Sunday 24 September 2017

And Marty makes three: A perfect break in Ploumanach, France

Brittany Holidays

Jerome and his wife decided to bring another member of their little troupe on hoiday to France — Marty, their beloved Yorkie-Schnauzer cross
Jerome and his wife decided to bring another member of their little troupe on hoiday to France — Marty, their beloved Yorkie-Schnauzer cross
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Ploumanach, nestled behind a natural rampart of bumpy, pink boulders the colour of heritage roses, is one of Brittany's prettiest seaside villages.

Many of the restaurants in this part of northern France are achingly chic and boast some of the best seafood in the world.

So, for two of us at least, it was with a little trepidation that we pitched up at one of the swankier restaurants on our first evening in France and made our way inside to an oasis of air-conditioned calm.

The reason for our worries was the third member of our little troupe, Marty. He's our beloved Yorkie-Schnauzer cross. Some call this combination "Snorkies" but that gives the impression that our boy is some sort of designer dog.

Nothing of the sort. Marty's genetics, which bestowed such dashing good looks were, we suspect, the result of one of those "liaisons dangereuses" that tend to er, dog the dog world.

Would the maitre d' love Marty as much as we do or would the three of us be shown the door with a Gallic shrug?

The five-star Le Ranolien campsite is right on the coast, in the heart of pink granite country
The five-star Le Ranolien campsite is right on the coast, in the heart of pink granite country

We took a discreet table for two away from other diners. Marty, with his usual civility and good manners, sat quietly at my feet as the waiter approached.

"Non," the waiter said as he turned on his heel. Was that it? Were we being shown the red card?

We needn't have worried.

The waiter returned 30 seconds later with a bowl of water for Marty as well as two menus for us - a potent symbol that Marty was a welcome guest.

And then to complete our evening the waiter brought over a special high doggie chair for Marty.

Marty was delighted when we plopped him gently on his new throne. He made two circles around the sumptuously padded seat to check for the softest spot, curled himself into a doughnut and within seconds was fast asleep.

We couldn't have been happier. The meal of local mussels followed by langoustines was sublime and washed down with a chilled bottle of Rose d'Anjou with its enticing blush, but to be honest as long as Marty was content and welcome we would have settled for something less top-notch and willingly paid through the nose.

That's dog lovers for you. If the pooch is happy we are happy too.

After that first evening where we confirmed that the French have a civilised and eminently sensible approach to canine guests, we could genuinely relax.

And truth be told, Marty changed the dynamic of the entire holiday. We walked far more and got up earlier so Marty could complete his ablutions. Then there was another stroll after dinner which meant that we drank less wine than is our habit while in France.

We were lucky because we were staying with Eurocamp at the pet-friendly five-star Le Ranolien campsite which is right on the coast, facing the archipelago of seven islands in the heart of the pink granite coast.

It's a very well-appointed site with spectacular swimming pool area, good food shops for the basics and good bars and restaurants.

It's also close to Perros-Guirec, one of the nicer towns in Brittany's Cotes-d'Armor department.

Our "Classic" two-bed cottage was easily dog-proofed to stop Marty escaping from the large terrace area with barbecue. We simply lay a sun lounger on its side to block off the exit. Marty is vertically challenged and it proved an insurmountable barrier.

He did escape, once, and there was a flurry as we started shouting out his name before a gentle Scottish voice could be heard from around the corner of the forested campsite. "Are you looking for this wee fella?"

Marty had gate-crashed an elderly couple as they enjoyed their barbecue.

"He likes chicken," the Scottish holidaymaker said as he handed Marty back with a smile.

It was a reminder though that when you take your dog to France it's worthwhile updating its identity badge with a country code for your mobile and maybe, even an email address, just in case the worst happens and he goes walkabout in a foreign land.

For Marty, preparations for the holiday were a bit of a faff. First was the minor ordeal of a trip to the vets to be vaccinated against rabies at least 22 days before we headed to Cork and took to the high seas on MV Pont Aven with Brittany Ferries.

Some dogs can, very occasionally, suffer side effects to the vaccine but Marty was fine. He had already been micro-chipped so there was no problem for the vet to complete all the details on his new pet passport.

