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It's Definitely a Dog's Life in France

October 20, 1985|JUDITH MORGAN | Morgan, of La Jolla, is a nationally known magazine and newspaper writer

Any dog with a lick of sense would arrange to be born in France. Dogs are coddled and curried and pampered there. They dine under the best of tables. They frolic in the gardens of fine country inns. They travel everywhere.

Some French hotels and restaurants do not welcome dogs--or chiens --but many more do. Michelin guidebooks rank the issue high on their list of amenities. A dog's profile with a line through it means "Dogs not allowed."

Sometimes dogs are allowed only in a hotel's restaurant and not in hotel rooms. Sometimes they are allowed only in their owners' rooms, and not in restaurants.

They Travel a Lot

Dogs travel a lot by auto in France and have a wide range of good stops. They may share the aroma of three-star fare within the sanctums of L'Archestrate in Paris and L'Oustau de Baumaniere at Les Baux, near Arles in Provence.

They sleep at the feet of diners at the blatantly pretty Hotel de la Poste in the Burgundy village of Beaune. They may be slipped a nibble of nouvelle cuisine or fresh, country fare from tables in Lyon or Caen or Carcassonne. They seem clean, quiet and mannerly. I've never seen a fight.

Welcomed by the Best

Dogs are welcome at tea (4:30 to 7 p.m.) in the glittering Galerie de Gobelin in the Hotel Plaza-Athenee on Paris' Avenue Montaigne, although not allowed in its restaurants. One afternoon I sat on the garden side of the mirrored and tapestried gallery. At the next table was an exotic female impersonator, who carried a dog that seemed Pekinese, through and through.

A brown dachshund curled in a lap across the room, while its mistress studied old photographs through a lorgnette. An Afghan hound with sleek, long hair paraded down the carpet, its leash held by a dazzling young woman. Both were platinum blond. Both wore diamond collars.

The French-based chain of superb hostelries called Relais & Chateaux is specific in its listings: Some places welcome little dogs only; some welcome any dogs, but charge a supplement of about $5.

At the Louvre I saw a staircase marked Escalier du Chien and asked a French friend if dogs had their own stairs. He said the idea was absurd, but, because it was my departure day, he would investigate. I have not heard.

Patiently Waiting

In the hills above Muenster, in French Alsace, we pulled off a country road at a sign marked Ferme Auberge. These farmhouses offer coffee, beer and light lunches to travelers. Waiting at the door was a large black dog that seemed to have been out for a stroll. He went in with us; the farm wife smiled and nodded.

We ordered slabs of Muenster cheese with caraway seeds, and chunks of fresh French bread. The dog sprawled beneath our table. I realized that there was a dog at every table and travelers were trading stories about their beloved chiens.

When the gangly creature asleep on my foot was admired, I said, "He belongs to the farm." The farm wife smiled from the kitchen.

"No," she said. "I thought he was yours."

Everyone laughed at the clever interloper. No one suggested he leave.

It's a dog's life in France, and c'est bon.

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