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East Coast luxury: Four “mansion hotels” that allow pet dogs

Back in January, this article from CNN (“8 elegant U.S. mansion hotels“) caught my eye — or, more accurately, the combination of the headline and the photo of Newport’s gorgeous Chanler Hotel caught my eye. Surely some of those beauties must be pet-friendly, I thought, and this weekend I finally made the time to find out.

It turns out that five of the eight featured hotels do allow pet dogs to join their owners. The Chanler, alas, is not one of them. Don’t set your heart on Tarrytown’s Castle Hotel or San Jose’s Hayes Mansion either; per the front desk staff, both places only open their doors to service animals. And while the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Cavendish, VT does allow pet dogs, its only pet-friendly rooms are in the Pointe Hotel, which lacks the history and charm of the main building. (For those of you who remain undaunted, Castle Hill’s current pet policy is as follows: Standard rooms with 2 queen beds in the Pointe Hotel only; $40/night fee; multiple pets okay.)

Charleston's Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

Charleston’s Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

With that chaff out of the way, here’s the wheat, listed in order of their appeal for me (the CNN article provides links to the hotels’ websites, and I’ve provided links to pet policies where they exist — otherwise, I gathered the pet policy details via phone calls):

Wentworth Mansion (Charleston, South Carolina) — The Garden Rooms, located on the ground floor, are pet-friendly; $25/night.

Wilburton Inn (Manchester Village, Vermont) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly, for (essentially) $40/night.

Keswick Hall at Monticello (Keswick, Virginia) — Any of the rooms may be occupied by guests with pets; $75/per night per pet; 75 lb. limit; multiple pets allowed.

Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club (Lenox, Massachusetts) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly; one time fee of $50.

Dog jaunt: Stroll up Paris’s Île aux Cygnes

This was the last long walk we took before we left Paris last fall, and it was a perfect way to say good-bye to the city. The Île aux Cygnes (“Isle of the Swans” — nope, we didn’t see a single one) is a long, thin island in the Seine. Just southwest of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a little bit off the beaten path, but not so much so that it’s tough to get to. It was created in the early 19th c. as a breakwater, to protect what was then the port of Grenelle (now absorbed into Paris and part of the 15th arrondissement). Sixty-two years later, the American community in Paris commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution with a 1/4-size replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was installed on the southwest tip of the island (at 22 metres, or 72 feet, tall, it’s still pretty imposing).

Paris's biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the torch), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Paris’s biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the flame), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Between the Statuette of Liberty at one end, and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim at the other, there’s a single path, perfect for promenades, flanked with trees and benches.

I recommend starting on the Pont de Grenelle. If you, like us, take the #72 bus along the Right Bank to get there, listen carefully for the “Radio France-Pont de Grenelle” stop (confusingly, one stop west of the “Radio France” stop). You will find yourself standing where the Rue de Boulainvilliers meets the Avenue du Président Kennedy. Cross the street to the river and get yourself onto the left side of the bridge. Descend the ramp and walk under the bridge to reach Madame Liberté. Please note that she’s facing her American sister, 3,500 miles away — and savor the fact that you can get close enough to touch her pedestal (pet dogs, as you may already know, cannot visit Lady Liberty).

Turn back around and stroll northeast, the length of the island. The views are wonderful, as you can see, and the folks you meet are all in strolling mode — relaxed, prepared to admire your dog, and often accompanied by dogs themselves.

Chloe and me, just below the statue, looking southeast across the river

Chloe and me, just below the statue — beyond us is the Left Bank, and the waterfront part of the the quartier of Grenelle

We've crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we're walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

We’ve crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we’re walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

When you reach the north end of the island, you’ll find yourself facing a set of stairs — climb them, carefully cross the street (and bridge), and you’ll find yourself on the actual northern tip of the island, which has an unimpeded view of the Eiffel Tower. Claim yourself a bit of parapet, and enjoy the moment.

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

Pass under that arch, carefully crossing the bridge, and you'll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called "La France renaissante")

Pass under the arch in that last photo, carefully crossing the bridge, and you’ll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called “La France renaissante”)

I wish I could tell you that we'd planned to arrive at this point on our walk just as the tower lights went on, but it was purely a matter of luck. By the time we walked away, it was dusk, and the city lights were spangling the river.

I wish I could tell you that we’d timed our walk to see the tower at its best, but it was purely a matter of luck. We stayed at our bit of parapet until dusk turned into evening, and the city lights were spangling the river.

When you’re ready to leave, return to the right bank. Cross over to the center of the bridge as you get to its north end, and descend the staircase before you; you’ll find yourself right at the “Pont de Bir-Hakeim” stop for the #72 bus, now heading back to the Place de la Concorde (and beyond, to the Louvre and Châtelet).

You may remember the Pont de Bir-Hakeim from Inception, and before that from Last Tango in Paris

Heading north on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim. You may remember this gorgeous bridge from the movie “Inception,” and before that from “Last Tango in Paris.”

We walked down the middle of the bridge, on those two lanes you see in the middle of the picture, but it’s really for bicyclists. Thank goodness none came along while we were hogging their path — next time, we’ll know to walk alongside the bridge railings instead.

Reader’s report: Large SturdiBag on a Southwest 737-700 plane

Here’s another photo to share with you of a large SturdiBag in position under a plane seat, thanks to reader Kathy. She posted a message this week on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, telling me that she’d taken Theodore, her 13 year-old Toy Poodle, on his first plane flight, and all went well — and she was extra-relieved, because Theodore is “a delicate little guy.”

They flew on a Southwest 737-700 series plane, in a middle seat, and Kathy bought the large SturdiBag. Here’s Theodore, en route:

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Kathy reports that “the Sturdi Products large carrier you discussed on your website was a godsend. It fit easily under the Southwest 737/700 center seat and I was able to give him water and treats through the well made zippered top opening.”

