Freitag, 22. Juni 2012

Edinburgh part deux

This is a useful resource if you're going to Edinburgh.

I found that in London I could sort of wing it and see who would let me in, but in Edinburgh I would suggest planning ahead.

Overall, taking him into shops wasn't much of a problem, but I really faced what I would describe as hostility at several pubs and coffee shops.


Edinburgh has some great parks, but overall we were really disappointed by how unfriendly it was to dogs.  Everywhere we look shops are selling Scotty dog souvenirs, but try taking a dog into a pub and see how far you get.

I walked into one bar just to quickly meet up with a few friends and was instantly forced out.  I can understand restaurants (sort of) but it was very difficult to find a dog-friendly pub.  I practically begged to let him stay in a pub for the Greece-Germany football match (his name is Fritz, after all) and finally won over the manager.

I am sure that if one researchers Edinburgh properly, there are dog-friendly places, but from what I could tell it was the worst of British culture: an unrelenting subservience to the rules without any room for discretion.  I saw some appalling behaviour from drunken Scots on a Friday night, so I'm not sure why a 3kg dog in a bag is a problem.

Anyhow, we still managed to make friends and see some nice bits of the city.  And Hotel Missoni was amazing.

We love Hotel Missoni

Hotel Missoni in Edinburgh is fantastic!  Rooms start at £220 a night and it is well worth it.

When we got into the room we were pleasantly surprised with a bed and water/food bowls and the staff were lovely to Fritz - which was a wonderful exception to much of the reception we received elsewhere in the city.

The location is perfect -right on the Royal Mile and within walking distance of a few great parks.  The food is also lovely.  The bomboloni at breakfast is as good as they claim.  And dinner is also great. Overall, Edinburgh had a large Italian population and some wonderful Italian food - dry pasta from the supermarket doesn't come close to the fresh, perfectly-cooked Tagliatelle I had at Hotel Missoni.  Or the other good restaurants I sampled in the city.

Montag, 18. Juni 2012

Fritz goes to the farm

We went to Open Farm Sunday, an event in which farms across the UK open up for one Sunday a year to celebrate local produce and help people understand where their food comes from and what modern farms are like.

We went to a farm in Somerset, near the village where my cousins live. It was a proper festival, with tractor rides, a BBQ, people selling local produce and wares and music.

 Fritz made friends with the farm dogs and met pigs, chickens, cows and sheep.

On the Tube

Yes, you can take dogs on the London Underground

Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2012

We love Lincoln's Inn Fields

I've written about this before -  we love Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London.  There is a great doggie social scene - a group of dog owners who meet every day (and are also welcoming to new visitors).

We met up with some of them this afternoon. And they were a wealth of information.  Apparently the Cafe Nero chain of coffee shops is relatively dog-friendly. Cooper's restaurant, just opposite the park, also welcomes dogs, as do a number of pubs on Wellington St in nearby Covent Garden.

This was good news after a very disappointing morning.  We unsuccessfully tried to go into a new Viennese restaurant  - I tried to make that case that if we were actually in Vienna we could go in, plus with a name like Fritz he should be most at home in an Austrian-themed place.  But I got the "we can't because of 'health & safety'"  This is the typical response I have got from a lot of restaurants.  But when I talked to a woman at Cooper's she said that the only regulations are against dogs being in the kitchen and that it's really up to the restaurant owner's discretion.

Montag, 11. Juni 2012

More London - June 2012

The dog-friendly Primrose Bakery folks have a shop now in Covent Garden

And a friendly sign in the window

Sonntag, 10. Juni 2012

Sion - May 2012

We went to Sion, Switzerland for the annual Caves Ouverts.

Each year over Ascension weekend, the wineries in the canton of Valais open up.  In Sion, 14 of them had set up tents in a park on the edge of the city.  The park has very clear "no dog" signs at the entrance but when I asked if I could bring him in, I got a very friendly 'no problem!."

Also, I have a great side bag for Fritz, which you can see in this photo.  I got it from Mungo & Maud.

Hiking in Switzerland - May 2012

I love hiking in Switzerland, especially around Les Diablerets.

Fritz is full of energy, but even he can't walk that far.  Plus, some of the trails are a bit too rough for him.  So I got the Double-Decker pack from Tough Traveler and it worked great!

