Category Archives: train travel

I take that back. Long-stay visa… no check.


UnknownWow, two posts in just one day, this must be juicy!  Only four short hours ago I was sitting at a Starbuck’s (don’t hate) wondering why I hadn’t brought my jacket with me to Chicago, with a big smile on my face in honor of La Journée de la Joie.

While waiting for my 5:15 train back to St. Louis, I received a phone call from the lovely lady at the consulate who helped me so much to locate all of the documents that I need for my long-stay visa.  She called to tell me that, unfortunately, my passport will expire NEXT April (2014).  The problem is that the visa I need is valid for one year.  See the problem?  My American passport absolutely must be valid for one full year from the time that visa is validated, which will be June 18 when I arrive in France.

My first reaction?  “Darn it.”  I meant it, and that’s a strong reaction from me.  I don’t curse, but “darn it” is a pretty close euphemism to what I really wanted to say.  I’d just come all the way to Chicago, spent the night in a hotel (spending money that could have been better spent on a wonderful dinner in Carcassonne, for example), gone through all of that just to have this one little stress completely off of my  plate.  And here it’s been regurgitated, right back onto my plate.  But I have to remember that if I were in France right now, it would be National Joy Day!!  So I’m taking my husband’s advice, “Jenn-ee-fère, zen!!!”  Ok.  I’m zen.  No really, I am.  I’m on the Amtrak, the “high-speed” Amtrak with free WiFi, and they have a bar.

I called the National Passport Service to see what could be done.  It seems that the expedite process to receive a new passport takes 2-3 weeks if done by mail.  If I get an appointment at the regional office in Chicago and go back there to get it, it can be done in a day.  I think that’s what I’m going to have to do, because I’m leaving for France on June 17, and the visa could take up to 21 days to receive.  I know from last year, when I did the same exact thing, that I got it back in one week.  Zen.  I’ll get an appointment to get an expedited passport, and once I have it I will hand deliver it to the French Consulate.  Zen. Then I’ll certainly receive it by mail before my departure on the 17th.  Zen.

I don’t want to do the trip alone again.  I’m going to have to find a friend to come along.  Then there’s the problem of work.  How can I take off another day when there’s only one week of school left?  Can’t miss Wednesday afternoon, though.  My colleagues in the Foreign Language Office are taking me out to a French restaurant for lunch.  Happy Joy Day!!

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Long-Stay Visa… Check!


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Last night I decided to take the train from St. Louis to Chicago rather than drive or fly.  The last time I took the train in the US was again from St. Louis to Chicago to apply for a long-stay visa at the French Consulate in Chicago, but that was 15 years ago.  Things have changed, and for the better!  The Amtrak trains still aren’t fast, but this one was clean and believe it or not the passengers were well-behaved!

I made it to Chicago at 11:00 and twelve hours later I was at the consulate turning in all of my documents to obtain a long-stay visa that will permit me to live and work legally in France for a year while taking the steps to gain French nationality.  It went very well, and I’ll have my passport back in time to travel to France on June 17.  I’m relieved to know that I can check that off of my list.

They don’t call Chicago the Windy City for nothing.  It’s pretty windy and cold out there, and I forgot to bring a jacket.  I guess I thought my thoughts were focused on the Mediterranean.

I Believe There Are More Good People Than Bad In This World


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I’m reaching back many years while writing this little post.  I was recently  speaking with a friend about train travel for my French Teacher blog http://learnfrenchwithjennifer.com , and I was reminded of  the town of Vichy when my friend recommended that I read this article:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/apr/25/vichy-lives-in-a-way/ 

The year was 1992, and I was 21 years old.  When thinking upon this incident, I’ve always liked to think of myself as being 18, it sounds so poetic.  But I was 21, with a 2 year old at home.

It was my very first trip to Europe, and I was on my way to Vichy, France.  Why in the world would I go there (because I’ve never felt the urge to go back)?  Let’s just say I was teaching French (very remedial French at the time) at an evangelical church sort of school place in Louisiana.  I was invited (of course, I had to pay my own way on credit cards) to attend an evangelical conference in Vichy.  So there you have it, that’s how I found my way to France for the first time.  Kind of hard to imagine myself in that situation these days, some 20 years later, but that’s how it was.

This article about Vichy reminded me of my first trip to France when I got off of the night train at the stop before Vichy by accident.  I was 18 (I mean 21).  I didn’t know what to do, so my friend and I walked along the train tracks until we reached a bridge that we weren’t willing to cross.  Instead, we went to a nearby nuclear plant where the men working there happened to be changing shifts.  We hitched a ride into Vichy with a man who said he had a daughter our age, and it was his duty to make sure we made it there okay.  That was my first true experience with a real French person.  I suppose it had a lasting impression.

It’s been a while since I have thought about how I felt at that particular moment, walking along train tracks in rural France at about 1 a.m..  I don’t remember being frightened.  I was peeved, that’s for sure, because I had a heavy suitcase and a VHS recorder the size of a large Coach bag to tug along, but I was never afraid.  It was exhilarating to be in that situation.  I had to use my few semesters of undergrad French to explain my plight to nuclear plant shift workers….. That’s how I learned that contrary to popular belief, they don’t speak English in France, and it’s not a good idea to bet on it.  I also learned that if you do you best by speaking the target language, wherever you may be,  and by braving a sterling smile, there are more good people than bad in this world.