I’ve written about the Southwest 737-700 under seat space in the past, and, while I was rummaging around for that link, discovered that I’d also posted a picture of my own of a large SturdiBag (and a medium Sherpa bag) on a 737-700, but I’m still grateful to Kathy for her picture and report. For one thing, she’s not me, and I think it helps other readers to hear from more than one person that a carrier works well in a particular situation. For another thing, Kathy had the presence of mind to take a second shot that included the seat card for her plane, proving that it was indeed a Southwest 737-700:

Those of you planning to travel with your pup on a similar plane, with a similar bag, might want to bookmark this post, so you can show a Southwest rep — in a pinch — that the bag will indeed fit under your seat.

It’s also nice that Kathy’s pictures are from May 2014 — it’s just that much more convincing to see a current photo.

Thank you again, Kathy, for taking the time to send info back to the Dog Jaunt community (and for your kind praise for the blog)! I’m tagging this post so that it joins Dog Jaunt’s growing collection of pictures of carriers in action on planes.

Guest post: Traveling with Holly the Cairn Terrier across Latin America

Normally, I don’t accept guest posts — partly because I don’t want to betray your trust (there’s too much advertising masquerading as content out there) and partly because I like to maintain a consistent “sound” for the blog — but when I heard from Tamara Murray, I knew it was time to make an exception.

Tamara writes a travel blog of her own, called Our Leap Year, about the year-long adventure she and her husband and Holly, their 15 year-old Cairn Terrier, embarked on in October 2013. “We’ve brought Holly to Mexico, Chile and Argentina so far,” Tamara told me, “and we have some lessons learned about doing so — especially since we’re traveling so long that our USDA health certificate has long since expired. We’ve had to navigate getting a government-certified health certificate in Mexico and even had a close call (‘Sorry, but we can’t let her through’) coming from Chile to Argentina.” Dog Jaunt helped Tamara and her husband Chris prepare for their travels, she said, and now she wanted to give back to the community. Was I interested in a guest post? I certainly was, and here it is — Tamara’s post about bringing Holly to and around Latin America:

When my husband Chris and I decided to take a career break and travel Latin America for a year, we were confronted with a big question: But, what about Holly?

Holly.jpg

Holly is our 15-year-old Cairn Terrier and best friend in the whole world. (I’m sure you can relate!) Ultimately, we decided not to put off our dreams and take Holly along for the ride.

We set out in October 2013 with her and two backpacks. So far, she’s traveled across Mexico, Chile, and Argentina with us, acting as a goodwill ambassador and bringing smiles to locals’ faces.

Holly Volcan Osorno 400.jpg

We get a nearly universal reaction when we tell people we’re traveling Latin America with our dog. First, total disbelief. Then, a hearty chuckle. And lastly, lots of questions!

We’ve compiled some common questions and our lessons learned so far to share with Dog Jaunt readers. We hope they will help if you’re thinking about taking your small dog to a Latin American country!

Getting There and Back

How did you prepare to bring your dog to Mexico?

One of the first things we learned is everyone will tell you something different. That’s why we’ve learned not to rely on vets or consulates, except to help point us in the right direction. The ultimate keeper of regulations for bringing a dog to Mexico is SENASICA, a division of the government department SAGARPA, which is Mexico’s USDA-equivalent. Trust SENASICA’s guidelines and the USDA’s guidelines. Here’s exactly what we did:

45 days before leaving

  • Got Holly up to date on her rabies, bordedella, leptospirosis, distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and canine hepatitis vaccinations (Note: only a rabies vaccination is required for entrance into Mexico based on SENASICA’s guidelines)
  • Took care of additional things for our year-long trip:
    • Had her tested for internal parasites
    • Got a one-year supply of flea and worm preventative
    • Got one dose of deworming pills to bring with us, just in case

5 days before leaving

  • Took Holly for a health exam at a local USDA-certified vet, who filled out the official health certificate (Form 7001)
  • Brought the certificate and vaccine documentation to the USDA’s local office where an official veterinarian signed and sealed it
  • Made print and electronic copies of everything

What was the process like going through customs?

Once we arrived at the airport in Mexico (we flew into Los Cabos, Baja California), we proceeded through immigration and picked up our bags normally. When we arrived at the customs area, we declared her to the customs officer who directed us to a desk off to the side with a SENASICA official. He reviewed her health certificate, didn’t look at the dog, and kept the official copy. Then, off we went!

[I'm interrupting Tamara's post, briefly, to add some info about their flight to Mexico: They flew on Alaska Airlines from California to Baja California.]

Does your U.S. health certificate work for your whole, one-year trip?

No. Form 7001 is only valid for 30 days, and most countries (and airlines) require an official health certificate from your country of origin within 7-10 days of travel. However, keeping the copy of our U.S. health certificate was helpful for vets and other officials to review when completing documents.

Since we were going from Mexico to Chile next after three months in Mexico, we had to get an official health certificate from SENASICA before departing for Chile. Every time you cross an international border, you need an official health certificate from your country of origin.

What’s the process like for other Latin American countries?

We can only speak to Chile and Argentina so far. Chile is notoriously strict when it comes to bringing in animals and food products, so we took extra care to follow every procedure. I even had an email exchange with someone from SAG, their USDA-equivalent, to confirm we were following SAG’s guidelines and had the appropriate paperwork. When we arrived in Chile, we had a similar experience as in Mexico, although we had to sign a document saying we would do our best to keep Holly away from other animals for 10 days.

When going from Chile to Argentina, we broke our own rule and listened to a vet’s advice. The vet in Chile said our vaccination records coupled with a health certificate on his letterhead would be sufficient for meeting SENASA’s guidelines in Argentina. When we got to the border, the customs agent told us he couldn’t let Holly through because we didn’t have an official, government-issued health certificate. We stayed calm, put on a smile, and walked him through the documentation we had. Because she had the appropriate vaccinations and was deemed healthy, he took pity on us and let us through. However, it was important that we were conversational in Spanish. I’m not sure what the outcome would have been if we tried to convince him in English.

Does your dog have her own passport?

Nope. We keep all of Holly’s original vaccination documentation and health certificates in a manila envelope, as well as copies in a separate envelope in case we lose one of our bags.

One thing I wish we’d done was get the equivalent of a “yellow card” for her. (If you don’t know what a yellow card is, it’s a small yellow document that lists all of a person’s immunizations in one place.) Holly’s documentation is in the form of print-outs from the vet that look more like invoices, so they’re difficult for non-English-speaking officials to review for pertinent details. In Mexico, they provide pets something called a carnet de salud, which is like a yellow card. Ask your vet if they can provide everything to you in a single (signed!) document or booklet if you can.

