It’s the ones you meet along the way

One of Chiclet’s and my own favorite thing about traveling is meeting new and interesting people. And they are everywhere!

We are currently in the last hours of a two-week odyssey that took us from our home base on Rusty Metal Farm to New York (briefly for a flying layover) to a longer stay in Chicago to Bangor, Maine and Campobello, Maine.

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One lump or two? The hostesses at Tea With Eleanor on Campobello Island were charmed by this tiny dog and her good manners.

Along the way we had more fun than perhaps a woman and tiny dog should have. But have it we did! And we met some really, really wonderful folks from all walks of life. As far as Chiclet is concerned, there are no strangers – only friends she has not met yet. Who am I to argue? Especially when I see how happy she is interacting with people in our travels, and how happy they are to meet her.

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When Chiclet met some bikers from Pennsylvania as they rode through Bangor, she hopped on board. I think she was hearing the call of the open road.
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Spending a last few, fond moments with one of the sweet valets at Restoration Hardware Chicago — these young men always make sure to have treats on hand for the canines of the Gold Coast neighborhood.

So, next time you are traveling – be it to the corner store to to a new corner of the world, take time to look up disconnect from whatever electronic device you have going and say hello to that stranger sitting next to you or the one standing in line in front of you. Who knows? He or she could just be a friend you never met.

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Hanging out pre-boarding with a Delta flight attendant at JFK in New York City.
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Of course, the best meet ups are the ones with your BFF — like Lil Bean, a special correspondent to this blog.

Chiclet goes upriver

Sometimes a tiny dog needs to go where everyone knows her name.

So, recently I packed Chiclet up in her travel carrier and we took a drive west out of Fort Kent up along the St. John River and ended up in the tiny community of Allagash (population 236).

Located in northwest Aroostook County near the Canadian border where the Allagash and St. John rivers meet, where paved Route 161 ends and the dirt roads leading into the North Maine Woods begin, Allagash is also home to Two Rivers Lunch, the community’s only restaurant.

Chiclet was a hit with everyone at Two Rivers Lunch, including Tyler Kelly, father of the restaurant’s owner Darlene Kelly Dumond. They even had matching plaid vests!

Two Rivers is the kind of place that, after just one visit, everyone does, indeed know your name. And, if you take the time to chat with any of the locals enjoying a cup of coffee during the day, they will likely remember where you are from, what you do for a living and ask about your family on your next visit.

As for Chiclet, she was a hit from the moment she walked in and made herself completely at home.

Not an inch of Two Rivers Lunch is off limits to this tiny dog.

To say Two Rivers is dog-friendly is an understatement. Owner Darlene Kelly Dumond – the daughter of the restaurant’s founders – welcomes all four-pawed customer with open arms. For her part, Chiclet worked the room like a pro visiting with patrons and employees alike.

The menu at Two Rivers is typical diner – eggs, bacon, pancake for breakfast; burgers, sandwiches, soup and fries for lunch. But everything is homemade. And note, I say “pancake” singular. The flapjacks at Two Rivers are so large they take up an entire plate and are served one at a time.

Chiclet & pancake at Two Rivers Lunch. Does not get much better.

I’ve driven over winter roads and even biked the 40-miles just for one of those pancakes. And, arrive after the normal breakfast hour? No worries – Darlene and her crew will whip up one anytime.

Darlene Kelly Dumond, owner of Two Rivers Lunch, sits down for a typical Maine breakfast of pancake, beans and bacon.

It’s the kind of place loitering is not only allowed, it’s encouraged as the regulars swap stories, share jokes and catch up on the news of the day and everyone has VIP status.

Including Chiclet, a VITD — Very Important Tiny Dog.

Two Rivers Lunch is a 45-minute drive from Fort Kent and is open year round 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. www.allagashhunting.com or call 207-398-3393 for daily specials. Check them out of Facebook.

 

Tiny dog, big support

According to recent stories in the media, booking a flight these days is more like buying passage on Noah’s Ark. That’s because the number of people flying with what they claim to be emotional support or service animals has increased both in numbers and species.

