The food of Normandy
Washed rind cheese, Pont L'Eveque. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

The Pays d'Auge in Normandy is probably most famous for its cider but the region is also well known for superb veal, fruit, vegetables and cheese, making it a true culinary paradise.

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Located in the heart of Normandy and straddling the departements of Calvados and Orne, the landscape of the Pays d'Auge is typical for the region with its rolling hills and lush meadows full of grazing cattle and apple orchards.

"You can get everything here that sets a gourmet food lover's heart racing," says Brigitte Dumant, who is originally from Paris but moved to the region after falling in love with the Pays d'Auge many years ago.

With the city of Lisieux as its centre, the Pays d'Auge region is home not only to the great sand beaches of Blonville but a trip inland offers visitors the chance to discover a beautifully preserved landscape filled with half-timbered cottages and ancient hedgerows.

Normandy's oldest cheeses come from Pont l'Eveque, where four local dairies still produce raw-milk cheese from fresh morning milk that has not been refrigerated.

There are culinary delights on offer throughout the region with many small farmers offering everything from jam to the superb Livarot cheese, while fly-fishing lovers need look no further than the La Touques river.

Any tourist looking to experience the culinary excellence of the Pays d'Auge in one place need look no further than one of the region's many weekly markets. "These take place in a whole number of communities and are a must for lovers of good food," explains Armelle le Goff, head of tourism at of Calvados departement.

The tourist office in Caen recommends the market in Saint-Pierre-Sur-Dives, a charming small town with a rich treasure of historical buildings and numerous small businesses and restaurants that is also home to one of the most popular markets in the region.

The open-air market takes place every Monday in the square which surrounds the 11th century Halles, or market hall. Farmers polish their apples to make them look even more tempting while small samples of locally produced Camembert cheese are offered to every market visitor.

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There is also a cattle market on the same day in the market square while antique lovers should ensure they are in the town on the first Sunday of each month for the monthly antiques market.

There are so many hidden treasures in the Pays d'Auge, such as the tiny village of Beuvron-en-Auge with its meticulously restored and listed half-timber houses dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries.

The gourmet restaurant Pave d'Auge is located in the village's market square. Chef Jerome Bansard has somehow managed to achieve a Michelin star here even though the area only has a population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre.

A trip along the region's Route du Fromage (cheese route) taking in small dairies making Camembert, Livarot and Pont l'Evequeis served with almonds and cider is also worthwhile.

And no visit to the Pays d'Auge would be complete without a glass of Normandy apple brandy Calvados.

The West Australian

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