On the Road

How do you travel with your dog within the country?

While within Mexico, we flew from Baja California to Mexico City, but we only needed a basic health certificate (on the vet’s letterhead) to satisfy the airline’s regulations. She traveled in-cabin on that trip, as well as the flight from Mexico City to Santiago.

[One last interruption from me, to add flight info: Tamara and Chris and Holly flew from Baja California to Mexico City on Volaris ("you can book your space for your pet right on the website! no need to call"), and from Mexico City to Santiago on Copa Airlines ("note, they only allow pets to fly Monday-Thursday"). They will soon be on another Copa flight, from Buenos Aires to San Jose, Costa Rica.]

Traveling within Chile and Argentina has been interesting, since long-distance buses are the norm and small dogs are sometimes a gray area. We keep Holly in her soft crate on the floor by our feet and try to keep her incognito. So far, no one has stopped us to ask if we’re carrying a pet….

Are these countries dog-friendly? What about street dogs?

In the countries we’ve been to, attitudes towards dogs are different. I equate it to how people on farms in rural areas sometimes see dogs: as friendly creatures, but also as animals who live outside.

That said, Mexico City and Buenos Aires have off-leash dog parks and you see people walking dogs at all times of day. It was no problem to have Holly on leash while eating at a cafe outside in Chile. Just use common sense.

If you can believe it, the street dogs in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have all been super friendly and docile. They either keep their distance or come up to Holly for a quick and friendly sniff. It’s other people’s pets that tend to be more aggressively playful, or will bark excessively.

Is it easy to find dog-friendly accommodations?

In Mexico, small hotels/bed and breakfasts had no problem with us bringing Holly because she was small and quiet. In big cities, U.S.-based hotel chains such as Holiday Inn are sometimes pet-friendly. We’ve had the most luck using Airbnb: even if places say pets aren’t allowed, they are sometimes willing to make exceptions if you contact them ahead of time. Also, since we have positive reviews from other hosts about Holly, that helps us a lot.

Many smaller hotel chains, especially in Chile, explicitly said that pets are not allowed without exceptions. Like in the U.S., make sure to plan ahead when looking for dog-friendly accommodations.

How does it work to go to the vet or groomer?

So far, vets are plentiful and their rates are inexpensive. We paid US$20 for a basic vet exam in Mexico City. Some allow you to just drop in, while others might ask you to come back a certain day or time. Pet stores, vets and groomers are often combined into one location. Grooming is also inexpensive; it cost just US$15 for a corte-baño (cut and bath, including nail trimming) in Mexico and Argentina. If you’re picky about hairstyles, bring a photo or learn to live with it. Some breeds are less common in Latin America, so Holly usually ends up with a Schnauzer cut.

What did you bring with you? Did you have to bring all her food?

Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have a lot of the same pet products available: major food brands, basic toys and treats, brand-name flea treatments. We brought the following items, and have just purchased things along the way to maintain the supply.

  • 1 soft-sided travel carrier, 1 spare carrier-bedding liner
  • 1 ID tag, 1 collar, 1 harness, 1 leash
  • 1-week supply of dry dog food, 1 pack of treats, 1 collapsible food/water bowl
  • 2 toys, 2 rolls of waste pick-up bags, 1 portable hair trimmer, 1 mini bottle of shampoo
  • 12 months supply of flea and heart worm prevention pills, 1 dose of deworming pills

I find this post so inspiring, and so reassuring — I love how thorough Tamara is, and how she’s thought of all the questions someone just starting their planning process is likely to have. Thank you so much, Tamara, and please write to me/us again! I have no doubt that you’ll cover a lot of ground before your year is up, and it would be tremendously helpful to hear about the additional places you go and what you learn along the way.

Salt Spring Island, B.C. dog-friendly hotel: Hastings House Country House Hotel

As readers of Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page will know, I’ve long wanted to visit the Hastings House Hotel. It’s a Relais & Châteaux property, so I knew it would be lovely — and I knew it would be pricey too. It was, but with the help of a “winter escape” package, it didn’t break the bank. There is a $50/day pet fee. (As you can tell, we paid for our stay — I will always let you know when I’m reviewing something that has been paid for by someone else.)

The hotel — really, it’s misleading to call it a “hotel,” since it’s more like a country house estate, with a larger manor house and nearby rooms, at least two separate cottages, several charming outbuildings (the reception area is in the former chicken coop, and the spa is in, I think, a former barn), and a large, picturesquely-enclosed garden. So let’s say instead that the property is on Salt Spring Island, one of the larger of the Gulf Islands (an archipelago sprinkled between mainland British Columbia and gigantic Vancouver Island). It overlooks the tiny harbor of Ganges, the main village on the island, and if you wanted to, you could catch a seaplane and land just below the hotel. Salt Spring Air, for example, will take you (and your pet dog) from downtown Vancouver to Ganges in just over half an hour, or from Vancouver Airport (YVR) to Ganges in just under half an hour, and so will Harbour Air.

We had our car, so we opted to take the ferry instead. The B.C. Ferries terminal at Tsawwassen was a short (say, 20-minute) drive from downtown Vancouver, and we’d made a reservation for our sailing, so it was a non-eventful crossing to Long Harbor (the big ferries drop their Salt Spring Island passengers off at Long Harbor, not the little Ganges harbor). Once you get off the ferry, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to Hastings House. The sign is on the left, the driveway is long, and by the time you park outside the wooden gate and find the reception desk, you’ll already be calmer and happier. Rather than explaining why, I’ll show you pictures — what they can’t convey, though, is how cozy the place smelled (wood fires, how I love them) and sounded (particularly at night, when we were lulled to sleep — no, really! — by the sound of frogs):

Our cottage (well, we had half of it — Farmhouse East), one of the dog-friendly options. It was overcast and cool the weekend we were there in late March.

The cottage we stayed in is one of the dog-friendly options. Our half, on the right, is called Farmhouse East. I completely failed to take a picture of the inside — the pictures on the site are accurate, except the bedroom shot has been reversed for some reason.