Airlines are worried about passengers trying to pass off pets as emotional support animals, which fly for free. But airlines are not always clear about what qualifies as an emotional support animal.  And this is creating headaches for both airline personnel and the people who legitimately need their support animals when traveling.

Things really came to a head this past week when United Airlines denied a woman’s efforts to bring a peacock onto a flight departing from Newark Liberty International Airport.

In the wake of that and other cases in which large, unruly dogs have attacked passengers or people have claimed everything from snakes to large spiders to penguins or flying squirrels as their “support animals,” the major US carriers have announced they are tightening up their rules on animals in the cabins and placed many critters on a no-fly list.

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Here are the steps passengers have to take to bring an emotional support animal into the main cabin on one of the three major US airlines:

  • American — Passengers must submit a document signed by a licensed doctor or medical health professional which states that the passenger has a “mental health or emotional disability” and needs the animal “for emotional support or psychiatric service” on the flight or at the passenger’s destination. The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.
  • Delta — Starting March 1, passengers will have to submit three documents if they wish to travel with an emotional support animal. In addition to a signed statement from a medical professional, passengers will have to provide vaccination dates and the contact information of the animal’s veterinarian and sign a statement that claims the animal is properly trained “to behave in a public setting” and take the passenger’s “direction upon command.” The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.
  • United — Passengers must submit a document from a medical or mental health professional which states that the passenger has a “mental health-related disability” and that the emotional support animal “is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment.” The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.

While passengers who can complete these steps will often be able to bring their emotional support animals into the cabin with them during a flight, there are some exceptions.

The US Department of Transportation says that airlines don’t have to let support animals into the cabin if they’re too large, heavy, disruptive, or threatening to the crew and passengers. And airlines don’t have to accept ferrets, reptiles, snakes, spiders, or sugar gliders as emotional support animals. American Airlines adds hedgehogs, insects, rodents, amphibians, non-household birds, and any animals with tusks, horns, or hooves, to its no-fly list.

So why would someone want to claim a pet as an emotional support or therapy animal?

Simple – those animals fly for free in the cabin. Most airlines charge extra for pets on a plane — anywhere from $50 to $150 one-way. That, when combined with the allure of having their pets as carry-on rather than flying in the cargo hold has resulted in more and more people faking it when it comes to service animals.

That’s a real problem. For one thing, those who fly the planes and take care of passengers have enough to do without worrying about wrangling disruptive critters. For another, it is going to make it harder for those of us with legitimate emotional support or service animals to fly with them.

Yes, Chiclet is a registered emotional support animal. This means, under FAA regulations, she can accompany me for free on flights. So far, I have ponied up the extra cash for her ticket because I think that is only fair. What is important is having her with me. She stays in her carrier, is quiet, well behaved and causes no issues at all in-flight.

So, before you decide to have your Belgian draught horse or St. Bernard declared a support animal so you can scam a free ticket for them, please consider the needs of those people who may otherwise not travel if not for the very real, very important service their animals provide.

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What Chiclet would like you to know:

“I am a registered  Emotional Support Animal. When I am wearing my vest, it means I’m working. What is my job? Basically, I provide comfort and a calming presence to my mom when we travel, I help her deal with the very real (and potentially debilitating) panic, anxiety & stress she experiences with ground and air travel. And I do a really, really good job! When I am with her, she thinks about me and is able to remain calm and focused. It makes me really happy and proud I can do that for her and we can share all sorts of adventures because of that. But you know what? There are animals that have even more important jobs! Those are the registered service animals. These are animals — usually dogs — that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button. How cool is that? Unlike me, registered service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But we are all important to our humans, we are needed and we are really fed up with those people scamming the system. So, knock it off!”

Where books, brews & tiny dogs meet

Sure, it’s a book store – a real, honest to goodness bookstore. Sure, it serves some of Maine’s best craft beer and has a small but impressive wine list. And yes, the food is great. But the very best thing about Turn the Page Bookstore & Wine Bar? It’s so dog-friendly that as soon as we entered, the staff placed a water dish down for Chiclet and offered to watch her while I concentrated on the menu.

