Inside Travel: Pooches in Paris

Does Paris merit its dog-friendly reputation? JoAnne Good and Anna Webb take their bulldog and bull terrier across the Channel to find out

Paris is a city that people fall in love with, and sometimes in. So, why would two British women want to go there with their dogs? Well, we wanted to try out the Pet Travel Scheme (see below) – which, thankfully, will be eased from next year. And there's a lot to be said for seeing a place through different eyes. Our dogs are our surrogate children; our disposable income is mostly spent on Molly (Anna's bull terrier) and Matilda (JoAnne's bulldog).

So we embarked, driving from London through the night and crossing via Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais – Eurostar doesn't accept dogs. Eurotunnel was impressive: we paid £125 return for a "Flexiplus" ticket, which enabled us to be flexible about the departure times – and also use the dog exercise area, which even provides free food (for the dogs, not us).

After a skirmish with the SatNav that saw us up a cul-de-sac in Calais at 3am (not recommended), we arrived in Paris soon after sunrise.

We had chosen the three-star Hotel des Archives in the Marais near République – where, perhaps appropriately, the flea market takes place. There was an early hiccup at the hotel as to whether our dogs were small – in which case they were welcome – or medium, in which case they weren't.

After that was sorted out to everyone's satisfaction, it was all plain sailing. Everywhere we went, people kept saying "Jane Birkin, she has your dog". Jane Birkin (see the interview on page 19) lives nearby. She was married to Serge Gainsbourg, who loved bull terriers; indeed he was rumoured to have wept more at the death of his bull terrier than at the death of his father.

Dogs, like children, need variety and exertion. As we sat in cafés, Parisians queued to pet our dogs – unless Matilda and Molly were racing around behind the bar. The dog regulations in Paris appear to be at the discretion of the proprietor: in shops, restaurants, wherever we went, we were welcomed.

Any dog owner likes to inspect other owners and their pets. In Paris, there were plenty of pedigree dogs, all beautifully turned out with beautifully turned out owners. We didn't see any cross breeds.

Dogs are really ingrained in the Parisian culture. That's obvious just from walking around, seeing the way that French people lead their lives. It's a contrast with Britain, where as a nation we've become anti-dog over the past few years.

As you might expect, there's a very good dog boutique in Paris: Moustaches, which translates as "Whiskers". The owner is a French-Chinese man named Monsieur Young. We bought Molly a cashmere sweater for €65 – a bargain compared with the price of a jewel-encrusted dog-bowl or a gemstone collar.

Whether your pet is from the proletariat or the caninocracy, dogs are a great leveller. And, if you happen to be a woman of a certain age, as we are, you cease to be invisible when you have an interesting dog.

We've never enjoyed Paris so much. We saw the city with completely new eyes. We wanted to discover if Paris is the dog-friendly capital it is said to be – and it is.

Any dog-lover will tell you this: it completes a holiday to have your dog with you. When we finally returned – after some fairly stressful canine bureaucracy at Calais – the dogs slept for three days solid.

JoAnne Good is a presenter for BBC London

Travel essentials: Passports for pooches

You can take any old dog into France, but coming back is a different matter.

First, get your dog (or cat) implanted with an ISO-compatible microchip. Next, your pet must be injected with rabies vaccine. A blood test must be conducted no earlier than six months before you want to bring the animal back in. (The six-month rule will be relaxed from the start of 2012 for pets arriving from the EU and other "safe" countries.) Now you are able to get a pet passport, issued by a government-authorised vet.

Choosing a form of transport is the next step. By air, British Airways' World Cargo subsidiary offers a good range of options; Flybe, Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook are also co-operative. Most ferry routes are feasible – as is Eurotunnel from Calais to Folkestone.

With a pet passport and a ticket, your problems are only just beginning. "Your pet must be treated against ticks and tapeworms and the treatment recorded in sections VI & VII of the EU pet passport," says Defra. This must occur no fewer than 24 hours and no more than 48 hours before you are due to arrive in the UK.

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