Looking out the front door of the Farmhouse — Chloe is checking out the well, and the large garden is just out of the picture to the right (when it hits its stride, it provides all of the flowers and vegetables for the rooms and restaurant)

Looking out the front door of the Farmhouse — Chloe is checking out the well and another guest cottage, and the large garden is just out of the picture to the right (when it hits its stride, it provides all of the flowers and vegetables for the rooms and restaurant)

The Do Not Disturb dog has been sewn with a scrap of fabric from an old skirt of the housekeeper's in his mouth….

The Do Not Disturb dog has a scrap of fabric from an old skirt of the housekeeper’s in his mouth….

The sun finally made an appearance. We bought picnic fixings in Ganges and drove around the island until we found a good picnic spot (it didn't take long — you're spoiled for choice there!)

The sun finally made an appearance, so we bought picnic fixings in Ganges and drove around the island until we found a good lunch spot (it didn’t take long — you’re spoiled for choice there!)

The hotel provided a pet bed for Chloe’s use, but it was a little aged, and a little thin, and she didn’t show much interest in it. They also placed a small trash can outside our door, along with a supply of bags, which was useful and convenient. Happily, while I am amused and touched by pet amenities like a pet bed, bowls, and treats, I don’t look for them — as you know, we travel with sheets to put over beds and couches, pet bowls of our own, and plenty of treats. I count a place dog-friendly if the management is kind to Chloe (gear and treats are a way of showing kindness, granted, but it was enough for me that the Hastings House staff greeted her warmly) and if there are good walks for her. She loved the place — we kept her out of the garden, but she enjoyed rambling around the paths and into town.

The human amenities were right up our alley: A little bag of muffins arrived on our doorstep early in the morning, to tide us over (along with the surprisingly good in-room coffee) until the dining room opened for breakfast (like the rest of the food we ate at the Hastings House, breakfast was simply conceived, prepared perfectly from local ingredients, and served with kindness). You’re forced to fend for yourself for lunch, but a generous tea is provided to soothe your feelings, and then, of course, there’s dinner.

The manor house (including the dining room) from just below our cottage

The manor house (including the dining room) from just below our cottage

The view of Ganges harbor from the dining room (this is the same view, essentially, that our cottage had — you can see why arriving by seaplane would work just fine!)

The view of Ganges harbor from the dining room (this is the same view, essentially, that our cottage had — you can see why arriving by seaplane would work just fine!)

I made dinner reservations at the hotel for the first night we were on Salt Spring, not knowing how far we’d be from alternative options. It turns out to be an easy walk into Ganges, and an even easier drive (I suggest driving, because part of the walk is along a highway — a modest, rural, island highway, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, but still, I was a little uneasy without a sidewalk). Next time I would go into Ganges for dinner the first night (the Tree House Café was recommended by the local folk we talked to, and we were glad we took their advice), and save the fancier hotel dinner for the second night.

One other helpful hint: Foxglove Farm & Garden, not far at all from Hastings House, is a source of good-quality pet food and treats and supplies on the island.

Vancouver, BC dog-friendly hotel: The Fairmont Waterfront

I know, it’s a big conference-type hotel. But we were going to a conference, and while we could have chosen a different option (boutique hotel, rented apartment), there’s a lot to be said — especially early in the morning and late at night — for a hotel that’s only steps away from the conference center. Happily, it turned out that the stay we had at the Fairmont Waterfront could not have been more pleasant, especially from Chloe’s point of view. I should mention that I paid for this hotel stay — I’ll always let you know when something I’m reviewing has been paid for by someone else.

Our room was on the 4th floor, and the elevators moved snappily, so getting outside for Chloe’s morning walk was blessedly rapid. The room was attractive in itself (pewter/silver/muted gold decor — so subtle, in fact, that it took me a while to notice and appreciate it), and it had a good view of Coal Harbour, including the departures and arrivals of the SeaBus. The hotel provided two stainless steel bowls for Chloe’s use, along with a bed that was close enough to new that it pleased me, and comfortable enough that Chloe actually used it. They also provided a couple of packets of locally-made dog treats that turned Chloe inside-out with joy (more about those in a moment).

Our room, with Chloe stranded on the credenza (she wants to be on the bed, but has to wait until I throw a dropcloth over it)

Our room, with Chloe stranded on the credenza (she wants to be on the bed, but has to wait until I throw a dropcloth over it). Her crate’s in the tote next to her, waiting to be unpacked and set up.

Chloe installed in the comfy bed the hotel provided for her use (they also provided those bowls). Crate now set up, with travel tote and food kit resting on top.

Chloe installed in the comfy bed the hotel provided for her use (they also provided those bowls). Crate now set up, with travel tote and food kit resting on top.

The view out our window — Canada Place and the Pan Pacific directly across the street, Coal Harbor and the hills of North Vancouver, the SeaBus heading off on a run to Lonsdale Quay

The view out our window — Canada Place and the Pan Pacific  across the street, Coal Harbor and the hills of North Vancouver mid-picture, with the SeaBus heading off on a run to Lonsdale Quay

The Fairmont Waterfront is located directly across the street from Canada Place and the Pan Pacific Hotel, and at an angle across the street from the conference center and the beginning of the Seawall, a great place to start a dog walk. It has to be admitted that there’s a dearth of grass near the Fairmont Waterfront — you can find some a short walk away down the Seawall — but Chloe, thankfully, doesn’t require grass. The FW is also nicely located for easy walks downtown, to Stanley Park (a longer but doable walk), and to Gastown and Chinatown.

The only flaw I experienced was the room service breakfast omelet (really, I should have known better). There is a very basic food court on the concourse level, however, and I was perfectly happy with a morning Egg McMuffin (don’t judge!) and a Starbucks coffee (hey! don’t judge!). I do draw the line at TacoTime, however, so I was relieved to find Arturo’s, a competent Mexican food truck, parked at the corner of Cordova & Howe every afternoon for lunch. Since we’re speaking about food, I can also report that the hangar steak on the menu at the hotel restaurant (recently renamed The Arc) was so good that I had it five nights in a row. Vancouver is full of good food, I know, and I should have sought it out, but by dinnertime I was pooped from exploring the city.

