A Hidden Gem

We met a new friend a while back, Beth. Another American expat who lives here in Argeles-sur-Mer with her two daughters. She’s a friend of the lovely Lisa who assisted us with Lou’s adoption. Beth and I corresponded via Facebook and email and set a date to meet for coffee. She’s a super fun lady and we really enjoyed getting to know her a bit.

After our initial meet, she sent me a note about a new exhibit in nearby Rivesaltes. The exhibit is on the grounds of the Camp du Rivesaltes, one of the many camps set up during the Spanish Civil War. We were really excited about visiting as were our friends Joan and Greg. We set a date to go visit together. Joan found a lovely winery where we could stop and grab lunch; Greg offered to drive.

Greg’s offer was great. When we finally found this new place without ANY signage to help direct us, we had been traveling for over an hour . . . mostly in circles. Several people helped us out along the way, a lineman working on a telephone line, a truck driver at a utility company, a receptionist at a hotel, an employee at a government building. All of them knew about the place, all of them gave us directions, NONE of them actually helped us find the location. We did get excellent directions to the memorial, but the Camp and the memorial do not share the same space and were on different sides of the freeway. One must be quite specific when requesting directions Camp du Rivesaltes Memorial and Camp du Rivesaltes Museum are two completely different things.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our lunch reservation so we hopped out of Greg’s car and took a quick look around at the buildings and inside the lobby of the museum. Then headed back for lunch into the historic district of Rivesaltes.

Lunch at Cazes was amazing. Joan used to run her own catering business and her ability to find delicious and beautiful food never fails to impress. We had a great lunch, some yummy wine, took a look around the small winery, tasting room and gift store. Across from the entrance to the wine tasting room and gift store (they share the same space) a roll up door allowed us to watch the labeling machine at work. A small assembly line machine with two people at the end of the 8 foot track boxed labeled bottles of wine into boxes. Just past the labeling room toward the restaurant and behind the wine tasting room was a small warehouse filled with barrels of wine. This tiny warehouse faced a lovely outdoor dining area. Definitely worth a return trip!

After lunch and our mini-tour, we headed back to the museum getting lost for just a moment on the return trip.

The camp was like taking a walk through time. Many of the buildings that still exist are easily identifiable: barracks, showers, bathrooms, etc. The museum was built into the ground, like a basement. We were expecting to learn more about the Spanish Civil War and the refugees who fled from Spain and were temporarily housed here.

That isn’t want we found.

The history of the Camp du Rivesaltes was far more complex and covered far more world events. During most of its history, the site at Rivesaltes was both a military camp, it’s original function, and an internment camp. The French War Ministry’s decision to build the camp dates back to 19 December, 1939.

Beginning in 1940 on over 600 hectares of land, 19 blocks were built — 13 of the large quadrilateral buildings were used for housing troops the other six for services. In May of 1940 there were already 12,000 men living there It had been a camp for Spanish Civil War refugees, but also Vichy’s Undesirables during WWII, then a camp for assembling Jews before deportation to Auchwitz, then a transit camp for Harkis after the Algerian War, then it was released to the military.

There are over 600 hectares of land, divided into nineteen blocks: thirteen reserved for accommodation for the troops (large quadrilateral buildings designated with a letter), six for services. It was intended to set up a Transit Center for indigenous colonial troops. The first to arrive were Senegalese battalions. In May 1940, there were already nearly 12,000 men. These troops were to be sent to the Front, and after defeat, were soon followed by others who retreated before being demobilized. The sharp decrease in men in the French army after the signing of the Armistice on June 22, 1940 with victorious Germany, made the vast military camps, like Rivesaltes useless. However, in the context of the new Vichy regime’s exclusion policy, the idea of giving a portion of the site for installing an internment camp became obvious. It was accomplished a few months later. What remains is reminiscent of Manzanar in California. Here there are far more buildings and the museum itself is very modern using technology as a great advantage in telling the story of the camp, the people who were forced to live here and similar places all around France.

It is humbling to spend time in such a place.

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RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART III)

Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate

The final document of my passport renewal came today.

My new passport card arrived by Chronopost after I received an e-mail yesterday from the US Consulate in Marseille advising me that the passport card was en route. It took only three weeks for my new passport booklet to arrive and ten weeks for my passport card. I need to compliment the Marseille Consulate again for its spectacular service.  I had incorrectly assumed that with living oversea there would be extensive delays to a passport renewal.

Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate
Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate

I now have my complete set (passport booklet and passport card) of United States travel documents, ready for use until their expiration in 2026.  My passport card will also double as an approved REAL ID document for future domestic US air travel and to enter high security US government offices without having to always carry my passport booklet. In all, it was a much easier process to renew my passport while living oversea than I anticipated.

Alan's Passport Card
Alan’s Passport Card

Related Posts:

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part I)

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART II)

 

Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII (Part 2)

Etta's OFII Letter

After a quick six day turn-around from OFII (L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration – the French Office of Immigration and Integration) in Montpellier, we received a response to Etta’s Demande d’Attestation letter that we previous mailed to OFII advising that our niece Etta has arrived in France. (Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII [Part 1])

Etta's OFII Letter
Etta’s OFII Letter

The very rough translation of the letter from OFII is:

SUBJECT: Dossier VLS-TS, reference “Mineur Scolarise“visa.
On 30/01/2017, your Demande d’Attestation letter arrived, but the visa affix on passport is not VLS-TS but a “Mineur Scolarise“.
As such, you are not subject to the VLS-TS (adult long-stay visa) rules, are exempt from the residence card process, and are authorized to travel outside France within the Schengen Area.
On your 18th birthday, in order to continue your studies, you will have to formally request a residence card from the Prefecture having jurisdiction of your residence.
At that time, re-submit your Demande d’Attestation file to the Prefecture so that an appointment for the compulsory medical visit can be scheduled and you can be processed for your adult residence permit.
Please accept my best regards.
So, 17 year old Etta does not have to be concerned about re-sending her Demande d’Attestation until her 18th birthday in October 2017.  We will share Etta’s efforts for obtaining an adult long-stay student visa this coming October. Etta’s Demande d’Attestation form and its supporting documents are now waiting for October in our files for safekeeping.
In the mean time, Etta is now free to study and travel in Europe and doesn’t have to be concerned about any further paperwork with OFII until her milestone adult birthday.
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France

Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII (Part 1)

"Demande d’Attestation OFII" form and supporting documents ready to be mailed

Our niece, Etta, and her parents completed her application for her long stay Mineur Scolarise (student under 18 years old) visa with the Consulate General of France in San Francisco. They completed the application process that required completing the application form, obtaining travel insurance, showing proof of financial responsibility, obtaining Etta’s record of immunizations, getting her student transcript, and paying the fees. Tracy and I provided proof of our lawful residency in France to serve as Etta’s “host family,” which is perfect since we are actual family.

Once approved the Consulate affixed a visa to Etta’s passport granting permission for 11 months of residency for studies in France.

Etta's Student Visa with numbers obscured.
Etta’s Student Visa with numbers obscured.

Etta’s visa allowed her to enter and spend up to five days in transit through the Schengen Area to reach France. In Etta’s case she, her mom, and Tracy entered Europe at Copenhagen, then took a flight to Barcelona with an overnight stop, then finally arrived by bus to Argelès-sur-Mer in France over two days travel.

Once in France Etta is required to contact OFII (L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration – the French Office of Immigration and Integration) to validate her visa with an interview, medical exam, and the addition of a Vignette sticker in her passport to serve as her Carte de Séjour (residency permit.)

The
The “Vignette” sticker that takes the place of a Carte de Sejour for the first year of residency.

Tracy and I are familiar with this process because we completed our OFII medical exams and Vignette validation in May 2013 (OFII Medical Exam and Titre de Séjour) when OFII attempted to make Tracy an Australian . . .  but that is a whole different story.

Along with her visa, the consulate gave Etta and her parents a notification form, a Demande d’Attestation OFII, that she is required to complete and mail to the regional OFII office having jurisdiction over Etta’s new residence after her arrival in France. This form includes a bar code that connects to Etta’s account set up when she received her temporary visa. Small snag: the form was safely in a file folder in Reno. But the simple fix was when Etta’s mom returned back to the US, she would scan and e-mail the form to use.  The miracle of modern communication technology.

