The French Riviera impresses with a dreamlike landscape. Bordered by green nature and rocks, blue sky meets the azure blue Mediterranean Sea. A panorama that attracts many tourists to the Mediterranean area every year. Celebrities, painters and artists are inspired by the French way of life, its elegance and "Le savoir-vivre", the art of enjoying life. No wonder that Renoir, Picasso or Matisse were already drawn to this beautiful coastal area. Today the Côte d'Azur is not only convincing in terms of its landscape, but also in artistic, cultural and historical terms.
For the journalist couple Susan and Peter, France has always had a very special attraction. Both had already travelled independently of each other in many parts of the country as exchange students, and their first trip together took them to Paris. Where else? Shopping, strolling and a bit of culture. Since then the two of them have been in every corner of the Côte d'Azur, lay on the beach in Brittany, strolled through the old town in Carcassonne and ate croissants with "cafe au lait" at the port in Saint-Tropez.
In 2019 Susan and Peter decided to pack their bags and move to their dream home for three months - to the Côte d'Azur. In the meantime, both had become freelancers and only needed a notebook and Internet to work. In their luggage they had their two big dogs, Chuck and Coco. Chuck, a big Swiss Mountain Dog, who weighs almost 60 kilos, could not be a better travel companion despite his mass. While Coco, a St. Bernard mixed-breed dog, with a travel weight of almost 50 kilos, was a challenge every now and then due to her somewhat fearful nature. With a lot of love and patience, the four travelling companions were finally able to master every situation wonderfully. We have summarized the positive and negative highlights of their journey for you with the note: "Make sure to follow them" - read it yourself.
The preparations for a long journey with the dog
The planning for the "Vive la France adventure" already began in autumn 2018 with the purchase of a suitable car. Because clothes for three months and two big dogs need a lot of space. The choice fell on a used Volvo estate car with lots of storage space. "We folded down the back seats and put a carpet in, so Chucki and Coco could spread out really nicely," explains Peter. Now all that was missing was the perfect house for their stay. Three months - three criteria. 1. the view should leave nothing to be desired, 2. it had to be dog-friendly, so it had to be fenced in and have a small garden. 3. a good internet connection for working. On the web at fewo-direkt.de the two travel enthusiasts found their dream house and rented it immediately - mid-March to mid-June. Before the high season on the Côte d'Azur began, the couple wanted to be back in Germany. Before the journey started there was a lot to do: oil change and engine check at the oldtimer, as well as a health check and a number of precautionary measures for Chuck and Coco. Because the vet warned: There are completely different parasites there than here in the north. Then the suitcases were packed. "I also took some decoration - a few candles, picture frames, pillows and vases, so that we could feel really at home in the house. For the dogs, we had to take plenty of food and, of course, familiar sleeping mats, toys, bowls and vaccination cards, so we've got a lot of stuff," says Susan. The four Travelbuddies started their journey in a fully loaded car from Hamburg, Blankenese to the Côte d'Azur to the little town of Théoule-sur-mer near Cannes. The sweet bitch Coco had received her meals in the trunk the weeks before, because she was still a bit anxious in the car. With feeding in the car and more and more walking she had got used to driving and was ideally prepared for the big trip. For Chuck absolutely ridiculous - he would have loved to have spent the night before in the car. "When our dogs saw suitcases, she always knew that they would not see us for a while and was sad. When they were allowed to come this time, they could hardly believe their luck", Susan remembers.
The journey from Hamburg to the Côte d'Azur
The exciting journey began on 12 March. Two nights were planned for the almost 1500 km between Hamburg and Théoule-sur-Mer. Once south of Frankfurt in Gernsheim am Rhein. For the almost 600 km on the A7, about eight hours were planned with breaks. The next morning, the journey was to continue for another 600 km to Lyon in France, before arriving at the coast in the afternoon of the third day. The last stage was supposed to be the shortest, because in the south higher temperatures were to be expected during the day, and the air conditioning in the old Volvo had already stopped working some time ago.
Every one or two hours Susan and Peter had planned walk and relaxation rounds for the dogs. They spontaneously left the highway when they discovered a grove at the edge. Rest areas were avoided. With two large dogs this would have been much too strenuous, especially since the male dog Chuck, as the boss of the pack, did not like it at all if someone - master or also mistress - left. Then he was hardly to hold any more.