Food brings me back to the topic of those packets of Kali Wags treats the Fairmont provided for Chloe. The staff at the front door had them too, and Ryan, in particular, adopted Chloe as his own. It only took one treat-packed love fest for Chloe to start pulling at the leash as we rounded the corner, and by the end of our week she was approaching the hotel at a gallop. Ryan fell into a routine of walking her into the lobby and handing her off to one of the front desk staff, all-female during our visit — who would click out in heels and immaculate outfit and hurl herself onto Chloe. Every staff person we encountered, in fact, was unusually kind to Chloe (and to me, but that’s not my main measure of a hotel these days!).

An empty (oh, very empty) packet of The Treats

An empty (oh, very empty) packet of The Treats

There are other hotels on the TED conference list (and they include another Fairmont hotel), but we have already signed up to return to the Fairmont Waterfront in 2015, it was that positive an experience. Why mess with success?

The Fairmont Waterfront isn’t inexpensive, but the pet fee ($25/night) is tolerable. The valet/self parking fee is heinous, however, so I recommend parking elsewhere, or doing without a car altogether. After a week of taking public transit (with Chloe, of course), I can report that it’s useful and clean and felt safe.

Photo Friday: The Fuzzy One en route to Venice

What a pleasure it was to open a recent e-mail message and see a jubilant report from reader Wanda about spending four months in Europe with her pup! Here’s The Fuzzy One, a seven year-old, 13 lb. Shih Tzu, on a Trenitalia train to Venice:

Waiting to get underway at the Turin train station

Waiting to get underway at the Turin train station

Officially, per the Trenitalia website, your pet dog must travel in a 70x30x50 cm container, but heck, it’s Italy — I suspect that by this point in their trip, Wanda and TFO had learned that there’s often a big difference between official requirements and what happens in real life.

Here are Wanda and TFO together, shopping sensibly (“sotto costo”) in some location where Italian is spoken:

Wanda wrote to me from Switzerland, but they’ve covered some ground — here are her quick impressions from the places they’ve visited so far:

“In Europe we rarely had trouble getting our little one on public transport or in restaurants; sometime grocery stores would stop us (as an American that was totally understandable). Spain was the most challenging and least welcoming of her, Italy was better, but oh the French, they love dogs.”

Wanda had suspected that TFO would be a good traveler (“Your blog and The Fuzzy One’s personality gave us the confidence that we could take this 4-month trip”), and, happily, she was right: “She is amazing. 99% of everyone she meets are charmed by her quiet demeanor and tiny cuteness. When they learn she has traveled all the way from Colorado they are amazed.”

Safe travels and an easy return home, Wanda and TFO! Thank you so much for the pictures and the report, and thank you, too, for the inspiration of your example — not only for undertaking a big trip together but also for consciously choosing to be good ambassadors for pet travel (“We are super-conscientious pet owners, never wanting to be the ones that make traveling with a pet more difficult than it already is”).

Traveling by B.C. Ferries with a pet dog

Over the past week, we’ve taken several ferry rides on B.C. Ferries, ranging from a quick hop on the tiny Skeena Queen (connecting Fulford Harbor, on Salt Spring Island, with Swartz Bay) to a long chug on the Spirit of Vancouver Island (one of the massive ferries connecting Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen). Pet dogs are allowed on board, though not above the car decks. The B.C. Ferries web site is austerely brief on the topic: “Pets must remain on vehicle decks for the duration of a voyage.” When you’re on board, that message is reinforced by signs:

I was profoundly interested, therefore, when my husband returned to the car from a foraging expedition and reported that he’d seen a “Pets Area” on our deck. I couldn’t find any reference to pet areas on the B.C. Ferries web site, but here’s proof that they exist:

The "pets area" on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, a boat so huge that I simply don't know which car deck we were on — I suggest asking an employee (they wear bright safety vests) for the location

The “pets area” on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, a boat so huge that I simply don’t know which car deck we were on — I suggest asking an employee (they wear bright safety vests) for the location

The room is very basic, as you can see. To my left were a couple of long benches (not pictures, because I didn't want to invade the privacy of the three pet owners installed on them)

The room is very basic, as you can see. To my left were a couple of long benches (not pictured, because I didn’t want to invade the privacy of the three pet owners installed on them)

I called the main number for B.C. Ferries and the customer service rep I spoke to told me that the facilities for foot passengers traveling with pets vary by boat. The two big Spirit boats (the Vancouver Island that we traveled on and the Spirit of British Columbia) have “lightly-heated” rooms like this one, as do the three Coastal behemoths (Coastal Celebration, Coastal Inspiration, Coastal Renaissance).

At the other end of the scale, small vessels like the Mayne Queen and the Queen of Cumberland (and the Skeena Queen) have no facilities, or perhaps only a bench. Stacking chairs are on order for the Mayne Queen, I’m told.

How about the mid-sized vessels, like the Queen of Surrey, or the Queen of Nanaimo? Again, the facilities vary by vessel. The Nanaimo currently just has “benches” for travelers with dogs, but the Surrey has a “segregated pet area” (which sounds like something less than a room and more like an open area in the middle of a car deck) with “padded benches” and a heater. The thing to do is ask an employee as you get on board if there’s a place for you and your pup that’s out of the wind (my customer service rep told me that the staff typically volunteers the info, when they see someone walking on board with a dog). Also, be sure to equip yourself and your pup with warm clothing and/or a blanket, so you’re prepared for a just-a-bench situation (or for a heater that’s gone on the fritz).

The room I visited was fairly small, but it had lots of windows (the views were of the car deck, granted, but that’s still better than no windows at all). It was equipped with poop bags, trash can, basic cleaning supplies, and a water bowl. There were two benches running the length of the room and facing each other (I failed to notice whether they were padded or not). The three owners I met had, between them, four large dogs. One owner was reading, a couple were chatting, and the dogs all seemed content.

