The Dune du Pilat - Europe’s highest sand dune – overlooking the Bassin d’Arcachon. Photo: Fotolia

What was your first French experience?

I was very fortunate to have been educated at a school in northwest London which, for its era, had a very modern and pro-European outlook. At the age of 14, I was scheduled to participate in a four-week exchange visit to Rouen in Normandy. I wasn’t looking forward to it that much since it clashed with an annual schools hockey festival in Oxford that I very much wished to attend. Sometimes choice isn’t an option in life and I gained a valuable experience of living in France, as well as learning geography and history in French! I learnt the basis of speaking French reasonably well, which has given me a solid base for future adventures there.

Author David Stannard

What do you love about the French lifestyle?

From an Anglo-Australian perspective, French culture is certainly different. There are so many small niceties, ranging from the simple elegance of greeting friends and neighbours, the time to enjoy food and eating as well as the beauty and variety of the countryside.

How often do you visit France?

Never enough! We currently have a small villa, winery and vineyard property in the village of Cardan, Gironde – about 35km southeast of Bordeaux, on the so-called Bordeaux ‘right bank’. I currently get to travel back there three times per year – usually right at the start of each year, then again in mid-spring and finally for the Paradise Rescued harvest at the start of October. I look forward to the time when I can spend more time there. It is a very special place.

Bordeaux vineyards

What are your favourite places to visit, local or beyond in France?

One of the places I most enjoy going to is the Saturday morning market in the town of Cadillac. Arranged around its higher and lower squares, overlooked by an impressive castle, a imposing church and medieval towers, it is a perfect location for a bustling local community to trade, meet and catch up. There is always so much going on.

Cadillac market, a Saturday morning ritual

Are there any food and drink specialities you particularly enjoy?

As a Bordeaux wine man, wine is my first choice! In a close second place, there is French bread. The smell when you walk into our local bakery is close to heavenly; the taste and crunch of fresh bread with cheese at lunch is hard to beat. After that, it’s all about the small items of food that you cannot get elsewhere like the range of cheeses or charcuterie. Plus the odd chocolate croissant, apple tarts…

Tell us about a secret, special place you love

It’s funny but Cardan and our vineyards is the place where I feel most centred and at home anywhere in the world. All around us are the vineyards, medieval towns, bastides and walled exteriors… Bordeaux  is great too, though. It has been renovated into an amazing city, elegantly combining the old and the modern. The Atlantic coast is only an hour away, reached by passing through pine forests before emerging onto the breathtaking mega sand dune that is the Dune du Pilat – Europe’s highest sand dune – overlooking the Bassin d’Arcachon.

David’s book, about how he fell in love with France and founded a Bordeaux sustainable winery project is titled Paradise Rescued – From Cabbage Patch to Cabernet Franc. It is available on Amazon or via www.paradiserescued.com.

From France Today magazine

“Paradise Rescued– From Cabbage Patch to Cabernet Franc” by David Stannard
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