27 July 2009
Website searches and talks with ex-pat American lawyers revealed that the typical American notary public doesn’t really exist here. Apparently the French aren’t impressed with signatures that have seals next to them- maybe too royalist? There is something called a Notaire, but that is really something more like a Master- a lay judge who has a completely different set of functions.
However, acknowledging the American fascination with notarization, there is some obscure federal law which requires all US Embassies around the world to offer notarization services.
To get this service, you need to make an appointment. But of course when I tried to do that the web link was dead. An email to the embassy in Paris got a response- Washington runs that server, and they’re working on it. A few days later I was able to really make an appointment, for about a week later. An appointment letter, a US passport, and $30 were all I needed. Note that the website also says something to the effect of: Yes, we love all Americans. But please don’t come and bother us if you can possibly avoid it.
We had gone to the French Embassy in Washington, DC to get the long stay visas. But the American Embassy in Paris- wow, those French guys were amateurs.
I took the Metro to Concorde, about a block from the Embassy (although you have to walk about 3 blocks underground to get to the exit.) When you get to the Embassy there’s the expected police presence (French) and bicycle barriers, and you had to cross the street, walk a half block down, and then walk through a maze of barriers back across the street again to get to the first check point at the Consulate.
The first guys (who were still French police) looked at your letter, your passport, checked it against a pre-printed list, and let you go about 5 feet to the next waiting spot. Then you waited in line to be allowed into the building where you went through airport security. There was a huge trash bin full of water bottles (what- this isn’t really an airport??) The website had warned you not to bring *any* electronic devices. I left my cell phone in my office at work, I didn’t bring my iPod on the Metro, but rather some work to do. When I was finally in that building, the next French policeman searched my purse. They didn’t like my chapstick, my tiny bottle of Advil, but finally put those back in. But they really really didn’t like the security device on my keychain (a PIN randomizer to get into the VPN at work). It had never occurred to me that this was a suspect electronic device- it doesn’t send/receive anything, can’t take pictures… but was suspicious enough that it got checked into a plastic bag which would await me, in exchange for the ticket on a neckchain that I got instead. After the manual search, I went through a metal detector, and the purse now went through the x-ray machine. I waited on the other side, and the police man kept wondering why I wouldn’t leave. Uh, mon sac… (my purse). Finally he gave it to me. So now I get to walk out of this building, and over to the real building.
At the entrance here, you got your number, like at the bakery. They were in different series; D was the notary line. (I was D07). Then you got to go into the waiting room. It was standing room only, with about 100 seats, and 20 different windows. Most people were there for other services, like getting visas for visitation. My appointment was at 1:30, I had originally arrived at 1 pm, and it was about 1:20 when I got into this room. The windows dedicated to notary services were all shuttered. Finally after 1:30 the first opened, and called D01. After no one went to the window, they called D02. After about 5 minutes they called D03, who actually went to the window. It wasn’t like there was anywhere you could go- you certainly didn’t have the opportunity to sightsee in the Embassy. Finally around 2 pm my number came up, but when I walked to the window there was a woman already there with a huge stack of papers. The clerk told me “you’ll have to wait- she had an earlier number”. Ok, I have to wait because she couldn’t figure out when her number was called earlier? After about 10 minutes the late woman got sent to the cashier, and I finally got my turn. I explained to the clerk that all I needed was my signature notarized on this already completed form. She took my passport, looked at the form, and complained that there wasn’t enough room for the notary stamps. She stamped a generic “US Embassy, Paris” print below the notary block, but sadly, she was not the real notary, just completing step one. She then gave me an invoice form filled out for $0. Apparently since this request was for a government agency, you didn’t have to pay. But you did have to go to the cashier and not pay. The cashier’s booth (window 20) had been empty the whole time I was waiting for my number to be called, but now there were 4 people in line, the first of whom was the woman with the big stack of papers. I'm stuck behind this lady twice?! The couple in front of me asked me questions in French about filling their application out. They were apparently Vietnamese, with US green cards, but the guy had lost his. He worked in France for a number of years, and did not speak English. Ok, whatever. His question was the difference between a commuting and non-commuting resident. In my halting French I tried to explain the work in one country and live in another concept, none of which was really related to his working and living in a 3rd country- not his native land, not his adopted land, but a different one yet. We all decided he was non-commuting, and he got his turn to pay. They didn’t take too long, I got up to the window, gave my slip to the guy who said thanks, you’re done, wait and they’ll call you again.
Now I had to go sit down again, to wait for the real notary to appear. After another 20 minutes, I got called up to the third window, where the notary quizzed me about what was going on, gave me my passport back, had me sign, then signed and did her sealing thing. All of which took about 30 seconds, about as long as this whole episode should have taken.
So, I’m not sure what PennDOT will make of an application notarized at the US Embassy in Paris, but as long as I can now get a new driver’s license, it’s ok.
15 July 2009
12 July 2009
Thank goodness, then, that I ran out of chestnut honey a few weeks ago. I'd seen that there's a shop specializing in all things honeybee in the 13e, a short walk from the Manufacture des Gobelins, which I've been meaning to visit for awhile. Including stops at BHV for some odds and ends, a boulangerie I'd heard good things about, and a source for mustard on tap (can't live in France without mustard in your refrigerator), I had a 5-h walk through 6 arrondissements on a beautiful Spring afternoon.
