Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dominoes Falling Into Place

About a month ago, we realized that we needed to head back to the States sooner than we had planned.
Our original travel plans called for us to go home about a month over the holidays.
Then Dad was scheduled to have surgery, and we decided to get home by November 1 to be with him.
The number of tasks we had to accomplish to make this happen seemed insurmountable. Some of those tasks onerous, and others pleasurable.
See, October was our traveling month. We took trips to Lake Como, Italy, and Dublin, Ireland. I know you're feeling bad for us now, lol.
But we had a lease that lasted until December 19, and we needed to apply for our French driver's licenses and we needed to renew our visas. Plus, we had to cancel our flights and reschedule them.
Some of these things went smoothly, and others crashed and burned, not to use an airplane analogy when talking about flights, but...
We had been warned by American friends who moved to France and by numerous online sources that we had only our first year of residence to get a French driver's license. If we waited, we would have to go through driver's training in France and take an arduous written test -- in French. The driver's training alone costs thousands of dollars.
Luckily, Ohio is a reciprocal state, so we knew that France would accept our Ohio license and exchange it for a French one. But we had to get copies of our driving records from Ohio and have them, along with our licenses, translated into French. Once we had that done, we needed to go to the prefecture in Carcassonne and have an appointment with one of the clerks.
It's tricky, this French bureaucracy. We had people tell us to get in line at 7 in the morning or other people say that they only take the first 15 people in line. We didn't know what to expect, but we caravan-ed up to Carcassonne (about an hour away) with Jules and Jack, getting there about 8:15, while the offices opened at 8:30. There were some people milling about outside, but there was no line like there might be in the States, so when the door opened, we were some of the first through to the "Etrangers" line. Etrangers means we're foreigners, not French. We took numbers for both the driver's license and for questions about our visa, having brought that paperwork along as well.
Earl and I were called back together after about 15 minutes. We were given forms to fill out and then told to skip the line to wait for him when we finished. The man went through all of our paperwork and said he would send it off. But, our driver's licenses might not physically arrive for eight months. That's a pretty long wait.
Until then, we have papers with our pictures that attest we have applied for our French driver's licenses. I don't think the car rental cars would accept these pieces of paper as our proof of license though.
As for the visa renewal, the man tapped a pen against his teeth. The problem, he explained, is if he found a way to get me an appointment before I left at the end of October, he would also need to get one for him. And he pointed at Earl. Yes, that was true.
So two appointments? I suggested. Not possible. He was already scheduling for December.
He decided to schedule our appointment for when we return at the end of January.
But, there's a 180 Euro fee for a late appointment, I pointed out. He took our paperwork and our story and went to visit his supervisor.
No problem, he said, upon returning. We would have the appointment in early February and the fee would be waived.
I left the prefecture dazed from our success.
Giddy with joy at our success. 
So many people moving to France write numerous posts about the hard time they have with appointments and paperwork and temperamental paper pushers. This man was whistling while he helped us with both our driver's licenses and our visa issues.
He gave us a form to fill out that listed the documents we will need to bring with us in February. That gives us three months to get everything in line.
What a relief to have those things off our plate!
We happily drove off to Italy for a week, but when we returned we had to tackle the flight issue.

We had bought flight insurance, but when we called, they said we would need to cancel the flight and buy a new one. Then we could ask for reimbursement for the cancelled flight. That made me super nervous, but we'll see what happens.
Obviously, we couldn't find a new flight as inexpensive as the first one. We paid about $450 each for our flights from Paris to Orlando. The new flights are about $700 each and we just paid an extra $125 to sit together. Crazy!
Brief Rant: So, don't book through Expedia and avoid Brussels Air and Air Canada. The cost of the flight, with assigned seats ended up being $800 because we wanted to sit together. They should tell you straight up what the total cost would be rather than nickeling and dim-ing you. You can't compare total prices if they hide some of the costs.

We also needed to arrange to return the car we were borrowing, which meant our friends needed to find a garage in Paris where they would store the car.
I found a hotel room for us in Paris and now we have two nights in the City of Light before we fly out to Orlando.
I'm looking forward to seeing my parents again. And the following weekend we'll drive up to Ohio to see the kids (and vote) before returning to Florida.
But my joy at seeing the kids, my parents and my friends is tempered by the realization of all the good friends I'm leaving behind.
An Australian couple had us over for dinner last night, serving us glasses of Blanquette (a local champagne), a shrimp and tomato salad with dressing, and a lasagna moussaka. We walked out into the dark night sated with delicious food and slightly tipsy from the red wine that accompanied dinner.
The nearly fully moon sat over our adopted village, and I snapped a shot to remind me of this village and the people that I love.
The view from above Quillan
Jusqu'à l'année prochaine! (Until next year, Quillan!)

5 comments: said...

Bon voyage.
I am not in the least surprised that the bureaucrats in Carcassonne were friendly. I have never had a paperwork problem here.

Jennie Thompson-O'Mara said...

Oh bless; to you both. So happy things are falling into place for you, we too had the whistling clerk, such a pleasure to deal with I agree. We've found the French system and the people who work within it, very helpful and accommodating, glad you did too. It's a very pleasant and friendly place to retire in.

Hope all goes well for you back home and look forward to your return, in the meantime; safe travels and we'll look out for you on FB.

Anything that looks interesting/viable regarding accommodation in the new year, I'll PM you

take care
Jen & Den xx

Sim Carter said...

So glad you'll be in the states to vote ... we need your voice! Welcome home.

Kiwi said...

Kudos on your excellent results with the authorities. I'm am jealous that Ohio is a reciprocal state for driving licenses. Lucky you! Have fun in Paris and safe travels home.

Jackie McGuinness said...

We avoid Air Canada as well!

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