The trip was totally relaxed at the beginning. Chuck and Coco slept stretched out most of the time. Shortly before Frankfurt the fright: The old station wagon suddenly became really loud. The muffler was torn off the pipe and sparks were flying over the asphalt. Peter switched on the hazard lights, drove carefully onto the hard shoulder of the motorway and brought the car to a halt. A breakdown with two big dogs in the back.
First of all it was about security. Susan climbed behind the crash barrier and Peter opened the tailgate, unfastened the dogs' safety belts and put on leashes. He spoke calmly to the fur noses, because the cars racing past made an incredible noise. Finally Susan stood behind the guard rail with both leashed but nervous dogs, so Peter went off to set up the warning triangle. But he had done the calculation without Chuck, because he wanted to hold his pack together again and pulled strongly on the leash to run after his master. "So I could only set up the warning triangle at a very short distance and not quite according to regulations," Peter remembers. One look under the car and it was clear to him: The muffler had to be completely removed. Luckily, the two of them had a pocket knife with them, so the car was quickly ready to go again. At a snail's pace and with a roaring exhaust, they went to the next garage. The repair created space and time for an extensive walk with the dogs. Exhausted and with intact wheels we went on to the first overnight station.
In the hotel, the next crisis followed: Susan and Peter had actually searched the Internet for animal-friendly hotels with the possibility of a walk. The selected hotel was located directly on the banks of the Rhine, the restaurant on the ground floor was inviting. But the guest rooms were only accessible via a narrow wooden staircase and there was no elevator. The narrow, dark staircase was an absolute no-go for the anxious bitch and she refused to even enter the stairs. While Chuck had run up and down the stairs umpteen times to keep his pack together, Coco remained steadfast. Good coaxing, treats, pushing and carrying failed - it was no use, a new hotel had to be found. Fortunately, a replacement was quickly found on the smartphone. A business hotel about 30 kilometres further on in Seeheim. A bright and high lobby, a large elevator and a room with two chewing bones already waiting - a great service. "Looking back, we can only recommend that everyone practice climbing stairs and using the elevator with the dog beforehand, even under difficult conditions such as confinement or darkness, before going on vacation with their four-legged friend," explains Peter.
The rest of the trip went smoothly. The strains of the last days were quickly forgotten when the shining Mediterranean Sea became visible from the A8 motorway. The rest of the route led along a picturesque scenery.
Arrived: Relaxation mode on!
The house was even more beautiful than expected, the sun was shining with full power and the French welcomed not only Susan and Peter but also the gentle giants. The view from the large terrace was simply phenomenal. "This is where our life took place, always with the fantastic view of the vastness of the Mediterranean. This is where we worked, did yoga, chilled with the dogs in the sun and in the evening enjoyed the fresh Mediterranean cuisine and the wonderful rosé from the St. Tropez area to the music of Edith Piaf, Zaz and France Gall," the couple enthuses.
The dogs needed a few days to acclimatize and to accept the house as their new home. Pack leader Chuck initially spent several nights on guard duty because he lacked the security of his own and familiar four walls. He walked through the cottage every half hour to check the integrity of his master and mistress. The dogs then gave structure to the days. Early in the morning the four of them went for a long walk on one of the beaches or on the long bicycle and hiking trails that criss-cross the whole mountainous coast between Saint Maxime and Nice. In doing so, they always discovered new and beautiful places, which they could use after the beginning of the beach season, at the beginning of June. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed to go to the public beaches in France during the summer months and dog beaches are very rare on the Côte d'Azur. After the walk we had breakfast with a view of the sea and a few hours of work before exploring the area by car or on foot. The big dogs caused a lot of attention, because the French prefer mainly small breeds. "We were always approached very friendly to the dogs. Everyone wanted to know their names and pet them once," said Susan. Chuck and Coco were quickly known throughout the neighbourhood.
Susan, Peter, Chuck and Coco have enjoyed their time on the French Riviera and have had some great experiences together. "We are already planning our next trip," reveals Peter. We from William Walker are of course already curious where the four Travelbuddys will go next time - maybe you have tips and suggestions? Leave us a comment.
By Louisa Knoll
Toll, jetzt will ich direkt zurück in den Urlaub!