We had our first brush with French bureaucracy today. We did not come away unscathed. Our French Visa appointments were at 9:30 and 10:00, which put us on the train during rush hour. Standing 4 rows of bodies back from the platform as an already packed 6 train pulls in is just depressing.

But wait, we came early, it’s the kind of people we are. So we escaped from the bowels of the city and walked the 14 (short) blocks to the consulate. The sun was shining and it was above freezing. Parfait.

Not knowing what to expect, we imagined both ends of the spectrum. Would we be welcomed by a beret-wearing grandfather who would pour us morning glasses of Médoc while accordion music (where is that coming from…) ushered us into France? Bienvenue! Bienvenue!

Or would a fonctionnaire from an Albert Camus novel glower down at us from on high screaming, “Where are your papers!” The truth was of course somewhere in-between. The snag we ran into was “Proof of Lodging”.  If you want permission to visit France for a year you need to prove that you have signed a year long lease. Think about that. You need to financially commit to a year long lease before you can ask for permission to stay in France for a year. Wait, what?

We turned to our infallible source of information (the internet) many times on this topic. Some proclaimed “we just showed them a receipt for a week in a hotel” or “they don’t really enforce this”. We believed all of it because of the absurdity of the requirement and of course because we wanted to. We went with proof of one month’s lodging in France. Should do the trick, right?

“Do you have a copy of your one year lease?”

Well crap.

Our “interview” took place at a counter through security glass (think bank teller). Many times the stern woman controlling the stamps labeled with variants of “yes” or “no” or “hell no” gave us skeptical looks in response to phrases such as “sabbatical” and “we don’t have jobs” and “we’re going to find an apartment when we get there”.  She probably wasn’t worried about us being a vanguard of neo-colonialism but she suspected shenanigans of some sort.

Diane managed to convince Madame to complete the application process and allow us to return (between 9:00-10:00 M-F only) with the missing documents. We were fingerprinted, photographed and relieved of the remaining stacks of apparently acceptable documents we had brought with us. Glue stick, by the way, works perfectly for attaching passport photos to the applications.

So about that one-year lease…


New York Subway

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