After weeks of gathering the necessary documents to present to the VFS Center in Los Angeles (they handle French Visa applications for AZ), the final items needed were passport sized photos. The last time I had passport photos taken, it didn’t end well.
I’m not photogenic. Period. Especially when I’m not allowed to smile, and my sparse lashes are bare.
My passport photo will make your eyes cross, and straight hair curl. It has even brought chuckles from the most stern of customs officers, so I was not surprised when my visa photo brought a look of horror from the CVS employee assigned to the photo department. It WAS frightening. I looked like a wild animal that had fought the battle of her life to prevent capture. The photo guy offered to take another pic, but I declined. We could have taken pics all day long, and it would have been the same result. A large pair of sunglasses might have made a small difference, but who knows? I dreaded handing over those photos to the consulate (J.W. would have loved them).
In late March, Ray and I flew to LA, dossiers in hand for our visa appointments. At the appointed time, I was called to the window (imagine a small room resembling a DMV office) to start the process. We began with my passport. The agent tried to hide his shock, but I saw it. I said nothing. There was no turning back.
As he requested an item, I handed it over. He would review it, type something, and we would move on to the next document. Finally, it was time to hand over my glamour shot; I thought he was going to choke on the beverage he was sipping. As if he needed clarification, I blurted out, “It’s horrific, I hope the Consulate in Washington D.C. has a sense of humor.” He said nothing. I became one with my chair. I turned around and looked at Ray (man with the gorgeous visa photo) for support. He smiled and nodded.
After reviewing all my documents and filling out a few more forms, it was Ray’s turn. When Ray presented his passport, the agent visibly relaxed. There was a look of relief in our agent’s eyes when Ray slid the visa photos across the desk. I looked away…
All visas issued by France are biometric visas, which means they capture your fingerprints and take a photo. A friendly agent called my name, and I followed her into the Biometric room. The first thing she mentioned was my visa pic. She thought it was marginally better than my passport photo: we were off and running. Ray could hear our laughter as I regaled her with ‘lousy photo’ stories as she tried to capture my fingerprints. Of course, I mentioned the FBI screener in Phoenix had a difficult time capturing Ray’s fingerprints while I sailed right through. I remember she said something about karma… The photo she took was marginally better…
Of course, Ray sailed in and out, leaving with a marvelous photo and perfect fingerprints. I expected nothing less. We were advised it could take up to 15 business days for our passports to be returned via 2-day mail, so I was stunned when they arrived the following week.
Inside the Envelope
Ray’s arrived first, naturally. Patiently waiting for the courier to drive off, I turned, tore into the envelope, and grabbed his passport. Would I find the 12 month, renewable in France, long-stay visa, as we hoped, or would the paper wrapped around the passport state his application was denied? The angels sang as I looked in the passport and spotted a gorgeous French visa. Twelve months, renewable in France, he was in! I didn’t believe they would separate us, so I knew my passport would contain the same type of visa (although I did worry a bit).
My passport arrived the next day. Reaching inside the envelope, I pulled out my passport and gingerly turned the pages. I was over the moon to find my long-stay visa. As I examined it, something caught my attention, and I began to laugh until the tears flowed. The kind folks at the French Consulate in Washington, D.C did not use the frightening photo from CVS in Phoenix, they substituted it with the photo taken in the biometric room in Los Angeles. While I was thrilled with the substitution, I believe it was more of a gift for the numerous French authorities that would be in close contact with the visa photo. I’m good with that! All I can say is, Thank you and VIVA LA FRANCE!
Its been a busy few months. We sold our house in April (first offer) and closed a couple of weeks ago; I sold my car the same day. The movers packed up our home last week; our belongings are headed to Marseille where they’ll clear customs. Finally, they will be loaded onto three small trucks for the drive to Pezenas. Our street is too narrow to accommodate a large truck!
Ray retired last week! Woohoo and lots of happy dancing! He has been counting down since January; we never thought this day would come.
So, after embroidering countless stockings and pillows over the years with the phrases, “There is no place like home unless it is France,” and “My other Chateau is in France,” that dream finally came true. It’s bittersweet, J.W would have loved this move, but he is with us.
We finished our ‘Get Outta Dodge, Farewell Tour’ relaxing at a local resort. The chill time was necessary for sanity’s sake. Really. Tomorrow at this time, we’ll be on our to France to begin the next chapter. YAY!!
If you’ve read this far, thank you! Who knows, maybe we will meet in France… Someday.