Drivers with a pet dog, like us, will be more comfortable in their cars. Here’s Chloe, snoozing her way to Salt Spring Island from Tsawwassen:

Be sure to pack some throw blankets (it can get cold on the ferry, even in warm weather) and pillows

Remember to pack some throw blankets (even in a closed car, and even in warm weather, it can get cold on the ferry) and pillows

Be warned: On that particular ferry, there was no way to see out from the car deck. For someone accustomed to the open-sided boats of the Washington state ferry system, this view was a grim surprise:

It was bad enough not be be able to see out the sides, and then they closed doors across the fore and aft opening too….

It was bad enough not be be able to see out the sides, and then they closed doors across the fore and aft openings too….

Bring a Kindle or other backlit e-reader (there’s not enough light to read a regular book or do crafts, alas), watch a movie, or take a nap, and hope that your subsequent boats will have views more like this:

The little ferry from Salt Spring Island to Swartz Bay. The pictured pup and his owner walked up the stairs to the right and spent the trip on a outdoor bench on a kind of mezzanine deck above the car deck.

We’re parked on the open deck of the little ferry from Salt Spring Island to Swartz Bay. The pictured pup and his owner walked up the stairs to the right and spent the trip on an outdoor bench, I think, on a kind of mezzanine deck above the car deck.

I was relieved to find that the Spirit of Vancouver Island, which took us from Swartz Bay back to Tsawwassen, had open sides, so the quality of the car deck experience must also vary by boat. There is wifi in five of the B.C. Ferries terminals (I can report that the Swartz Bay wifi does not reach as far as the parking lot), and on some “select” vessels accessing those terminals (none of our boats was sufficiently select, or perhaps it’s the case that the wifi signal doesn’t reach the car decks).

Vancouver, B.C. public transit with a pet: Sightseeing by bus, SkyTrain, and SeaBus

My grandfather, an otherwise elegant man, was a devoted fan of sightseeing buses. He acknowledged their faults, but insisted that there is no better way to get an overview of a new city, its history, and its main attractions. In time, I learned to agree. A bus, moreover, is a great alternative for tourists on soggy days, or as a break when you’ve walked your feet into stumps. Here’s the problem, though: While some hop-on, hop-off bus companies allow you to board with your small dog in a carrier (Paris’s Les Cars Rouges and L’Open Tour buses come to mind), many don’t. Vancouver, B.C.’s Big Bus/Pink Bus doesn’t, it turns out — but Vancouver’s public transit is pet-friendly, and with ingenuity, you can create your own tour of the city.

A few useful tips: Small pets in carriers are allowed on all forms of Vancouver public transit except HandyDART. Most of the neighborhoods a tourist is likely to visit are in Zone 1; the SeaBus ride is in Zone 2, and so is the ride to Horseshoe Bay, so for those you’ll need to buy a separate ticket or figure out Add Fare. Faresaver ticket packets ($21 for 10 Zone-1 tickets) can be purchased at little newsstands, or, more reliably, at drugstore chains like London Drug. The front door of the bus will pull up right in front of its street sign; people queue for the bus, so be sure to fall in at the end of the line. You validate your ticket at the front of the bus, and at standalone machines near the SkyTrain ticket machines (depending on how you’re traveling).

Many of the stops on the Big Bus/Pink Bus route are at downtown hotels, so the tour really focuses on a handful of attractions. They fall into groupings that you can easily visit by public transit:

Stanley Park — Bus route #19 deposits you just beyond the Stanley Park Pavilion. From there, you can easily reach all kinds of park loveliness. Heading in the other direction, route #19 exits the park via Georgia and Pender, traverses downtown, and then turns south in Chinatown (on Main St., just past the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden). Between 7th and 8th, it veers southeast on Kingsway (ending at the Metrotown SkyTrain stop), so it’s not an ideal route to take you to the antique shops, etc. on South Main (the #3 bus is the right choice for Antique Row: The shops are now strung out along Main Street, so you can find good stuff anywhere north of Marine).

Robson Street shopping — Chloe and I caught the #5 bus on Richards St., just uphill from Hastings, and rode it to its terminus (20 minutes, tops). While you’re still on Hastings, look to the left to see the Colisseum-like library (one of the Big Bus sights). Soon afterwards, you’ll turn right on Robson; in a couple of blocks, look left when you cross Granville to see a clutch of great old movie theater signs, including the “Orpheum.” You’ll pass Robson Square, you’ll turn left on Denman (and pass some nice-looking cafés), and you’ll eventually ease to a halt at Denman & Davie.

Second Beach, English Bay Beach, and Beach Avenue — After stepping off the #5, you could walk up the street a block to the stop for the #C21 bus — or you could, as we did, turn right towards the water. Chloe and I walked downhill to English Bay Beach, and then turned south along False Creek (if you want to catch another of the Big Bus sights, you could instead turn north along the water and make your way to Second Beach before returning south). After a while we clambered back up to Beach Ave. and caught the #C21 later on its route.

This lovely gazebo is in a park just above English Bay Beach, and just downhill from the end of the #5 bus route.

This lovely gazebo is in a park just above English Bay Beach, and just downhill from the end of the #5 bus route.

English Bay Beach in the foreground, with Second Beach around a small headland to the left.

English Bay Beach in the foreground, with Second Beach in the distance to the left.

The view out to English Bay from Beach Ave. (waiting for the #C21 bus)

The view out to English Bay from Beach Ave. (waiting for the #C21 bus)

Please note that the #C21 is a smaller bus — still comfortable, but you should be looking for a van rather than a big city bus. When you get in, sit in a seat on the right. If you’d like to hop over to Granville Island (which you’ll start seeing as soon as you turn south from English Bay Beach), you could get off at the Beach & Bute or Thurlow stops, and walk down to catch one of the bathtub toy ferries.

Granville Island, from English Bay Beach, on a day so bright that my phone camera just stopped trying.

Granville Island, from English Bay Beach, on a day so bright that my phone camera just stopped trying.

If you remain aboard, the #C21 turns left on Howe, away from the water, and then follows Pacific to the Yaletown-Roundhouse SkyTrain stop. Chloe and I got out and walked around Yaletown for a little while before taking the SkyTrain back to the conference center (Waterfront station). Our original bus ticket had not expired, so we fit three trips (two bus rides and a subway trip) into one $2.10 fare.

