If your dog has a passport, we’re guessing you are likely to have enjoyed travelling to Europe from the UK to have some fun in the sun with your dog.
But with Brexit looming you might be worried about just how much things are likely to change.
Over the last few years, travel writer Paul Wojnicki has shared his experiences travelling around Europe with his dog, Falco. As he shares his latest adventure with us, he tells us what the future might hold for holidaymakers and their dogs.
I’ve written for K9 Magazine about almost all of the cross-channel ferries, as well as the North Sea crossings, and I’ve had excellent experiences on them all. But for anyone in the south of England, the Midlands, or even as far north as Yorkshire, it’s hard to beat Eurotunnel for the quickest, cheapest and least stressful way for your four-legged friend to get to Europe.
Falco in Frankfurt
So, this year, when we travelled to Strasbourg in north-eastern France and Fussen in Germany, we decided to make the five-hour drive south from Leeds to travel by Eurotunnel, rather than use our usual route across the North Sea.
The pure economics of this in the school holidays during the summer makes sense since the Eurotunnel doesn’t really fluctuate all that much in price, unlike the more northerly crossings that can weigh in at close to a thousand pounds for a family with a dog and a car in the height of summer. So, paying a hundred and fifty pounds (return) with a super quick 35-minute crossing made sense.
For anyone like us, who needs to drive a long way to reach Eurotunnel, you’re going to need accommodation, either near Folkestone or Calais. I’d recommend the latter, as you can get the crossing out of the way, get a good night’s sleep and then get on your way to your destination. There is no shortage of hotels in Calais and the Accor brand (most of whose hotels are dog friendly) have a Novotel, an ibis and an ibis Budget all situated within the secure zone of the Cite Europe.
Side trip idea if you visit Calais: it has several beaches, many of which are wide, uncrowded in summer and dog friendly. We always stop at Bleriot Plage, where parking is free and abundant, and where you’ll be able to let your dog wander off-leash. There are World War 2 bunkers on the rear of the beach but watch out for broken glass near these.
For anyone wanting to stay the night on the English side, Travelodge has plenty of hotels nearby and the great thing about them is they all take dogs and have rooms that take a family of four.
This year we were heading to Strasbourg but decided to stop at Disneyland Paris for a day and night, so that we could break up the journey.
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Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed in the park itself, but Disney does have one of the best daycare centres imaginable, able to accommodate dozens of dogs in well-kept air-conditioned kennels.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say the service in the kennels was far superior to the service we received on the park itself! That said, you do have to walk your dog(s) yourself, which was fine by us - and Falco - when we walked him at lunchtime and again at teatime.
Heading south after our stop in Disneyland we arrive in Strasbourg, the capital of Europe, where decisions are being made - along with our own parliament - on numerous matters that seem to have divided our nation. Obviously, these are political matters and not for these pages, but it does give me an opportunity to reflect on how Brexit might affect my hobby - travelling with my dog.
So, How Will Brexit Affect Holidaying With Dogs in Europe?
As it stands, the main difference from the current rules is that you would also need to visit a vet “at least four months” (according to the British government on 10th October 2019) before setting off on your trip (as well as the usual regulations on vaccines, passports and worming).
Obviously this is a very fluid situation, especially as a no-deal Brexit currently looms, and it’s best to check the government’s website for up to date information, including how long paperwork is valid for upon arrival to the country you’re visiting.
What to Do in Strasbourg
But while Strasbourg might be famous for being the seat of several European institutions - some contentious - none of that matters to Falco as he sniffs his way through the medieval streets and alleyways of the old town.
He’s a water baby through and through and is particularly interested in the waterways of La Petite France, the historic leather-tanning district, which is surrounded by picture-perfect half-timbered houses.
But as always picture-perfect can mean crowds, and there is no shortage of other tourists wanting to enjoy the same views as us when we first arrive. However, the best thing about travelling with a dog is the incentive to get out of bed and take an early morning stroll, when you’re almost guaranteed to have places like this to yourself.
Indeed, when we stroll past the magnificent Gothic cathedral on our first morning there’s not a soul on the street, besides us. And so, we also get to enjoy what used to be the world’s tallest building (between 1647 and 1874) all to ourselves. It’s an awesome sight, even now, and I wonder if that record will ever be held for as long again.
Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame
The lower parts of the cathedral are now over a thousand years old – with the construction of these dating back to 1015 - and Falco sniffs his way around it before we set off again exploring the half-timbered buildings of the old town in the surrounding streets.
It’s difficult to believe we’re still in the same city when we explore the European buildings later that afternoon. The buildings look so modern in contrast to the old town.
But there is an elegance in their modernity, and the zone is every bit as impressive as the old town in its own way. There is also a large flower-filled park complete with a boating lake and a small zoo that Falco and I explore, while mum takes the kids into the European Parliament buildings.
While they explore the political buildings Falco and I explore a canal between the park and the European parliament that is used for water sports and which Falco cools himself off in.
Mum and the kids are back from parliament just as Falco is getting tired from all that swimming, so we all pop back to Parc de l'Orangerie to grab an ice cream and sit under a tree watching the fountain, before setting off to our next destination - Fussen, in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, just north of the Austrian border.