Sweet spot: Les Abeilles in the 13e.
When a French colleague at work asked where we'd be living, he pulled a disapproving face at the response, saying those neighborhoods are very bourgeoise, where people go to have children. It turns out that it suits our needs just fine: it's a nice neighborhood, with good access to La Défense so Karen doesn't have a long commute, good access to Bois de Boulogne so we can get our early morning rides in quickly, and good access to high quality markets and food shops. That said, we'd certainly look at other options if were to stay in Paris indefinitely, mostly because there are a lot of really neat places to live here. Neighborhoods range from staid monumental places to chaotic and energetic places full of recent immigrants, to quiet but charming and intimate locations.
The neighborhood where the bee place is, Butte aux Cailles, definitely falls into the last category. Mostly full of 2 and 3 story buildings, lined with small cafes and shops, it feels a little like the Fitler's square area of Philadelphia. Very homey and unpretentious.
Houses like this aren't common everywhere in Paris.
Like jams and preservers, honey is a popular condiment in France. Supermarkets carry varieties produced by bees that preferentially visit a number of flowering plants. So it's not really for lack of options that I needed to visit Les Abeilles, but it offered even more. Eucalyptus, pine, lemon, thyme, acacia, chestnut, and many more. Bee buzz soundtrack playing quietly in the background, a gentle older man helped me, giving me tastes of several honeys. I bought mild acacia for cooking and pungent dark pine for eating. While paying, I realized that the buzzing was live, not Memorex-- there was a bucket of bees on a shelf near the rear of the shop. One of them searched my hair for pollen for a few seconds but thankfully found none and moved on.
And so did I. Honey secured, I stopped in at the nearby Manufacture des Gobelins workshops to watch them make their famous tapestries. Established in the 1600s, and named for a family of dyers who produced a particularly pleasing red color, they eventually became the workshops for the King. Three different techniques are used to make tapestries there, all requiring what seems like infinite patience: a tapestry often takes several years for 2 or 3 workers to complete. Subject matter can be ancient (repair and reproduction of ancient tapestries is performed) or modern (there is a jury that chooses artwork to be interpreted in tapestry), but either way you can't buy them. Tapestries are produced only for the State, which hangs them in its embassies or uses them as diplomatic gifts. The workshops seem to be maintained mostly to keep the art of this type of tapestry making alive, which is kinda neat.
Vienna had its gold-painted Mozart performers, this busker had a Kurt Cobain marionette that was "performing" blaring Nirvana on Pont l'Archevèche.
I then walked from Manufacture des Gobelins over to the right bank, past the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation on Île St Louis (closed for the day; will have to go back later), to get mustard from the tap at Maille on Place de la Madeleine, and then bread in the 2e. By then, I'd gotten tired and decided to take the metro back home. Distracted while thinking about the other chores I needed to take care of before dinner, I got on the train going the wrong direction. Realizing my mistake the minute the doors closed, I got off at the next stop to change directions and on the stairs down to the connector was met by RATP control, checking metro tickets and passes. No problem. Unlike the hordes of people I see every day jumping the turnstiles in plain view of the ticket vendors, or pushing through behind paying customers, I buy a monthly pass. I handed the pass to the control, a humorless woman probably in her 50s, and she ran it in her hand-held machine, which said it was valid. Great-- can I go now? But we weren't done. She pulled me out of the line of other controllers and said there was a problem: my pass didn't have my picture on it.
Well, yeah, there is that. I'd been meaning to put one on there, but the extra pictures I have from the dozens needed for visa and other purposes are a little too big, and I just couldn't swallow paying even more money for pictures for documents. Besides, this is a subway pass-- how big a deal can it be?
A 25-euro fine, that's how big. On a 52-euro-a-month pass. I told her I was really sorry, that I didn't realize it was obligatory, and that I'd get one that afternoon, hoping she'd show the slightest bit of flexibility, but she wanted her 25 euros right there. I understand I'd not completely followed the rules, but I've gone out of my way to make sure I'm paying for my tickets on the metro and on the RER (where, depending on the stations you go between, validating your ticket is on the honor system). 5 euros, OK, but 25? I bet riding without a ticket is less than that. I was steamed. It's a good thing I don't know any vulgar French, because I would have used it, for sure. But since I didn't, I'll also avoid vulgarity in English and just say, the ghoul. Oh well, it's France. So I paid her, and she gave me a receipt good until the next morning, in case I was controlled a 2nd time that day.
That night I cut down one of my document photos and stuck it in there. I thought of using this one,
but I figured that would be a 100-euro fine: 50 for an invalid picture, and another 50 for being a smart-alec.
As we waited in line to order our pork chops, a woman ahead of us asked for some of the rotisserie piglet, and the butcher came out, pulled a spit out of the rotisserie, slid the pig off the spit, and -- whack!-- there were 2 heads looking at the ceiling. Whack-whack-whack-- the pig had been chopped roughly into quarters. We wanted in on that action and came home with a front leg and shoulder, juicy flavorful meat and crispy brown skin just perfect as sandwiches on our baguette, with some thinly sliced cornichons to add a little acid and crunch. The bones (and hoof) went into the stock pot along with saved bones from the last few weeks for some meat stock.