fbpx
Mitsuo the Husky at the Pont du Gard

Barkjour – Photographing dogs in Southern France

THE SPARK

My Barkjour Welcome Card

My Barkjour Welcome Card

It all started back in early June last year when I saw a fellow Australian dog photographer (Dani of Happy Flying Dog Photography) post a photo on her Instagram account of a photo of her Barkjour welcome card.

I knew about Barkjour, I’d read all about it, but not for a nanosecond did I ever consider I’d be able to go.  This was the kind of experience that sits at the top of life’s bucket list.  “An out of this world pet photography retreat” being facilitated by three of the best pet photographers and teachers on our planet.

But when I saw Dani’s photo on Instagram, my mind jumped into action and I started to realise that this wasn’t an impossibility, I hadn’t had an overseas trip in years and I’d just gone through a very tough three years with the loss of my dog Ruby, my brother Peter, my Dad, my father in law Tom, and then my Mum… all within a 30 month period.  I needed this… I knew I had to go.  By going, it would mean I would spend the first anniversary of my Mum’s passing doing what I loved, what I was passionate about.  So I applied, and I got accepted!

My husband Neal found the opportunity far too tempting not to go too, so I booked him also and within 48 hours everything was organised!

We spent the next few months getting psyched and this included learning a little basic French and booking our #3dogkateers into the pet resort.

BONJOUR PARIS

Fast forward to our arrival in Paris after a very long 27 hours of flying and we dragged ourselves and our luggage to the little hotel we’d booked, and then headed out on a hot Sunday afternoon, to partake in some French dining.  I should say stumbled out, as we were exhausted, but we were also heightened by the excitement of being in Paris.  We walked and walked and found a great little restaurant “Pizza Sant’Antonio” in Le Marais where we ate wonderful food and drank glorious French Rose and on the walk home we ate French gelato shaped into roses.

Rose-Shaped Gelato in Paris

Rose-Shaped Gelato

We had every intention of going back to the hotel, having a quick nap, and then heading out again to take in more of the atmosphere and sights of this beautiful city.  Intent is one thing, but our bodies and their need for rest won over this time and we slept right through for about 13 hours.  Next morning it was time to make our way to Provence for Barkjour!

We booked first class seats on a very fast train and the trip down was an amazing experience.  We sipped Rose as we looked out to the countryside flashing by.  Historic medieval towns appeared every so often and we gazed in awe of their history and beauty.

French Rose on the TGV to Avignon

TGV to Avignon

Neal on the TGV to Avignon

Neal on the TGV to Avignon

Gare d'Avignon TGV

Gare d’Avignon TGV

PROVENCE!

We picked up our hire car when we departed the train at Avignon and our roadtrip to Barkjour began.  The temperature was soaring at over 40 degrees celcius. The stunning countryside of southern France was awe-inspiring and the anticipation of getting to Uzes and what the next 7 days had in store for us was unbearable.  Then, we arrived… to a tiny medieval town named St Maximin… I had to pinch myself, we were really here!

The humble road into the medieval village where Barkjour HQ is located

The humble road into the medieval village where Barkjour HQ is located

We spent the afternoon and evening settling in and getting to know the facilitators and participants.  Neal and I landed the best room in the 1000 year old chateau… we had an entire building to ourselves!

Barkjour T-Shirt and Journal

Barkjour T-Shirt and Journal

View of our room and storks!

View of our room and storks! Yes the entire top floor of that building was ours for the week!

The next day, the real fun began… we started off with an early morning walk through town, back for a breakfast of amazing temptations including chocolate croissant. Barkjour kicked off with a few awesome classroom sessions and then late that afternoon, we headed to our first location shoot.

Early morning view from our balcony

Early morning view from our balcony

A typical front gate with the bullfighting symbols (if you know what these mean, please let me know!)

A typical front gate with the bullfighting symbols (if you know what these mean, please let me know!)

Local cat tied to a rope in the yard

Local cat tied to a rope in the yard

Neal pretending to be a kangaroo?

Neal pretending to be a kangaroo?

