Sonntag, 9. Dezember 2012

Christmas in Germany, part II

Fritz and I took a weekend and visited the Christmas markets in Heidelberg and Ruedesheim am Rhein, both about an hour from Frankfurt by train.   These were still quite popular, but no where as overcrowded as Frankfurt.

Heidelberg itself is well worth seeing - it's got a castle, lovely old town and a scenic bridge over the river.   Another tip - we couldn't find a non-touristy, yet authentic enough restaurant with free tables, so we ate at the cafeteria in the department store.  Good value for money and a great view of the city.

One thing I love in German Christmas markets are the kitch mugs.  When you buy mulled wine or hot cocoa, you put down a deposit on the mug (rather than environmentally unfriendly paper cups!) and you can also keep them as souvenirs.

Rudesheim am Rhein is an adorable village in Germany's best known wine-producing region.  We visited the market, then took a hike up to the top of the hill.

Dogs are widely excepted in restaurants in Germany, but some go the extra mile (or kilometre).  The sign here says that dogs are heartily welcome.

Christmas in Germany, part I

My first German textbook was entitled "Neue Freunde" - or "New Friends" - and Fritz and I certainly made quite a few new friends in Germany.  Germany is very dog-friendly and we met other dog-walkers and dog-lovers.

I was in Frankfurt for work right before Christmas.  The city has has some great parks, including a lovely one right along the River Main.

We also visited the Frankfurt Christmas Market.  This is one of Germany's larger ones and it was packed!  If you're bringing a dog I would suggest going in the morning on a weekday.  We went on a Friday night and although we had fun, it was a bit difficult navigating all the people.  We had better luck in the markets in Heidelberg and Ruedesheim am Rhein.

Stockholm in Winter

In Stockholm dogs can almost always sit at outdoor restaurants and cafes, even if they aren't allowed indoors.  But some days are not good for sitting outside.

Fortunately, finding dog-friendly places inside is not too difficult.  The 'Dog-friendly Stockholm' site is invaluable (in Swedish).   Within the city there are dog-specific cafes, regular cafes and a limited number of restaurants that allow dogs.  Usually department stores and shopping malls also have restaurants and cafes where dogs are allowed.  We like going to Nordiska Kompaniet in the city centre, which you can see in the background behind the Christmas market in Kungsträgården.

That said, a lot of places still do have year-round outdoor seating, with blankets and heaters.  I saw people sitting at a cafe on the day this was taken.  So, if you really want to...

Montag, 15. Oktober 2012

Dalarna - September 2012

At the end of September 2012, Fritz and I went up to Dalarna, in the middle of Sweden.  It's a beautiful bit of countryside, known for its horses, history, skiing, forests and lakes - like Siljan below:

We also went mushroom picking in the forest and came back with 1.3kg of chanterelles!

Sonntag, 23. September 2012

Helsinki - September 2012

Helsinki is windy.

I was only in Helsinki for about 25 hours for two meetings but it was a learning experience for several reasons......

Firstly, do your homework on 'dog friendly' places.  Like Stockholm, Finland has some great outdoorsy places, but slightly draconian laws about dogs near food.  We got kicked out of an outdoor cafe.  And out of the restaurant in the airport (although the staff very kindly served us outside in the outer-bar area).  I have never been kicked out of an outdoor cafe or an airport restaurant!!!!  I talked to our hotel concierge about this and he explained that the regulations are very strict on this, although there are moves to have it changed.  If I had done my homework and read these sites on 'pet-friendly Finland' beforehand, it might have been a smoother trip:

Secondly, taking the ferry to Finland was an option I explored (Viking Line takes dogs), but I didn't have a place to put him whilst I was at my meeting.  And in any case I ended up requesting a late check out...., thirdly, consider researching pet baby-sitters.

Finally, do you homework with entry requirements!  There is freedom of movement  (of people) within the Schengen Zone, but customs officials should still check dogs and cats.  Fortunately (in this case) this does not always happen and there wasn't even a customs official on the desk when we landed in Helsinki.   I had sort of assumed that entry requirements within Schengen were the same and that all I needed was his passport with proof of rabies vaccination.  Actually, dogs need to be treated for tapeworm same as for entry into the UK.  I found this out after I got home and was researching....also, Norway has also introduced tapeworm treatment for movement between Norway and Sweden.  However - unlike entry into Finland or the UK which requires a veterinarian's stamp, you can administer the treatment yourself and sign a form 'on the honour system.'

