Navigating Paris CDG Airport with a Dog

Paris CDG

Paris CDG

An entire book could be written on navigating the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. This article will map only the information I know from personal experience. The thought of finding your way with luggage, a crate, and a dog in tow can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are traveling solo, but Zala and I made it from Paris, France to Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’ll tell you how we did it.

It is best to prepare in advance and print out a map of the airport, you can find a basic layout map here. Zala and I arrived via the TGV train. In France, a dog ticket is half the price of your adult ticket, and dogs are required to be leashed and muzzled on the train. I have a 65lb Dutch Shepherd, and I have found that it is easiest to take a seat next to the luggage instead of my assigned seat if the train car (voiture) is crowded. Most trains to Paris are. My leashed dog walked alongside me from the train up until the moment I sent her away as luggage. Do not feel obliged to keep your dog in his/her crate while navigating around terminals and shuttles, you’ll only give yourself a headache and a backache.

The TGV train arrives between terminals 2D and 2F. If you feel like gambling and taking the train the morning before your flight, check online for any ongoing train strikes that may cause you unexpected delays. In my case, there were train strikes the days prior, and I chose to arrive in Paris the evening before my flight. There are numerous choices for hotels around the airport, but the cheapest option, actually within the airport, was Ibis Hotel.

To get to the Ibis Hotel, there is the CDGVAL shuttle that stops at all three terminals. From the TGV station, you need to take the lift up to the 4th floor. From there, simply follow the signs and take yet another lift. The Ibis and Hilton are located next to terminal 3. There is plenty of grass outside of terminal 3 and the Ibis Hotel for pet bathroom breaks. The pet fee for the Ibis Hotel was 5 Euros current as of March 2014.

AirFrance was our airline of choice this trip. AirFrance departures are located in terminal 2F. Going from terminal 3 to terminal 2F with a large dog crate, two duffle bags, and an excited dog took no longer than 20 minutes. A forewarning, trolleys are blocked from going on the lifts that go up and down to the CDGVAL shuttle. This leg of the journey will require extra time and manual lifting if you do not have help. After that, there are the long stretches of walking that the Paris CDG is famous for.

Individuals checking in with a dog will receive their boarding pass after they have paid and checked-in their dog, so don’t bother with the ticketing machines. Dog check-in should be done several hours in advance. My flight was at 1:50, and I checked my dog in at 11:00. To start, check your dog and any extra baggage in at the luggage counter. The attendant will inspect the cage, give you a waiver to sign, and put your baggage sticker on the crate. To my surprise, my dog’s health certificate was never checked. Afterwards, you will need to go to the ticketing office to pay for your dog’s fee (200euros to Thailand) and get your boarding pass printed. Finally, you will need to travel further down the terminal to #5 to drop off your oversized luggage dog.  It took well over an hour before she was actually crated and we said our goodbyes.

IMG_9997

After you have finished with the dog, it is your turn to go through the grueling process of customs. I will mention, yet again, how important it is to give yourself plenty of extra time. My gate was changed from terminal F to hall L. An entirely different hall with a lot of extra unplanned walking to get there! But if you do have extra time, terminal 2 has enough to keep you amused during your wait; including video games, wifi (first 15 minutes are free), and massages.

Upon boarding, there is a waiver to be handed to the stewardess. My boarding pass did not scan properly until I handed this waiver to her. This paper essentially said that my dog’s crate complied with the safety standards of AirFrance. After that, it was smooth flying on a direct flight, and my dog was waiting for me in Z3 oversized luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. See my post on Suvarnabhumi Airport for information on collecting your dog, getting through customs, and catching another flight on a Thai airline.

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

5 Small Villas You Should See in Italy

PicMonkey Collage

Where to go when you have had enough of the crowds and tourists of Italy.

Saturnia

This quiet little village is located almost exactly between Rome and Florence. Just a couple kilometers outside of the village is Cascate del Mulino, an all natural hot spring. Take in the believed healing powers of the spring while surrounded by Tuscan countryside and end the day with a traditional Tuscan meal in Saturnia. This spring is open year round and is free to the public.

IMG_9220

Murano

This forgotten piece of Venice is world famous for its magnificent glass work. It has all the beauty of Venice, but without quite as many tourists. This small island is only accessible by boat. This is easy enough for those already on the main island of Venice. It is a quick trip away on the vaporetto (water bus). And pet lovers… dogs ride free.

