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.

The setting is so magnificent and inspiring; you might feel like breaking into a chorus of “On a clear day, you can see forever….” I am told that, on such a day, one can see the Alps, but we happily settled for a gorgeous view of sweeping fields with neighboring villages and awesome rock formations in the distance.

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
Company soon arrived at our table, as well as the neighboring tables: the goats. They made it clear that they intended to share our meal and, if we weren’t forthcoming with a little food as they stood near us, they rested their front feet on our bench and attempted to beguile us with up close and very personal eye contact. Failing that clear demand that we share a little, the very impertinent ones got right up on the table. (The proprietors definitely keep an eye on the action at the tables and seem to be able to anticipate when the goats’ charm is wearing thin, changing the guests’ delight to annoyance at which time they shoo the four-footed diners away.)

The courses come and go, the wine flows, the conversation flows, and the cheeses age at le Castelas, but time seems to stand still. It is very relaxing and, like so many experiences in Provence, magical.
When it is finally time to leave—perhaps after warm chocolate cake and coffee—we would suggest a stop at the very tiny (population less than 50 people) medieval village of Sivergues. It is the highest village in the Luberon. It is very quiet and, with no place to buy anything, it is, refreshingly, the antithesis of tourism.

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.

Church in Saignon
Afternoon game of Boules in Saignon
Street in Saignon
On the way back to Lourmarin, Buoux (pronounced “Bewx”) is another tiny village with ruins of a large fort nearby. To see the Fort de Buoux requires a short hike, but is well worth the effort. This area has been an important stop since before the Romans arrived. The Ligurians perhaps performed pagan ceremonies here; the Romans stood sentinel guarding the passage between settlements, and the Waldesians sought protection from persecution here. Today, it is a great place for a walk or a picnic (on another day).

Fort de Buoux
So much to do in the Luberon, I know you will be drawn back.

Note: Le Castelas serves lunch (noon to 2:00) and dinner (7:30 – closing). Lunch is Є25 and dinner is Є30. They are now open all year, weather permitting. Reservations are really a must: +33 (0)4 90 74 30 81.


  1. It would seem unfair to attempt to lock into a hierarchy the cascade of splendid meals we enjoyed in Provence, but certainly the memories of dining outdoors at Castelas in the dappled shade of the great chestnut tree with views over the fields and forests to the distant blue mountains is one of the most charming and memorable meals in my whole life, made all the more so by the rustic menu and witty company. – Mark

  2. I agree with Mark – it was truly one of the most memorable and spectacular (in the true meaning of spectacle) meals of my life. It proves what I have often said in my blog – that simplicity often is the best.

    The cheeses (all three generations), the thinly sliced cured ham and the green salad dressed so simply with oil, vinaigrette and salt provided our first real taste of Provence that day.

    And it was also that day when the different hues of rosé wine became obvious to me. Have you ever chosen a rosé solely but its color and how it will LOOK with your meal?

    Thank you for a wonder-filled post and a few moments of quiet remembrance of a very special day.


  3. Thanks for the always interesting articles. We can never get too much information about one of our favorite parts of France. However what about the food? In addition to the cheeses, how was the meal? What did you eat and was it good?

  4. The food was wonderful! I suppose it was a "light" lunch in that it was just the cured ham, salad, chevre,baguette, and dessert, but it was perfect and we left feeling quite satisfied! We have not been for dinner which, I gather, is more substantial. As Mark and David wrote, in the above two posts, Le Castelas is definitely worth a visit!

    Thanks for the question AND for your kind feedback!


  5. I have heard about this place from our dear friends, the Kinzels. We've always wanted to go there and now we have even more motivation. Thanks!!

  6. wonderful piece — my mouth is watering and i can just about smell the cheeses (and the animals!!). what a great experience. lovely photos as well and the map is wonderfully informative. all in all — a super post!!

  7. This lovely article with great photos to match just makes one want to follow, or even join you in this beautiful trip, I really enjoyed it

  8. I have been unable to contact le Castelas

    I have tried email:

    and phone: 04 70 74 60 89
    and 04 90 74 60 89
    all not working.
    Are they gone or do I have incorrect contact information?

  9. Hi~
    Your second number (+33 (0)4 90 74 60 89) is the correct one. I imagine that they are closed. They told us that they would be open all year, depending on the weather. Perhaps it is just too cold in sunny Provence! Let me know if you cannot reach them in March and I will inquire further.
    Enjoy your visit there!


  10. Thank you, I will in Provence briefly in May.So I will keep trying.

  11. Hello – did you ever end up being able to eat here? My husband and I are currently in France, and think this looks fantastic. The phone number and email both are not working. Merci!

  12. Hi there,
    Le Castellas is a wonderfully fun place to eat. It is not always that one can mention fun and excellent food in the same sentence…here you can! We were there for dinner in August and had a most memorable meal. Thank you for bringing the old number to my attention–it is 04 90 74 30 81.

    Let us know how your dinner is?

    Best regards,

  13. Does anyone know if Le Castellas is still open, I have not seen any recent reviews or articles about it. Any information gratefully received

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