The City of Light is dog friendly, if you know your way around
‘Is that a service dog?” the flight attendant asked as she pointed to my bichon frise curled up beside me on the airplane seat. “No, he’s not” I said. “Then he needs to be in his carrier under the seat in front of you” she replied. I obliged as she walked down the aisle. Within minutes I returned Marcel beside me, only this time under the blanket I had draped across my lap, where he slept for the final leg of our flight from San Diego to Paris. Our short layover in Philadelphia gave enough time to take Marcel outside before the remaining eight hours of air travel.
For August and September, The City of Light was home to mon petit chien and me. Our quest was to find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, and boutiques for my upcoming travel guide, “The Privileged Pooch in Paris.” Such a lengthy visit required an apartment rental as home base. An arduous search by a Parisian rental agency for a landlord who allows pets came up nil. Ironic, given the capital’s dog-loving reputation.
(Illustration by CRISTINA MARTINEZ BYVIK)
But VRBO.com, a website pairing homeowners with vacationers, proved fortuitous. My first two emails resulted in a Saint-Germain-Des-Prés house for the first month, and an Ile Saint Louis apartment built in 1643 for the remainder of my stay. Renting a variety of pied-à-terres allowed me to experience different areas of the city, and provided space to host visiting family and friends.
Twenty arrondissements (districts) make up the metropolis of Paris, the first being in center city and the higher numbers being ethnic enclaves on the outskirts. These districts, covering roughly 41 square miles, are clumped into neighborhoods — the Marais, Montparnasse, Montmartre, Le Quartier Latin, and the aforementioned vicinities where I lived. La Seine divides the city into Rive Gauche and Rive Droite.
Anticipating the amount of walking ahead, I took an Outward Hound backpack to carry Marcel. Maneuvering Paris and its 2.3 million inhabitants for hours a day would be exhausting for my 12-year-old companion. It was invaluable when riding the crowded metro, shopping the Clignancourt flea market’s 2,500 stalls, and traipsing the cobblestone streets in temperatures over 100 degrees. Unbeknown to me, this canine mode of transportation is a novelty in Europe; it elicited smiles and photo ops wherever we went.
The sun progressed into a long disappearing act during Paris’ summer months, dipping below the horizon at 10 p.m. many nights. This was optimal when venturing to Bois de Boulogne, a 2,000-acre park on Paris’ western fringe. Marcel and I rented a bike at the Vélib’ kiosk; he in the front basket with me providing peddle power. Hundreds of rental stations throughout the city make this one of Parisians’ most popular ways to get around. Other parks are less pet tolerant. The three urban jardins — Luxembourg, Tuileries and Palais Royal — provide a sliver of land where leashed dogs are permitted. Parc du Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower is less restrictive. The stringent rules are due to the residents not picking up after their dogs, but a newly imposed fine is rectifying the problem.
Pet-friendly tours helped us acclimate to the city. The double-decker, al fresco L’Open Bus supplied headphones with English commentary and encouraged guests to hop on, hop off at any of the 50 stops. Batobus boat shuttle on the Seine transported my sidekick and me to eight popular spots. Due to Paris’ walkability, we had many choices for guided excursions on foot. Chic Shopping Paris is led by an American expat married to a Frenchman. Rebecca Magniant weaves her English-speaking guests through boutique-lined streets, pointing out products exclusive to France, antiques and bargain prices. Those with a compulsion to go it alone may Google self-guided walking tours for pages of options.
San Diego travel agent Francoise McCurley specializes in travel to France.
“Paris needs to be discovered on foot and subway” she says. “There are little villages within the city.”
Strolling les avenues at night was a magical light show. The offerings unfurled as we ventured to new neighborhoods. Bon Marche department store’s Manicure Bar loved Marcel, piano recitals at local churches granted him a seat, and Tuk-Tuk automated rickshaw drivers zoomed us through gaggles of tourists.
Cafes are ubiquitous, as is stellar cuisine. Most welcomed Marcel. Only a handful of upscale restaurants shunned him. It was commonplace to see a Jack Russell terrier or Yorkie sharing charcuterie, meat plates, pommes frites and other treats with their owners.
Deviating from a pet’s usual diet when traveling can have drastic consequences, so prior to our arrival I shipped a bag of my buddy’s dog food to the rental. I also imprinted two collar ID tags with my Paris addresses and cellphone number, in case Marcel wandered off.
Our summer abroad was both fun and fruitful. The French people’s gracious hospitality contradicted their unfriendly reputation. À bientôt they’d say; yes, you will see us again soon.
If you go
The basics: Pets entering France must have a health certificate from a veterinarian, current rabies vaccine, and a microchip.
US Airways: Pet fee from San Diego to Philadelphia is $250 R/T (in cabin).
Delta Air Lines: Pet fee from Philadelphia to Paris is $400 R/T (in cabin).
Cargo hold: $800 R/T San Diego to Paris on Delta.
Sherpa Pet Carrier: Has a Guaranteed on Board policy, ensuring that the carrier is compliant with all airline regulations. Website provides domestic and foreign travel tips. $65. Holds pet up to 16 pounds. www.sherpapet.com
Outward Hound Pet Carrier Backpack: www.myoutwardhound.com, $26.77
VRBO House/ Apartment rental: usually a minimum of one week. www.vrbo.com
Vélib’ bike rental: One day is 1.70 euros ($2.21); seven days is 8 euros ($10.42); Exchange rate 1 euro/$1.30. www.velib.paris.fr
L’Open Bus Tour: One day, 31 euros ($40.36); two days, 34 euros ($44.27). www.parislopentour.com
Batobus boat shuttle: One day, 15 euros ($19.53); wwo days, 18 euros ($23.43); five days, 21 euros ($27.34). www.batobus.com
Chic Paris Shopping Tours: 100 euros per person ($130.19) for 4½ hours. www.chicshoppingparis.com
Francoise & Associates International Travel Agency: (619) 718-6310, Fran4trav@aol.com
Note: Veterinary clinics and/or hotels will recommend pet sitters when going to museums or other places where dogs are not permitted.