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Camembert is both an enchanting Normandy village and a famous Normandy cheese. With its half-timbered farms hugging lush green slopes, the village perfectly encapsulates the Normandy countryside. And, of course, camembert cheese takes centre stage!
Normandy par excellence
The village of Camembert ticks all the boxes. The pastures where contented cows may ruminate upon their lot, the apple orchards in blossom or in fruit, the soft, dappled light and mild climate. Life turns slowly around the seasonal demands of agriculture, a taste of an older, quieter time: it is so picturesque it hurts! Camembert is situated on a slope not far from the market town of Vimoutiers, on the fringes of the Pays d’Auge and the Pays d’Ouche.
The village and the cheese are inextricably linked. Camembert as we know it was developed two years into the French Revolution by a farmer’s wife, Marie Harel, in 1791. A priest fleeing his native area of Brie from the atheistic and cheese-hating revolutionaries of Paris gave her a few tips that set her off to create what would become a world-famous brand. In the First World War vast quantities of Camembert helped to boost morale on the Western Front, helping it to become a national symbol of resistance. The status of the cheese was confirmed in 1983 when it was awarded the much coveted Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) quality label, known as ‘AOP’ in French.
If you can tear yourself away, head off and explore all the surrounding countryside has to offer, its hidden valleys, beautiful churches, its cider, calvados, poiré (pear cider) and its delicious beef and chicken dishes, served with lashings of butter and cream-based sauces!
La Maison du Camembert: Learn all the history and secrets of camembert cheese production at this museum, then enjoy a tasting inside the round, cream-coloured building next-door, which resembles a round of camembert!
Beaumoncel Manor: This is the place where Marie Harel spent the last years of her life, and where she developed her famous recipe!
Ferme de la Héronnière – Fromagerie Durand: The last AOP cheese farm located in the actual village of Camembert.
Overlooking the Orne River this peaceful small town was nevertheless one of the most important fortified towns in Normandy, and its remains reveal a troubled past, from the Hundred Years’ War to 1944. Its history is also tied up with the skill of lacemakers for which the town, along with its rival sister town Alençon, is most famed.
The Haras du Pin National Stud
Nicknamed the ‘Versailles for horses’, the oldest stud farm in France is a jewel of architecture in the truly beautiful grounds of the Orne département.
This picturesque spot is officially recognised among the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ and is a haven for artists.