Devon - May 2012

My cousins live in Devon, in the West Country, which is lovely.  Fritz and I visited them after our May London trip.  This area is perfect for long country walks!

One of our favourite coffee chains is the Boston Tea Party, with seven locations in the West Country and four more in Bristol.  The Honiton branch is very dog-friendly and also have a nice garden in the back

Practical points - small dogs vs big dogs

This blog is based on my experiences with Fritz, who weighs about 3kg and fits into a handbag.  There have been a few occasions when we’ve been let into places where dogs aren’t normally allowed because he is so tiny.  I have also been let into places because no one notices that I had a dog in my handbag. As I travel, I try to keep an eye out for big dogs, but I have to say this is all based on having a small dog.

There are a few things to keep in mind. Some trains – for example Swiss rail – charge up to half price for a dog, but if your dog is tiny and fits into a bag, then he is free!

Overall, I would say that if you have a small dog you should travel normally.  If you have a big dog you should take this into account and plan your travel around him or her. 

Practical points – does your dog travel well?

Travelling with a dog is great, but before you bring him or her along, have a think.

Fritz’s first time on public transportation was taking the T-bana (Stockholm metro) home with me when he was two months old.  We spent our first day together at home, and the he started coming with me to work every day.  We get around Stockholm  via T-bana, commuter train, bus and bicycle – and he usually just falls asleep.  Also, since he comes to work he’s been very socialised from an early age.  This is not to say he’s a well behaved dog (he’s quite naughty at times), but he’s good in public and with people. And usually in restaurants he just chills out or sleeps under the table with his moose.

I would argue that because dogs in Europe are allowed more places, they are naturally more socialised – and better behaved.  So before taking your dog on holiday, think seriously about how well he or she does in the car or being out in public. 

Also, always bring food, a bowl for water and toy/pig’s ear/bone when you’re out.  Dogs are like children and need to be amused and taken care of or else they act up.

London - May and June 2012

London is a park paradise.  In central London there the Royal Parks (Green, St James and Hyde), small parks and countless squares.  To the north you find Hampstead Health and to the south Clapham, Wandsworth and Tooting Bec Commons. And many more greenspaces.

The massive downside of London is that restaurants do not allow dogs with few exceptions.  I have found these two websites particularly helpful with finding the exceptions.

Fritz and I ate at Andrew Edmunds with two of my friends.  They thought it was a bit overpriced and variable, but I thought it was a cosy and good place.  The menu is typical of British-French fusion and the wine list was extensive. You have to ring ahead to book, especially if you have a dog – there is a special book (by the window) where they put you. 

There are alternatives to restaurants, of course!  I have never had trouble walking into a café with Fritz and ordering food and a coffee to take away (to a park).  Pubs are also a good choice and quintessentially English (even if you don’t drink).  Pubs by parks are especially nice. Notes also let me bring him in.  Fritz and I took a nice walk along  South Bank, down to Gabriel’s Wharf.  There are tonnes of outdoor food options.

The Angel & Crown on St Martin’s Lane off of Trafalgar Square is also a good choice.  Generally, central London pubs are a bit grim, but this one has a nice atmosphere with a fantastic location.  They also serve Otter Ale, which comes from the West Country.  That in itself is a reason to go there.   

Practical points - what season?

Because Fritz and I travel for work, we go rain, shine or snow.  But if you’re planning a holiday then you have options  - and I would highly suggest going when it is nice, even if going off-season might save money.  And for a couple of reasons:

1.     Dogs can almost always be outdoors.  Even in countries in which dogs do not have the full run of the place (think England or Sweden), they can almost always sit outside at cafes.  So try and travel when outdoor eating is a realistic option.

2.     Fritz is behaves very badly when he doesn’t get enough exercise.   Even at his size, he needs a lot of play time.  When you’re travelling, you really can’t afford to have your dog acting up and being naughty, so it’s extra important to walk them enough. Naturally, this is more fun when it’s warm and sunny!  And walking the dog is a great way to see a city!

In Northern European, being “too hot” isn’t a real concern, but in Southern Europe it can be.  So also think about heat exhaustion and checking out warm countries in the autumn, spring or even winter.

Brussels – June 2012

Brussels is generally dog friendly.  Dogs are not ubiquitous, but it’s not uncommon to see them in restaurants.  We had a great meal at Greenwich, Rue des Chartreux 7.  The waiter told us all about his Mother’s dog who had just died (at 19 years old) and was so good to Fritz – giving him water and left-overs from the kitchen.