Granville Street (downtown) — You saw part of the Granville Entertainment District from the #5 bus, but quite a few buses will take you down the length of Granville, giving you more time to see its theater signs and shops. I chose the #50, which leaves from the convention centre area and goes, conveniently, to the south end of Granville Island.

Granville Island — Please note that while you can walk to Granville Island from the north (that is, from downtown), it’s tricky. There are good views from the Granville Street Bridge, but there’s also fast-moving traffic right next to you — and when you reach the south side of the bridge, there’s no easy trail to the island. A better choice is to walk or take the SkyTrain or a bus to the edge of False Creek and then catch a little ferry to the island. An even easier option is to take the #50 bus to the south end of the bridge: Get off at the 2nd & Anderson stop, walk forward to the corner, and cross the street.

As you're crossing the street, one of those big pillars blocks your view of the Granville Island sign — keep walking forward and you'll see it.

As you’re crossing the street, one of those big pillars blocks your view of the Granville Island sign — keep walking forward and you’ll see it.

Gastown — Gastown is an easy walk from the convention center, so I didn’t road-test any buses for you. Many routes go to/through Gastown, however, including the #50 — handy for tourists because it also swings through part of Chinatown and goes to the southern end of Granville Island. Alternatively, you could take the SkyTrain to the Waterfront station: When you exit the building (follow the signs for Cordova St.), turn left.

Chinatown — Chinatown is also an easy walk from the convention center (it’s just beyond Gastown), but by now you know that the #19 would be a good choice. The #22 would also give you good views of the neighborhood, since it travels down Pender (I’d turn around at Gore St. and head back again — if you stay on #22 as it passes back through downtown, it’ll take you to Cornwall Avenue in the appealing Kitsilano neighborhood).

In fact, you can easily take the bus or the SkyTrain to intriguing neighborhoods/locations the Big Bus doesn’t visit:

Yaletown — The #C21 bus, which you now know about, takes you to the heart of Yaletown, which looks a lot like NYC’s Meatpacking District, and is, like it, full of tasty restaurants and shops. Another good option is the #C23 bus, which will carry you along Davie St., parallel to the #C21 route. A fun option would be to take the SkyTrain to the Yaletown-Roundhouse stop, catch the #C23 heading northwest, and then return on the #C21 (with the English Bay Beach break I described above). If you detour to Granville Island, you could return to downtown on the #50 bus.

East Vancouver — Chloe and I walked the #20 bus route from the waterfront to Commercial Drive, and while there are some good old neon signs on Hastings, there are also blocks of grim urban grit.

One of several terrific neon signs on Hastings (also not to be missed: Save-On Meats, Hotel Empress, and Ovaltine Café).

One of several terrific neon signs on Hastings (also not to be missed: the signs for Save-On Meats, Hotel Empress, and Ovaltine Café).

The #20 does, however, take you down the full length of Commercial, a cheerful strip of funky shops, cafés, groceries, and bakeries. I’d get off at Venables and walk all the way down to Broadway, and then catch the SkyTrain back to downtown (the station is at Commercial and Broadway — you can see the overhead tracks from a few blocks away as you walk south).

Kitsilano — This neighborhood, southwest of downtown, has the same laid-back vibe of West Seattle. Chloe and I spent a fun morning taking the #44 bus from downtown across the Burrard Bridge and then all the way west on 4th Ave. (one of Kitsilano’s two main thoroughfares) to the University of British Columbia’s beautiful campus. Sit on the right side of the bus to catch glimpses of English Bay and Jericho Beach Park. The east end of 4th Avenue is packed with shops and restaurants: Get off at 4th and Burrard, soon after you cross the bridge, and walk west until you get tired of walking, and then hop back on the bus.

Consider returning, as we did, on the express #99-B bus (it leaves from Bay 2, near where #44 lets you off). It scoots quickly down Broadway, the second of Kitsilano’s fun shopping streets. Sit on the left side of the bus and look for the lovely intermittent views of downtown. I suggest getting off at the Alma stop and then walking east (stopping at Notte’s Bon Ton bakery en route, if you can — the service is cruel, but the baked goods are divine) to the Macdonald stop or perhaps as far as the Arbutus stop. Beyond that, the charm fades.

One warning: When you get on the #99-B at UBC, immediately find a seat — as soon as the bus takes off, it executes this appalling right turn that will hurl you and your dog onto the unsuspecting lap of a college student. Who will be extremely polite and forgiving, but still, dang. Glad it happened to that other lady and her dog and not, ahem, to me….

Granville St. (residential) — I have to thank this post for getting me started on finding scenic public transit routes around Vancouver. One idea I didn’t explore (but will next time I visit!) was taking the #10 bus south from downtown along Granville Street to looky-loo at grand old houses. There are few things I enjoy more than viewing historic homes, and this street is lined with them. I’ll be sitting on the right side of the bus in both directions, and I’ll seek out the higher seats in the back of the bus, so I have a better chance of seeing over hedges.

Horseshoe Bay — Another good idea from Julie Ovenell-Carter that I didn’t have time to execute. The #250 bus requires a Zone 2 fare, so buy your ticket or add fare accordingly. I’ll be sitting on the left side of the bus heading west, and then on the right side on the return trip, to get water views in both directions.

And why stop there? Why not take a mini-cruise across Coal Harbour, via the SeaBus? It’s a Zone 2 trip, so I bought a separate ticket at the machine in the lobby of the Waterfront station (the ticket lasts for 90 minutes, which gave us plenty of time to cross, shop and eat, and return). In both stations, walk down the ramp to the waiting area; a count-down clock at the bottom of the ramp tells you how close your ride is. Please note that the boat is double-ended; that is, it does not turn around after pulling out of dock. To look at North Vancouver as you’re approaching it, enter the boat and turn right; to look at downtown as you’re approaching it, enter the boat and turn left. Both are well worth looking at.

There is a nice little market of eateries, groceries, and craft shops at Lonsdale Quay, and it was a delightful lunchtime excursion taking the SeaBus across the harbor, picking up lunch, and eating it in the market plaza while gazing at downtown. Pet dogs are not allowed in the market, but if you’re traveling with a friend, one of you could get lunch; alternatively, you could pack a picnic. I broke the rules and darted inside (with Chloe in her messenger bag) to pick up a burrito and a sack of mandarin oranges.

