Monday, June 30, 2014

Two and a half weeks de ouf

I got back to Bordeaux last night after two and a half crazy busy weeks packed full of friends, family, fun, travelling, shopping, drinking far too much, working and a definitive lack of sleep!  I have basically dubbed this trip across the pond a "fake vacation" because I didn't really get to relax at all, I was constantly busy, I barely slept, and I went into my company and worked from the office for one of my two weeks in the States.  But, even though I'm currently exhausted and jet-lagged, it was definitely worth it!  Lionel ended up staying in Bordeaux but I still had plenty of fun on my own.

I had a wonderful time in the States visiting with friends and family, catching up, making plans, and just spending time together.  I also drove up to Ontario for a long weekend for a friend's wedding and had an incredible time (but more on that later as the trip to Canada will get it's very own post) celebrating her marriage and visiting with my "assistant" friends.  I ended my whirlwind two and a half weeks with a weekend in Paris.  I specifically planned my return flight to land in Paris because my friend, Amy (who has appeared on this blog a number of times), was in town from Florida and I wanted to see her while she was in Europe.  Lionel came up to visit as well and we spent a busy weekend visiting with friends all over Paris, including a stop at my favorite wine bar!

Sadly I didn't take any pictures while in the US, but that doesn't mean I didn't keep myself busy.  Between visits with friends, checking out their new homes, meeting their children, dinners and drinks, movies and shopping, a World Cup party, family meals and barbecues, a full week of work, driving all over the place and dealing with some paperwork and other necessities I barely had a second to think let alone sleep.  I got to see most of the people I wanted to see and spend some quality time with them.  If I had had more time in the States I also would have made a trip out to New York to visit with some other friends, but alas that will have to wait for another time.

Lionel and I also stayed quite busy while in Paris, running around trying to see as many friends as possible and spend some quality time with Amy while she was in the country.  In the end I think we did a pretty good job without completely running me ragged from jet-lag induced exhaustion as I landed in Paris on Friday and we stayed out very late that night, first hitting Nicolas and the Frog in Bercy Village and then heading over to the Batofar for some late night fun.  We kept it a little more calm on Saturday with the World Cup, a restaurant, and drinks at a friend's place.  Sunday we took it easy in the morning having a late breakfast with friends and then we headed back to Bordeaux so I could get back and have time to unpack and get situated before having to go to bed for work today.

 with Caroline, Amy and Elias in Bercy Village

I'm also very thankful I was able to pick up my residency card before I left the country because, while I didn't have any issues getting back into France (and they didn't even ask to see it) I wouldn't have been able to get on my flight from Amsterdam to Detroit or my flight from the US to Paris without it.  I was shocked when I not only had to show it when making my connection in Amsterdam (I mean, after all, I'm flying back to my home country), but also when they asked for it in the airport in Ohio before letting me start my trip back to France.  That has NEVER happened before and I'm pretty sure my expired card with a ridiculous looking récépissé in French and the French law printed out in French wouldn't have gotten me very far in either situation.

Not too shabby for two and a half weeks!  More on my trip to Canada and the wedding coming soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Happy day

Today I literally feel like jumping for joy, celebrating this momentous occasion and overall feeling of peace and liberty. Today (drum roll please) I went to the préfecture and picked up my 10-year carte de résident!!!!

At the Préfecture just after receiving my carte de résident

I feel so free - free from yearly préfecture visits and piles of paperwork, free from the stress and frustration of spending multiple months a year without a proper, valid form of French ID, free from the hassle and the need to waste so much time dealing with administration, just absolutely, completely free. And it feels good!  So, so good. I almost want to abandon the entire citizenship request (which is not going nearly as well, by the way) for the time being and just relish in the delight and happiness that this 10-year card brings. I want to enjoy a few Préfecture/Bureau des Etrangers-free years before throwing myself back into administrative battles. But I won't because that would be silly and who knows how long the entire process is going to take, especially considering all of the obstacles I've already encountered.

The entire process at the préfecture went very smoothly. I was able to buy my 260€ de timbres fiscaux at the préfecutre and then get in the line to pick up my card. I only had to wait about 30 minutes, which was quicker than I expected, and then I had my card in my hands. I was surprised to see they updated the format and that all new French ID cards are now credit card-sized rather than the gigantic cards they have been using for years that don't easily fit in a wallet. It also now contains an electronic chip with a digital copy of my photo and personal information as well as having all of that info appear on the card. Quite impressive and modern...way to go France, finally entering the 21st century!

I'm also thrilled that I was able to get my card today because I leave for a two-week trip to the US on Thursday and I was starting to worry how I was going to fight my way back into the country without a valid titre de séjour (my old one expired in May) and only a récépissé de demande de renouvellement. Though in theory this shouldn't be a problem I read a few horror stories and a lot of sites recommended printing out a copy of the French law as you would most likely encounter problems at passport control. Now I'm just happy I don't have to worry about it. Ever again!

As ridiculous as it may seem (though anyone who has experienced the titre de séjour process will probably understand), today I just feel victorious.  And it feels great.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Weekend à la campagne

We spent a relaxing and calm weekend in Corrèze last weekend, visiting with friends, enjoying the weather and decompressing in the peace and quiet. I had never been to Corrèze before and wasn't really sure what to expect; all I had ever heard was that it's very agricultural and the middle of nowhere.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised!

We had an incredible weekend and really took advantage of the opportunity to destress and enjoy nature. We drove out Friday after work and when we arrived the barbecue was being prepared. After a delicious meal we hung out, caught up and played some games.  We spent a lazy Saturday lounging in the sun, barbecuing and we went in a hike to a nearby lake.  On our hike we encountered all kinds of creatures - horses, a donkey, a goat, ducks, the largest slugs I've ever seen, a dog, chickens, roosters, cows and even a squirrel (first squirrel I've ever seen in France!).

 Lac du Coiroux

one of the adorable old buildings on our friend's property

 a family of hourses we encountered on our hike

 a nearby pond

Finally, after another barbecue on Sunday we headed home, making a pit stop in Collonges-la-Rouge to visit one of les plus beaux villages de France. And it definitely lived up to its reputation! In the end it was a great weekend, we had a lot of fun and it was just what I needed after quite a few hectic and stressful weeks.