SHOOT 1: Sunset in a local vineyard

Lilou the Schnauzer

Lilou the Schnauzer

Fanny the Bedlington Terrier

Estaban the Newfoundland

BTS at the Vineyard

BTS at the Vineyard with Fanny the Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Terriers

Bedlington Terriers

Bedlington Terriers

Bedlington Terriers

SHOOT 2:  An afternoon at La vallée de l’Eure Uzes

Harwen the Aussie Shepherd at La vallée de l'Eure Uzes

Harwen the Aussie Shepherd

Mila the Newfoundland Puppy at la vallée de l'eure uzes

Mila the Newfoundland Puppy

Harwen and Mile take a break at la vallée de l'eure uzes

Harwen and Mile take a break

Taïga the Labrasky striking a pose for the pupparazi la vallée de l'eure uzes

Taïga the Labrasky striking a pose for the pupparazi

An accidental model - a local Boston Terrier we met in the carpark joined us for our model shoot

An accidental model – a local Boston Terrier we met in the carpark joined us for our model shoot

Taiga the Labrasky shooting the breeze la vallée de l'eure uzes

Taiga the Labrasky shooting the breeze

BTS at La vallée de l'Eure Uzes

BTS at La vallée de l’Eure Uzes

SHOOT 3:  Sunset at the historic Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Micka the Newfoundland

Micka the Newfoundland

Mitsuo the Husky at the Pont du Gard

Mitsuo the Husky at the Pont du Gard

Barkjour BTS by Holly Montgomery

Barkjour BTS by Holly Montgomery (Thanks Holly!)

Barkjour BTS by Holly Montgomery

Barkjour BTS by Holly Montgomery (Thanks Holly!)

Fletcher the Kerry Blue Terrier at the Pont du Gard

Fletcher the Kerry Blue Terrier at the Pont du Gard

Lady Boulette the French Bulldog at the Pont du Gard

Lady Boulette the French Bulldog at the Pont du Gard

REST DAY – THURSDAY 31 AUGUST – A YEAR TO THE DAY

My Mum passed away on the 31st of August in 2016… the worst day of my life. The day I lost my best friend. So here, one year later, it was a day where I would remember Mum by doing one of my favourite things in the world… riding a horse, and to top it off, riding a horse in the Camargue in the south of France. I’ve loved horses since I was a little girl and my bedroom was always plastered with posters of horses. I used to ride quite a bit and sometimes with Mum and Dad and my brothers when we were on holidays down the south coast of NSW. So South of France was the next best thing… with added Flamingos too which made it even more special.

Me and my Barkjour riding buddies at the Camargue

Me and my Barkjour riding buddies at the Camargue

View from my horse of the grasslands and salt lakes and the Flamingos if you look really hard!

View from my horse of the grasslands and salt lakes and the Flamingos if you look really hard!

Me with my very own Camargue horse, well for an hour anyway

Hello, I'm Monsieur Ed

Hello, I’m Monsieur Ed

 

SHOOT 4:  Early morning at The Chateau Provence in St Maximin – Barkjour HQ

Janga the Belgian Shepherd Tervueren

Liowe the Bergerdes Shetland

Liowe the Bergerdes Shetland

Janga the Belgian Shepherd Tervueren with her Dad

Janga the Belgian Shepherd Tervueren with her Dad

Iiowe and his Mum

Iiowe and his Mum

The last full day at Barkjour

Before we knew it, Barkjour was over. The week just flew by and was so incredibly amazing. We learned so much, made new friends, ate amazing food by our very own  Master Chef  (Theo Cooks) and stayed in an incredible icon of the past.

Me on the rooftop of the chateau photographed by the amazing and lovely Sam Haddix - fiance of Kaylee Greer of Dog Breath Photography

Me on the rooftop of the chateau photographed by the amazing and lovely Sam Haddix – fiance of Kaylee Greer of Dog Breath Photography

An iPhone snap of Sam photographing our three amazing teachers - Charlotte Reeves, Nicole Begley and Kaylee Greer

An iPhone snap of Sam photographing our three amazing teachers – Charlotte Reeves, Nicole Begley and Kaylee Greer

Most of the Week 1 Barka Family

Most of the Week 1 Barka Family

Most of the Week 1 Barka Family

Most of the Week 1 Barka Family

What did Neal do the whole time you ask? Well he spent his days cycling the various routes of Provence and enjoyed sampling the local delicacies along the way.

Refreshments along the way

Refreshments along the way

Neal climbing to the summit of Mont Vontoux

Neal climbing to the summit of Mont Vontoux

Bonvoyage Barkjour – Exploring Languedoc-Roussillon

After we all said goodbye at Barkjour and everyone headed on the next leg of their journey, we headed back down south to the Camargue as one of my dreams when planning for this trip was to find and photograph the Flamingos at the salt lakes.  So we headed south to the Saltworks of Aigues Mortes in the Camargue.  We spent quite a few hours searching for the closest Flamingos as most were a long way out and even with my 70-200mm lens, were too far for any impactful images.