Heck, the bartender is even a former professional dog sitter.

One of Millinocket, Maine’s newest businesses, Turn the Page is hoping to do just that and help turn a page on the region’s economic development as it moves from a mill-based economy to one centered around outdoor recreation.

At Turn The Page Bookstore and Wine Bar owner Steve Golieb with girlfriend Ashley Wells may have come up with a magic combination — books, craft brew, great wines, good food and friendly conversation. All under one roof.

“I saw some great opportunities here,” Golieb said. “There is a lot of interest and renewed focus on the area with the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

So confident was Golieb in the Katahdin region’s economic future, he packed up his entire stock of used books from his Baker City, Oregon, bookstore and moved lock, stock and barrel to Millinocket, opening the bookstore-eatery this past July.

Turn the Page features walls lined with bookshelves and used books ranging in topics from historical fiction to romance to paranormal.

A few of those logging momentos remain — some photographs and a chainsaw here and there.

But the vibe is now definitely bibliofile, welcoming and warm.

“I really wanted to do something that was in the retail sector where I could meet people and get to know the people,” Golieb said. “So far, most of the people around here love it.”

So, too, does Chiclet. Free to roam around and try out the furniture, she happily followed me as I checked out the book shelves while I sipped a frosty mug of craft beer. When she got tired, no one said “no” or “get down” when she hopped on to one of the couches in the open seating area to grab a few Zs.

Both of us can’t wait to see how the chapters unfold for this dog and reader friendly business!

Turn the Page Bookstore and Wine Bar is located at 57 Penobscot Avenue in Millinocket. Spring, summer and fall Hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Contact: 207-385-8008

It’s furniture! It’s food! It’s wine! It’s Restoration Hardware – Chicago!

Okay, I’ll admit it, after three visits inside and innumerable strolls past the building, I am still having at difficult time nailing down exactly how to explain Chicago’s Restoration Hardware.

The Windy City’s branch of the California-based company’s high home furnishings store takes up all four floors — and the roof – of the 100-year-old former residence hall for young female artists. It is the only RH — there are 86 galleries and outlets nationwide — that has a restaurant and visitors are welcome to wander throughout displays of bedrooms, bath areas, living rooms, dining rooms and modern furniture sipping wine or beer.

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Restoration Hardware – Chicago, located in the city’s trendy Gold Coast neighborhood, quickly became a favorite end-of-day destination for Chiclet and I.

On warm evenings, there may be no better place to relax and soak up the view than RH’s rooftop garden.

Even better? It’s dog-friendly.

So much so that the very friendly valet’s out front keep a stash of doggy treats for all passing pups, and make sure to have tiny, Chihuahua-appropriate goodies for Chiclet’s buddy Lil Bean, who has become somewhat of a celebrity at the place, not to mention a favorite among the staff there.

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The valets at dog-friendly Restoration Hardware – Chicago always have treats on hand for four-legged guests.

Bean and her person Julie took Chiclet and I into RH several times while we were in Chicago visiting them recently and it quickly became one of our favorite destinations.

After spending a few minutes with those wonderful valets, in we’d go and head straight to the 3 Arts Club Pantry & Espresso Bar where we could select from a small, but impressive list of international wines and craft beer. From there, we could head out to the galleries on the floors above. The Pantry & Espresso Bar also offers coffees, juices, sodas and fresh-baked pastries. The wines there are not exactly inexpensive — I paid $14 for a glass of very, very good Malbec. But they are in line with prices of table wines at most other area restaurants. The beer averages around $6 a bottle.

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Lil Bean & Julie are fans of Restoration Hardware – Chicago and Bean has quickly become a favorite among guests and staff.

On the bed & bath level Chiclet had a wonderful time trying out the different beds as a sort of small, bewhiskered Goldilocks.

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THIS one is just right…

In the living space gallery we came across two students sitting on one of the couches, sipping coffee, surrounded by books and their laptops set on a table in front of them.

