If it’s Friday, it must be France …
When we lived in Antibes for five months in 2011 … *pause briefly here while I
weep and wail quietly lament we are not there now* … pardon my sniffling … okay, I’ve pulled myself together …
To continue … our favourite fromagier, Jacques, at the daily Provençal market in Antibes suggested a few places to visit to see how chèvre or goat cheese was produced in the traditional way.
With dear friends visiting us, we left behind the sparkling Mediterranean, passed through grape-laden vineyards preparing for the September Vendange (harvest), and headed into the countryside of Provence. It wasn’t long before we were twisting and turning our way through the narrow mountain range of the Luberon.
Our destination was a remote ferme-auberge (farm-inn), Le Castelas, located next to the tiny village of Sivergues (population approximately 40, we were told). Perched at 1935 feet, Sivergues is said to be the highest village in the Luberon and is a popular hiking destination. History records that in the 16th century a group of persecuted Protestants called the Waldensians hid in this area, fleeing from massacres that killed about 3,000 people in the Luberon. Imagine the stories those cobblestone lanes might tell.
The writer in me wanted to stop, explore, make notes, take photos. My traveling companions were starving … hunger won out. The remoteness of the area became more apparent. Were we really on the right road? Was that bottom sign misspelled? Should we follow it instead of the directions we had?
The next sign, which we passed before I could snap a photo, said “fin de la route” (end of the road). We bumped along as the dirt road grew increasingly narrower, as did our confidence in the directions. Stomachs were grumbling.
And suddenly we were there. Sweeping views to the west and rugged rock formations to the east filled a spectacular panorama of this part of the Grand Luberon.
Goats in rich shades of amber, beige and chocolate brown grazed in a large meadow to one side of us, some looking up with bright-eyed curiosity as we wandered into their space.
To the other side, the most gigantic pigs I have ever seen snuffled in the dirt, undoubtedly searching for tasty tubors and roots. (“Lunch,” muttered a ravenous voice in the back seat.)
The structures of Le Castelas include a large, rambling stone farmhouse/barn and several outbuildings, some dating to the 16thC. We ambled down the lane, immediately intrigued.
Combine the setting, the history, the rustic charm of Le Castelas and the delicious meal served and you have a most unique dining experience. On fine days, guests are served on long wooden trestle tables set in the fields in the midst of the goats and the breathtaking scenery.The weather was cool and windy when we arrived so we ate indoors, with cheery service provided by the owners, in a cavern-like room built of stone centuries ago.
Forget the Michelin star meals! This was the most basic and yet simply scrumptiously delicious food, organically produced on this farm, served on wooden board platters cut from the surrounding forest. The meal: fresh greens tossed with vinaigrette with warm chèvre on toasted baguette, thinly-sliced cured ham, and a selection of at least ten types of chèvre (young and old) accompanied by a small bowl of divine lavender honey. The ham, goat cheese, freshly baked bread and honey were all from this farm. Dessert was a tasty tarte aux pommes straight from the oven.
Sigh … just another day in the south of France! MAGNIFIQUE!
What memorable day trips have you taken that ended with a meal like no other? Let’s hear about it!