The e-mail arrived with the Demande d’Attestation OFII with English language direction to mail the completed form to the OFII office in Montpellier along with photocopies of Etta’s information page from her passport, her visa, and her entry stamp. All completed the form was off in the mail and we should receive a letter back from OFII with an appointment date to go visit Montpellier within 90 days.

“Demande d’Attestation OFII” form and supporting documents ready to be mailed

Etta’s “Grand Tour”

Morning coffee and hot chocolate at the beach.

Definition of “Grand Tour”

  1. 1:  an extended tour of the Continent that was formerly a usual part of the education of young British gentlemen

  2. 2:  an extensive and usually educational tour

2017 has some exciting changes for Tracy and me. Our niece, Etta-Kimiyo, will be living with us in France while she is finishing her high school work online. Her student visa was approved through December 13, 2017 by the Consulate General of France in San Francisco. Etta’s parents want Etta to experience Europe with us and for Etta to enrich and expand her education with living abroad. We get the wonderful opportunity to share the history and culture that we have experienced over the last four years and to to make new adventures with Etta.

Tracy and Etta on the municipal bus in Perpignan, France.
Tracy and Etta on the municipal bus in Perpignan, France.

Etta is joining us in our adopted home in Argeles-sur-Mer in the PyrénéesOrientales Department located in Southern France on the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent to the Northern border of Spain. Etta will experience the French, Spanish, and Catalan influences on the local history, culture, and food. The Côte Vermeille and PyrénéesOrientales area where we live is also still known as Catalunya Nord because it was ceded to France by Spain with the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659In fact, there is recent controversy with the greater region being renamed in 2016 Occitanie by the Conseil d’État (when the former French regions Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées were combined) and not named Occitanie Pays Catalan.

We are planning to make use of the flexibility of Etta’s online classes to travel and explore France and Europe with Etta as much as possible, but with school work always remaining the first priority. Tracy has become an expert at “fast and light” discount travel. Potential learning adventures to enrich Etta’s studies that are located in the immediate region include viewing the 17,000 year old cave paintings in Lascaux; seeing the ancient Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard; walking the medieval walled fortress of Cité de Carcassonne; exploring Collioure, the inspiration to Matisse and the Fauvist art movement; the local memorials to the Retiradathe 100,000 refugees of Spanish Republicans fleeing from the Spanish Civil War; or a tour of the Airbus factory and seeing commercial aircraft manufactured in Toulouse. All of these are a quick train or bus ride away. Perfectly timed for Etta’s arrival is the French national train system, SNCF, has just announced a new “Happy Card” discount promotion with unlimited rail travel on high speed TGV and Intercité trains for 16-27-year-olds at just €79 a month.

Etta, Tracy, and Trina (Etta's mom, Tracy's sister) visiting Collioure after Etta's arrival to France.
Etta, Tracy, and Trina (Etta’s mom, Tracy’s sister) visiting nearby Collioure after Etta’s arrival to France.

Of course, Tracy and I are not “trust fund babies with unlimited platinum credit cards” who never stop traveling. We are just everyday people retired from public service with middle-class sized fixed pensions. We live a fairly simple, minimalist life. So for Etta there will be the mundane “real life” of school work, shopping, dog walking, cooking, and laundry with us. But the mundane can be fun with a flexible school schedule that you decide yourself how to schedule; the shopping is at an open air market at the village center; dog walking is along the promenade beside a Mediterranean beach; cooking is with fresh, seasonal, local food; all with frequent breaks along the way to enjoy a pain au chocolat and chocolat chaud at a cafe or swim in the sea. Oh, and laundry . . .  well, laundry is just laundry anywhere in the world, but the Laundromat is a great place to start reading a new book or enjoy music.

There is a bit of a culture shift for Etta. She is sharing with us a small apartment with a micro-kitchen. We do not have a car. We do not have a television. We do not have a dishwasher.We do not have a washing machine. The nearest movie theatre with English language films is in Perpignan. We walk 2 km for morning coffee. We call it “living like a couple of college students.” But we do have great sunrises, the Mediterranean Sea 50 meters aways, palm trees, 7 kilometers of white sand beach, friendly neighbors, bicycles, two spoiled dogs, a beautiful village, an open air market, French pastries, a €1 bus system, and amazing nature and history surrounding us.

Etta working on her on-line high school course work.
Etta working on her on-line high school course work.

