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5 Rivers, a few Beaches and a Lake...

The view from my parents's roof terrace - our home for the month

My family and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend time in the South of France this summer (all gratitude to my generous parents for making it happen - the image above is the view from their roof terrace and FYI they rent out this stunning space in Antibes Old Town so get in touch if you are interested).

Taking over a month abroad in a pandemic was not a smooth ride but it was utterly joyous and absolutely worth it - we definitely all benefited from the change of scene and unending consumption of baguettes.

Aside from 'travelling in a pandemic' the one remarkably different thing from any of our previous trips to France was tat it was our first time travelling overseas with a dog.

I thought it would be tricky - and had endless worries; would he settle? would he annoy people? would the paperwork be a nightmare? would he jump on the sofas? would he got too hot?

Fortunately he settled quite quickly and that the French love their dogs was immediately apparent. Rupert was photographed and filmed, petted and coo'ed over all the time. The general attitude towards dogs in France is one of 'acceptance and non-judgement', dogs are a part of life and rarely held to account for any of their apparent misdemeanours.

The paperwork was also fine. Expensive but doable. If you are travelling with your pet to France you will need to have an (in date) rabies vaccine and a certificate of health from the vet (ours cost about £130). Our only surprise was for the return journey that we not only need a vet check and tapeworm treatment but also a trip to the Prefecture in Nice to get the final 'stamp' on his papers. This was a step that was not listed in any of the UK or French advice.

Thankfully he stayed well away from the sofas and ... while he did get hot, he didn't get too hot which was mainly thanks to the wonderful array of cool swimming spots and shady forest walks we found.

Which is what inspired this post. With most of our usual beach spots off limits to pooches we were forced to get more creative. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for ideas of where to take him, the girls were keen to head to the rivers having got a taste of it 4 years ago previously. But info about river swiming (and importantly where to park to river swim) is not readily available eon mainstream channels - so I found myself scouring through, often very old, blog posts to find the best spots.

In the spirit of which - I present this - my blog post tribute to our favourite 'swimming with a dog' spots in the Antibes and surrounding area.

First up...The Beaches

We did take Ru to the beach but in light of the lack of shade and his getting very hot we only went for either shorter periods of time or later in the afternoon.

The only official 'dog' beach in the area is at Villeneuve Loubet. The beach itself is rocky and located directly in front of the road and railway line - this might sound unsightly but when you are looking out to sea it really doesn't matter. It was always quiet when we were there - this is mainly down to the fact that there is no direct parking or nearby snack bars.

For the most part we managed to grab a parking space on the side of the road a bit closer towards and Antibes and would then walk down to the dog section (Note: there are areas of road side parking that are 'interdit' and they do issue tickets to check the signage). Unless you have a scooter or bike is unadvisable to try your luck parking on the pebbles directly on the 'dog beach' - we saw at least one car having to be towed out each time we visited. There is also a small car park at the far end of the beach (if you come from Antibes), either way it is a hot walk but worth it once you get there.

We also took him to the Antibes Fort beach. He was not permitted on the actual beach but if you walk over towards the Fort there is the concrete wall you can sit on - not being an official 'beach' this seemed to be ok. There is no sandy area for sunbathing but the water is lovely and there are loads of fun creatures to spot on the rocks. and easy parking.

Fort Carré

Thirdly, in the early morning and late evening we took Ru to the Plage du Port 'through the wall' beach near to Gravette in Antibes. Again it is a pebble beach but the water is open and clear. While we wouldn't spend hours at this spot, it is perfect for a cooling dip or a pizza dinner.

pizza on the beach

Finally, we often popped to the little pebble beach at the end of Port de la Salis. This was particularly useful as there is a lovely walk up through the woods to the Phare de la Garoupe just minutes away. Bois du Garoupe is a doggy dream - totally shaded and with fresh drinking water pumps at several points. The view from the top of the hill (the lighthouse) is fabulous and it is well worth taking time to visit the church and little cafe. The beach itself is called Plage du Bacon - could a dog love that any more I ask you!

Sandy beaches in the south of france are strictly reserved for human animals who packed themselves in like sardines and seemed very happy to swim in warm soupy water. We, on the other hand, forced as it were by Rupert, to the rockier spots had clear water and very often the place to ourselves...take your pick.

swimming in the Baie des Anges at Villeneuve Loubet

The Lake/Lac Sainte Cassien

paddling the lac - if you like your water warm this one is for you

The other spot we ventured to was Lac Saint Cassien in the Var. An easy 35 minute drive down the autoroute from Antibes and utterly beautiful. My advice - don't bother paying for parking or heading to any of the popular spots - pack a picnic, plenty of fresh water and a paddle board if you have one and head to the rocky shores. There is 'pull-up' parking almost all the way round the Lac and its super easy to find a secluded spot. Taking something slightly padded to sit on as really welcome as there is no where smooth to sit.

I'll be honest, the kids didn't love this spot and didn't want to go back, the water is warm (its worth checking before you go as sometimes it shuts due to E Coli caused by heat) and they found that disconcerting. For us adults it was bliss - stunning scenery, the kids could swim easily, the dog could roam around over a large area doing what he loves best, there was shade and the parking was (as I said) a doddle - which, when you are the ones in charge of the lugging of stuff is pretty crucial. It's easy to be picky when you have no responsibility.

The Rivers

In total we went to 5 different river spots and almost all of them I found by searching through obscure and often outdated blog posts.

1. The Brague

This one was a recommendation from my Mum (thanks Mum) and I'm not sure if this strictly counts as it's not really a swimming river but it gets an honourable mention as Rupert thought he had reached nirvana.

The Brague is a park located in the area near Biot - about 25 minutes from Antibes. We parked at the top end and walked down. This is the one sticking point, its not a circular walk...unless you have a car parked at the top and bottom of the will have to retrace your steps. We had heard that it often dries up in the summer months but were lucky to find it clear and flowing. Most of the river side walk is under dappled shade and it is easy to hop down into shallow section and cool off your feet. All in all a fabulous place to walk your dog.

2. The Cagnes

This one was more miss than hit. I read about this river via an old blog post in which the author said it was about a 20 minute walk. Not so - more like 50. It would have been ok but for the oppressive heat and one child who was so grumpy she was more scary than this sign.