IMG_8311

Moneglia

A small sea level village wedged between high mountains. The city is protected from its large bay by a sea wall. There are numerous tunnels throughout the wall for easy access to the beach. The shocking contrast of mountains and beach not only makes the blue sea reflect a forest green, but one can hike in the mountains in the morning and lounge on the beach in the evening. An ideal location for those who wish to disappear for a while along the top of the Italian boot.

IMG_9540

Loreto

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. This pilgrimage sight is the believed home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religion preferences, Loreto will entrance you with its beautiful town center, unusual niche of Virgin Mary trinkets, and unique basilica.

IMG_8745

Aosta

This small alpine town has made its mark on the map with its surprisingly large daily market. Nestled in northern Italy, it is located close to the French/Swiss border making it a popular destination for Italy’s neighboring countries. Come here for cheap Italian fashion, Roman ruins, and fresh alpine air.

IMG_7802

Génépi: The Traditional Drink of the Alps

Génépi is a high alpine plant. The silver branches of this wormwood are found at elevations above 2,000 meters and are harvested in late July and August.  These aromatic branches are then steeped in pure grain alcohol for forty days. The contents are then filtered and fit for consumption. This drink can be taken straight at room temperature or chilled. It can also be added to coffees or desserts. Génépi filled chocolates can be found throughout the region. Génépi is also a commonly used ingredient in a Grolle.

Making Genepi

Making Genepi

The taste is unmistakable and unique in itself. The closed taste comparable to génépi is perhaps chamomile paired with a freshness reminiscent of spearmint. Before it became a pick-me-up for skiiers, this drink was believed to have medicinal qualities. A deep inhale of this brew will certainly clear your sinuses.

A mature bottle of génépi varies from light gold to light green. Many commercial varieties are a bright green due to added food coloring. Génépi is available at most bars, restaurants, and markets in the French/Italian/Swiss Alps. Most local families have their own special place for collecting génépi. This plant only flowers once a year and, like most high alpine plants, it does not survive well in high traffic, overpicked locations. So do not expect any locals to give up the location of their génépi spots. And if you ask a local how to make génépi, they will simply say forty-forty-forty.

40/40/40 Savoyard

40 branches of génépi

40 grams of sugar

40 days of steeping

In a liter of pure grain alcohol

The composition of this drink is comparable to absinthe. You’ve been warned.

French Alps

French Alps

It Started with Drinking Coffee and Booze Out of a Wooden Shoe

Shepherds in the region of Savoie, France would share a mix of hot coffee and alcohol in a wooden shoe. This is where the concept of the grolle originated. A grolle is a carved bowl known as a coupe de l’amitie (cup of friendship).

This beautiful wooden bowl can have anywhere between 2 to 10 becs (spouts). Each participant drinks in turn from their own spout. Customarily, the bowl is not put down on the table until it is empty. Its cap is sometimes carved with a design that can be rotated to indicate the next spout to be used.

IMG_9970IMG_9977IMG_9985

Here are the traditional ingredients for your own grolle experience.

Ingredients

For 4 people

  • 4 cups of coffee
  • 1 cup of eau-de-vie or génépi
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • orange and/or lemon zest

First add your citrus zest and sugar to your grolle. Pour in your coffee and then your alcohol. If you want to add some flare, literally, light it and then cap it.

Génépi is a local alcohol made in the alps from the high alpine plant of its namesake, génépi. Cognac and Rum are suitable substitute for this recipe.

The more you use your grolle the better it gets. Enjoy!

IMG_9991

Exploring the crags and crannies of Saint-Raphaël

St. Raphaël basilica

Notre Dame de la Victoire Church

Saint-Raphaël is not commonly recognized as ‘French Riviera,’  but it is indeed part of the Côte d’Azur. It is a lovely place for those seeking some room to breathe among the train loads of tourists that seek the summer beaches of France’s Mediterranean coast.

If you arrive in Cannes and discover, like many others, the inflated prices and scam artists that follow densely populated tourist destinations are not for you. St. Raphaël is a 20 minute train ride from Cannes. These train tickets can be purchased with no preset time, so you may leave town on a whim if you wish. Dog tickets are 50% of your ticket price. Train ticket machines have an English option, but those traveling with a pet must purchase their ticket from an actual ticket teller. There are designated English booths for those who don’t have a firm grip on the French language. It is about a 2 minute walk from the Gare de Saint-Raphaël-Valescure train station to the beach.

Along the

Along the Sentier du Littora footpath

Clean public beaches with showers stretch all across the city front . These beaches do not allow dogs, but this rule seems to be disregarded and poorly enforced. St. Raphaël is very well groomed and maintained. Never was there an overflowing trash can, and shady street venders seem to be ran off for the most part.

