Do you have a bucket list of things to do with your dog? If you do, this post will hopefully give you some further inspiration. This Summer, I wanted to try and tick some items off my own dog bucket list and decided to combine two of them: taking Argo to Verdon Gorge in the South of France, Provence, and going on a dog-friendly pedalo. This is how it was and what you need to know for your own trip.
Travelling with a dog from London to Verdon Gorge, France
The Gorges du Verdon (or Verdon Gorge in English) is a destination which is not within a comfortable drive from London, unfortunately. In fact, it took us a 17/18-hour drive to get there – leaving on a Friday late afternoon and arriving on Saturday after lunch -. The trip may be long, but if you decide to brave it, you won’t regret it!
For the last couple of years we crossed Europe by train. This time we hired a car in London, booked the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle for the evening, and after a pit stop at a fast food in Calais in the very late evening (consider that there is an hour time-difference with Europe mainland as well), we were off for an all-night and all-morning drive through France. It may have been tiring, but no doubt a good solution to avoid the heat of the day, so ideal for Argo, who travelled in the car boot.
After a last stretch through the mountains, on roads with hairpin turns and views on valleys and a stop in a small village for some French croissants, we arrived in Castellane and then in La Garde after lunch. There we had booked a room in a dog-friendly modest hotel a month before, when most places were already fully booked. This was a bit far from our main destination, the Lac de Sainte-Croix, but in a quiet place on the road after all (so quiet that we could hardly get any mobile and internet connection for our whole stay – and wi-fi wasn’t the best either).
Lake of Sainte-Croix and Verdon Gorge on a dog-friendly pedalo
From our hotel on the mountains to the point on the lake where we wanted to hire a pedalo to venture in the Verdon Gorge with Argo the dog, it took us an hour and 5-minute drive. Not that many kilometres, but all on very narrow and curvy roads, skirting the gorge, close to the cliff. An incredibly suggestive place in the middle of the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark.
We had planned to arrive at the lake around 9am, the opening time of one of the pedalo hire places according to Google, in order to enjoy some quiet time in the gorge without the heavy pedalo traffic that starts later in the morning. However, when we got there we found that some marked as having a later opening where already in business too.
Some other hires also have canoes/kayak and small electric boats if you prefer, and judging from the dogs on other pedalos and boats we encountered, all seemed to be dog-friendly.
We took a yellow pedalo from closest hire to the entrance of the gorge on the right-hand side of the lake looking at the gorge. It wasn’t particularly cheap (€40 for 2 hours, €60 for 3, €80 for 4), but the experience was absolutely worth the money. Something to keep in mind is that the pedalos carry a maximum of 4 people (or 2 adults and 3 children) and you needed an ID document in order to be able to hire one (and the one we used accepted cash payments only).
We hired the dog-friendly pedalo for 2 hours and it was enough, as we reached the farthest place you can navigate in the gorges (after which navigation is forbidden because of a natural reserve) and we had the time to take quite a few nice swims with the dog as well.
All photos in this post were taken with my phone, so they are not of the best quality and they don’t give the colours justice! The water had an incredible colour, a vivid light blue-green.
We took a floating ball (or what was supposed to be a floating one) to keep Argo entertained during the sail. He loved thowing it around to himself while on the pedalo and it obviously fell in the water: while the first time we stopped and he jumped in to retrieve it, the second time the ball sank miserably, with his (and our) great disappointment, and due to the cloudiness of the water we lost it forever.
We really loved the experience and, once back, we realised that the lake is so dog-friendly that it attracts many dogs (especially big ones!). We spotted at least 4 playing in the water at the beach next the pedalo rental!
Tips for a safe and enjoyable dog pedalo trip:
- Arrive early to avoid pedalo traffic and enjoy the gorge without the crowds and avoid heat.
- Have a harness with a handle or a floating jacket for your dog (with a handle) to ease the climb back up on the pedalo.
For our trip I had bought Argo a Ruffwear floating coat (size M – which was on offer on Amazon) just before leaving, since I wanted an harness that would be an aid for the swimming (Argo is a good swimmer, but I didn’t know if there may have been some difficult spot in the gorge – which was not the case in the end -) and had a handle to ease picking him up to get him back on the pedalo after a swim. I had heard about good feedback about their equipment and, after testing it during the whole holiday both in the gorge and at the sea where we went after, I was very satisfied with the purchase. Probably it is early to judge since we only used for the time of our holiday, but it looks quite sturdy too, so hopefully it will be durable.
- If possible, I would recommend NOT to keep your dog on a leash while on board: ropes can get caught and become a hazard for your dog’s safety. In case you need to hold your dog, you could do it from the harness/floating coat handle instead.
- Bring water and something to keep your dog entertained while on board (like a toy – a floating one!- or treat).
- Bring at least one other person, so one of you can handle the dog.
- Remember to bring cash and an ID document (our pedalo hire didn’t accept cards and required an ID document for hiring a pedalo).
- Don’t bring your camera, unless you have:
- a 100% water-proof case for it (which are normally quite expensive and depend on the model of your camera);
- a water-proof and water-tight barrel/floating container; or
- a water-proof camera, such as a GoPro (new models like GoPro Hero6 and GoPro Hero5 don’t need a case up to 33ft/10m underwater) or some other camera. I didn’t have any of these, so I took a phone in a water-proof and water-tight plastic case (all photos in this blog post were taken with it, so unfortunately they are not of the best quality).
- Leave your dry clothes in the car or take them in a water-tight container.
Exploring the surroundings: Moustier Saint Marie
After the pedalo trip, we drove around the whole lake, stopping by in some villages. We had a stroll in Les Salles-sur-Verdon and in Bauduen (the latter is a very lovely one) and went for another swim in the lake on the opposite shore to Bauduen.
On the route to Moustiers Saint Marie we had the chance to admire lavender fields and found a direct sale of lavender in a farm nearby (for a much cheaper price than those can find in the villages).
Moustiers Saint Marie was incredible. It is a truly stunning old village build on high cliffs, with waterfalls, an acqueduct, fountains and stone buildings. Probably one of the best gems I had visited in a long time and I would very much recommend a visit (it can be very romantic too).
Planning your own dog trip to France
If you like travelling with your dog, this destination is great if you and your dog love swimming and hiking.
To prepare your trip, you will need a European Pet Passport with up to date rabies vaccination and, to come back to the UK, a tapeworm treatment (you can find further information in this post). If you travel by car you can travel via Eurotunnel or get the ferry between the UK and Europe mainland (more about it in this post).
E N J O Y!
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Do you travel with your dog? What’s your favourite destination?
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