La Basse Cour: B&B near Alencon, Normandy

Normandy B&B : the Auge

Falaise, Vendeuvre, Camembert and the Auge in Lower Normandy

Falaise, Vendeuvre, Camembert and the Auge Region of Lower Normandy

This route has as its main objectives visits to William the Conqueror's castle at Falaise and the stunning Château de Vendeuvre, then on to the famous village of Camembert. On the way you will pass farms where you can buy local produce such as cheese, foie gras, cider, honey, poiré etc. direct from the producers.

Like every region of France, Normandy has its own distinctive cuisine and trademark ingredients. Apart from being blessed with seafood from the many fishing ports on the coast, the farms in the region are famous for their cream, cheese, butter, apples, pears and veal.

The patchwork of fields and hedges that characterises Normandy between Alençon, Rouen and Caen is known as "bocage". Cream from cows fed on the rich Normandy pastures is simply fabulous and is the main reason why butter from this region is considered by many as better than any other. Cream and apples feature in many traditional Normandy dishes. The kings of the local cheeses are undoubtedly Pont l'Eveque, Livarot and Camembert, each with its own special area of production.

Pays d'Auge (contd.)

The local drinks are cider, calvados, benedictine, perry and pommeau. Calvados (or 'calva') is a sort of cider brandy; during a heavy meal a 'trou normand' is a tot of calva - sometimes an apple sorbet doused with calva - taken between courses to aid digestion before going on with the meal. Benedictine is a liqueur invented by the monks of Fécamp Abbey - funny how many alcoholic beverages were invented by monks. Perry is pear cider, while pommeau is a mix of 65% apple juice and 35% calvados aged in oak barrels. It is drunk as a chilled aperitif or at room temperature to accompany foie gras or dessert.

From Alençon, take the N138/D438 to Sées and where you bear off on a slip road to take the N158, signposted Caen, Argentan and Falaise.

The château of William the Conqueror at Falaise is situated on a rocky spur which was once surrounded by marshes, wedged between the valleys of the rivers Ante and Marescot, a natural defensive site which dominates the city. Testifying to the power of the Anglo-Norman dukes and kings, this fortress was entirely erected in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is open to the public daily all year around from February to December, 10 am to 6 pm.

From Falaise take the D271 to Vendeuvre with its famous château, water gardens and museum. The Château of Vendeuvre was built in 1750 by Alexandre le Forestier d'Osseville as a summer residence; it has been handed down from father to son ever since and is still occupied by the same family. Attributed to architect J.F. Blondel, this château is the perfect illustration of a leisure residence and has managed to preserve much of its original decor and furniture. In the orangerie of the château, the Museum of Miniature Furniture displays more than 700 pieces of furniture and thousands of other 'Lilliputian' objects illustrating, on a reduced scale, the French furniture from the 16th century to the 1930s. You will also find three gardens around the castle : one in the formal French style, a utility garden and the famous water gardens - not to be missed!

Opening hours, Chateau de Vendeuvre
  • From 1st May to 30th September: every day from 11 am to 6 pm
  • October: Sundays and bank holidays from 2 pm to 6 pm

From Vendeuvre head south-east across the bocage in the general direction of Vimoutiers, a pretty little town worth a visit in its own right, though not part of this itinerary. If you have not stopped off at a farm already, you can visit Ollivier's farm shop at Crouttes to buy cider, cheese etc.

Continue towards Camembert. Visit the Camembert museum at the tourist office where the process of making this cheese is explained, or the Ferme President, centre for one of the major manufacturers of Camembert as well as other cheeses and butter.

Opening hours, Maison de Camembert
  • from 1/03 to 31/03 Thursday to Sunday (10 am to 5 pm)
  • from 1/04 to 30/04 Wednesday to Sunday (10 am to 6 pm)
  • from 1/05 to 30/08 every day (10 am to 7 pm)
  • from 1/09 to 31/10 Wednesday to Sunday (10 am to 6 pm)

Nearby, just to the south, Coudehard and Mont Ormel mark the spot where the allies finally won the Battle of Normandy and where the Battle of the Poche de Falaise raged between 18th-22nd August 1944, with the deaths of 12,000 soldiers. The Memorial Museum with armoured vehicles parked outside and panoramic view over the valley is very much worth a visit if time permits.

Opening hours, Memorial de Montormel
  • From April 1st to April 30th open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • From May 1st to September 30th open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • From October 1st to March 31st open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • The memorial is closed between December 15th and January 15th.

Return via Gacé, taking either the D438 or A28 from there to Alençon.

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