What makes St. Raphaël special is the Sentier du Littora coastal footpath; a winding trail woven among jagged red coastline rocks. It is connected with homemade bridges and in some places the steps are even cut into stone. This trail can be precarious as times, but the hidden coves and its mysterious (presumably man-made) stone port are well worth the effort. The trail starts at the edge of Port de Plaisance, and it is walled off at Plage de la Péguière although it is said this trail extends for an additional 6 km.

Plage de la Péguière is a sand beach with public showers and a small sandwich shop. It is approximately 5-6 km from the head of the Sentier du Littora trail. It is the perfect place to relax in the sand after exploring the crags and crannies of St. Raphaël’s unique coastal trail.

IMG_7450

Quiet cove along the

Quiet cove along the Sentir du Littora trail

IMG_7480

 For more information on dog travel in France click here

The Best Open Air Markets of Italy

Markets

Italy is filled with daily and weekend markets. Going to markets is the best way to save money and have a true Italian experience. Here are the markets among the masses worth your time.

Aosta

This small alpine town has made its mark on the map with its surprisingly large daily market. Nestled in northern Italy, it is located close to the French/Swiss border making it a popular destination for Italy’s neighboring countries. Come here to find the most recent in Italian fashion with a price tag of 20 euros or less. Also, next to the market are the roman ruins of Aosta. So grab a gelato after you’ve finished shopping and go explore the remains of Aosta’s Roman amphitheater.

Cowbells at the Aosta Market

Cowbells at the Aosta Market

Roman Ruins of Aosta

Roman Ruins of Aosta

Bologna

Bologna’s weekend market is where the Italians go to shop. It has a niche that will satisfy everyone ranging from dreadlock stylists to high fashion boots. It is centrally located close to the Statione Centrale bus stop and railway station. After you are done, take the bus line to Piazza Maggiore and see the famous Fountain of Neptune with his promiscuous Venus.

Roasted Chestnuts in Bologna

Roasted Chestnuts in Bologna

Fountain of Neptune

Fountain of Neptune

Rome

As you can imagine, Rome has numerous markets, but the Campo die Firoi Market is one of the oldest open air markets in the city.  Overlooked by the statue of Giordano Burno, the Campo dei Fiori is worth experiencing for its beautiful produce stands and selection of fresh and canned truffles.

Campo dei Fiori Market

Campo dei Fiori Market

Florence

There are many clusters of stalls and small markets in Florence, but the San Lorenzo Market is where you will get the best prices on leather goods. For those of you who have been searching for the prefect leather jacket and boots, look no further. Here you can find well crafted leather jackets, boots, bags, and belts at extremely competitive prices. Always negotiate your price before you buy here. The asking price will be inflated. If you don’t like the price walk away, the venders know you can find the same item at a different stall and they will call you back. You can find a beautiful fitted leather jacket for 100 euros and boots for even less.

A House within a Church

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. Intriguing enough for anyone who does not know its unique history. For those who do, it is a pilgrimage sight for those seeking the alleged home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religious preferences, Loreto will entrance you.IMG_8745

IMG_8765

Basillica della Santa Casa

In the town center, you will be met by countless stands and stores filled with Virgin Mary nicknacks in all shapes and sizes. Many have replicas of the beautiful black and gold statue of the Virgin Mary that resides within the Holy House of the Virgin Mary. This building is actually sheltered within the Basillica della Santa Casa.

IMG_1125

Inside the Holy House of the Virgin mary

Piazza della Madonna

The upper floor of the Apostolic Palace (next to the basilica) is where Loreto keeps its treasures. Large frescos taken from the alter of the basilica, ancient pottery from the Holy House apothecary, raphaelesque tapestries, and prototype Virgin Mary shrine statues. The fountains and statues outside of the basilica are also a sight to see. One of the most intriguing is the fountain centered in the Piazza della Madonna. Its detailed bronze dragons and violent mermen create a striking contrast against the white geometry of the piazza and elegant facade of the basilica.

IMG_8770IMG_8768IMG_1112

Sadly, Loreto is not very dog friendly. Dogs are not allowed within any of the historic buildings. All hotels close to the Basillica della Santa Casa do not accept large dogs. Although a select few will allow a small pet. I suggest pet owners seek accommodations in Ancona.

