First lured to Gironde by friends, Brooklyn-based journalist Yolanda Edwards was seduced by Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc’s moreish fare, wine and relaxed pace of life…
Why did you choose Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc?
We live permanently in Brooklyn, New York, but our second home is in Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc, in the Gironde département of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. We chose it because we have friends who live here, and they sort of seduced us with great food and wine! We bought two adjacent village houses five years ago and it was our first purchase in France. We then began the long renovation journey which we document on Instagram on our @maisonmedoc profile.
What aspects of village life do you enjoy most?
I love how caught in time this village is, how slowly everything goes. I love the church bells that seem to ring at all times, the sleepiness of it all… and that we have vineyards surrounding us.
What is there to see and do in the area?
We are in the middle of the Médoc region – Médoc, or “Middle Country”, is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée AOC for wine in the Bordeaux region, dating back to Roman times when it was already known for producing high-quality wines – so there is always an interesting vineyard to visit. In the summer we like to go to the beaches of Soulac or Hourtin, on the Atlantic coastline, just about a half-hour drive away. On Sundays we like to go have oysters and wine at the market in Montalivet. We are also about a mile from the Gironde River and there are lots of oyster and shrimp farms in the area so we have a feast at one of them every once in a while. But mostly, we love to stay home and cook – and drink great wine!
Any local produce or speciality you have taken a particular shine to?
I love whisky-flambéed gambas with some cheap white wine.
What about the local architecture and history?
The area doesn’t have a ton of ancient history as it was marshland until the 17th century. Downriver Médoc was mainly left for use as cattle-grazing land, until the 17th-century Dutch merchants with their ingenious technology devised a drainage system to turn the area into usable vineyards in a bid to get their share of British consumers by offering an alternative to the wines produced upstream that were dominating the market. The local highlights would be the grand châteaux, and then, of course, Bordeaux – which is just an hour away – is just magical.
How did you find interacting with the locals?
The locals are so lovely. Maybe a little difficult to penetrate at first; but when you get to know them, they prove to be super warm.
How was your French when you first arrived?
My French was very high school.
How about now?
It still is very high school – but now with an acquired understanding of construction terms. And banking and tax terms too…
What has surprised you most about spending time in this part of the countryside?
It was surprising to me how meditative it is. Driving past all the vines, the pines, hearing the methodical bells… There’s lots of repetition.
What is your favourite French phrase?
“C’est moins cher!” – it’s cheaper. It’s a great thing to hear from someone who is giving you a devis (a quote)! When do we ever hear that something will be cheaper than anticipated?