Etta’s school curriculum includes studying the French language, I fully expect her to be speaking French better than me in a very short time. She will certainly get a chance for practice.

We are certainly looking for to our shared adventures together.

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part II)

Some passport photo over about 40 years.

I am no longer “The Man Without a Country,” or at least I am no longer the man without a passport. My new passport arrived and I can again prove my home country.

alanpassport2017blurred
“Blurred” Passport

Three weeks to the day after mailing my passport renewal application (including my previous passport) to the US Consulate in Marseille, my new passport booklet arrived along with my cancelled previous passport. That was an impressively fast turn-around considering  the Christmas and New Years Day holidays were in the middle of the renewal processing. The US State Department’s web site advises that passport renewals generally take four to six weeks to process, although they proudly (and justly in my case) say they can frequently provide faster returns. I have to complement the Marseille Consulate for great service!

chronopost-package
Chronopost Package from US Consulate-Marseille

I was hoping to receive the upgraded, redesigned 2017 passport with its new polycarbonate page that is meant to protect the embedded and newly machine-readable information chip. I have a tendency to clumsily damage things, especially items I frequently carry. The current US passport’s RFID chip is somewhat fragile and subject to mechanical and water damage.  And, of course,  I just wanted to be one of the first with the “latest thing.” The new-style passports were originally scheduled to be released in July 2016, but apparently either the redesigned format isn’t ready yet or the State Department is exhausting the last of their 2007-2016 edition passport blanks. The new-style passports are now scheduled to be issued the end of 2017 or early 2018.

But staying with the current passport design allowed me to request the free expanded version with 52 pages (43 for visas) in place of the standard 28 (17 for visas.) Normally it takes an overseas news correspondent to fill an extended passport, but it’s a big world and I’m very motivated to see as much of it as I can until this passport expires in 2026.

Starting in 2016, the US joined the rest of the world with no longer issuing additional pages to its passports and the upcoming 2017 passports will be limited to 28 pages. When a passport is now full of stamps and visas, the holder has to get it replaced. Too few passport pages can rapidly become a problem with frequent travelers because many immigration officers stamp passports on random pages and with the least economical use of space. Some countries require two to six blank pages, often requiring adjacent blank pages, be available in a passport for affixing their visas. Sometimes entry stamp are required to be stamped on the page opposite the visa. (Tracy needed to request an immigration officer re-stamp her entry in her passport on the appropriate page opposite her French visa.)

I am anxious to see the redesign of the new-style 2017 passport with its all-new internal artwork that will feature “intricate engravings and inks” using microprinting, color-shifting inks, and ultraviolet watermarks meant to deter counterfeiting. Perhaps Tracy will receive one of these updated passports when she renews for 2019. (Tracy, the retired graphic artist, is a big fan of the striking Norwegian passport‘s design.)

“Remember when it was the rare American who had a passport? In 2013, 117.4 million Americans had passports; in 1989, that number was 7.3 million”

As expected, my renewed passport card was not included in the package. The card takes longer to manufacture than the traditional booklet and should arrive in a few more weeks.  While the passport card is NOT valid for European travel, I wanted it as a supporting US citizenship document. I also lack a REAL ID Act “gold star” approved US drivers license because I last renewed my drivers license by mail while living overseas. The REAL ID Act’s final deadline for full enforcement is still a “moving target”with frequent extensions. A passport card is an approved REAL ID document for future domestic US air travel without having to carry my passport booklet.

Some passport photo over about 40 years.
Some passport photos through the years.

So now with a valid passport in my hands, I am no longer “running barefoot” through Europe without US travel credentials. While I don’t actually carry my passport on a daily basis while living abroad, just having my passport in my possession grants me peace of mind and my ability to travel internationally again.

I also have the challenge of a brand new passport with lots of blank pages to start filling up.

Related Post:  RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part I)

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART III)

New Year Good Luck: Saucisse et Lentilles

Growing up I heard the southern America folk tradition that eating black eye peas on New Year Day would grant good luck and prosperity in the coming year. We often had black eye peas with bacon on New Year Day. The superstition goes back to the mid-1800s in the US.

The idea that black eyed peas are lucky dates back to the Civil War. Northern troops considered the peas to be suitable only for animals so they were one of the few edible things left behind by raiding soldiers. The “lucky” peas made their way to Southern tables, especially those of Southern slaves who celebrated emancipation as ordered by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.

