Note: This is not an experience for everyone–those with an aversion to narrow winding roads, a preference for vegetarian meals, and disinclination to dining with farm animals would want to skip this excursion. Fans of David Sedaris’ most recent book, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary,” will no doubt be inspired.
Tired of white linens, sommeliers, and Michelin stars? Consider lunch at Le Castelas, a working goat farm, for another kind of Provençal dining experience.
|Susan and David|
From Lourmarin, where La Bonbonnière, our apartment, is located, the drive is just 22 kilometers (a little over 12 miles), but—up the hill, through the woods, into the valley, past fields of lavender, and on to the plateau—you will feel like you have been transported to another time and place. Leaving Lourmarin, you will head north on the Route d’Apt (D943), alongside the Aigue Brun, a spring-fed tributary of the Durance that contributes to the lush scenery you will enjoy. About 10 kilometers (not sure how many), turn right on the D232 and, about a half dozen (or so) kilometers farther, go right on the D114 toward Sivergues.
|Click to enlarge|
There are many places to visit in this area, some of which are mentioned at the end of this piece. We usually save the excursions for after lunch because we tend to linger over our grande crèmes in the morning and prefer a leisurely trip back to Lourmarin, but one could just as easily make the stops in the morning.
Pass through the tiny village of Sivergues (but plan to stop on the way back) until you reach the sign that says “Fin de la Route.” The paved road turns to gravel and gets even narrower, but travel a little further until you see the Ferme-Auberge le Castelas, a farm, restaurant, and hostel rolled into one.
|Sweeping fields at Le Castelas|
|Nearby rock formations|
The stone farm house is rambling and rustic. As you approach the terrace where the long tables beckon you for lunch, you pass by clusters of goats, pigs, and sheep, kind of a tip-off of what’s in store for your meal.
Once seated at the long tables, our party of five was served a chilled bottle of Rosé—most welcome on the hot August day we were last there—and a pitcher of water, followed by a platter of cured meats, an exceptionally fresh green salad, crusty bread, and a platter of chèvres with a tiny jar of honey and bouquets of lavender and thyme on the side. The cheeses ranged from very fresh to very aged, offering an interesting array of comparisons along the theme of aging.
|The (only) lunch menu!|
|Several generations of Chèvre|
|Stroll with Mark in Sivergues
Photo by David Scott Allen
|Chapel in Sivergues|
Take a detour to the perched medieval village of Saignon, a longer stop where you may stroll around the village, enjoy an espresso at the café in the center of town, or climb atop the ruins of the château. The views are spectacular.
|Afternoon game of Boules in Saignon|
|Street in Saignon|