A lost castle

Château de Chantemerle is a castle skeleton perched on an overgrown hill overlooking the commune of La Bâthie. Castles like Château de Chantemerle are dotted throughout the French landscape. Some get adopted by entrepreneuring hotel owners or restored by brave restaurant owners but most fade into rubble.

In its 800 years, it has been rebuilt multiple times to suit the needs of those conflicting over its small valley. Now no one takes the time to patch its scars and ruin, and its erosion exposes the alterations created by each century. In some places the mortar no longer exists between the stones. They merely cling to the eroded shapes of each other wrapped in overgrown shrouds of vine.

Now its tower is the home of wild honey bees, its ramparts are ran by lizards, and its corners shelter secret lovers and underage drinkers. Its broken form leaves much to the imagination. It has not been remade to match someone’s romanticized medieval vision. It is one of the last remaining real castles. Watching over its valley. Ready for when it is needed again.

IMG_6383

IMG_6385

IMG_6411

France

IMG_6391

IMG_6306

IMG_6298

Sand wine, Raw carpaccio, and Salt mines: The Medieval City of Aigues-Mortes

Aigues-Mortes is located in the beautiful Camargue. This unique Ramsar protected wetland is a delta that feeds into the Mediterranean sea. Driving down the highway there are ancient indigenous Camarguais horses tugging on dry grass to your right and not-so-pink flamingoes standing in a lagoon to your left.

Salt mines of Aigues-Mortes

Salt mines of Aigues-Mortes

Camargue horses

Camargue horses

Aigues-Mortes is a medieval walled city kept in nearly perfect condition. It is one of France’s hidden gems, and it does not have many foreign tourists. Its revenue comes primarily from French families on holiday. This is the ideal location to have a true French experience.

Tower of Constance

Tower of Constance

IMG_7654

IMG_7597

The wine famous to the area is Gris de Gris (sand wine). It is a rose wine and, to date, my favorite French wine.

IMG_7687

IMG_7677

This trip I paired carpaccio with my favorite sand wine. Carpaccio is traditionally made with thin slices of raw beef served with parmesan shavings covered with olive oil. I found the carpaccio and parmesan combination to be rather delicious and the olive oil certainly makes it go down easy.

IMG_7686

Aigues-Mortes is very pet friendly. Pets are seen throughout the cobblestone streets, and they are welcome inside most cafes, restaurants, and stores. Zala and I stayed at Hotel les Templiers. It is centrally located within the walls of Aigues-Mortes, and the beautiful stone building holds true to Aigues-Mortes medieval style. The owners are laid back and friendly, and they even have a resident bulldog that lounges around.

Street of Aigues-Mortes

Street of Aigues-Mortes

Make sure to take time to explore the fascinating niche of medieval shops. They supply the most authentic collections of medieval costumes I have ever seen.

The Highest Snow Polo Tournament in the World

Skiers zip down the hillside along the edge of Courchevel’s short and dangerous airport, but today they stop and sit in the snow banks. The History Channel ranked this airport as the seventh most dangerous airport in the world, but for three days it is fenced and groomed for the BMW Snow Polo Master’s Tournament. This is the highest snow polo tournament in the world at 2700m.

Courchevel is located in the French Alps and it is part of Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys), the largest ski resort in the world. During the polo tournament, avid skiers and polo lovers alike stop to watch these athletes slam mallets, take off in bursts of snow, and send that special red polo ball sailing in the air.

BMW Snow Polo Tournament

BMW Snow Polo Tournament

Snow Polo in the French Alps

Snow Polo in the French Alps

These teams play in 7 minute sets with 3 minute breaks to change horses. Each match is 4 quarters. These athletes travel from all over the world. They had recently played in China prior to coming to the French Alps.

Now, how do these horses run and turn on a snow packed airport in the Alps without falling? Each horse has heels and toes plus pads to prevent snowballing. To those unfamiliar with this, picture your typical horseshoe. There is a metal lip on the top of the shoe (the toe) and two metal studs on the ends of the shoe (the heel). This gives these ponies traction and digging power on packed snow. A rubber pad is placed between the hoof and the horseshoe. This prevents snowballing in the sole of the hoof. When the horse’s weight is taken off the hoof, the pad will flex and dislodge any snow accumulated.

Snow Polo Warm-Ups

Snow Polo Warm-Ups

The sport of snow polo has some modification. A large inflated red ball is used as opposed to the traditional small white ball. In addition, there are 3 players per team instead of 4 and the field is a bit smaller.

The 2014 tournament in Courchevel ran from January 30th to Feburary 2nd. There are no announcements for 2015. Watch here for updates.

IMG_9885