Latitude: 43.533333 Longitude 6.15
Located about an hour from the Mediterranean and the airport at Toulon, this village is one of the many attractive destinations for Brits and others who have fallen for. It is in the Var department in Provence, built in the middles ages at the foot of an expanse of cliffs where there are still caves and some habitations used for storage.
We visited here some years ago, and our Canadian friend had the opportunity to house sit at the end of 2006, so we took the opportunity to spend a week with him in a large restored farm house about 20 minutes walk from the center of Cotignac which has narrow streets along the plaza, and small shops open most of the week (but closed for long lunches) that offer a great selection of bread and pastry and one grocery store. There are bars for the retirees and a couple for the locals where visitors are not exactly welcome. All the latest papers in German, English, Italian are displayed, but the town does not have an overwhelming touristy feel. There are not rows of stores selling souvenirs and shirts--as you would see in Nice--but the mistake some outsiders make is to move here thinking everything will stay just as it is.
Many storefronts do advertise all sorts of houses and apartments for sale. We looked at a two bedroom place on the plaza for $550/month, and B&B's outside of town have nice rooms, pool, breakfast for about 85 Euros for a double. There is a rental unit near the farmhouse where we stayed, and it runs about $1000/week for four people maximum. Rates vary by season of course. We were lucky to have sunny and mild weather in November, so we could explore on foot both the town and the open land much of which is planted in vines. The quality of Provence wine has improved, but I am too parochial and fond of the wine I usually drink from Amador County to say I thought the wine in Vau was that interesting. Boxed wine is quite popular, and I did have a lot of rosé that I enjoyed, and the prices are low compared to most California wines.
We shopped at a farmer's market in Cotignac, and at open markets in Aix-en-Provence, Nice, and a supermarket in Brignoles, the nearest town with a shopping center and big selection. Americans spend a rather small portion of their paycheck on food compared to most other people, and this was evident from our buying spree early in our stay. However, the quality of the produce, dairy products, and desserts were very impressive. We bought a 2.5 Kg bag of red potatoes that looked like they had been polished by hand, and whatever was displayed by farmers was gorgeous.
Our host works from home whether it's Canada or Cotignac, and he is an excellent cook, willing to experiment with complex recipes and top quality ingredients. So we ate well. In fact, it was better than the local restaurants we tried.