... and back!
Well, that was quite a week. As mentioned passim, we piled everything into the back of the Volvo, including two daughters and two dogs (or chien, as they are called in French) and off we went.
Flaine (for it is there we sallied forth) is basically a ski resort. It is also, irritatingly, one of those places where there is one road in and one road out. This means that to go anywhere, you have to go down the mountain for about 30 minutes and on the return, back up the mountain for 30 minutes. Windy roads, several dodgy corners and a scary rock where the last thing you want to meet, coming the other way, is the number 42 bus.
Flaine itself is very much a ski resort, a bit of an issue as I prefer ski resorts when there are two things missing. Those two things are: a ) Guys and Gals standing around tut-tutting at anyone wearing last season's snow gear and b) Snow. Just down from Flaine (that is, a 15 minute psychotic dash down the mountain) is the town of Les Carroz which has supermarkets, shops, a rather nice leisure center and a fair selection of places to eat. It also has less Guys and Gals sneering at you for wearing last season's snow gear. (Flaine, by the way, has very few shops. There are just enough to save you a 15 minute nut-job drive, when you find you have run out of milk).
Any search on your chosen search engine for "Places to visit near Flaine" results in a lot of ski type stuff and very little else. Nearby (that is "nearby after a dash down the mountain") is Annecy which, to my mind, is one of the nicest places on the planet and well worth spending a day walking around; not to mention the Lake. There are also many waterfalls in this part of France. I do like waterfalls. They are wonderful and spectacular things and never to be missed. Some you can park nearby, others, you have to walk a while. You do need good, strong walking boots as mountain paths can be quite tricky... one slip and that ankle will put you out of action for weeks.
Some of the gritty bits. The theoretical driving time from Calais to Flaine is about 9 hours. You can do it in that time if you shift drive and have something that will travel at 80 mph plus for hours on end. Using the motorways, tolls worked out at about 70 Euros. This is good value as any toll avoidance routes will cost you at least an extra tank of petrol and an overnight stay. Motorways get a bit hairy down the South - driving out of a tunnel straight onto a viaduct where anything below the viaduct falls into the "ant" category can be unnerving; especially if you are prone to a touch of vertigo. We used a tank and a half (about 90 litres) of diesel each way ... and a tiny little bit of engine oil. Needless to say, we didn't manage it in 9 hours. On the return, we stopped at Dijon a town for which a short detour should be de rigueur
The dogs. I was surprised how easy everything was; as long as, that is, you have your paperwork in order. The Eurotunnel hub at Folkestone has a good large area where your dogs can roam free for a while. Very important, if the pooches are going to be crammed into the back for a long while, so arrive early and let them run around. The Pet Passport is not checked when you leave the UK. On the return, however, it is. There is a special pet reception area at Calais Eurotunnel where you can park and let the dogs run around. Let them let of steam here as the pet area at the terminal where you wait for your endlessly delayed crossing, is tiny.
Here, they do check your pet passport. The rabies jab you had AT LEAST 10 days before departure (remember!) is checked and then, the check is made that your pets have had their worming tablet.
The worming tablet is for some little worm that they have in Europe only. Don't ask me its name. It has a very strange Latin name which has left an indelible blank on my mind. You need to visit a local vet at least 24 hours before your return to the UK. The worming can be done up to 5 days before your return. Call a local vet and expect a cost of around 25 Euros per hound. Do not expect to do it in Calais as a) It means a 24 hour wait and b) Calais vets are well versed in the art of fanciful costing and it will cost you a lot more than 25 Euros. Use your search engine to look for a local vet and call them as soon as you arrive and make an appointment for a few days before your return. Once wormed, the vet will duly complete the page and stamp your Pet Passport. Job done!