FRANCE/BELGUIM 2014 Pt.1
DAY 1 & 2 – Journey to the Continent!
We have been away on our holidays!
Our doggy passports were packed and off we set on the long drive to France! It’s a long way from our home in Scotland, so we stayed at the very nice dog-friendly Wycliffe Hotel in Folkestone to break up the journey. It is the third time we have stayed there before making the crossing to the continent and they have nice big rooms for us to stay in, though we were very disappointed that we weren't allowed to sleep on the bunk bed!
Now, as we are raw fed, feeding while travelling can be fun to say the least but this time we had something new to try whilst travelling – a pack of K9 Natural Freeze Dried Lamb Feast from our favourite doggy store, Active Hound (http://www.activehound.co.uk/). It was certainly more convenient to travel with as there was no need for a cool box, no risk of anything leaking (it looks like a murder scene when some things leak), no need to hope that the supermarket will have something suitable for us and no worrying about us getting blood on the hotel carpets! It was a nice, handy to transport packet that was easy to pack in with the rest of our luggage.
So it was handy to transport, but what about the eating? Well, as soon as the packet was opened we were interested! It smelt great! We are not known to be that fussy in regards to food, and we certainly weren't fussy when it came to this food! Katherine prepared it for us giving us three scoops each using the handy plastic scoop provided in the packet and adding a few scoops of water to it. The food doesn't soak up the water, just floats around in it and we drink the water with the food, especially as the little crumb bits flavour the water. We wolfed it down and licked the bowls clean, and then just to make sure licked out each other’s bowls too! As our fellow raw feeders will know though, it isn't just about how food goes down but also about how it comes out at the other end (fondly known as “poo watch” by many in the raw feeding community). We won’t go into details, but there were no issues there either so a definite paws up for the K9 Natural food!
The next morning we were up bright and early ready to get on the Euro Tunnel and go under the English Channel/La Manche! Nothing needs to be done with our passports when leaving the UK, only human passports need to be checked. The Tunnel was busy that morning so there was a slight delay in getting boarded on the train, but nothing too major and once the train was moving it was only a 30 minute journey.
Then we are off the train and driving through France! Waiting for us near a little French town called Rocroi was our accommodation, a beautiful little cottage with a huge garden and best of all a MASSIVE pond!
What more could us two water-mad collies wish for? It wasn't long before we were taking a dip in the water and our Chuckit! amphibious toys were well used with us getting to swim morning and evening! Well we HAD to make full use of the facilities!
Inside, the cottage had everything our humans needed – a sofa, a bed, a kettle, a cooker and a bathroom and a lovely log fire for us to dry off next to after we had been swimming!
We would have been perfectly happy staying at the cottage all day swimming in the pool and playing in the garden, but we weren't allowed to do that and instead we crossed the border into Belgium for some fun days out! We had found a very useful guide called 365.be Discovery Days which had LOADS of things to do in Belgium and the nice labels indicated which were dog friendly too! Unlike here in the UK, there are many indoor attractions that also allowed dogs so we weren't limited to sticking to outside things! Which was just as well as the weather wasn't great the first couple of days!
DAY 3 – Mastadons, Trains and Castles (oh my!)!
Our first trip was to one such museum that allowed dogs inside, the Malgre-Tout Museum where there were these HUGE bones out on display!
Apparently they belonged to something called a mastodon; we didn't care though once we were told that we weren't allowed to eat the bones. Very disappointing! What is the point of having bones out on display if you can’t chew on them? Though to be honest, those bones looked a bit old to have a chew on. So after leaving the bones without so much of a lick, we headed down the road to have a wander around the Steam Railway Museum, which was a lot of fun as they had steps going up to some of the trains and we LOVE going up steps!
The weather was starting to brighten at this point, so it was time for something a bit more outdoorsy and what could be better than a visit to a castle! And it just so happened that there was a castle not too far away...that we couldn't find at first and had actually given up on finding the castle and heading elsewhere when we found signs to the castle, Montaigle Castle.
It was a nice walk up to the castle and great fun exploring the old ruins! Katherine even found herself a little common lizard!
And of course we posed for a photo too....
There was a path leading through woodlands near to the castle too, so we got a nice walk through there before heading back to our holiday cottage for some swimming fun!
DAY 4 – Underground!
Our second day in France/ Belgium was also a bit wet, so where better to go than underground? The caves at Han-Sur-Lesse were just one of the several caves in the area that allowed dogs on their tour, and these were the caves that we decided to explore! It started off with a tram ride, which was a bit noisy and bumpy so we didn't enjoy that bit very much at all, but we weren't on it long before we reached the entrance to the caves.
It was a very small group; there were only us and one other couple on this tour. The other couple were Dutch so our very friendly sixth generation French guide (people had been taken on tours of these caves for a LONG time!) had two languages to do, and this gave Katherine a chance to take some photos! Normally they don’t allow photography in the caves as in the peak season each tour group can have up to 90 people in it, and with tours every 30 minutes, things have to be kept moving! But in our little group taking photos was fine.
