Have you ever considered travelling to France with a dog? Read on to find out more about our experience of doing just that with Buddy, our crazy greyhound.
We got him as a puppy from the Dogs Trust in January 2015 and since then he has been on may of our family holiday adventures with us, including venturing abroad to France.
Apart from the fact that a dog sitter costs nearly as much as a holiday itself, we are always keen to bring him with us. For our first ever trip to France with him we were heading down to a family party near Limoges and the property we were staying at was pet friendly, so we figured that this was the perfect opportunity.
Despite lots of reservations, I was surprised and relieved at just how easy it was to take him with us.
Firstly we needed to organise his passport via our vet. He already had a microchip when he came home from the Dogs Trust (and they are now mandatory as of April 2016) and his general vaccinations were up to date, so all that needed doing was booking him in for a rabies jab (which needs to be done 21 days before travelling) and asking the vet to complete his passport. The jab was just under £30 and the passport itself was £50, but this will vary from vet to vet. I was happy to be told that the rabies jab lasts for three years so we won’t need to make any pet passport related payments again for a while.
We’re really lucky that Buddy travels so well, he always has done. He just curls up and goes to sleep, raising his head only when he thinks we’re arriving somewhere. We’re also really lucky to have a good amount of space in our car for him. We bought a boot dividing fence for the back of our Land Rover and we put his bed in the back for him, and considering how much he loves his bed – this is luxury travel for him!
For this trip, we also bought a roof box which allowed us to store most of our luggage and general baby/kid paraphernalia up and out of the way and give Buddy (and us!) a bit more space.
On the way out of the UK there are no pet checks at all, it is as simple as if you were travelling without a dog! There is a pet exercise area, which Buddy made use of before we boarded the shuttle.
When we arrived in France, we were travelling a route that we have travelled many times before and so headed straight to our favourite service station (very sad to have a favourite service station I know!); the Aire de la Baie la Somme. It is just over an hour away from Calais so is the perfect first stop for us.
As well as the useful toilets and petrol station there is also a fab playground for the kids, wooden walkways over giant fish filled ponds, picnic areas and a viewing tower that the kids love to race to the top of. I knew this would be a great place to stop with Buddy as it also has a field to walk around. He loved it!
As well as this, we made various other stops at smaller ‘Aires’ just off the motorway, where there is just a toilet and some grass to walk Buddy. These generally pop up every 20km or so. For us, and Buddy, these were perfect; no queues for the toilets, no overpriced sweets and magazines for the kids to pester us for, and a nice spot for Buddy to do his business!
I’m happy to report that travelling with Buddy was very straight forward, we had no issues at all. So far so good!
Pet Friendly Accommodation
We stayed at two different places on this trip, both of which were happy for us to bring Buddy.
Au Vieux Logis – Sainte Didier du Bois
As the journey down to Limoges was set to be just over 7hrs, we decided to make an overnight stop on the way. We used the Sawdays website, which allows you to search for both dog friendly and child friendly accommodation.
We stayed at a lovely Chambre D’Hôtes called Au Vieux Logis, just south-east of Rouen.
The hosts were very welcoming to all of the children, and they loved Buddy! We arrived just in time for dinner (after getting very lost and the host very kindly coming to find us and lead the way!), which was €25 per person, and you ate with the other guests.
The food was cooked by the very friendly Dominique, and was delicious! Unfortunately it included seafood and cream which the boys were not too enamoured with, but they gave it a go.
We tied buddy up on a long lead in the lovely gardens just outside the dining room and he was quite happy waiting there, especially when he got his dinner out there too. He did get himself tangled in his lead at one point but luckily I noticed in time.
We were staying in a large family room, which was actually separate from the main house. It had a double bed, two singles and a travel cot. We bought Buddy’s bed in from the car and he curled up happily, as he always does!
Breakfast the next morning was simple but delicious, and Dominique made hot chocolate especially for the boys. It was just what we needed to set us up for our onward journey.
Chez Skerritt – Rochechouart (nr Limoges)
Our accommodation for the week was organised by Mr DaisLikeThese’s brother and his wife as we were celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary. We were staying just outside the village of Rochechouart in a gorgeous property that is just perfectly set up for large family groups. With a main house and various smaller properties, we could socialise but also have access to our own space.
For the kids there was a play room stacked with books and games, along with table football and a Wii console. There was a massive trampoline at the bottom of the garden and a barn with a table tennis table. Along with the pool (which unfortunately didn’t get used very much because of the weather) and the kids dorm room, we had one bunch of happy kids.
And if that wasn’t enough, there is also a fully functioning pizza oven building! The kids totally loved making and cooking their own pizzas.
