Friday, April 24, 2015

The Unexpected Day in Paris that Sums Up Life in France

Joel and I started the process of applying for visas for our August move to Belgium. For those who were present during our visa process for France, you might recall that we experienced all the highs and lows of an exciting day at the fair followed by intense food poisoning. Acquiring those visas was nothing short of miraculous, and the grey hairs I now have that I singlehandedly blame on that experience are my constant reminder of that first horrendous brush with French bureaucracy.

We thought this time around would be less disorienting and painful. HA HA HA HA HA.......*starts sobbing* no. Case in point: A background check in every country we've lived for the past five years is required. So, we need to make a request with the FBI, which requires fingerprints. We read that the local “gendarme,” or police, offer this service. So we go, and they say to go to the prefecture (kind of a city hall). There, they tell us to go to the national gendarme. So we go, and they say, “No, you want the consulate,” the nearest one being over an hour away by train. So, we had our French friend call to ask the consulate. They say they don't do that, and we need to go to the police. *audible groans*

Nancy, France: So pretty, so devoid of fingerprinting services
Meanwhile, we paid a lady 80 euros to translate our birth and marriage certificates into French, another requirement. I asked her about the fingerprints, and she said that the police do them but you have to MAKE them, since they find it quite annoying (what??). Her friend basically did a sit-in to get them to do it.

So we went back, with a written request of what we wanted, including the phrase, “Nous sommes désespérés!” (We are desperate!). The officer investigated but concluded that they don't do it, and no one he knows of does it, and we should go to the consulate. OH MY GADDDDDDDDDDDD.

So we call a different consulate, in a city about two hours away. They say we have to go to the Paris embassy. Joel calls the Paris embassy, and asks the woman approximately five times to confirm that they in fact take fingerprints. She repeats that they do, and we reluctantly spend over 200 euros on train tickets to Paris for the crack o' dawn the next day.

We arrived in Paris early and watched people go around the insane roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe. The embassy opened, we went in, prepared to be relieved of this maddening search for someone to dip our fingers in ink in exchange for money. 

One of the most chaotic roundabouts in the world, with zero actual lanes, and cars, motorcycles, buses, and taxis all pushing through. We couldn't believe the courage of the bikers!! (Can you see one?)
Long yelling-filled story short, they didn't do it for us. They DO take fingerprints, but only for passports, not the FBI. The extremely obstinate man refused to take any responsibility for what we were told on the phone, and I yelled in broken French, and Joel yelled in better French, and the man yelled in broken English, but that was that.

I don't think I need to explain how we felt at this point. For the first time ever, I hated France. The money and time we spent on this process that still ended with nothing, not even an apology. We regrouped over tiny overpriced coffees and looked at our options. I found a blog about a guy in France who took his own fingerprints after a similar experience, so I left a message with the FBI to check if that would work.

At that point we had to just wait for the FBI to open and get back to us. Meanwhile, we had gone through all this trouble to get to Paris, and dammit we were going to enjoy it! I had fabulous suggestions from my friend Hannah on where to go, so we marked up our maps and set out.

We bought some strong underpriced “champagne” (really sparkling wine, but ya know) and walked down the Champs d'Elysses aka Rue de Baller Status. It is THE place to shop for fancy stuff, like the original Louis Vuitton and Fendi, as well as the usual suspects, like Gap, Disney, etc. You can follow the road past the palaces, gardens, museums, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, and the Seine.

The Seine!
Two lovebirds kickin' it on the Seine
"The locks" where lovers and others write their names on a lock and hang it up

A mama and her babies. We gave them some baguette :)
 The last time we spent any quality time in Paris was in December 2010. It was packed for Christmas, and I didn't make it up the Eiffel Tower or cover much ground. 

So we remedied that. I WENT UP THE EIFFEL TOWER! IT WAS SO AMAZING! Walking up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower (it's cheaper, healthier, and not that bad), the view was getting more and more amazing. And then (cliché alert), it was simply breathtaking. 

How cute is this man with the suspenders right here?!

Eiffel Tower view, April 2015
Eiffel Tower, December 2010
  The anger left both of us. The situation was still annoying, but holy crap this place is SO FREAKING BEAUTIFUL.
On the second stage of the Eiffel Tower
Selfie! We saw SO many selfie sticks, it was hilarious at first then I was kinda jealous

We talked about how countries are like women. France is old school. She is stubborn and can incite rage with her haphazard, nonsensical behavior, and refusal to ever (EVER) admit she’s wrong. Her answers to your practical questions are vague. There is an eternal mystery to her. Her favorite phrases are, “We’ll see,” and of course, “C’est la vie”. (A phrase one utters frequently, accompanied with a long sigh, while trying to check a seemingly minor task off the list.)

But for her eternal weaknesses, she is irresistible to anyone who is a sucker for spontaneity, aesthetics, and sheer pleasure. She is a proud artisan, a piece of art among the renowned collection she houses, and someone who embraces life as it is. She loves humans and their bodies and showing affection, and arguing. She knows what she likes, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Most of the time, she is just my type. And the rest of the time, well, we make up over pastries, champagne, and a magnificent view.

Kitty is sellin' that chair!
People were sprawled out in the garden, eating their sandwiches, soaking up rays