Tuesday, January 13, 2009
On January 1st I had my Visa de Long Séjour in hand and felt proud to be entering Europe legally for the first time in months. Grégoire and I flew to Paris via Copenhagen on SAS. At the check-in desk we were, for no apparent reason, bumped up to business class! What a dream!
There are various theories as to why we were upgraded. Greg believes that it was thanks to his vintage coat and traditional briefcase, his chic outfit oozed business class and the lady behind the counter simply wanted to reunite him with his people. I believe we were upgraded because there weren't any seats together in coach and she saw how in love we were and didn't want to separate us.
Whatever the reason we were thrilled. Grégoire and I were giddy as we waited to board the plane, I turned to Greg and told him, "Ok. Let's not get too excited sweetheart. I mean it's going to be nice but it's not like the seat is going to fold out in to a bed and vibrate.". Well, mon coeur, I stand corrected. Our seats not only folded in to beds they also came with soft pillows, duvets, all the booze you could drink and a remote control to regulate the desired strength of vibration.
During the flight I reviewed the instructions attached to my visa, they clearly state that upon arrival in France I must have the visa inside my passport stamped by the officers at passport control. We stopped in Copenhagen en-route for Paris. When we landed in Denmark we walked through the passport control there. As per usual, the guy behind the counter looked at the photo-page of my passport, smiles at me and welcomes me to Europe. No stamp, no scan, no questions, no form to fill out, no flipping through the pages to see if I had any visa and thus in need of further examination. I thought, great, well that was easy. Then, as we boarded the flight from Denmark to France (both members of the European Union) I realized that that was the ONLY passport control we were going to see, since inter-european flights are treated as domestic flights and thus do not go through passport control a second time in France! Merde! I had no stamp.
When we landed in Paris we went to baggage claim and then looked for some kind of official to ask where I can find the passport people in order to get my visa stamped. "Oh no madame, you are in the domestic arrivals area. You cannot go back in to the international portion of the airport unless you have a boarding pass." I explained, " Listen, I just took a quick trip to the other side of the world to get this stupid sticker in my passport and it says I need a stamp from the French passport people and you, monsieur, are not going to ruin this for me. So can you please tell me where I should go?". The group of men shrugged and sent me to the information desk. There we found an obviously discontented worker whose only response was, "Yes, well, you should have got your passport stamped in Copenhagen since that was your first point of entry.". "Well fabulous! Would you like me to fly back there today and get it stamped? Or can you some how figure out how to connect me with a person who has the ink and the stamp in THIS airport since we are here!?". Folding her arms she leaned back and continued to scold us for not getting it stamped in Copenhagen like we should have.
It was tempting for me to direct my anger to this unhelpful airport employee but really, if we want to point fingers, it was the guy at the passport control in Copenhagen. Maybe it was my innocent looking face, maybe it was the color of my American passport, whatever the reason that worker should have scrutinized my passport and not just smiled at me and waved me through. That Danish worker, 750 miles from Paris, was charged with policing the French boarder. Since France is almost completely encircled by EU member states they are often dependent on their fellow European nations to decided who does and does not enter their territory. Maybe I should have pointed out my visa to him but is that really my responsibility? Maybe the language in the visa instructions need to be updated and tell you to get the visa stamped by the first EU passport control you see? Maybe the Prefecture de Police won't care? We'll see next week.