It’s been nearly two years since we locked up our French house for the winter, little knowing what lay ahead. This week we returned to Castelnaudary with Zeph! Having a dog has had quite an impact on our travels, (not that we mind, as we considered this very carefully before getting another dog) and that’s without mentioning Brexit…

Instead of taking the ferry to Dieppe, as we have usually done, we took the shuttle through the tunnel. We decided to travel early on a Sunday morning and this proved to be an excellent choice as there was very little traffic. Perhaps lack of petrol was making drivers reluctant to travel?

On arrival at Folkestone we had to go straight to ‘Pet Reception’ with all the relevant paperwork for Zeph. His microchip was also checked.

There are dedicated exercise areas near the Pet Reception with artificial grass, tunnels, hurdles and more, to keep your dog entertained. Complimentary poop bags and bin bags are provided, so why don’t people USE them?

Now that we are no longer part of the EU, we cannot take any type of meat products into France, or any other EU country, from the UK. This includes dried pet food as it is a meat derivative. Therefore, as soon as we rolled off the shuttle, our first job was to visit ‘Maxi Zoo’ (a French equivalent to Pets at Home) and buy Zeph some food. We had done our research and knew that we could buy Royal Canin dried dog food in the Calais Maxi Zoo.

The rest of our journey was uneventful as it was mostly on motorways. Admittedly, you have to pay a toll but to me it is worth every euro! Our journey was even smoother because we have a Télépéage or toll tag. This is a device you can buy and fit to your windscreen. It means you can drive on French toll roads without having to stop and pay at the barrier. Instead, it automatically allows you to drive through the designated lanes. You settle your account, by card, once a month. This is beyond brilliant if you are driving a right hand drive car. Even if you’re not, it saves so much time! Here’s a little clip to show you how they work:

We spend two days travelling down to Castelnaudary and with Zeph on board we have to take more frequent stops. We have a hotel that we particularly like, on the outskirts of Tours and luckily for us they accept dogs!

All that driving is thirsty work, so it was lovely to sit in the hotel’s garden and enjoy are first cold, Belgian beer!

The hotel has an excellent restaurant but as we had arrived on a Sunday evening, it was closed. However, we did find an American style diner which had impressive reviews! We decided to have a Hawaiian Poke (pronounced po-kay) Bowl which was tasty and healthy. Not very French but we knew there would be plenty of opportunities for more traditional French food during our stay.

Having been away from the house, for such a relatively long time, I was pleased to see that it looked much as I remember. Below is the front:

And here is part of the back.

We were eager to walk into Castelnaudary, via the Canal du Midi towpath, as soon as possible. We’ve been aware that there has been significant work along the canal, mainly to remove the diseased plane trees but in some areas it is quite shocking to see the result. I did take some photos but the quality isn’t very high so I will be writing a post on this very subject, in the future.

The first two pictures below show one of my favourite aspects of Castelnaudary. It is ‘Le grand Bassin’ which is the largest area of open water along the Canal du Midi.

And here is my favourite bridge which separates the Bassin from the Port area.

Zeph loves our garden. Here he is surveying his kingdom:

I hope you have enjoyed this taster of our return to France!