Correns is a small village in the Provence Vert region of the South of France, about 45 minutes East of Aix-en-Provence. On TrustedHousesitters, it shows up as Cotignac, which is a slightly larger village about 15 minutes away. We were lucky enough to spend a month there from mid-February to mid-March.
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The village itself has a population of a 900 and is nestled against the River Argens. It originated around the medieval Fort Gabron, and grew up around it. Traditional French village houses are tall and narrow; the house we stayed in having 5 floors, with a room on each floor. There are a few homes around the village that are not traditional, but the majority are in that style. There are two beautiful stone bridges crossing the river and a little town square.
This beautiful Provence village, while small, feels vibrant and alive. There is a small school in the village centre, a church, and a few little shops that we really enjoyed. Everything is within easy walking distance in the actual village. ALL the shops in the village, and in the surrounding area shut from about 12 or 12:30 to about 4 in the afternoon. The exception is the supermarkets. There are none in the actual village, but there are two within a 15 minute drive.
There is a boulangerie (bread bakery), of course, open 6 days a week, that sells delicious croissants for breakfast for 1 euro each; yes, we actually got fresh croissants every morning! We deviated from our usual eggs and bacon, because we have had no luck finding any bacon that we actually like in the supermarkets or butchers in France. The croissants are a great substitute!
There is also a wonderful patisserie, Les Delices de Kaprices, which is a bakery that sells cakes and tarts rather than loaves of bread or baguettes, and is also a chocolatier. She makes the most amazing little chocolates and we saw on her wall that she also makes spectacular custom birthday cakes. I was getting slightly addicted to her little chili flavored chocolates, so maybe it was good that she shut for her vacation the last week we were there!
In the town square is also a Tabac, a little newsagent or corner store that sells lotto tickets, tobacco, newspapers, and a few other essentials. We even saw them selling fresh oysters on Saturday mornings. There is also a small Prix, which is like a little mini-grocery store that had quite an impressive selection. Nothing like a supermarket, and more expensive,, but if we had forgotten something at the supermarket, it was easy to pop over and pick something up.
There are three dining options also in Correns itself: a little burger joint, a pizza bar, and a hotel restaurant. I’m sorry to say we never got around to trying any of them as we either cooked at home or ate in restaurants where we were sightseeing for the day 🙁
The area has two national chain supermarkets called Intermarche – one in Montfort and one in Carces – which are open 7 days a week. They are 10 or 15 minutes away by car. On Sundays, they close at noon, and on weekdays around 7:30 pm. It took us a while to get used to French supermarkets, especially the meat sections, but we got there! There is usually a very small prepackaged meat section, but a very good butcher counter. Be brave and ask practice your sentences for ordering what you want! The stores look small, but they have just about everything. The exception is any kind of spicy food. No taco seasoning, nothing over a ‘mild’ label, and no pepperoni pizza! The French seem to like things much sweeter and less spicy. There are, however, wonderful Toulouse sausages, massive cheese selections, and other delights!
The supermarkets also stock alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits. If you like wine, you are in luck anywhere in Provence. We found a local rose in the supermarket in a 5 liter box for 20 euro that was very good. You may also have heard of Miraval, which is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s estate just outside Provence (not sure who gets what part of it in the divorce) that produces Miraval rose. Incidentally, Pink Floyd recorded The Wall at the recording studio on that estate.
For produce, you should really check out the weekly markets in various villages. We went to one in Carces and in Cotignac that were both wonderful. Fresh produce, regional olives (YUM), cheeses, nibbles to eat, and all sorts of other things.
There is also the local distillery, Sentema in Correns itself. Lolita will happily share her artisanal philosophy. She believes in using only local or French products. She handpicks the wild juniper berries around the Correns area for the gin herself. And she will let you taste her really great (if pricey) gin and the local favorite: pastis. Pastis is an aniseed flavored potent aperitif. It is lovely and refreshing!
We also went on a distillery tour in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Check out our experience at Glen Garrioch on this post.
We would highly recommend having a car while house sitting in Provence. If you DO hire a car, be sure to not get anything big. Many of the streets are VERY narrow, parking spaces are teeny tiny, and the houses come right out onto the road in the villages, so potential for scratches are high! There is a bus service and a taxi service in the village, but we have no experience with them. With a car, you can get out and about to see things in the area.
To find great rental car deals, we recommend using Discover Cars. They search all the rental agencies to find you the best deals.
When we housesit and petsit for dogs, we try to limit our excursions to a 45 minute radius. This is perfectly possible in this area without running out of things to do!
If you like walking, you’ll love it here. Within minutes, you can be outside the village and in amongst the vines, the hills, or the forest. There are lots of lovely walks in the area. The area surrounding Correns is filled with small and large vineyards. When we were there, the vines were bare. But it must be absolutely stunning in the summer when they are all green!
The river Argens has trout. The section between the bridges of the village is a protected area where fishing is not allowed. But you can buy a permit for fishing outside the village boundaries.
The old Fort Gabron is now a musician’s and artist’s workshop that hosts concerts throughout the year. Really kind of special.
There are beautiful Provence villages nearby that are even more spectacular than Correns. We especially recommend Cotignac, which sits at the base of a 90 meter high cliff. In the 11th and 12th Centuries, people lived in cave houses in the cliff side. They accessed two towers to defend against Saracens from stairs through the Cliffside to the top of the hill. There are still houses built into the side of the mountain! At the base of the cliff is the town square with lots of little brasseries and cafes. The square is lovely and sheltered in the winter sun and we ate al fresco in the February sun! There are huge plane trees that probably provide great shade in the summer.
We also visited the beautiful Provence village of Tourtour which is the “Village in the sky”. It really feels like it is up in the sky at 650 meters above sea level. You can eat looking out over the whole of the Provence Vert.
Sillans de la Cascade has a beautiful waterfall that is a short walk from walking. You walk to a ‘Belvedere’ of the waterfall, which is not the vodka, but a viewing platform. It is just outside of the very beautiful village of Silvans-de-la-Cascade.
There are wine tasting rooms around every bend in almost every village in Provence, so if you like that sort of thing you are in luck!
Do you need to speak French to housesit in a little French village? We have had housesits in two areas of France, and I will say that this is quite regionally dependent. Provence, and the South East corner of France, is quite a tourist destination. There are quite a few people who can speak English. I speak a very little French from high school French with a few months of the Pimsleur app as a refresher. This let me get along ok. The locals in this area are very supportive of any attempts to speak the language. If you get completely stuck, they will help you out!
Overall, we would highly recommend both the Provence village of Correns and the surrounding area for housesitting.