09 September 2015

Emergency Passport - The Saga?

So, my passport was stolen, along with all my other identification, the VERY FIRST day of vacation in France.
Despite this bit of bad luck, I had a few things on my side:
  1. I had a copy of my passport in my luggage (not stolen, not missing)
  2. I was able to get a printout of my driver's license info from the rental car agent (this was more a mental plus, not necessarily a logistics plus)
  3. I was with the BEST travel companion possible, my husband
  4. Said hubby still had HIS passport (and money, and credit cards)
  5. We were staying in one place for the duration
  6. That place was near-ish to Marseille, one of two places to get an emergency replacement passport (you can guess that the other is Paris - quelle horreur!)
  7. We were able to access the internet fairly quickly
  8. We were able to get phone access (not so quickly) - see here
  9. We had flown into Marseille, and so had an inkling of how to get there
  10. Our landlady (again, just fantastic!) suggested a route to us: drive to the Aix-en-Provence TGV station, and train from there to Marseille
We found the website and instructions - tried for an appointment, but all of September was full! So, we wrote an email, explaining our predicament - the consulate wrote back with a suggested appointment :-)  - 9:30 am, the Tuesday immediately after Labor Day (a holiday, of course). We took it! We looked up the TGV (super fast train system) schedule - 12 minutes to Marseille, and the metro (subway) from the station to the consulate, and decided that the 8:09 train would work. That still left us with a roughly 2 hour drive to get to the TGV station. When we couldn't buy the train ticket online (thank you, verify-by-visa, that NEVER works), we decided that the smart thing to do would be to drive to the station the day before, buy our ticket, scope out the parking, and get a hotel room. That turned out to be a good thing - it took us just a bit longer to drive there (we would have missed our train), and I certainly felt a lot more comfortable knowing just exactly what to expect on the drive, with no time pressure.

So. We drove to Vitrolles (just North of Marseille) Monday afternoon, and checked into the same hotel we had our first night in France. We immediately drove to the TGV station, figured out the parking, and got our tickets for Tuesday morning. We went into the downtown area for dinner supplies, got lost (of course), made it back to the hotel, and crashed.

Tuesday, we're up early, and leave with plenty of time to drive to the station, park, get breakfast, and catch our train (yay!). On the train, we're across from a very pleasant young man, and we relax just a bit.

In Marseille, we get off the train, and almost immediately see the signs for the metro* - we get a day pass (just in case, but it turned out to be the smart move), and hop on. Three stops later, we're off, and looking for the consulate*. A few blocks on, we stop in a pharmacie and ask for help - of course, we had gone the wrong direction from the metro... Reverse, walk, ahhh - there it is! And we're still early for our appointment :-)

As it happens, the consulate only sees people by appointment. We couldn't have just dropped in. We show our proof of citizenship (Rick's passport and my passport copy), explain why we have different last names, but really, we are married!

And then we get in. Almost. We still have to empty our bags of electronics and food, and go through a security check (not complaining, I get it - just noting for future reference).

Then it's easy peasy - go to a window, give my pre-printed application (from the website), give the prepaid envelope (from the French post office), give the photo (from the photo store), and show my passport copy. Go to another window and pay. Wait a few minutes to be called to another window, where I swear that all my information is true. I am reassured that there is time to receive my new passport, told when to get anxious, and what to do if that happens (call if I don't have my new passport in about 2 weeks; they'll quick-send a temporary).

Less than half an hour after we arrived, we're DONE! I can't remember the last time bureaucracy was so efficient. It's only 9:40, and we're done!

Marseille awaits...

* Google maps just doesn't get metro-walking directions right.

Costs for this side-trip (not counting food):
Gas: 42€ (includes original Marseille- Montpellier trip)
Tolls: 4,40€ x 2
TGV: 12,80€ x 2
Parking: 12€
Hotel: 53€
Metro/bus: 5,20€ x 2
Passport replacement: $135
Total: ~$310 :-/

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