Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2009

Carte de Sejour

Carte de Sejour

This blog post is a little late in coming, but this story is so  bizarre, I believe it’s worth writing about anyway.

D. and I both had to apply for our “cartes de sejour,” in order to stay in France for an entire year. Basically, this is sort of like the U.S. Green Card, except  it’s a) a lot easier and cheaper to get and b) it doesn’t give us permission to work. It does, however, let D.  travel anywhere in the EU, whereas otherwise he, as an Indian citizen, would have to get visas for each country! As an American, I can pretty much go anywhere around here without a visa anyway, so the benefits aren’t really so impressive.

Anyhow, after lots of paperwork… and more paperwork… and more paperwork… we finally were ready to tackle the last step of getting our cartes: The Medical Exam.

I realize this isn’t that unusual, although I do wonder about the logic of  examining us after we’re already in the country. I mean, if we brought T.B. over here, we’d have been transmitting it for three months by the time they finally called us in to the doctor.

We’re sort of used to these exams because D. had to take one for his US Green Card. But here’s the thing: in the US, they check for actual health risks — things like HIV.

In France, they check your height, weight and eyesight. So, basically, you can be  assured that no farsighted midgets will be invading their country anytime soon.

Two weeks ago, we had to drive for over an hour to a working-class suburb of Paris where the region’s official clinic is located. We joined the clump of immigrants gathered at the door, and waited quite a while. Once inside, a doctor called us in groups of six, to come into another office. There we started this bizarre assembly line of medical tests. The first woman called us in and barked at us in French to put our coats by the door – on the coat rack, not on the chair!

She then weighed us, and measured our height. Then she wrote it down on a sheet of paper, and sent us out to wait in the chairs outside her office. She was very upset when she saw there was a backlog in the next room, and that there were too many immigrants, and not enough chairs. Very upset. I think she wanted us all sitting down, lest we start a riot or jump out at her or something.

In the next room, a different woman asked us each to cover our right eye and read a line on an eyechart. Then the other eye. None of us were blind, so we passed with flying colors. 

Then, we were given little hospital gowns and asked to wait for an open changing room. While inside the rooms, we waited for a woman to knock, letting us know if was time to come out on the other side of the changing room, so we could take an X-ray for a tuberculosis check.

Finally, we waited to be called in to a doctor’s office. My doctor did this part so fast I barely had time to figure out what was going on before I was out of his office. He took my blood pressure and checked my heart. The, he picked some random questions to ask me.

Apparently they all pick different questions to ask, because some of my friends were asked if they were HIV positive (who would answer that one if they were?), if their parents have high cholesterol, etc. Mine asked me if I worked out. I said yes.

“What sport do you do?” he asked me.

Figuring he probably didn’t know what a “bhangra workout class,” was, I decided to just say that I ran.

“Ha ha, after the bus?” he said, cracking up at his own joke.

Jerk.

Anyhow, D. and I checked out OK, so we drove all the way home, went back to INSEAD and gave them papers that showed we weren’t too short or too fat to enter France. Then,we got our cartes.

Everyone seems to agree here that these exams are pretty pointless. The only thing we can assume is that this program employs hundreds of people throughout France (I mean, come on, they had one person withthe sole job of weighing us!) and, therefore , it’s not going away or being streamlined anytime soon.

Oh well, at least we can both travel to Spain now.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The view of Annecy from our hotel room

The view of Annecy from our hotel room

D. had a few days off from classes last week, so we got to take our first vacation since we’ve been here. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to leavethe country because he didn’t know if he would get his French version of a Green-Card in time for the trip – and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to get back into France! So, we found a vacation spot inside the country – Annecy.

Annecy is in the French Alps, about a 5 hour drivefrom our house. Isn’t isn’t really a ski-vacation town per se, but there are skiing areas around it, and Mont Blancis about an hour drive, I think, from there – but we didn’t go.

 

The drive there was beautiful, as we went through Burgundy, then the Rhones-Alps region and then finally we got to the very mountainous part in the Haute-Savoie region, where Annecy is located.

During the drive, we went through several tunnels – one of which was about 3 miles long! It started snowing/raining during the last leg of the drive, which made it a little scary. But I was psyched to hear the radio playing “Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music on our way through the Alps. How fitting, no?

From our car

From our car

 

We stayed in the old town of Annecy, which is built on several canals – that’s why they call it the “Venice of France,” I guess.