Before too long we found them!  While Neal parked the car I was already pacing down to the river’s edge and set myself up with my gear.  There were four incredibly beautiful Flamingos right in front of me.  I took so many photos anticipating every moment and what they might do.  It was so hard choosing which one to show but here it is…

Flamingos at D'Aigues-Mortes Camargue

Flamingos at D’Aigues-Mortes Camargue

Mission accomplised, I was one very happy and satisfied pet photographer, so with that, we headed off to explore the medieval walled city.

D'Aigues-Mortes entrance

D’Aigues-Mortes entrance

D'Aigues-Mortes entrance

D’Aigues-Mortes entrance

A pretty shopfront in Aigues-Mortes

A pretty shopfront in Aigues-Mortes

Cute signage for a restaurant in Aigues-Mortes

Cute signage for a restaurant in Aigues-Mortes

After a few hours exploring, it was time to head north to our next leg of the trip… the Luberon Valley.

We’d booked a quaint little country hotel in Roussillon near Gordes. It was called Hotel la Cle des Champs and it was absolutely divine. That first night we headed up to Gordes for dinner and a little exploring.

Gordes village cat

Gordes village cat

Local photographic history adorns the walls of Gordes

Local photographic history adorns the walls of Gordes

Our first dining experience post-Barkjour

Our first dining experience post-Barkjour

The next day was spent exploring some of the trails that Neal had taken on his cycling adventures.

Neal pointing to Mont Ventoux which he proudly cycled to a few days earlier

Neal pointing to Mont Ventoux which he proudly cycled to a few days earlier

Sampling the local Rosé in Gordes

Sampling the local Rosé in Gordes

Cafe Cat in Gordes

Cafe Cat in Gordes

Neal looking very happy with his purchase at Nougat André Boyer in Sault en Provence, France

Neal looking very happy with his purchase at Nougat André Boyer in Sault en Provence, France

A poolside dinner back at the hotel ... the food was amazing!

A poolside dinner back at the hotel … the food was amazing!

Our final day in the South of France started early… we decided we must pack in as much as we could before heading back for our last night in Paris before flying home

Roussillon, the ochre village.

Local moggy in Roussillon

Local moggy in Roussillon

Local moggy in Roussillon

Local moggy in Roussillon

Afterwards, we headed back up to Gordes for the Farmers Market… so much to see along with a little sadness around animal exploitation

A baby goat at the farmer's market being used to raise money for animal rescue (allegedly)

A baby goat at the farmer’s market being used to raise money for animal rescue (allegedly)

A tourist photographs the baby goat at the farmer's market being used to raise money for animal rescue (allegedly). It was so cute and only a baby.

A tourist photographs the baby goat at the farmer’s market being used to raise money for animal rescue (allegedly). It was so cute and only a baby.

Amazing salts of the region

Amazing salts of the region

Berries in abundance!

Berries in abundance!

Tiny baby pig being exploited at the market - I gave him some water as he had none - it was so heartbreaking to see the way he was treated by his handler

Tiny baby pig being exploited at the market – I gave him some water as he had none – it was so heartbreaking to see the way he was treated by his handler

Then in a flash, it was time to get the train back to Paris for our 24 hours.

Paris metro art deco entrance

Paris metro art deco entrance

A homeless man and his beloved dogs

A homeless man and his beloved dogs

This experience was exactly as described and more … an out of this world pet photography retreat. Neal and I have been wanting to go to Europe since 2007 and yet something always happened to divert us off this path. This time it was meant to be and everything fell into place. I am blessed we were able to go and take it all in. My photography has improved so much since then and I am constantly learning and improving to be the best artist I can be for myself and my clients, and all those animals in the shelter and rescue groups who need my help. We never stop learning and growing no matter how old or young we are.

Thank you for making it all the way through this blog. I hope you enjoyed the journey through my story and photography, and I’m excited to let you know that there is another Barka around the corner… in April next year! Barkzealand… and I’ve already applied and can’t wait to learn more in the magical surrounds of Queenstown.

Click here if you’d like to find out more about what sessions I offer, and if you’d like to make a booking I’d love to hear from you. If you happened to find this blog online, you can join my pack here to receive the latest news on blog posts, limited edition sessions, model calls and more!

PS:  Click here to see our reunion with the #3dogkateers when we got back to Australia

Neal and I on the rooftop of The Chateau photographed by the incredible Sam Haddix of Dog Breath Photography

Neal and I on the rooftop of The Chateau photographed by the incredible Sam Haddix of Dog Breath Photography

Artboard 1 copy

I think you will also enjoy these:

2 Comments

  1. Anthony ALLISON on August 9, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Superb photos, Jo and lovely memories to reflect on.

    • Jo Lyons on August 9, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Thanks Tony! I’m glad you enjoyed it x

Leave a Comment