The Academy France- a week with Heather Bullard part 1

When I was a little girl, I loved looking through my grandma's National Geographic magazines.
I was totally enamored with different cultures and other parts of the world.  
The beautiful photos of landscapes, food, and the way people dressed.
Ever since then, I've always wanted to travel.

In high school, I decided to take French as my foreign language, because I was sure I was going to go on to fashion design- and of course, I would need to know how to speak in Paris.
I didn't do fashion design, but went on to a Fine Arts program in southern California.

My wanderlust grew, and as time went on, I never knew if I'd ever be able to travel.  
I got married at 20, and life starts to happen and other priorities take over.
I still always hoped that someday, I would be able to travel overseas.

Life has strange twists and turns.  
I developed a love of antiques over the last few years, and was blogging and trying to develop my photography skills.  
I also dreamed of being able to travel to Europe and buy antiques to sell here in the U.S.

One thing I've always been frustrated by as I've started my own business, was trying to learn how to take better photos that were specific to my work.
I tried a few online courses, but they were always a bit vague for me, or the equipment that was being used in demonstrating was different from what I was using.

So this last October, while I was on Facebook, a post popped up that made my heart jump.
Heather Bullard, who I've long admired, was offering a trip to France to study photography and styling.  

And bonus- there would be a flea market buying trip and lots of sightseeing.

Heather's work always stands out to me.  
I've saved several magazines over the years with her work.

If you love Country Living magazine, you are probably pretty familiar with her style.
She is a contributing editor for the magazine and works for several other publications including HGTV magazine and Food Network.

I wistfully showed Jon the post knowing that there was really no way I could afford to go.  
He looked at it and said, 
wow, that sounds pretty perfect for you!

I kept looking at the FB post and trying to figure out a way I could make it work.
And within 3 days of the post on Facebook, half of the spots were already filled.
My heart sank, and my desperation grew.  
I knew this was exactly the kind of class I wanted to take, and it felt so far out of reach for me.

I decided to start a Go Fund Me account and scrape together what little extra cash I had in my business account to put down my deposit.
It was so hard to ask people for money.  
I literally cried as I hit the publish button for Go Fund Me.  It seemed so frivolous to ask for handouts for something like this, but I hoped people would understand that this was a dream that they could help make happen.

 I also knew I would have to work super hard over the next few months to get there.
Within a few days, I was overwhelmed by the donations that came in from family, friends, acquaintances, and even a few strangers to make my dream come true.

If you scroll down Heather's FB page, you can probably find my comment about reserving my spot.
Elated doesn't even come close.

Part of our welcome packet photos from Heather Bullard 

On May 12, I boarded a plane with my prized passport and my family's blessing, still pinching myself that I was actually going.

The pessimist in me kept trying not to think about the Alanis Morrisette song, 
...he waited his whole damn life, to take that flight, and as the plane crashed down, he thought well isn't this nice....
I am happy to say that the flight didn't crash, and I made it to France in one piece.

When I landed in Bordeaux, I met several other ladies in our group. We were all excited and enjoying meeting each other after our initial introductions on our group Facebook page.
Ladies from all over the world and all walks of life.
  Heather greeted us with a Bonjour! and a cheek cheek, kiss kiss en francais.
So cute.

Our 13th century chateau that we stayed in for the week was absolutely charming.

We all oohed and ahh'd as we drove in, and Heather personally showed us to our rooms.  
It was a thoughtful touch, and the welcome baskets waiting for us were amazing.

I stayed in a little part of the chateau called the gite.  (pronounced zheet)

We had a lovely porch with shuttered windows and doors.

France is every bit as charming and magical as you see in photos.  

Our first full day was a brocante (flea market) shopping day.
We were gifted these French market bags with little ribbons and calligraphy name tags (all done by Jill) on each one.

We were also given a little etiquette lesson from Terry Littman (Antiques From France) on how to shop and negotiate.
It was super helpful.
Our assignment was to find props at the flea market for our first photo shoot lesson.

Shannon, me, Lori, Stacie 
Who forgot until half way through the day that they were supposed to be curating a collection of like items?
This girl.

Because vintage French flea market.
Best. day. ever.

I'm only sorry I didn't have more cash and more room to bring home everything I fell in love with.
So many regrets.

I learned so much about photography, and I am still processing some of the information that I learned.  Please don't judge some of these photos yet.
I had a batch that didn't turn out and I was so disappointed.
But I know more about ISO now, and so that was a good lesson in itself.

We had lots of great interaction in our small group of women- 16 of us- and it was so great to finally figure out some things that I've been struggling with.  Like I said, still a work in progress, but it's nice to feel like I really picked up some things that I didn't know before.

All of the food was incredible.
Whether we were eating out, or having our food prepared for us by Jill
(Heather's assistant- super talented calligrapher and fashionista)
or the chateau hosts, Martine and Laurent.

I told myself I would try everything, and I did,
(including oysters and foie gras) and for the most part it was delicious!

We are all crossing our fingers for a Academy France cook book of everything we ate that week.

We had a jam making afternoon- we made strawberry rhubarb jam; and strawberry, rhubarb, balsamic black pepper jam.

Michelle, Heather, and trip photographer, Jaci
It was tough to get good photos in the kitchen with the lighting, but we had a lot of fun making and tasting it!

One of our most special events of the week was our Diner en Blanc.
I had a massive fail moment.
I decided not to bring my camera (or my phone) and just enjoy the evening.
In my mind I was thinking, live in the moment!  Everyone else is taking photos!  
That's right.
On a photography trip.
Leaving my camera behind for a special night.
This was taken by my friend Shannon- it gives you a glimpse of how pretty and fun our evening was!

My friend Teresa who was on the trip, did a blog post specifically on the evening, and if you want to check it out, I highly recommend it.
You can find her here.

In a nutshell, it's Dinner in White.
There are international chapters that you can join in for this annual event.

Everyone dresses in white, the table and food are all white, and it is absolutely amazing.
Especially when Heather Bullard is putting it together.

Since there's so much to share from this trip, I'm splitting it into two parts.
I'll be back soon with Part II.
It was a dream come true!
Au revoir!

Want to see more photos?
You can find more under #theacademyfrance or #noblevintageinfrance
on Instagram!

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Kelly! Yes, I feel incredibly fortunate to have gone on this trip. I guess it was meant to be! I will never forget it.

  2. Oh my, HOW MUCH FUN,!! It looks like you had an amazing trip!

    1. Yes! It was absolutely incredible. :) So many great memories, people, and experiences. Thanks Angelina!

  3. Loved your post! And I think your photos are beautiful. I absolutely love the shot that you got of the chateau! What an amazing time to had - seriously so lucky!

    1. Thanks Shannon! :) what a trip!! So glad to have met you and I'm enjoying all of your photos as well. You have a great eye!


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