It’s all action in the Driving with Dogs kennel as we start sorting out the new motorway walks in France!
After a winter of poring over maps and learning about bits of France we’d never even heard of, the DwD team set off in March for a 5 day recce to find out if the research would actually work or not.
Mostly we did OK – and pottered our way southwards investigating battlefields, long forgotten arms of the waterway system, forests and vineyards, as well as getting to grips with the French footpath markers. I’m sure these foolproof symbols are amazingly logical and simple to use once you’ve grasped the basics, and I’m waiting hopefully for the eureka moment on that. As it was, we managed an intoxicating detour into a field of Mumm vines – with Jem on a very short lead and forbidden to raise a leg until we’d found our way back to the legal path.
It’s going to take ages to get all the walks done and up on the Driving with Dogs site, so here’s a summary of what we’ve learned about travelling with your dog in France so far.
Dog-friendly hotels for motorists are really easy to find and, compared with the UK, arriving with a dog is no big deal. The Ibis Hotel chain accepts dogs, as do the budget Etap Hotels and the F1’s too. At the more comfortable end of the range, many Novotels also welcome canine guests. These hotels tend to cluster around the motorway exits of the towns, and are well sign-posted from the motorway exit roundabouts. This means your sat-nav can’t play evil pranks with you!
If you’re an organised traveller, you can get a hefty discount off all these hotels for your summer journey by sorting out your trip and using the 3 nights for the price of two if you go before the end of May. We didn’t know about this offer before setting out, but will definitely get it right on the next trip – not least because the self-service breakfasts in the Ibis and Etaps we stayed in were so huge that we didn’t even think about needing lunch. The link to the page with this offer on is at the bottom - and it seems to be valid for hotels everywhere, not just France.
We’d seen from the maps that many of the ‘Aires’ (large lay-bys with WCs and picnic tables that appear every 30km or so) were right next to lakes and forests that would be ideal for dog walks. Not so – the entire motorway is cut off from the countryside by heavy duty metal and wire fencing. Some Aires weren’t too bad as pitstops for desperate dogs and are probably a very good bet if you’re towing a caravan, so we will be listing a couple of the best ones on each motorway. Tip: don’t forget to take your own loo paper!
If you’ve got any tips and advice for us for the motorway walks in France please email Lezli, we’d really appreciate it – France is a huge country and there’s still just the two of us and Jem!