The caves were very dark, though far from silent with the sound of water dripping from the ceiling above us and further along the river raging through a narrow gap in the rocks. Above our heads pointed stalactites clung to the ceiling like rows upon rows of sharp, pointed teeth...
...while from the floor grew stalagmites, some of which towered above us like...well...like a tower really! Though can anyone else see Queen Victoria sitting on top of this tower? She doesn’t look amused...maybe it’s just us though...
Our guide led us through the tunnels from huge caves to even bigger caves, telling us about the formation and history of the caves. Pointing out the smoke that covered some of the stalagmites from when people used flame torches to tour the caves and fossils on the limestone from millions of years ago. He also commented on what good dogs we were!
There were many caves to explore on the tour, and many more that weren't open to the public (something like 14 km of tunnels discovered so far). This was a huge cave-system and there were even more caves beneath the river that ran through them! Around halfway along the route we stopped for a music and light show – this started off a bit scary for us as there was some very loud banging drum noises, but we soon settled down and even took a bit of an interest in the strange light show that lit up the cave in a variety of colours. It is a bit strange what people find entertaining at times, though we have to admit it was pretty and we like the orange colours (it reminded us of our Chuckit! toys).
Following on from the lights and the music, we explored more of the caves filled with even more strange shapes and shadows for the imaginative to see...like this streaky bacon we weren't allowed to eat (though we guess it would probably taste a bit chalky anyway – ha ha we made a geology joke!)...
Not to mention the spooky shadow of a swimming crocodile...
And even the shadow of a fleeing wolfs tail disappearing around a corner...
We weren't alone either; we heard the chipping of a bat and glimpsed it fluttering around the cave. Part of the cave is their home, we were just visitors to it and all too soon we were nearing the end of the tour, daylight catching the water at the exit of the cave. The tour wasn't quite ready to end though. With the way out in sight, there was one little demonstration of how sound travels in the cave by letting off the sound of a canon which we reacted surprisingly well to after the initial panic (we were pre-warned about it though so were prepared)!
Our tour of the caves done, we headed to the town of La Roche where we toured another castle, getting a bit soggy in the process as it started raining quite heavily! We had lunch in a very nice bar/restaurant where Iain found himself a nice beer (which Katherine has the glass for after finding it in a shop), it had a wolf cub on it! At this point it was time to start heading back to the cottage and the sat-nav certainly led us on an “interesting” route to say the least though a very nice forest...on a very uneven bumpy road!
DAY 5 – CITADELS!
On the third day the weather had improved a lot and saw us heading to Namur, after a visit to the vet to get our passports sorted for going home which meant us getting our worming tablets. This has to be done between 5 days and 24 hours before the return journey otherwise we aren't allowed back to the UK. We walked in and they were able to see us within 15 minutes or so!
Great news, sort-of...we don’t really like the worming tablets as they give us a bit of a bad tummy, but we have to have them and once it was all over and done with we could stop thinking about finding a vet and enjoy the rest of our holiday!
Namur is a big city and has a huge citadel, but our timing was bad for visiting as unfortunately the citadel was undergoing a lot of work developing a new visitor centre and stuff, so it is marked for us to return to next year when the work is completed! Still, we had a nice wander around the citadel and found a nice place to eat too! They don’t usually allow dogs in, but they made an exception for us as they were quiet at the time (and the waitress seemed to be fond of collies which no doubt helped)!
Our next stop was another citadel, this one at Dinant and this one was much more fun as everything here was up and running! Well, we say fun but some of the information in the museum side was very sad. Citadels weren't built without a reason; they were designed to protect people from invading forces. Dinant, like many other places in the area, played a part in the wars that people fought amongst themselves at various points in history. There was an unpleasant list of people who had been executed by the German Army in the First World war, and the ages ranged from a 3 month old baby to an 86 year old woman! Pretty shocking stuff.
Elsewhere the museum contained a range of weapons, from canons to fancy guns, swords and crossbows and it had this strange wonky room! It was designed to show what a trench was like after being shelled, it ends up wonky and it was very weird to walk through it. But we didn't stay in there long as it made Iain queasy. We did stop to pose for some photos with some of the weapons on display though!
In the First World War they had dogs pulling some of the weapons. We wouldn't fancy having to do that, they looked really heavy! Even the little canon that they had on display looked like it weighed a tonne! They must have had some very strong dogs, or a there must have been a lot of them.
Leaving the weapons and wonky-room behind us, we headed off and Katherine ended up having an argument with the sat-nav (as she does sometimes), and so we ended up accidentally visiting a place called Furfooz Park! There was a nice walk there with some Roman ruins, though there was very little left of them just a few walls, some of which we sat on!
There were some caves here too, and a nice long walk through a forest which was a perfect way to end the day...not including the swimming back at the cottage of course, that is just the icing on the cake!
Well there you have the first few days of our exciting hols, keep your eyes peeled for part deux of our escapades!!
Millie, Fly and Kat T xxx