The plaza outside the Lonsdale Quay market — a find place for lunch on a sunny day

The plaza outside the Lonsdale Quay market — a fine place for lunch with your pup on a sunny day

A view of downtown Vancouver from the SeaBus — other pictures I took, even more flawed than this one, included Stanley Park on the right, and a goodly chunk of East Vancouver on the left. Bad photos, beautiful views.

A view of downtown Vancouver from the SeaBus — other pictures I took, even more flawed than this one, included Stanley Park on the right and a goodly chunk of East Vancouver on the left. Bad photos, beautiful views.

Cobbling together a tour like this has its disadvantages: It’s a little more work than putting yourself in the hands of the tour operators (though I hope this post helps!) and you don’t get the benefit of the recorded guide. On the other hand, your small dog can keep you company, it’s significantly less expensive to take public transit, you see locals rather than other tourists, and you have a lot more flexibility (if your eye is caught by a shop halfway down Robson, for example, you can get off instantly, rather than waiting for the designated stop). There are apps for your phone that will help you plan your trip and track your buses, but I had good success doing advance research on translink.ca and consulting my pocket-sized paper transit map en route (available where you buy your ticket packets).

Have I missed a Vancouver bus route that you love? Please add a comment, so we can all add it to our list of must-dos!

Dog jaunt: Another piece of Vancouver B.C.’s seawall, then back by bus

I finally fell in love with Vancouver, B.C. in 2011, when Chloe and I came to town on our own for a travel bloggers’ conference. A born introvert, I skipped the beginning of the conference for a ferry ride to Granville Island and a long walk with Chloe along the seawall around False Creek. Three years later, we’re back in town, and our hotel is right across the street from the conference center — and the beginning of the seawall.

Here’s a map of the whole seawall [PDF], a project begun in the early 20th c. to prevent the city’s glorious Stanley Park from eroding (nowadays, the term “seawall” refers generally to that structure, related structures, and the pathways atop them for cyclists and pedestrians). The seawall is a total of 22 km long, and today we walked the first 2.5 km of it.

The beginning of the seawall, just below the conference center (that building looming to the left). The cobbles/bricks are the pedestrian path; bikers have a separate, smooth path on the left. The blue sculpture in the distance is called "The Drop."

The beginning of the seawall, just below the conference center. The bricks are the pedestrian path; bikers have a separate, smooth path on the left. The blue sculpture in the distance is called “The Drop.”

We headed northwest from The Drop, and followed the waterfront all the way to and into Stanley Park. It was a grey day, but after 16 years in Seattle, grey doesn’t bother me (and I had the memory, too, of yesterday’s clear and bright weather — the views from the seawall across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver and the mountains beyond were ridiculously lovely).

Looking north towards Stanley Park — a seaplane is accelerating towards takeoff over Coal Harbor.

Looking north, with Stanley Park and West Vancouver in the distance — in the near distance, a seaplane is about to take off over Coal Harbor.

The shack is a cast aluminum sculpture called "LightShed;" to the left of this picture is a good-sized park your (leashed) pup will enjoy

The shack on stilts is a cast aluminum sculpture called “LightShed;” to the left of this picture is a good-sized park your (leashed) pup will enjoy. For an off-leash park, keep walking (see below).

Just around the corner from The LightShed. Now I want to move to Vancouver and live in a tiny converted ferryboat.

Just around the corner from The LightShed. Now I want to move to Vancouver and live in a tiny converted ferryboat.

Just a few minutes' walk beyond my ferryboats is the Devonian Harbour Park, with off-leash access (rules in the next picture). It looks a little bleak in this picture, but  it's not, in real life.

Just a few minutes’ walk beyond my future ferryboat home is the Devonian Harbour Park, with off-leash access (rules in the next picture). It looks a little bleak in this picture, but it’s not, in real life.

Let your pup spend her off-leash energy here, before heading into Stanley Park — at the entrance to the park, you'll see signs telling you to keep your pup leashed, for the sake of the wildlife.

Let your pup run her extra energy off here, before heading into Stanley Park — at the entrance to the park, you’ll see signs telling you to keep your pup leashed, for the sake of the wildlife.

By the time we reached the park, I was ready to head back to the hotel for lunch and a nap, and I was ready to do it by bus (a sore disappointment to Chloe, who could happily have continued). Vancouver allows small pets in carriers on all of its public transit options except HandyDART, and we’d set off with Chloe’s messenger bag over my shoulder. I’d also equipped myself with a packet of 10 Faresaver tickets ($21 for Zone 1, which covers most areas you’d want to reach during a short visit). You can find the packets at newsstands — the third one I tried, a kiosk in the Waterfront station on Water St., had them in stock (be sure to ask, too, for a metro transit map). Each ticket, therefore, costs $2.10, but they last for an hour and a half after they’re first validated, so you can take a couple of trips on each. Tear out a ticket, and validate it in the machine by the conductor as you board.

To find the bus, you'll need to leave the waterfront and head into the park — the Lord Stanley monument is a good landmark to head for.

To find the #19 bus, you’ll need to leave the waterfront and head into the park — the Lord Stanley monument is a good landmark to look for.

One end of the #19 bus route [PDF] is a convenient spot in Stanley Park, about 200 metres north of the Lord Stanley monument. Walking north (past the statue’s coattails), you’ll see the Stanley Park Pavilion — continue past it (we ended up walking through its parking lot) and you’ll soon come to the bus stop. Here’s a detailed map of the park [PDF]. The #19 heads out of the park on Georgia St., and then angles left on Pender St. We hopped off at Howe to return to the conference center, but the route continues to Chinatown, turning right (south) on Main Street, and next time we’ll stay on to investigate that neighborhood. (It’s tricky to tell from the little transit map, but #19 continues far to the south and east, ending up at the Metrotown station.) We’ll also take the bus in the other direction, into Stanley Park, saving our energy for a walk around its edge.

For other posts about traveling with dogs on public transit, take a look at Dog Jaunt’s handy guide!