I know, poor me, right? I just HAD to go to Paris for the day. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? I laugh with my girlfriends back home about this all the time. I try to tell them that going to Paris for the day is about as exciting as going to Atlanta, but I don't think they believe me. Maybe they're right. It is Paris, after all.
But I really did have to go. I had to have a paper notarized in order to close my father's estate, which means going to the American Embassy in Paris. I believe there are two other embassy offices in France, one in the south and one in the north (or is it east?), but the Paris office happens to be the closest.
The office for American Services recently moved around the corner from where it used to be (the new address is 4, rue Gabriel, metro station Concorde), but now you have to present your passport and reason for being there before you get within a mile of the place. Plus it seems that newly installed President Sarkozy was going to be driving by later in the day, so the whole Place de la Concorde was streaming with police and barricades. It was really kind of a surreal experience, although every policeman I talked to was very nice (I got a little turned around when I got out of the metro and had to ask for directions... twice).
I was met by Sarah, whom I haven't seen in an age and we had an excellent chat (thanks again for meeting me Sarah!). Then we were met by Aimee and the sweetest (and biggest! wowza!) two month old around, the famous Max! We said our goodbyes to Sarah and Aimee and Max and I made our way into the Embassy.
Getting into the Embassy is no less trying than getting on an airplane. First you have to present your passport and reason for being there (Aimee was acting as a witness for me - it was all I could do not to go around singing "Can I get a witneeeess"). After Max's stroller was tested to be sure we weren't carrying around illegal weapons (just your garden variety diaper bombs, thanks), we advanced into a maze of steel barricades until we came to the door, where we had to show ID again. Then we advanced to a screening room, where we showed our IDs again and reason for being there as they went through our bags and held our electronics and we walked through a metal detector. Finally we made it to the big room.
When you arrive in the big room, the first thing you do is go to the computer console and get yourself a number by tapping on the reason that you're there. Your options, if you're American, are passport related or notary/authentication. You're sitting in the same room as foreign nationals who are applying for visas and passports so it is important that you get the right one, or you may end up in front of a clerk who isn't a notary and then you'll have to start all over. Then you sit and wait for a good long while. I'm so used to Hurry Up and Wait that I don't even get upset about this anymore. I just make sure I've got plenty of time to waste and I have something to keep me occupied. Aimee and I chatted away and played with Max while people all around us were getting nervous and indignant and stomping out of the place when they felt they'd waited long enough. Oh well, the better for us!
When your number is finally called, you give the clerk your passport and your paper and then you're sent to the cashier to pay for the service. Having a paper notarized is $30 plus $20 for each additional paper which in my opinion is highway robbery but when you're the only show in town I guess you can charge what you want. Then you wait for them to call your number again, and then in thirty seconds flat you sign the paper and you're free.
The office hours for these services are only from 9:00 to 12:00 and we didn't get there until after 11:00. I was worried it would be ridiculously crowded but in fact I would suggest going later in the morning because by that time some folks get frustrated and walk out which means you might get out of there a little quicker. Definitely plan on being there at least an hour.
As for the rest of the day, we mosied around, had lunch in a park and went to Bon Marché for knitting goodies and food goodies before I had to head back home. I also gave Max a couple of things I whipped up:
Thanks Aimee and Max for helping me out and hanging with me yesterday! We'll have to do it again real soon!