“It beats studying in Starbucks,” one of them said.

Back on the first level we retired to the 3 Arts Wine Club & Tasting Room featuring gold vaulted ceilings and the original brick floors. All four of us could just relax on leather sofas and soak up the atmosphere.

Well, Julie and I relaxed.

Chiclet spent a great deal of time exploring her immediate surroundings, casting longing eyes at a nearby indoor fountain.

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So much for a tiny dog to see at Restoration Hardware – Chicago!

But it’s Lil Bean who really shines in the Wine Vault. The tiniest social butterfly ever, she charmed staff and patrons alike with her dancing antics as just about everyone who saw her pulled out smartphones to snap photos. I can only imagine on how many social media pages this former shelter dog now appears.

We didn’t get the chance to try the 3 Arts Club Cafe adjacent to the Wine Vault, but according to the website, it offers a  “menu inspired by Northern California and Mediterranean cuisine featuring seasonal, ingredient-driven dishes. Guests may choose to dine in the Grand Courtyard, a light-filled, all-season oasis featuring a restored historic fountain and Heritage olive trees, or anywhere else in the gallery.”

Yeah, I’ll be checking that out next time we’re in Chicago. And maybe with a little more on site research, I can figure out exactly how to categorize RH Chicago – Eatery? Bar? Furniture gallery? Does it even matter?

In all honesty, when it’s that good and dog-friendly, I’m not sure it does.

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Ahhhh…. how sweet it is at Restoration Hardware – Chicago.

Restoration Hardware Chicago is located at 1300 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610. It’s open Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Valet parking available. (312) 475-9116 or online at www.3artsclubcafe.com

 

 

 

A cautionary travel tale/tail

When it comes to international travel Chiclet and I recently learned never underestimate the importance of paperwork.

To back up a bit, this year my tiny traveling buddy and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood with our good friends Julie and her tiny chihuahua Lil Bean.

Neither one of us had ever been to Chicago — or, if Chiclet has, she’s not talking about it — so we immediately got to work looking for the best deal on flights which turned out to be out of the Quebec City airport.

No strangers to international travel, Chiclet and I left Maine and headed to Canada with our bags packed and US Passport (mine) and necessary health certificates (Chiclet’s) safely stowed therein.

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Chiclet knows passing through security is a part of air travel. With a tiny dog, it means going through inspection outside of her travel case.

More about our time in dog-friendly Chicago in future posts, other than to say it was incredible and we had a blast.

But, all good things must end. So it was we boarded a plane in Chicago for our return trip to Quebec City, by way of Montreal.

And that’s where things quickly went awry.

I’ve flown through Montreal numerous times, albeit never with a tiny dog, but was fairly confident I knew how to navigate my way through customs and on to my next gate.

Ahhh… traveler’s hubris.

After walking what felt like miles, customs’ declaration card clutched in my sweaty hand, Chiclet and I arrived at the familiar Canadian Customs and Border Protection area and headed toward one of the lines leading to an agent.

Before we could get in line, a CBP agent directed us down a corridor leading away from the custom’s area and into a smaller CBP room. As we waited in that line — after being assured this was where we had to be in order to get to our connecting flight — I scoped out the agents on duty and sent up a silent prayer we would not get the only one looking like he was having the worst day ever.

Of course that is exactly who we ended up in front of. I handed over my declaration card and passport. He looked the documents over, looked at me, glowered and asked, “why did you check ‘no’ on your declaration about bringing in animals?’

I was stumped. Animals? I wasn’t bringing in any animals, and politely said so.

He looked at me, looked at my documents and asked, “It says here you are traveling with a dog.”

Oh! Chiclet! “But, she’s not an animal,” I said. “She’s my pet.”

Honest to God, I thought the agent was going to pass out he started laughing so hard. All grumpiness gone, he literally wiped his eyes, looked at me and said, “You are not leaving here until you explain to me how a dog is not an animal.”

Okay, he had me there. But in my defense, when I had checked that box I honestly thought it referred to livestock, not domestic pets. Certainly, had one of the Rusty Metal Farm chickens been along, I would have indicated that.

