By Paul Wojnicki
For me, one of the deciding factors in buying a dog was the introduction of the pet passport. I love dogs, but I love travelling as well, and the thought of being restricted to a week’s camping in Britain with its notoriously unpredictable weather was enough to put me off the idea completely.
And that’s how I first started researching pet travel options. I’d like to be clear from the start and note that you aren’t going to find an all inclusive holiday to the Maldives, Greece or the Caribbean with any of the major travel agents; but there are a lifetime’s worth of destinations a little closer to home that you might not have even considered had you not decided to bring your new family member along.
If you’re a dog owner you’re probably into the great outdoors so the sheer physical diversity of France makes it the obvious place to start- it’s also the least stressful for you and your dog. For a start you can drive onto the Eurotunnel in Folkestone and be in France just 35 minutes later. Once there you don’t even have to venture more than a few miles to find your first dog friendly beach. Bleriot Plage is long, wide and virtually empty; on my last visit we literally had the beach to ourselves, unthinkable for a beach of this quality in the UK.
From Calais it’s a three hour drive to Paris, but you can break up the journey by stopping off at various World War One monuments- like the preserved trenches at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park- along the way. If you’d like to explore this area a little more then HomeAway have no fewer than 250 properties willing to consider pets in the area.
If the thought of driving in a foreign country or trusting your car abroad doesn’t appeal then fear not, a high speed TGV train runs from Calais to Paris on a regular basis.
Paris is not only one of the most romantic cities in the world, it is also one of the most dog friendly and you’ll see dogs in bars, cafes, trains and even the world famous Royal Gardens at Versailles- but rather oddly they’re not allowed in most other parks. Still that just gives you an excuse to stroll along the Seine instead, soaking up the atmosphere and taking in the sights. Finding somewhere to stay is never a problem either as HomeAway had over 700 properties willing to consider dogs the last time I checked.
Once you’ve enjoyed a day or two in Paris the rest of the country can be easily accessed via France’s high speed rail system. Why not hop aboard a Ouigo TGV and around three hours later you can be on the beach in the Cote d’Azure, sitting under a Roman Amphitheatre in Nimes, or marvelling at the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. A party of two adults travelling with a large dog can travel to any of these three destinations for just €100 return, and that’s not per person it’s for the whole family.
If mountains are more to your liking then you’ve got the French Alps around three and a half hours away by regular TGV. Annecy and Chambéry are good places to start; Annecy sits on a mountain lake and is particularly beautiful- it’s known as the Venice of the Savoir. Our dog Falco loved swimming in those crystal clear waters.
You’ll find literally thousands of places in France on HomeAway that are willing to accommodate pets. You’ll also find that most restaurants are happy to accept well behaved dogs too, as are a multitude of visitor attractions; we even took Falco into Lyon’s zoo.
Need a bit more inspiration? Here are four places I love and why:
An easy to reach city that hosts a charming old town and some of France’s best preserved Roman monuments, including a 1st century amphitheatre and a 5th century temple. If that’s not enough ruins for you then hop on a local bus- dogs allowed- and visit Pont du Gard, a massive 1st century Roman aqueduct which is described by UNESCO as “a technical as well as an artistic masterpiece”.
TGV trains run regularly from Paris and take around 3 hours. Alternatively take the Ouigo service from Disney, fares start at €10 per adult and €30 for a dog.
Where to Sleep
At the time of writing HomeAway listed almost 200 properties that were willing to consider pets, ranging from 1 bedroom apartments to 6 bedroom villas and chateaux.
A massive medieval fortress settlement with more than two thousand years of history. With over 3 km of walls and 52 towers, it resembles a fairy tale fortress. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly shot here.
Take the TGV or Ouigo service to Nimes (see above). Spend a day or two among the Roman ruins then catch a local train 2 hrs) to Carcassonne.
Where to Sleep
HomeAway currently list 248 different properties that were willing to consider pets, ranging from modest apartments to grandiose castles and mansions with their own swimming pools.
The Venice of Savoie, this beautiful medieval town is criss-crossed by canals and streams running out of Lake Annecy. The lake is one of the world’s purest lakes, aquamarine and perfect for swimming while surrounded by mountains.
A direct TGV from Paris takes just over three and a half hours and start at around €25. Dogs pay half price on the regular TGV.
Where to Sleep
The last time I looked HomeAway had 147 properties that were willing to consider pets, including a beautiful castle that could sleep 16 people and only cost from £366 per night- less than £25 per person!
A series of miniature fjords to the south of Marseille where the limestone cliffs plunge into the azure sea. The easiest Calanques to access without a private vehicle are the ones near Cassis, a picturesque fishing port snuggled at the foot of a tall cliff.
TGV trains run regularly from Paris to Marseille and take around 3 hours. Or take the Ouigo service from Disney which runs once a day- fares start at €10 per adult and €30 for a dog. Stay in Marseille and soak up the souk-like atmosphere, taking a day trip by boat or train to the Calanques via Cassis.
Where to Sleep
HomeAway currently host 84 properties in the Cassis area- including apartments, houses and villas- that are willing to consider pets, not bad
Paul Wojnicki is a freelance journalist and author of France: A Woof Guide. He has contributed to Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly, Total Grooming and Life with Pets as well as national newspapers and magazines. He has spent the last 19 years travelling every continent on the planet and has been travelling with his dog Falco since 2010.