But enough about the kids, what about Buddy?! As well as a massive garden, the property had it’s own fully enclosed field….Buddy was in heaven! With the front gate closed, there was no way of him being able to escape and we felt comfortable letting him potter around the garden. There was even a very friendly dog next door and they would have a nice sniff and tail wag through the fence every day.
I would highly recommend this place to any large groups looking for pet and child friendly accommodation.
Dog Friendly Restaurants
My main worry about taking Buddy away on holiday with us was not being able to eat out at restaurants very easily. Seeing as he is not a small dog, I figured that most restaurants would laugh us out of town for asking if he could come in! But as it turns out, I was very wrong.
La Guinguette – Rochecorbon
Our first taste of dog friendly places to eat was on our journey down when we stopped at La Guinguette in Rochecorbon, just outside of Tours. We had visited here before as it is part of a kids fun park, Lulu Parc, which our kids love. When we asked if Buddy could join us, and were met with a very jolly “bien sur!” I was seriously relieved. I looked around and saw dogs at lots of other tables too.
Let’s be clear though; this is not formal fine dining. It is a fun, family friendly place, the food is good, the prices are reasonable, you have views over the river Loire, and there is space for the kids to play too. It is perfect for a dog and kid friendly meal, and being 5 mins from the A10 motorway junction, it is a great place to stop on a long journey.
Restaurant Pont Saint-Etienne – Limoges
After already spending one day back at the property with Buddy while everyone went out for lunch, I was determined that I wanted to try taking him with us on our next visit into Limoges.
We were heading for the centre of Limoges but got diverted by the police as there was a demonstration going on that blocked the road. We therefore ended up changing our plans last minute and heading to the old town overlooking the river, where we found the amazing Restaurant Pont Saint-Etienne. Once again I was expecting them to laugh when we asked if the dog could come in and once again I was wrong!
We were invited upstairs to a table with a beautiful view over the old bridge and the cathedral of Limoges. Buddy curled up on my jacket on the floor (must remember to take a blanket for him next time we eat out!) and we had an amazing meal.
The kids menu was very gourmet (not your normal chicken nuggets and chips) but the boys happily tucked in. Freddie’s steak came extremely rare and although he did’t complain, he did get full quite quickly so Buddy benefited from any tit bits!
Dallas Diner – Le Mans
As we had given ourselves loads of time to drive up to Calais on the return journey, we could stop for lunch in a town rather than a service station. We decided on Le Mans as we remembered a square there that we had visited previously that has a selection of restaurants along with some parking on the square. We figured that if dogs weren’t allowed, we could take Buddy for a walk and then pop him back in the car where we could see him.
But we needn’t have worried as the first restaurant we stopped at, the Dallas Diner, were perfectly happy for Buddy to sit with us and they even bought over a bowl of water for him!
We gorged on amazing burgers and fries, which is just what we all needed after an early start, and the boys were amazed when their meals were served in a cardboard NY taxis!
Returning to the UK
Before returning to the UK, we needed to ensure that Buddy saw a vet and had tapeworm treatment no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before we returned.
We booked him into a vet in the local village and other than costing €40, it was a completely painless process. The vet spoke English, she gave him a quick check over, his dose of worming tablet and stamped the passport for us. We were in an out within 10minutes so it certainly didn’t interfere with our holiday.
At the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais we needed to go to the Pet Reception building, which was helpfully very clearly signposted. Mr DaisLikeThese headed in with Buddy and I told the boys to prepare for a long wait…I was wrong again! It took a total of three minutes and Buddy was back in the car and we were off to check ourselves in. I was in shock!
We noticed at the time that there is actually a drive through option and made a note to head straight there next time.
My Thoughts on Taking a Dog To France
I may have mentioned once or twice above that taking Buddy on this trip was pretty straight forward but it seriously was and I was shocked by that.
The pet passport, despite having costs involved, was a very easy process. If people have concerns about it being too complicated, I can vouch that it definitely isn’t.
I was never worried about the journey with him – he travels well and we have three kids so we’re used to stopping what seems like every five minutes when we travel anyway! But I did have my reservations about eating out, and I still think we were lucky to find such accepting places. I guess our next trip to France in a few months will prove if i’m right or not.
If your dog travels well and you’re open to the fact that you might have to shop around a little to find a restaurant and accommodation that are pet friendly, then I would honestly recommend taking your dog on holiday with you.
We will certainly be doing it again and I just hope it goes as smoothly as this trip!
Don’t just take my word for it – Laura at Have Kids, Can Travel shares her experience here: How Easy Is It To Take Your Dog To France?