Still laughing, the agent scribbled something on my card in red, handed it back to me and pointed me down another corridor. I could hear him laughing as I walked away.

At the end of that corridor was a set of three uncomfortably looking long lines of people leading to three different agents. Joining one of the queues, I did notice it was going fairly quickly as people handed over their declaration forms and were sent on their way to their gates.

We had about an hour left until our next flight, so I was feeling pretty good about things until our turn came and the agent took my card, looked at it and pointed toward the doors that read, “Secondary Inspection Area.”

In we went and were met by CBP Agent Bouchard who took us to her station, asked for the declaration card and my passport and requested to see Chiclet’s paperwork which included her vaccination records and health certificate.

No problem. I opened my carry-on bag, reached for the documents I always keep there and… nothing. Laughing a bit self-consciously, I opened the bag wider, dug deeper and still came up empty. Maybe I had tucked it in Chiclet’s travel case? Nope.

And then it hit me. The previous evening, while packing, the folder that contained my travel receipts and other paperwork from the trip had gone into my checked bag, whereabouts at that exact moment, unknown. In that folder — and thus also in the checked bag — were all of Chiclet’s records.

Panic would not be overstating my state of mind at that precise moment.

Agent Bouchard, who, by the way could not have been nicer, said all I had to do was go get my suitcase, retrieve the documents and all would be well.

“But it’s on the way to Quebec City,” I said. “It’s checked all the way through.”

Agent Bouchard consulted her computer and told me that no, the bag was not checked through that I had to claim it, take it through customs and then re-check it. I was now very confused as I had been assured in Chicago that would not be necessary.

Nevertheless, Agent Bouchard escorted me through several “official entry only” doors to the baggage claim area. Chiclet, meanwhile, was left in the secondary inspection area no doubt wondering if I was being arrested for an international incident and who she should call for bail money.

At the baggage claim my luggage was nowhere to be seen. While I was searching, I asked Agent Bouchard, worst-case scenario if I could not find it, what would happen.

After reassuring me for what must have been the 100th time that A) I still had plenty of time to catch my flight and B) it would all work out as the forms could be faxed from my veterinarian, we headed back empty-handed to the inspection area, where I asked if there was a phone I could use to call my vet, as I had no cell service in Quebec and I knew the vet’s office was closing in like 10 minutes.

She told me to hang tight and stay put and off she went, returning about 10 minutes later with my suitcase which had ended up in the wrong luggage area.

At that point it was a quick matter to snag the folder from my bag, locate Chiclet’s records, hand them over and while Agent Bouchard looked them over,  pick up all the receipts and other papers that had fallen onto the floor.

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Within minutes we were on our way to recheck my bag and pass through one, final level of airport security and to our gate with about 15 minutes to spare.

I don’t think Dante had it as tough navigating the rings of hell.

Chiclet travel tip: Per a brilliant suggestion from our good friend Kim — a pretty savvy traveler herself — all of Chiclet’s travel documents are going to be re-scanned & printed to passport size and tucked in with my US passport. From that point on, they will always be packed together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petit chien dans la belle province: Le Bonne Entente

There’s a lot to love about Canada’s “la belle Province” of Quebec. It has great cycling, an exciting wine scene, food options galore and more than a little European panache.

But as far as Chiclet is concerned, the best reason to hop over the border is to spend a night or two at Le Bonne Entente in Quebec City.

The  five-star boutique hotel in the middle of a residential area just outside the city has quickly become her favorite place to cool her paws. I mean, how much more dog-friendly does a place get than the friendly staff at the pool asking if your tiny dog wants sliced lemon in her dish of water? (Shout-out to Bonne Entente poolside bartender Etienne for making the offer after we joked with him about the dogs liking our fruit-infused water better than the plain water we had for them. And he seriously would have done it.)

That was during our most recent stay when Chiclet and I were joined by her tiny buddy Lil Bean — a rescue Chihuahua — and her person and my longtime friend Julie for a complete gals’ weekend. It was heaven. With room service.

