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‘Once you have a community, you cut the line on understanding a place more deeply.’

Gems in this
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Photo>>>Yolanda Edwards

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Gems in
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Feature by Divya Bala

Growing up, Yolanda Edwards knew she’d find her people, and that travel was the key to locating them. So, the American writer and publisher centered her career around uncovering picturesque travel destinations and in the process found her home in France.

Magazines were Yolanda’s ticket to see the world, from working as a Photo Editor at W Magazine to more than five years as the Creative Director of Condé Nast Traveler. Now, she publishes YOLO Journal: a tri-annual travel publication whose image-forward coverage captures the essence of the world’s most stunning locales. To match the community-driven ethos of YOLO, Yolanda Edwards and her husband Matt Hranek (Founder and Editor of Wm Brown magazine) moved their family to Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc in 2015, after friends began settling in the area. (Their predilection for the region’s wines played a role, too.) Here, Yolanda puts her fervor for unearthing local, undiscovered gems to task and reveals her favorite city in France with her Bordeaux Travel Playbook.

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On your creative journey from the Bay Area to Bordeaux

I grew up in the Bay Area with parents who weren't really that interested in travel. My parents are both very religious; comfortable in their church community and not moving outside of that. I love my parents; I’m so happy they found this thing that gives them so much structure and peace and community, but it wasn’t for me. I was always looking outside my family for my people. In the absence of that worldliness surrounding me, I sought it out and made that a huge focal point for me. My dad is a piano teacher and a great gift that my parents gave me was teaching me piano, so I made enough money from teaching, and that was how I was able to afford going on my first trip when I was 16. As soon as I came to Europe, I was like, ‘I’ve found my people. This is where I want to be.’

On being surprised by the Bordeaux area

We had a sort-of idea of what it was like. I was thinking vineyards, but I had no idea that there were empty beaches — gorgeous Atlantic beaches with pine trees to the dunes, and you’d get there and there’d be nobody in the sea. I’m just so used to European beaches being packed! So it was a lightbulb moment for us. We’d always wanted to have a house in Europe and once we found the Médoc, we were surprised by the cost of living here, and how the houses are remarkable inexpensive compared to other regions.

On finding community through friends

Finding our community was the thing that made us think we could actually buy a house and move to the Médoc. Without having that community, and friends who have also done the same move, it would’ve been so intimidating and potentially lonely. And I had a few friends saying, ‘Come, here’s a house, it’s across the street, it’ll be easy.’ Their enthusiasm really pushed us to do it.

The search and celebration of community not only drives Yolanda Edwards in her travels but also in her hunt for finding a new home. When settling in Médoc, Yolanda favored the region for its ability to eschew high-street and mass-market chains for artisanal, local makers and producers. For this reason, her Travel Playbook is littered with unexpected treasures, such as a centuries-old perfumery and a brush boutique. All imagery courtesy of Yolanda Edwards.

On deciding where to live

When I’m choosing where to live in the world, I always gravitate to places where I’ve made connections with people. Those connections become deeper friendships and then those friendships lead to an actual community of friends. Once you have that community, you cut the line on understanding a place more deeply, because you’re not just going in blind and having to figure it all out. There is something magical about traveling blind — the sense of discovery is fantastic. But when it comes to buying a place and moving somewhere, having a friend — and the hand–holding — is something I would recommend.

‘There is something magical about traveling blind — the sense of discovery is fantastic.’

On founding ‘YOLO Journal’

I always wanted to work in the magazine business: as a kid growing up in the 80s, magazines were a window into this world that I otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. When I graduated from college, I started working in magazines; one of my first jobs was at Condé Nast Traveler as a super junior Photo Editor. My job was to meet with photographers, then to source photos or send photographers or writers to places that seemed like an interesting visual and editorial fit for them. There were photographers who had really discovered a place but they couldn’t get their work published because they were seen as too inexperienced — instead my bosses wanted to work with big photographers like Helmut Newton and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. It was great to work with these people, but we weren’t giving opportunities to photographers who were true storytellers, who really knew the places. So in 2018 I decided to try and make the magazine I always wanted. I didn’t have any idea if I would sell 10 copies and nobody would care, or if it would resonate with people.

