2 September 2014

Taking your dog on the Eurotunnel

In June, we travelled to the South of France to the Languedoc region for a week's holiday. I love this region of France, not least because my favourite white wine is grown here, Picpoul de Pinet.

We wanted to bring our border terrier puppy, Baxter, with us as we would prefer not to put him in kennels and because we knew he would have a lovely time playing on the beaches. 

There are two options for taking your dog abroad; by ferry or by the Eurotunnel, Le Shuttle. We chose Le Shuttle because we wanted Baxter to stay without us throughout the journey.

Baxter travelled in his little crate and
was very happy for the whole journey

It's really easy to book your dog on Le Shuttle. You simply add him on when making your online booking and it cost us £16 each way.

Before you travel with your dog, you need to get him a pet passport which you can get from your vet and he'll need to be microchipped. He will also need to have an up to date rabies vaccination. Baxter already had his chip, so for the passport and the rabies jab, plus a health check cost us around £90. 

If you're travelling from the UK, they don't check your pet or the passport as you leave, so it's your responsibility to get these completed properly. 

At Folkestone, they have little play areas for the dogs. They are enclosed and have water bowls which meant Baxter got to have a good stretch of his legs and go to the toilet before the journey and also meant that we could entertain him while waiting to board the train. 

Baxter had a lovely time in the pet exercise area

You then just drive onto the train and travel with your dog in the car with you. If you haven't travelled by Le Shuttle before, it's a really easy way to travel. The total journey only takes about 35 minutes and you get mobile reception the entire journey (yes I did tweet from under the Channel). You can get out of your car to go to the toilet, but your dog has to stay in the car for the duration. 

If you travel Dover to Calais with P&O, your dog has to stay in the car without you. It costs about the same for your pet (£15 each way) but takes quite a bit longer (75 minutes) and I think we would have been worried about leaving Baxter on his own in the car for all that time. 

The only downside of travelling with Le Shuttle is that you can't have a cheeky drink during the journey (obviously only the passengers!) But since it is such a short distance, even I coped.

Driving on to Le Shuttle

There are then no checks at Calais. You just drive off the train and start your journey.

Before you come back to the UK from France, your dog needs to have had an injection for tapeworm. This must be administered by a vet in France between 24 and 120 hours prior to arrival in the UK. The vet has to sign, date and stamp the passport on the relevant page. 

We were staying pretty much in the middle of nowhere and neither the vet nor the receptionist spoke a word of English. When we showed them the pet passport, they clearly had never seen one before, so just be warned that, outside of the tourist areas, vets might not be used to administering this injection. My parents were staying in a much more English friendly area and they didn't have any problems. So I'd advise you learn the French for tape worm which we were told was "ver solitaire". 

We also found the whole vet experience in France very different to that in the UK.  Here we find the vet tries to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible for Baxter. They make a real fuss of him and give him lots of treats so he loves our little trips to the vets. He didn't even let out a squeak when he had his rabies jab, he just sat there wagging his tail waiting for his treat. 

There was none if this in France. The vets smelt and looked much more clinical and, although the vet was kind to Baxter, she did nothing to calm his nerves. Plus, as she administered the injection, he was wriggling around and she didn't really hold him still. He absolutely wailed when he was given the injection and was not himself for a while afterwards. 

The amount of fluid they inject depends on the size of your dog. Baxter was a small dog and weighed 7kg at the time and so the injection cost us €34. My parent's dog was a large beagle and theirs cost over €60. 

The pet travel scheme paw prints at Calais

When you arrive at Calais, you follow the yellow paw prints to the pet reception building. They recommend you get there half an hour prior to departure. You then take your dog into the building, they check his passport and also check his microchip. It takes about 5 minutes. 

You then board the train as usual and continue on your journey to the UK. They have the same pet exercise areas in France for your dog to stretch his legs prior to departure. And, again the dog has to stay in your car with you on the way home. 

We would definitely take Baxter abroad again on Le Shuttle. He had a lovely time on the beaches in France and the small cost of taking him on the Eurotunnel, the rabies jab and the vaccinations were less than kennels would have been for the time we were away. Plus we have now paid for the passport and the rabies lasts for a year so we won't have to pay that next time. 

Baxter having a lovely holiday in France

And the great thing about taking your car over to France? You can bring a few little bottles of wine back with you from the vineyards. Perfect. 

12 June 2014

Are dogs allowed on beaches in Argeles-Sur-Mer?

When we took our little dog, Baxter, down to the south of France for his first holiday abroad, we were surprised at how few beaches in the Argeles region allowed dogs on them.

Our little dog Baxter having fun on the Marenda beach

If you've never been to this part of France, you're missing out. Part of the Languedoc region, there are miles of beautiful, white, wide, wild beaches. The small towns that litter the beaches are less built up than, say, the south of Spain, and even the more commercial beaches such as Argeles Centre are still reasonably unspoilt. 

I guess they don't want dogs fouling on the beach and antisocial owners not keeping hold of their pets which can irritate other holiday makers. But it means dog owners are a bit restricted. 

There are six stretches of beach within Argeles. If you go further North from Argeles, you'll reach St Cyprien and further South, Collioure.

Racou beach, probably my favourite dog-friendly section

The six beaches in Argeles are called (from North to South) Plage de la Marenda, Plage du Tamariguer, Plage des Pins, Plage Centre, Plage Sud and Plage du Racou. In between Sud and Racou, you'll find the marina. All of these beaches have large, patrolled areas with toilets, lifeguards and swim-safe zones. However, none of them allow dogs!

To take you dog on the beach, you have to go to the sections which are not patrolled. This means that technically you are not supposed to swim in the water and there are no facilities such as toilets and showers. However, they are more remote, less spoilt and far less busy. 

The first dog-safe section is on the edge of the Racou beach, next to the Marina. You can park for free in a large, beach car park which sadly has no shade so the cars get pretty hot. The beach is beautiful, wide and very wild. We went on a Tuesday in June and it was very quiet and although it was hot, there was a lovely breeze. 

To the south, the long beach is cornered by hills topped with ancient watch towers and the buildings are barely visible behind the trees and not that commercial. Like all the beaches in Argeles, the sand isn't soft and fine, instead, it is slightly gritty and fairly white. 

There are toilets on the main beach and also bars and restaurants. The main beachside restaurant is Hotel L'Oasis which allows dogs on their outside area and serves a good selection of salads, sandwiches, cold drinks and ice creams. They stop serving food at 2 though, so don't get caught out!

Marenda beach. A bit more crowded, but still pretty remote

The second area that allows dogs is to the north of Plage de la Marenda. This is part of the Northern section of the Argeles beaches and is very beautiful. Behind the beach lies huge campsites which seem to be popular with Germans in particular. There are lovely views of the Pyrenees from the beach and the campsites are hidden by wild plant dunes of flowers and pine trees. It has a very remote and wild feel to it. The sand is white and again pretty gritty.
We went on a Wednesday in June and, although still quiet, was busier than the Racou. However, the beach is incredibly long and, if you are less lazy than us, I'm sure you'd leave the people behind if you were prepared to walk up the beach. 

Again, there is a free beach car park, with no shade. The walk is slightly longer than Racou to the beach, but probably only about 5 minutes. To the south of the unpatrolled area is the Coco Beach restaurant that does typical takeaway food. As it is on the Marenda beach, you can't take dogs there. 

I can see why the Argeles beaches are some of the most popular in France as they are very beautiful. And, if you are prepared to go to the more remote parts, you can experience a very wild beach experience which your four legged friend can enjoy too. 

The Argeles beach region with details of the different patrolled areas