As dog-friendly lodgings go, canines pretty much have the run of the place. They are not allowed in the hotel’s restaurant or right at the pool, must be leashed at all times but that’s about it. Julie and I had no issue with Chiclet and Lil Bean accompanying us to the bar for an afternoon appetizer nosh (for us). There is a lovely lawn area right next to the pool for dogs and their people where the dogs, Julie and I were able to lounge adjacent to the pool area and while one of us watched the dogs, the other could take a dip in the pool or relax in the hot tub. Drinks — for both humans and canines — can be ordered at the poolside bar and are delivered right to your lounge chair.

Chiclet and I have stayed there enough that we are recognized on sight by the staff – who have dubbed her “Moustachey” thanks to her whiskers — and she is the life of the party each time we are there. Once the entire Laval University football team and alumni were holding their annual get-together at Le Bonne Entente and let me just say, you have not lived until you have seen a room full of large current and ex-football players fawn all over a dog that weighs the same as the pigskin. She has delighted the staff with her antics leaping from bed to bed in the room and “carpet slithering” through the lobby on her belly.

And outdoor garden area and pond is perfect for walking dogs and for enjoying a late afternoon snack or cocktail.

Lil Bean, with her extensive tiny dog wardrobe, quickly became a hit in her own right, charming everyone she met. At one point Julie and I were enjoying evening cocktails and munchies in the special Urbania Lounge when another patron came in with his Goldendoodle. Julie quickly went back to our room, collected our two little dogs and we finished out the evening the company of dogs and dog-friendly folks.

According to Stephanie Poitras, Le Bonne Entente sales development director, opening the doors to dogs is an important part of the hotel’s package.

“It’s important for us to welcome every member of the family,” Poitras said. “It definately makes a big difference to our guests because they do not have to stress about [their pets] when they travel and they know we are going to welcome them with pleasure.”

They even offer access to a pet-walking service if your plans take you away from your dog for the day. And forget your special “poo” bags? Fear not, the reception staff has specially customized bags and containers for doggies on the go.

During our gals’ weekend, Julie and I rarely left the dogs alone. We did take an hour or so to indulge in pedicures at the hotel’s spa and for a couple of meals — most notably Sunday Brunch and the unending crepe bar with sweet and savory offerings from fresh veggies to the chocolate fountain. We also ate at the property’s MC Lounge and outdoor Napa Grill.

Eggs Benedict INSIDE a crepe? An culinary masterpiece!
Sweet or Savory, breakfast is always served with a smile.
The chocolate fountain… what more can be said???

We also took advantage of a shuttle to go into Old Quebec for an afternoon of walking cobblestones, drinking coffee outside a cafe, shopping and soaking up the city’s very Parisian atmosphere.

Our shuttle took us directly to our destination in Old Quebec.

The hotel’s location in the suburb of St. Foy is not super handy if one wants to explore the Old City, but Le Bonne Entente does offer those shuttles for the 20-minute drive into the heart of Old Quebec. Concierge Christine Gingras will take all the time you need to organize a customized day trip. It is, however, very handy if you’re flying in or out of the city as it’s about 10 minutes from the airport. It’s not the most inexpensive option in the area. Rooms start at $189.00/night and can go as high as $389/night in the signature “Urbania” suite (which does offer access to a private lounge stocked with an open bar and gourmet quality munchies) but the current exchange rate favoring the US dollar does soften the blow.

Chiclet could care less, but there is free wi-fi throughout the hotel and probably the comfiest beds outside my own I have ever slept upon — something she does care about.

Comfort AND room service – what more could a tiny dog need?

The hotel also charges a cleaning fee if there are pets in the room.

The bottom line, the only reason Chiclet does not give Le Bonne Entente five paws up is she only has four paws to give.

Lil Bean Concurs, adding the only thing that could have made it better would be tiny dog robes. Hmmmm…. maybe next time?

All booking and related information is on the hotel’s bilingual website at https://lebonneentente.com/ or by calling 418-653-5221 1-800-463-4390