The point is - check at least a week before you travel on the 'official' site.  The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs site still states there are no restrictions between Norway and Sweden but the Food Safety Authority has the updated information.  Similarly, is incorrectly states that no tapeworm treatment is needed between Sweden and Finland, but the their Food Safety Authority (sort of) clearly states that this is required.


Stockholm Archipelago

The Stockholm Archipelago (skärgård in Swedish), is comprised of over 30,000 islands and extends from central Stockholm out into the Baltic.  We went out to the island of Finhamn for some exploring.

The boat ride takes about 3 hours, but worth it for the views as it navigates through the island channels. Dogs have to stay on the bottom deck but that isn't a problem and all the boats have a snack bar and comfy seats.

Once we got to Finnhamn we did some hiking.  I have a pack from ToughTraveler that I have mentioned before, but at this point Fritz has so much energy he is good to go for a day hike.

General rules in the archipelago are that dogs are allowed off leash from end of August until around end of May but must be on-leash in the summer and in nature reserves.  All of Finnhamn is a nature reserve so I was being a bit naughty here.  Finnhamn is also home to a great restaurant and an organic farm.

Swedes love taking dogs on adventures.  Just remember a life vest!

Freitag, 24. August 2012

Practical points - Dogs on trains

Fritz likes to ride on trains.

Each country's rail service is a bit different when it comes to trains.  In Sweden, dogs must be pre-booked as there is one carriage designated for dogs.  In the UK dogs can ride anywhere (although if the dog is taking up a seat or you have multiple dogs you may be charged extra).  In Switzerland, tiny dogs are free, whilst small and large dogs need a 1/2 price ticket.   Apparently dogs in Belgium cost up €2,20 but I have never been charged.  Similarly, pets on French rail cost €6 if in a bag and the cost of a 1/2 price ticket if on your lap/nearby you but I have never been charged either.

Generally assume dogs are allowed - except for the Eurostar which is absurdly dog-unfriendly in contrast to all the other rail services.  Still a good idea to check the websites before you travel for more updated information.

Swiss rail
SJ (Sweden)
Deutsche Bahn
National Rail (UK)
Belgian Rail
French Rail

Sonntag, 19. August 2012


In Copenhagen we stayed at the First Hotel Skt Petri which is in a fantastic location, central and close to all the main attractions.  It's also only a few blocks from Ørstedsparken.  Dogs are meant to be on-leash in the park but I saw this loosely enforced.  Also, next to the park in the median strip on Nørre Voldgade is a fenced in dog park.  I know it sounds strange, but it works.  Copenhagen is known for bicycles and being very cycle friendly - and as a result there is little car traffic in the centre relative to other cities.

We were only in Copenhagen for a day and a half so not enough time to really explore.  I talked to some dog owners in the park, though and they said dogs are allowed into a lot of cafes but that there aren't enough off-leash places.

Also, I forgot to bring dog food and the hotel very kindly made us up a plate of steak and potatoes.  All organic, of course!

Fritz goes to the beach

The island of Långholmen is in Lake Mälaren, right in central Stockholm.  It's mostly car-free and home to a nature reserve and several beaches with fantastic views of the city.  Dogs are allowed off-leash on about half of the island and there's a nice beach where they can go for a swim.

Donnerstag, 2. August 2012

Shopping in London

Fritz and I had a day out in Belgravia/Knightsbridge.  

We started at Mungo & Maud,  one of our favourite pet shops.  Then we walked to Sloan Square and up Sloan Street. Everywhere was dog-friendly - Christian Louboutin, Smythson, Mont Blanc, Moncler, Louis Vuitton and Missoni.  At Smythson they even told me to let him off the leash and let him run around the shop.  I kept him on-leash at Louboutin, though, since he loves to eat shoes.

And then we went to Harrods, which I certainly recommend for pet-lovers.  Harrods Pet Kingdom sells animals so for health reasons you must bring proof of vaccinations/a pet passport with you. Dogs are not allowed into the rest of the store so if you report to Door 3, the security guard will ring up to the Pet Kingdom who will send someone down to escort you.  They have a great selection of animal toys, treats and accessories - and even a pet bakery!  And Fritz made friends with the helpful staff as you can see below.