In France (along with Italy), there is a similar tradition of eating saucisse et lentilles (sausages and lentils) on New Year Day for good luck. I especially like saucisse et lentilles made with Saucisse de Toulouse and green lentils du Puy (which are sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s caviar” because of their flavor.)

The lentils are symbolic of money and prosperity because they’re round like coins.  The pork in the soup is also symbolic of prosperity (traditionally of having food on the table all year long).

I like the idea of matching, but independently created folk traditions that transverse cultural and national boundaries. So, of course, for my New Year Day lunch I enjoyed a bowl of saucisse et lentilles. Any good luck resulting in 2017 would be welcomed, but you can’t go wrong with a delicious, steaming bowl of saucisse et lentilles on a chilly January day or on any day for that matter.

 Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

.

Saucisse et lentilles
Saucisse et lentilles

Premier Bain de l’Année 2017

It’s January 1, 2017 and my New Year resolution is to be far more consistent posting to our blog. So my first post of 2017 is its first micro-adventure:  the Premier Bain de l’Année (also called the Bain du Nouvel An), the first swim in the sea of the new year.  This is an annual event in Argelès-sur-Mer taking place at the central Plagd’Argelès-sur-Mer (Argelès beach) adjacent to the Esplanade Charles Trenet.

Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017
Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017

With the overcast morning’s air temperature at 11°C / 51°F and the Mediterranean Sea’s temperature at 14°C / 57°F, the swimmers and their supporters gathered at the beach as colorful traditional Catalan fishing boats (called “barques” in French or “llaguts” in Catalan) arrived to assist the event. At 10:00 a.m. the swimmers started to disrobe to their swimsuits while their supporters kept bags of dry clothes and towels for the swimmer’s return.

At 10:30 a.m. there was a series of whistle blasts and the swimmers ran to the water. Many swimmers looked festive wearing Santa Claus hats, outrageous wigs, and costumes.  One female swimmer wore a sparkling ballerina’s tutu.

No, I did not join the swimmers this year. The dogs and I offered our support and admiration from dry land. Perhaps next year . . . NOT.

The swimmers had a spectacular time. They swam, splashed, posed for photos, and there was a spontaneous group sing-along with two dozen hard-core swimmers long after most participants had returned to shore. There were swimmers of every size and age with all having tremendous fun. It was difficult to estimate the size of the event, but my guess is there was 50 to 75 swimmers with 200 supporters cheering them on from shore.

As the swimmers eventually became too chilled to continue, their supporters would meet them at the water’s edge with warm towels. There were free hot drinks and certificates of bravery waiting for the swimmers back at the Esplanade.

A fun, hometown event to start 2017.

Happy New Year!

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Renewing A US Passport While Living In France (Part I)

Living abroad often require anticipation of “all the moving pieces” necessary to comply with the proper process of maintaining our residency in France. Tracy and I need to annually renew our Carte de Séjour (residency permits) in March, so in January I start collecting all the documents needed so I’ll have everything together for our renewal application in plenty of time.

Among those documents we provide are our valid US passports, however mine expires in February 2018. While that sounds like I have lots of time renew my passport during 2017, in order to renew our upcoming Carte de Séjour for April 2017 to March 2018, my passport needs to be valid at least three months past the expiration date of the 2017-2018 Carte de Séjour. I’m four months short of that requirement.

So in December 2016, I am renewing my passport. Back to that “all the moving pieces” concept, it normally takes four to six weeks to process a passport request . . .  plus there is the added complications of renewing a passport from overseas . . . plus the further complications of consulate and passport offices being closed or short-staffed over the Christmas and New Years holidays.

Nothing is ever as easy as you first think it is.

US Passport
US Passport

So this is my renewal process and how we worked through the complications:

First off, if you live outside the US or Canada, you CANNOT just mail your passport renewal application back to the US.  The application must be submitted through the US Embassy or an US Consulate that provides passport services in the country that you are a resident. With living in France my current options for passport services is the Embassy in Paris or the Consulates in Strasbourg or Marseille. Since Tracy and I live in the south of France, my renewal application package is heading to beautiful Marseille.

