While we were doing our final preparations to move from Carcassonne to Argelès-sur-Mer, we received an e-mail from our future landlord that our letters from the Préfecture des Pyrénées–Orientales notifying us that our Cartes de Séjour (residency permits) were ready for pick-up. We decided to wait the until we completed our move before we would go to collect our new cards. It had taken the Préfecture about three weeks to officially approve and produce our new Cartes de Séjour.
We moved to our new residence, unpacked, settled-in, completed and submitted our US tax return, shopped for kitchen basics, found the local open-air market, got to know Argelès-sur-Mer’s public transportation system, met a couple from Collioure for drinks, and even hosted friends overnight who were on a vacation through France.
We sorted out the “€1 Bus” schedule to Perpignan and left early on a Thursday morning with the documents the notification letter said were required: our passports, current Cartes de Séjour, €106 payment each in timbres fiscaux (tax stamps), and the notification letter. I double-checked the letter and we headed to the Préfecture des Pyrénées–Orientales in Perpignan.
The trip went flawlessly . . . almost. We correctly figured out the regional bus schedule from Argelès to Perpignan, we remembered the path from the station to the prefecture without error, we successfully planned enough transit time to enjoy a leisurely cup of café crème in a nearby cafe, and we were waiting at the right door when the immigration office opened for business. We were feeling very pleased with our skills navigating life as “strangers in a strange land.”
However, I made the embarrassing and very rookie error while reading our notification letters and mis-translated “mercredi et vendredi” (Wednesday and Friday) as “du mercredi au vendredi” (Wednesday through Friday.) That day was, of course, a Thursday. So we spent the remainder of the day exploring Perpignan, took photos, enjoying a nice lunch before catching the bus back to Argelès.
The next day, Friday, we repeated our inadvertent “trial run” and returned to the Préfecture des Pyrénées–Orientales in Perpignan. This time everything did go flawlessly. We enjoyed our morning café crème, was near the front of the line when the Préfecture’s immigration opened, and the receptionist gave us the first two numbers to be called to the service windows. Tracy had our documents well-organized and our immigration official very professionally processed our forms and payment and issued us our new Cartes de Séjour with receipts complete with digital photos should we lose our cards.
It took eleven minutes from walking into the Préfecture to walking back out with our new Cartes de Séjour tucked in our wallets. We are now all set for another year of living in France.