Dog-friendly France – Nord Pas de Calais

Trixie on a cruiser on the MayenneGood news for dog owners. Restrictions regarding taking your pet to Europe have been relaxed since the beginning of 2012. Trixie, my miniature Yorkshire Terrier has already been micro-chipped, and her rabies inoculation is up-to-date. A fast train took us to Dover from St Pancras Station where we met up with Rebecca whose car we were travelling in for the rest of the trip.

The only way to take a pet across the channel is by car. Eurostar will only accept guide dogs, but P&O Ferries will take dogs as long as they stay in the car. A bonus is that you get priority boarding.

Le Touquet

A quick motorway drive, 67 km. and we are in Le Touquet, a smart seaside resort with miles of sandy beaches, three golf courses, and a casino. Le Touquet Paris-Plage as it is known is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

The four-star Holiday Inn accepts dogs, and we are given a room with French doors that has access to a grassy area, a must for Trixie. Dinner is at a Michelin star restaurant at the Westminster Hotel, considered the best in town but unfortunately in need of a refurbishment. The hotel has a stunning art-deco lift, and there are signed photographs of famous celebrity guests on the walls.

Nausicaá

Trixie in a restaurantLe Touquet served as a base to visit Nausicaá, an aquarium that promotes itself as the French National Sea Experience Centre in Boulogne. Not just an aquarium, it is designed to raise visitors’ awareness of the need to manage oceans and their resources in a sustainable way. Particularly relevant is their exhibition showing the frailty of islands, and how easily they can be destroyed by tidal waves.
On a more basic level, we were able to stroke rays, fish that are similar to sharks; and view sea-lions frolicking in their pool.

Lens

Lens is an unremarkable former mining town. However, investment is being poured into the area to regenerate it  as home to the Louvre extension. The site, covering 20 hectares, was once a mine yard, and has been landscaped as a park with a high tech building – the museum in its midst. The planned opening date is December 4, 2012, St. Barb Day, the patron saint of miners although it would be worth checking if it has been completed before contemplating a visit. Two hundred and fifty works of art from the Louvre’s eight departments will be on show with a further two annual temporary exhibitions.

Food and Drink

The covered mrket at Le Touquet, FranceWine and France go hand in hand but the Nord Pas de Calais is a region better known for its beer. Exporting to the UK Ch’Ti, also the name for the local dialect, is one of the better known brands. Tours of its brewery, which includes a tasting from their extensive range, takes place on a Saturday morning with booking essential.

For authentic local food, ‘estaminets’ serve Flemish inspired food. At lunchtime, you may find the streets deserted while the restaurants are packed. Well-behaved dogs are generally welcomed. Try out La Cervoise Tiède Restaurant in Bénifontaine, where Carbonnade Flamande, beef cooked in beer with gingerbread is a must. To finish, ask for a café gourmand that is always served accompanied by a selection of mini desserts.

Lille

Lille itself has a lovely square, la Grand Place, with the old stock exchange building dating back to the 17th century. The streets of the old town still have several buildings dating back to this era. This is where to browse for interesting shops and boutiques. Visit Philippe Olivier at 3 rue du Curé St. Etienne for a selection of over 300 mainly French cheeses.

Grand Place, LilleUnfortunately, their art galleries are situated in the suburbs, but for culture vultures like me are well worth making the effort to visit. Open Tuesday to Sunday, LAM the futuristic building housing the museum of modern art is at Villeneuve de’Ascq. Covering modern, contemporary and brut art from the 20th and 21st centuries, Trixie was not allowed inside but was able to enjoy the surrounding park full of amazing sculptures created by well-known artists.

On a trip, it’s important to gauge what time you have to see everything. Unfortunately one of my ‘must sees’, La Piscine, the museum of art and industry was not included in our visit. A former municipal swimming pool, it has been converted into an art gallery containing works from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Not to be missed is its Art Deco stained-glass window.

Trixie being welcomed at a hotelWe stayed at the stylish dog-friendly 3* Art Deco Grand Lille Hotel at La Madeleine, a few stops by tram into the centre of town. A bonus if coming by car; the hotel has a garage.

More information

www.holidayinnletouquet.com
www.nausicaa.fr
www.chti.com
www.poferries.com
www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad
www.hotel-artdecolille.com

More about Natasha

Natasha Blair has been involved in travel throughout her working career. She initially worked in public relations, but for the past ten years has been a travel journalist, and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Her love of travel has taken her to many wonderful and interesting countries. Her miniature Yorkshire Terrier, Trixie secured a pet passport as soon as she could and accompanies her whenever she can. Together they have travelled far and wide, not just in the UK but also to Italy and France. You can see what they get up to on Twitter.

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Natasha Blair

Travel & food journalist, member of BGTW

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