And there are also great parks!

The only thing that did shock me was that I had three cab drivers in a row refuse to carry me because of the dog (“it gets complicated with a dog” one said).   A friend of mine who lives in Brussels said this is because the taxi service in the city is awful and that it didn't actually have anything to do with Fritz.

Practical points - hotels

Finding pet-friendly hotels in Europe is not a problem. And it’s not in the US where a lot of hotels are either low-end and/or on the outskirts of towns. I tend to use which has a box you can tick for “pets” when you search for hotels. 

Fritz and I have stayed in some great places.  Our favourite is Hotel du Pillon, in Les Diablerets, Switzerland. 

In London, we love the Citadines chain of self-catering apartments. The point is – yes, some hotels don’t allow dogs, but plenty do.  Your dog should be crate trained, though.  It’s a good idea, and required by hotels, to keep him crated when you’re not there.  Also a lot of hotels charge a bit more per night, around €10/£10.

There are also some hotels that specifically bill themselves as pet friendly and/or designed for dogs.  We’re looking forward to visiting these in future journeys.

Practical points - getting a Dog into the UK

UPDATE - as of 2013 P&O Ferries no longer allows foot passenger to bring dogs!!!

This blog is predicated on the idea that that travelling with a dog is easy.  The one exception is getting a dog into the UK.   Dogs cannot fly in the cabin into the UK.  They must go as cargo – which is a hassle and costs up to €1000 each way.  So the ferry is a better option.  This is a bit of a long post, but here goes:

We fly from Stockholm to Brussels, then take the TGV (high speed train) to Lille- Europe, transfer to Lille-Flanders and take the slow train to Calais-Ville.  From there we cross the English channel with P&O Ferries to Dover.  Then take the train to London.  If we’re lucky, we land when there is a high speed train to London (High Speed 1).   Otherwise we take the slow one.  There is also an option of taking a TGV directly from Brussels to Calais-Fréthun.  Calais-Ville is the main station in town and Calais-Fréthun is in the middle of a field and a 25minute cab ride away.

(You might ask – I thought the Eurostar runs directly from Brussels to London in 2 hours 9 minutes?  It does, but it doesn’t take dogs.)

There are other crossings  than Calais-Dover.   There are longer ferries between France and Spain and the UK as well as from the Netherland and Belgium.  Some of these claim to be dog-friendly; others are less so.  Also, not all ferry lines allow dogs with foot passengers and instead you are required to have a car and leave your dog in it.   So there are options, but crossing between Dover and Calais is probably the easiest (and certainly the fastest) crossing. And there are other upsides:

Lille-Europe and Lille-Flanders  stations are about 10minutes walking distances form each other (the Deutsche Bahn website suggests 20 minutes).  Between these two is a park, which is a perfect place to walk the dog.  Depending on which train combination you book, there is usually about an hour between trains, so just enough time to get a snack and get the dog some exercise.

From Lille-Flanders you take the train to Calais-Ville, then you can get a cab to the ferry terminal.  Calais-Ville is just round the corner from the town hall, a tourist site in its own right and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There is also a lovely park.  Then you can take a cab to the ferry terminal.

The ferry and dog situation itself can be a bit ridiculous.  Each time I’ve boarded (3x) the protocol has been different.  Sometimes they allow me to board with the rest of the foot passenges and I take Fritz below onto the car deck. (He has to stay here with the cars during the journey and can't be above with me). Other times I’ve been driven onto the car deck.  I STRONGLY suggest you book one of P&Os Pride class ferries – when you book it will be obvious.  I find the Spirit class too big and there are massive freight vehicles on the car deck and I just find it’s a bit scary.  On the Pride class the crew are really friendly and it’s a smaller, less overwhelming place.  Usually they let me stay with him until we leave the harbour.  Also, you need to have a hard crate because they put the dogs (in the crate) into a secure-ish trolley during the crossing.

The overall point is that if you are planning a holiday, I would suggest one week in France, Belgium or Northern Spain and another week in the UK.  The other point is that I usually do this trip in 2 days (it’s easier) with a lay-over in Brussels but I’m hoping to do future lay-overs in Calais or Lille and explore them a bit more.

