When, at the age of eleven, I started to learn French at school, our teacher asked if any of us would like a French penfriend. I jumped at the chance, expecting to find a friend in Paris. However, when I received news of my penfriend I discovered that she lived in Gaillan-en-Médoc.. We corresponded regularly, writing alternately in English and in French.
When I was fifteen I travelled to the Médoc to stay with her. On meeting her and her mother at Gare St. Jean in Bordeaux, I could hardly understand a word they said. The Médoc accent was so different from my French teacher's accent. Nevertheless, I got used to it and had a very enjoyable holiday, visiting Soulac, Montalivet, Maubuisson etc. as well as Bordeaux.
At that time, over fifty years ago, there were very few cars. We went to Bordeaux by bus (CITRAM) and family friends with cars drove us to some of the other places. We went for bike rides along what is now the D1215, much quieter in those days, and went to collect milk from the cow and fresh eggs from a family friend who lived near the church. At that time resin was still an important industry and I was impressed by the pots attached to the trees to collect it. What is now Uni-Médoc was a small Cave Co-operative where we went to collect wine from a pump.
A few years later my penfriend made a return visit to stay with my family. I had just learnt to drive and met her at Newhaven in my old Ford Popular. We drove to visit my grandmother in Hastings where we stayed overnight before going to my parents' home in Hampshire.
Richard and I were married in 1965. One summer in the 1960s we drove to France and stayed in Gaillan with my penfriend and her family before going on to tour SW France. As families we became firm friends and eventually we bought our own house in Gaillan. Over the years, my parents, our children, grandchildren and other relatives and friends have come for holidays in the Médoc. We continue to enjoy the sea, the countryside, the food and wine and the good company in the Médoc.
Margaret Beasley (Gaillan)