On how Bordeaux inspires your creativity

Bordeaux inspires me so much because there is such a sense of discovery there. In many cities that I’ve spent time in, I feel there are too many reminders of other places. There’s globalization — like the high–street phenomenon and so on. In Bordeaux, you still have these streets where there is no recognizable shop, and I can wander down Rue Notre Dame and see all these independent shops with people who’ve been there for decades, or young dreamers who have opened up a store. And at lunch, everybody closes and takes their proper lunch. Just to see all the shopkeepers and tourists and locals all melding together in the street and the cafés and the restaurants — it really feels like the most perfect neighborhood. I love how walkable it is. I feel like it’s a wonderful combination of people who’ve been there for generations and the younger dreamer set who’ve maybe moved from Paris recently because they can actually open up in Bordeaux and make a living. 

Edwards delights in a sense of discovery in her daily life — from the realization that Bordeaux possesses calm, empty beaches beyond the mileages of vineyards, to the thrill of a special find in one of her town’s newer independent boutiques or ‘brocantes’ (another word for antique store or flea market in french). All imagery courtesy of Yolanda Edwards.

On spending a day with friends in Bordeaux

My ideal day for bringing friends around Bordeaux would be a Friday because you have the flea market in the morning. The flea market at Saint-Michel is one of my favorite flea markets I’ve been to — I’m always finding something great there. It has a great range of surprises and I love to go there whenever I’m in town. From there, we’d walk more towards Au Sanglier de Russie — this old store dedicated to brushes. It’s amazing that something like that can exist! And then I would walk down to the center of town, Place de Tourny, where you have the opera house and an amazing flower shop and a chocolate shop, and they’re all next to each other. There’s a great coffee shop called L’Alchimiste. It’s my favorite coffee shop in Bordeaux. It’s a great meeting place: it’s centrally located and they have the best coffee. Then to Dunes Blanches, directly across the street. It’s an outpost of a sweet shop in Cap Ferret and they make a puff pastry with cream inside that is the most heavenly bite. And then I would wander over to the Chartrons area. The main street, Rue Notre Dame, is fantastic for antiquing. There are at least eight shops along the way and you just wander in and out of them — just make sure you go early morning or later in the afternoon because they all close for lunch. 

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‘Dunes Blanches is an outpost of a sweet shop in Cap Ferret and they make a puff pastry with cream inside that is the most heavenly bite.’

On dining in Bordeaux

Au Bistrot is one of the best places for lunch or dinner in town. It’s right next to the Marché des Capucins and it’s a very ingredient-led, special restaurant that’s really about what’s in the market that day. And La Tupina is a great restaurant that serves primarily southwestern food and they’re most known for their chicken with fries — it’s a chicken that comes from the Ferme de Vertessec, which is one of the most amazing farmers in the area, and their fries are fried in duck fat. So good. 

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On creators in your city that you are inspired by

We have a friend named Laurent Chateau who has a really great storefront on Rue Notre Dame called Cabanes & Châteaux. He’s an interior decorator and a curator for his shop, and lives between Bordeaux and Arcachon. He has this great French shabby-chic way that he puts things together that I think is really inspiring. Other makers are these friends Basile and Bérangère Tesseron and they have a wine up here in Médoc called Château Larrivaux. It’s been in Bérangère’s family since the late 1500s and it’s always been run by women and she’s creating amazing wine. It’s not in this Grand Cru category, it’s really just fantastic wine at a very low price point and I’m inspired by their vision for the Médoc region.

Bordeaux, the capital of France’s southwest, has long been considered a gastronomic hub of the country. Edwards enjoys Médoc’s food and dining scene whenever possible, from the best in artisanal chocolates and puff pastries, to local plates (such as a simple dish of roast chicken and fries cooked in duck fat) — and, of course, the best local wines. All imagery courtesy of Yolanda Edwards.

On window or aisle seat

Always the window seat! And my husband always has the aisle and we always have this fantasy that no one’s going to sit in the middle, and somebody always does. We don’t talk over the person but both of us are just sort of set in our ways. I take a video of every takeoff. I’m still so excited, every time. 

‘For me, Bordeaux is elegant in that it doesn’t reveal itself so it’s not flash — it’s beautiful and it’s refined.’

What song describes Bordeaux for you?

I made a Spotify playlist of YOLO in France because I don’t think I have one song, but I have a whole compilation. I tried to find things that are a bit more of a surprise.

How would you describe Bordeaux in one word?

Elegant. 


For me, it’s elegant in that it doesn’t reveal itself so it’s not flash — it’s beautiful and it’s refined and it’s welcoming. It’s not fancy — it’s just elegant. And for me, it’s my favorite city in the country. 


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‘Once you have a community, you cut the line on understanding a place more deeply.’