Choupette – Karl Lagerfeld’s indulged cat – may try her best to convince the world that felines have stolen the hearts of the French, but the truth is that they love their dogs. Much like their human chaperones, the Côte d’Azur’s dogs are an exceptionally spoilt and pampered bunch – they scoot around town on Vespas, sashay into shops, and hang out at the best hotels. Recently, at a restaurant, I noticed a very smart ‘BCBG’ (Bon Chic, Bon Genre) Madame, with her little dog perched on her lap, who proceeded to share a crème brûlée with her pet friend. The plate was licked clean, certainly not by Madame, and no-one raised an eyebrow.
One of the things about living on the French Riviera is the pressure to look the part. As is to be expected, dogs here are an extension of their owner’s alter-ego and are always on display. Perky and snappy, they’re usually a Chihuahua, Pomeranian or bichon and carried around in handbags – in Monaco, a Gucci or Prada dog-carrier – or tucked under one arm. Shops, or dog ‘spas’, up and down the coastline are dedicated to grooming and styling. In summer you can outfit your pooch in a little t-shirt with pockets to carry its treats or even perfume, and there are sunglasses held in place with an elasticated band to protect them from the glare of the Mediterranean light. In winter, out come the padded jackets – again, Gucci seems to be a favourite – with fur-lined hoods and booties.
The true dog fashionista buys from Milk & Pepper, a French company that’s dedicated to trendy pooch design, and its range features little woollen pompom bonnets that tie under the chin and slogan-embossed t-shirts. The bling crowd, meanwhile, shop for their dogs where they’d go themselves: Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Hermès. The other day I passed a poor Chihuahua – small dogs are ‘part and parcel’ of apartment living – and its diamante collar, emblazoned with the Dolce & Gabbana logo, was almost bigger than its head. Going for a walk would have been out of the question.
But then a spoilt Riviera dog barely touches the ground. When not being carried, they’re expected to sit on laps or have a dedicated chair for themselves at restaurants. ‘Dogs welcome’ signs aren’t needed here – it’s understood that they’re always so. A bowl of water left outside a shop is a common sight and, in many ways, they’re indulged more than the children of the Côte d’Azur.
All but a few beaches are out of bounds for ‘real’ dogs, who walk for exercise – exceptionally, Menton has two dog beaches. Consequently, the best place to take a dog for a walk – in France, you ‘make a stroll’ with a dog: ‘faire une balade’ – is in the forest of Mt Boron in Nice. High above the city, dog-walkers while away the time chatting and – as always in France – the conversation usually turns to food.
Thanks to the dog-walkers of Mt Boron, I now know where to pick the best wild asparagus in the forest during early February and how to turn it into a fine omelette. However, I won’t be sharing my plate with the dog – I’ll leave that for the ladies who lunch downtown.
Originally from New Zealand, writer Rebecca Russell lived in Hong Kong and London before moving to Nice with her family, to work as a property finder.
From France Today magazine
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