Next complication: photo drama. Effective November 1,  2016, passport photos cannot included eyeglasses, so the extra photos I had previously taken cannot be used. Although there are “ID photo” machines on practically every corner (France requires photos with almost every government application), those French photo machine photos are not acceptable for US passports. To help with these problem, the Consulate provides a list of photographers that can take approved passport photos (the nearest to us is in Perpignan) and the US State Department provides a digital photo template tool online.  Tracy, the former graphic artist, took my photo, edited it, and printed an acceptable set of photos. (U.S. standard passport photograph requirements for biometric passports)

US State Department's Online Passport photo template tool
US State Department’s Online Passport photo template tool

The next complication up: payment drama.  It’s an US passport so just send an US check or an US credit card authorization, right? Nope, not accepted. A Mandat Cash (money order) from the Banque Postale (French Post Office) or a chèques certifiés (certified check) from a French bank? Nope, not accepted. The only payment option: “Mail-in consular service customers in Marseille must pay by French bank check (chèque de banque payable en France) made to the order of:  U.S. Embassy.”

A chèque de banque is kind of a big deal. It’s like a “super certified check” drawn directly on and payable by a French bank (not a private account holder) with the payment guaranteed for a year and eight days. Getting the chèque de banque required a visit to my BNP bank branch (our French bank) to make a request using my marginal French (still very much Franglais.)  I was told a chèque de banque request normally takes three days to process. The bank started the process, but I was asked to please return to the bank the next day because the directeur (bank manager) was not there to sign the request. Apparently a chèque de banque request requires the most senior bank officer’s signature. I returned to BNP for a second visit and the chèque de banque request was waiting at reception area for me to add my signature next to the directeur’s. Two days later, the check arrived in the mail.

Chèque de Banque
Chèque de Banque

Since I was not picking up the new passport personally from the consulate in Marseille, I was required to include two prepaid, self-addressed Chronopost envelopes (similar to FedEx Overnight.) A quick trip to the post office and I had the envelopes, cost was surprisingly steep at a total of €52.

I needed to send two envelopes since I was requesting both a new passport booklet and a passport card. A new passport card takes weeks longer to manufacture than a passport booklet. The consulate offers the option to wait and send both the booklet and card together or to send the items separately as they arrive. I wanted to have a passport back in my hands as soon as possible, so I opted for sending two envelopes.

Chronopost Envelop
Chronopost Envelop

I used the US State Department’s online form wizard to print out a completed adult passport renewal application form (DS-82.) The Marseille Consulate warns that a handwritten form could delay processing the renewal request.

My final application package included:

  1. A completed adult passport renewal form, signed and dated, requesting a passport booklet with the extended 52 pages and a passport card.
  2. My current passport booklet and passport card with photocopies of the biographical page for the passport booklet and biographical data on the passport card.
  3. Two recent photos on a white background meeting US passport standards. (One photo for the passport booklet and one for the passport card.) The Marseille Consulate made a point of saying NOT to staple or paperclip the photo to my application.
  4.  My payment of €134 by chèque de banque, (The cost for the passbook booklet was €105 and the passport card was €29.)
  5.  Two prepaid, self-addressed Chronopost envelopes for the return of passports.
Passport Renewal Package
Passport Renewal Package

The application package was mailed as a lettre recommandée (registered mail, €5.93) to:

U.S. Consulate General
ACS/Passport Unit
Place Varian Fry
Marseille 13286 Cedex 06

So now I wait for the passport renewal request to be processed knowing the Marseille Consulate will be closed for the Christmas holiday from December 21 through December 28 and there will be New Years and Martin Luther King holidays coming soon too. Not the best time of the year to be requesting a passport renewal.

On top of heavy seasonal mail and work holidays, US State Department’s “Officials are expecting a flood of renewals of 10-year passports issued in 2006 and 2007. The latter was the year when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, for the first time requiring passports for Americans returning by air from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.”

I have a somewhat uncomfortable feeling with having NO passport in my possession for a month or more while still living overseas. Granted, I have my French Carte de Séjour as an official identification document, a photocopy of my US passport, and I live within the Schengen Area where I don’t frequently have to show a passport, but I feel rather “naked” without my US Passport. In an emergency I would be hard pressed for international travel.

I’m hoping for a quick turnaround of my new passport. I’ll let you know how long it takes.

Related post:  RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART II)

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART III)