And if you want to shop in the rest of Harrods?  Leave your dog at the dog spa!  They offer everything from grooming to massages. There is also a daycare service where you can leave your dog whilst you wander around (booking recommended).

London 2012

On the way to London in July, we had a cab driver who asked what Fritz's olympic sport was.  

Brussels - July/August - 2012

Fritz and I were back in Brussels in July/August.  Whenever I have been to Brussels in the past it has been cold and raining.  This time we were treated to perfect weather.  We checked out Parc du Cinquantenaire, which is dog friendly as the sign at the entrance makes clear.

Although the sign implies a leash law, we saw plenty of dogs off-leash so I suspect this is loosely enforced, as in much of Stockholm.

I've blogged about this before, but we always stay at the Sofitel Europa on Place Jourdan.  They are very dog friendly - Fritz was provided his own bowel and bed.  Also, they are convieniently located near Parc du Cinquantenaire and Parc Leopold.

Sonntag, 22. Juli 2012


Paris is known for its little dogs and Fritz fit right in.  Well, sort of....A French friend of mine told me that it is a source of pride for people if their dogs walk off leash. And I was well-impressed by what I saw.  Little dogs so diligently following their owners and never running out into traffic.  In Sweden we tie up our dog outside supermarkets.  Here I saw a dog patiently waiting with no leash.

With little dogs comes little poos and Paris is trying to clean up its reputation with dog poo bag stations.

We stayed in Neuilly-sur-Seine just outside Paris and adjacent to the 16th Arrondissement.  It's conveniently right by the Bois de Boulogne which is great for dog walking.

The weather was great so we mainly ate outside, but I never had any problem bringing him in to eat. At one restaurant, as soon as I walked in the owner pulled out his iPhone and showed me photos of his Bichons.  

Surprisingly, Fritz wasn't allowed into the shopping malls at La Défense.  But when we walked around central Paris we didn't have a problem going into shops.

Fritz likes jazz

In Paris, I went out with some friends to Caveau de la Huchette in the neighbourhood of Saint-Germain des Prés.  We got there quite late which is probably part of the reason why they let us in but the bouncer really didn't say anything when we walked in.  And I could tell the band was amused.

Fritz got strip searched at the airport

Practical points - preparing for a trip

Dog?  Check.

Pet Passport?  Check.

Mittwoch, 4. Juli 2012

Norra Djurgården

What about Stockholm? This blog is about travelling with a dog and, strictly speaking, we don't travel in Stockholm since we live there.  But it's worth blogging about places to see and do in Stockholm.

Norra Djurgården is a park on the northeastern edge of central Stockholm.  Yes, really - there are barns, cows and sheep in Stockholm proper.  It's a nice place to walk a dog and the fields and forests also have a few cafes scattered about.

Around Brussels

Fritz and I had a day to kill in Brussels so we wandered around.  Sadly, the weather didn't cooperate.  Can I point out this was late June?

We stayed near Parc Léopold and Place Jourdan, in the EU Quarter.  The EU Quarter is generally soulless, full of office buildings and generally empty on weekends.  But Place Jourdan is a nice oasis of 'real' Brussels in this part of the city.  Place Jourdan also has a nice market on Sundays.  

Chez Antoine on Place Jourdan purportedly has the best frites in Brussels.  And also on the square is Chez Bernard, a bar in cooperation with Chez Antoine.  You can get your frites and then head over to Chez Bernard for a beer (they also have a nice selection of non-alcoholic beers).  Fritz and I went in and there were 3 other dogs at the table next to us.  Again, Brussels is great that you really can take dogs inside!

Brussels in June, again

On the way back from the UK, we travelled via Brussels again.  One point of information, the rail connections between Calais and Brussels on Saturday nights is lacking, so make sure to double check train times before you book your ferry to make sure you arrive in Calais early enough to get a train.

We stayed at the Sofitel Brussels Europe, which is in a great location and very dog friendly.  On the room service menu, they have a section "For our faithful friends," with a selection of dry food and delicacies (I asked and they suggested the croquettes).  This was handy because I had packed enough food for Fritz for 18 days and we were in Brussels on Day 19 of our trip.  He had the 150g plate of minced meat, carrots and rice.  

Housekeeping will also bring a water bowl and rug on request.

There are a lot of horrible hotels in Brussels; the Sofitel is great.  It's a luxury hotel at reasonable prices and we'll definitely stay there again.

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.