The old prison in Old Annecy

The old prison in Old Annecy

 

 

Me, in front of Lake Annecy

Me, in front of Lake Annecy

 

Right off the old town, there is a huge lake. We ended up taking a boat ride around it for about $10 and it was well-worth it. It was beautiful! Not only could we see the mountains all around it, but also some really old castles and other lovely homes that some of France’s really wealthy people own – our guide told us the homes are just as expensive as they are in Paris or Nice, about 5 or 6 million euros!

 

 

 

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

 

 

Deven eating tartiflette

Deven eating tartiflette

The food in Annecy is very obviously influenced by Swiss and German food – a bit of a shame, in my opinion, as I was hoping it would be more influenced by its other neighbor, Italy. Oh well. There were sausages, ham and wild boar galore. They also really love their cheese– especially a local cheese called Reblochon which is yummy and somewhat smelly, and which they put in a casserole dish, melt, and mix with ham and potatoes to make a tartifette, which is sold at every single restaurant we saw in Annecy.

 

 D. and I headed to a fondue place the first night – well, not just a fondue place.

It also served huge bread bowls full of melted Reblochon cheese, which sausages and cold cuts, and also these huge metal contraptions which held half a wheel of cheese – people would push part of the metal down on them to melt it, scrape it out, and eat it – with sausages and cold cuts. I can’t believe everyone there wasn’t morbidly obese. Anyhow, our fondue was quite good!

 Finally, we were able to see a really cool local carnival, called the Venetian Carnival, this weekend in Annecy. Basically, it involves people from all over France dressing up in Venetian masks and really elaborate hand-made costumes and parading all over town of the weekend. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty certain that these folks are a European-version of Renaissance Faire people in the U.S.A. They seemed REALLY into this stuff. 

If you’d like to see more photos of the Venetian Carnival, click here.

The Venetian masked couple

The Venetian masked couple

Read Full Post »

Paris - View from the (almost) Top

Paris - View from the (almost) Top

Sorry I haven’t posted anything for so long – but D. finally had his short school break last week, and we took advantage of it by traveling to Annecy, a little tourist town in the French Alps.

Before that, however, we went to Paris – and FINALLY saw the Eiffel tower. Well, I’d seen it once before, but it was from miles and miles away, from the freeway, so that didn’t really count, in my opinion.

It was a pretty cold day, but it wasn’t too bad. We purchased the “mobilis” ticket from the train station, which allows us unlimited train and metro rides for the day for 16 euros, and we were off for a day of exploring.

We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower stop, got off, and started walking around, wondering why we couldn’t see it anywhere. Just as I started to say, “hmm… don’t you think it would be easy to spot?” I looked up and BAM, it was right in front of me. Pretty startling, actually, to look up and just suddenly see one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world, you know?

This was our first view

This was our first view

Us, in front of it

Us, in front of it

D. and I walked around, then finally decided to walk up the first to levels. I think it was about 680 steps. When we came down, we walked across the way to get some popcorn and a crepe from a street vendor. Then we walked across the river and around the city for about 30 minutes, until we looked up again and, BAM! Saw the Arc de Triomph.
Awful photo - but look at the size of that sandwich!
Awful photo – but look at the size of that sandwich!
By this time, we were getting hungry. I had read about a great falafel place in a magazine article my mom cut out for me from Bon Appetit, so we headed to the Marais neighborhood to find it. After wandering around and seeing both a Subway sandwich shop AND a Starbucks (can you believe it?) we finally found the right area. It was in a Jewish neighborhood, and it was pretty cool to start seeing the French signs giving way to store shop windows and signs in Hebrew. There were a bunch of falafel places, but we
found “L’As du Fallafel.”
 It was a bustling, fun, bright place with speedy waitstaff. I ordered a coke and a falafel sandwich, which came in about 4 minutes flat.
Basically, it was the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
The actual piecesof falafel were good, although they weren’t quite as good as The Best Falafel Ever, which is made by my old friend from college at his restaurant,  “King of Falafel” in Madison.
However, this sandwich was second-to-none. The falafel came in warm pita, surrounded by hummus, some garlicky sauce, roasted eggplant pieces, shredded cabbage, tomatoes…. yum! And it was only 7 euros!
Our camera was dying by this point, but D. tried to quick capture a photo of the sandwich… as you can see, it didn’t really work.
After the food, we were ready to go home. We went to the station, caught the train back to Bourron-Marlotte about 20 seconds before it left, and took the hourlong ride back to the house. All in all, it was a great day!

Read Full Post »