River Seine is sheer delight for its half-
timbered houses, verdant rolling hills,
and the bounty of rich flavors it produces.
In this prime dairy region, country
lanes wind between small farms where
cows graze in patches of pasture or even
among fruit trees. The towns and vil-
lages of the Pays d’Auge are unassuming
little places, but they have some of the
biggest names on the cheese boards of
France, including Pont-l’Évêque, Livarot,
and Camembert.The butter is top qual-
ity, too — and then there’s
crème fraîche
.
The thick, slightly soured cream is a
cornerstone of Normandy cuisine, and
is freely used in both savory and sweet
dishes.
Freshly caught fish and shellfish are
a must anywhere on Normandy’s long
coastline. Oysters, lobsters, mussels,
crabs, and other “sea fruits” (
fruits de
mer
) are heaped high. Try fresh fish
served
à la dieppoise
; that is, in a creamy
seafood-and-butter sauce. Savory meat
preparations are an area specialty, from
farm-made
andouillettes
and
boudin
sausages to hearty
tripes à la mode de
Caen
, a rich stew of tripe, pigs’ feet,
vegetables, herbs — and Calvados.
Prayer and Pilgrimage
Among pious Catholics, the Pays d’Auge
isn’t famed only for apples and cream,
nor cider and cheese, nor even for its
pretty cottages and manor houses.
Each year, nearly a million devoted
followers and tourists visit Lisieux, the
Auge Country’s capital, on pilgrimage
to a modern neo-Byzantine basilica
poised on a hilltop on the edge of town.
Imposing and elaborate in creamy white
stone, it’s dedicated to St. Thérèse, a
19th-century Carmelite nun who died
at the age of 24.
The basilica follows a long tradition.
Having left trails of destruction in their
former Viking days, the first Normans
restored and built fine abbeys and
churches all over their new duchy.
Some of those sturdy but graceful early
masterpieces survive as impressive
ruins, such as the extensive Jumièges
Abbey on the bank of the River Seine.
Others have been cared for, and still
continue as places of worship. In Rouen,
the cathedral that Monet depicted so
many times is a marvel of flamboyant
Gothic architecture. A newer place of
pilgrimage is the city’s ultramodern
church (completed in 1979) dedicated
to St. Joan of Arc. In Caen, the ornate,
impeccably restored Église Saint-Pierre
stands, with its white-stone facade, in
front of William’s castle, midway
between his two abbeys.
Grandest of all is Le Mont St-
Michel, rising in ethereal splendor
from the shallows off Normandy’s
west coast. Originally built there to
ensure tranquility and isolation, it was
fortified, annexed, and restored over
the centuries, and, with the building of
a 19th-century causeway across the
sands, became one of Normandy’s must-
see attractions and one of the most
fascinating little towns in Europe.
70
INTERVAL WORLD
Spring 2013 IntervalWorld.com
The Pays d’Auge area comprises some of the
finest dairy country in France, and many of its
products are legendary.
Andrew Sanger is the author of more than 30
guidebooks, mainly to the regions of France.
His latest titles are
Rouen & Upper Normandy
and
The Normandy Coast
, both published in
2013 by Footprint.
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