Geneva - May 2012

Geneva is a dog’s paradise.  I didn’t have any trouble bringing Fritz into restaurants or bars.  I walked right in with him and no one batted an eye.  If you have your heart set on one particular restaurant, it’s best to ring ahead and make sure it’s ok.  But if you’re just going to wander around until you get hungry, then I wouldn’t worry. 

I was in Geneva for a meeting at the Palais de Nacions and, although there are no “no dog” signs there, I didn’t try to bring him in.  But otherwise, dogs are widely accepted.

The only issue with Geneva is that the leash laws are quite strict and when we were there Fritz was still learning to walk on a leash.  There are many lovely parks, and I’d suggest walking along the Lake from the WTO to the city centre. Also, when I lived in Geneva I was near Parc Bertrand and there is a dog park there where you can run your dog around.  The other nice thing about Geneva, and other parts of Switzerland, are the free dog poo bags located in convenient locations around most parks.

Also, I've written that airline rules are usually relaxed about dogs, but at the Geneva airport there were quite strict about the weight limits and multiple carry-ons, so be forewarned. 

Oslo - March 2012

Fritz’s first international trip was to Norway in March 2012, when he was just two and a half months old.  There are no controls on (most) pets between Sweden and Norway so he didn’t need a passport or to have his vaccinations completed – although the customs dog on the train was very interested in his food! Also we were on the Swedish rail service to Oslo and you do have to book ahead and book into a carriage and seat designated for dogs.    Fritz slept most of the way.

Oslo is great, with plenty of parks.  We walked around Slottsparken (The Royal Palace Park) and also Aker Brygge – a shopping/eating/meeting place at the harbour. I would also highly recommend Frognerparken, which has plenty of play space and famous sculptures.

The downside is that Oslo restaurants are not that dog friendly.  Aker Brygge is an excellent choice if the weather is nice and there is outside seating.

Note: as of January 1st, 2012 there are new rules about entering Norway with an dog older than three months, even from Sweden.

Samstag, 9. Juni 2012

Practical points - flying

The basic rule is that if your dog + his carrier bag is 8kg or less, he can come in the cabin with you.  He also needs to fit under the seat for take off and landing.  If your dog is bigger he has to go in the hold.  You should check with your airline first for exact requirements.  Typically the bag must be zipped shut, but have mesh so he can see out and breathe.

Dogs are actually meant to be under the seat during the whole flight, but this is negotiable.  So far we’ve only flown SAS and they’ve been great.  I was on a very empty flight and they let him sit on the seat next to me.  Other times he’s sat on my lap. I usually check his hard crate so I can crate him in the hotel and if it’s empty, they don’t charge me an extra baggage fee (in addition to my suitcase) when I flight out of Stockholm (Arlanda).

You’re only meant to have the dog bag and no other carry-ons, but I’ve also found this is loosely enforced by airline officials.

Practical points – quarantine

A lot of people are unclear about quarantine rules.  The short version is that things are much easier now and, generally, your dog does not need to be quarantined.  Within the EU, pets are issued passports by a veterinarian.  In the US, they are issued travel documents, but not an actual passport.  You should allow 6 months to complete the process in the first instance, but this can be shorted.  For instance, my vet gave Fritz a one-dose rabies vaccination instead of a two-dose vaccination that would have been spread over two months.  This shortened the process and he was able to make an international trip at about four and a half months old.

The process does change regularly, so you should check with the country’s department of agriculture and/or border agency before you book your travel.  You can find more information here.

Freitag, 8. Juni 2012

Why travel Europe with a dog?

The real question is - Why not travel Europe with a dog?  Generally, Europe is much more dog-friendly than the US and it’s a great way to meet people and get an “insider” view into a city. You also see parts of the city through the eyes of the people who live there.

For example, I lived in London for about four years without a dog – and I saw the city in a whole new way when I travelled there with Fritz.  One morning we went to Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London.  It’s around the corner from my old office and I used to go there all the time.  But with Fritz it was different.  We spent about two hours one morning – me talking to other dog owners and Fritz playing with other dogs. I discovered a great group of people who I would have never met without Fritz

Tourists always say they want to experience ‘real Europe’ and there is no better way than with a dog.  Fritz is an instant conversation starter and through him I’ve connected with random people in a way I would never have done without him.