou Calen has scored big in securing the distinguished chef, Benoit Witz to head the gastronomic restaurant Le Jardin Secret and we could not be more excited. Never heard of him ? Google him and you'll be amazed where he's been and what he's done. Cotignac is VERY lucky. I have tried his cuisine a handful of times now and all I can say is « wow » and « more please ! » When restaurants open along with Lou Calen this Summer, Cotignac will find itself firmly placed on the « world's best tourist destination map » and my dreams of one day seeing our village famous for gastronomy will have taken a big giant step in the right direction. I am so happy.
Well, I'll keep my updates short but if there is something that comes out that I feel is important you know, you'll hear from me again. Have a lovely month of April. If I had felt adventurous and funny I'd have included some silly joke in my message on this April Fool's Day but gosh, the situation is just not funny and I'm feeling a bit tired of trying to even laugh about it anymore. Crossing my fingers for a good, near-normal Summer. Until then, do take care and stay safe everyone.
Yours truly, Susana
Newsletter No. 3
May 6th, 2021
Bonjour from a very sunny and warm Cotignac!
The good news for us here in France is that the restaurants and bars will open back up on the 19th of May and it's so heartwarming to see members of staff start to clean up and prepare their openings. Some have even hired bands to perform for the first lots of clientele. I cannot wait to get my feet over to La Tuf, of course, where I'm sure to see many familiar faces I have not seen in over half a year. They'll also have a concert during the day on the 19th!
The other good news is that over 50s will begin getting vaccinated from the 15th of May and for everyone else it'll be the first week of June. Under 18s will need to wait a bit more. France has been painfully slow with the vaccination process, no doubt due to the bureaucracy that so often gets in the way of efficiency. I tried to chance getting a vaccine in Brignoles the other day only to be turned down for not having had an appointment nor being eligible age wise. The vaccination centre was empty, there was just staff hanging around on their phones...so it was infuriating to say the least. But I have now secured a place in Riez for my first vaccine next week and I'm looking forward to that!
In the last week I have had the privilege of touring the work site of the soon to open Lou Calen. This process has taken over 5 years now so it's really exciting to finally get a feel for what is going on, how many new buildings there will be, how luxurious it will look, what kind of surprising details we will see and how the gardens are coming along. I think the most impressive part of the project is the attention paid to the magnificent gardens, reminiscent of Claude Monet's garden in Giverny and with hints of the topiary gardens of Marqueyssac. A profound passion for nature's beauty as well as the quality building materials and stylish decoration to the interiors is what will make Lou Calen the historic landmark of the Var and without a doubt one of the most sought after places to come and visit in the near future. Cotignac will need to prepare for an influx of tourists but also of those who appreciate authentic Provençale village life combined with gastronomy brought to you by the fine chef Benoit Witz at Le Jardin Secret. I will guarantee a culinary adventure for your senses in everything made by chef Witz, he is extraodinary and will make every Cotignac resident proud to have him. And hey, if gastronomy is not your thing, you can always just stop for a beer or glass of rosé at La Tuf or any other bar here. There will be other new restaurants opening up this season too and I'm just giddy with excitement over this as you know I'm a big foodie, or bonne vivante as they call me here.
The website for Lou Calen is being updated but you can check it out from time to time here www.loucalen.com
It's looking like the beaches here will allow people to take off their masks mostly because it was becoming impossible for police to enforce the law for wearing them when no one abided by the order! C'est ça la France...
Well I do hope you are well and staying safe. Wishing you a wonderful rest of May.