I will say here that taking Marty down to the local pharmacy to get his "passport photo" done was pure comedy gold. He had to be perched on a stool on top of the customer weighing scales as me and five other shoppers tried to cajole him to show off his best side.

"No smiling Marty, it's a passport photo!"

When we arrived at Cork to board the ferry, Marty's microchip was checked before we embarked and a special sticker was placed on the windscreen.

It meant we were whisked into a special queue for vehicles with dogs - and loaded in jig time to a part of the deck with quick access to the lifts so dogs were not being walked for any distance in the stressful clamour of the car deck. (You have to bring a muzzle.)

The dog kennels are on Deck 10. Think of it as a canine penthouse, and the quarters are very clean and functional.

Kennels come in two sizes and each dog has to have its own. Owners with two best friends invariably put them together in one kennel - though they had to purchase separate quarters for each.

It seems that larger dogs are more inclined than smaller breeds to get a bit stressed out - especially if they are not cage-trained.

Marty is used to being treated like the little Snorkie god he is and he's seldom left on his own.

One of the great things about MV Pont-Aven is that a few steps down from the top deck kennels is a special cordoned off open air exercise area, about the size of one half of a tennis court. It's fenced off and there's comfy bench seats for the owners.

We stayed out and enjoyed the sunshine in wonderfully calm conditions and enjoyed a seafood salad from the restaurant with a bottle of wine as we watched the sun go down with our faithful buddy. It was well after midnight when we left Marty in his kennel.

He wasn't happy - but less than five hours later we returned topside and he was free (time off for good behaviour, we figured).

We stayed in the exercise area until the ferry landed in Roscoff and it was time to get back in the car and begin the holiday proper.

Marty made loads of new friends while we were on holiday.

We don't know why but he has fallen instantly in love with every Bichon Frise he has ever met - or indeed any of their white fluffy cousins.

There's just one more thing. Before you take your dog home a tapeworm treatment must be administered by a French vet between 24 and 120 hours before you arrive in Ireland. The dog's passport must be signed, dated, stamped and include the date and time of treatment - as well as the manufacturer and the name of the product used.

If the pet passport does not comply, your dog won't be allowed on board the ferry.

During our first full day in France we spotted the blue cross sign that signals a veterinary surgery and made an appointment for two days before we were due to go home.

Taking your dog to France with Brittany Ferries is a wonderful experience, saves on kennels fees at home and takes the stress out of leaving your companion behind.

We will do it again.

And if you are reading this and you don't have a dog, yes, you are right.

Dog lovers are quite, quite mad.

Getting there

Enjoy a camping holiday in France from as little as €230* per person for 14 nights, based on a family of four. Facilities on board the MV Pont-Aven include pool, kennels and bar areas and shops. Visit www.brittanyferries.ie or call 021 427 7801.

Brittany Ferries has a property search option on its website which offers a range of pet-friendly hotels, campsites, gites, cottages and villages. Jerome stayed at the 5-star Le Ranolien Eurocamp facility. Call 021 4252300 or visit www.eurocamp.ie.

*Includes 15pc saving if booked before 7/2/2017 and based on four people travelling on return sailings from Cork-Roscoff between 27/05/2017 and 09/06/2017, (two nights on board), in a standard car, sharing a four-berth inside cabin with a 12-night stay at property reference YYL010 Camping Les Brunelles 5* site.

Subject to availability.

Two top attractions

Explore Paimpol’s harbour

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Paimpol’s harbour dates from the emergence of the cod industry in the 15th century. Now it’s full of pretty little yachts and even prettier owners who spend summer exploring the coast of Brittany. You can enjoy lunch al fresco at one of the atmospheric restaurants housed in the 17th century stone houses that dot the marina area.

Brittany rocks

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The pink rock formations on the coast around Ploumanach is classified as a Grand Site Naturel and an entire holiday could be spent enjoying this dazzling geology. Eurocamp Le Ranolien (five-star) is the perfect base to explore the Cote de Granite Rose which stretches over 20km.

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