A Visit to the Musée du Louvre

The guide books were right.  Avoid the Mona Lisa where nearly of all the 7.4 million [2016] visitors huddle during their visit.  Instead head to less traveled sections of the vast museum.  We spent about five hours in the museum, visiting my favourite, Greek artifacts, and Heather’s favourites, some of the chinaware from the time France was a monarchy.  This museum is vast.  It has 380,000 artifacts.

If you have your calculator handy that means to see all of them we need to see 21 items per second over our five hour visit – with no bathroom break.  So we decided to go for quality over quantity [items not bathroom breaks].

These are a few of the photos taken during our visit.

Security in Paris

Security in Paris is less evident than my trip last October, in spite of the terrorist attacks.  While walking down a busy street near Jardin des Plants we heard sirens rapidly approaching.  Approximately five police on motorcycles were moving quickly forward, clearing traffic in advance of two police cars.  Following the two police cars was a van labelled ‘Penitentiary’.  With our adept use of our French-English dictionary we quickly understood.

Following the van were two more police cars with police in the cars wearing balaclavas, and they had their machine guns pointed out the windows as they zoomed through the cleared traffic.  That was our drama for the day.

 

Family Reunion – May Long Weekend

May 27, 2017 weekend is a holiday weekend in Germany allowing Sean [son] and Jessica [daughter-in-law] to visit us in Paris from Cologne.

Family Visit – Paris

Sean took on Paris drivers – wisely parking near the city’s edge.

A great weekend sampling ‘the best falafels outside of Israel’ and Le Sirocco, a really first rate Moroccan restaurant in Paris.  Their visit included a visit to the Plant du Jardins, and the Père LaChaise cemetery.

For this week we will continue to tread water waiting for our UK visa re-issuance.

Sean and Jess – Paris Cafe
A warm day on the Seine
Street Art – Paris
Street Art – Paris
Street Art – Paris

Life in Paris

For the past two weeks we have been residing in the 13th Arrondissement, one of twenty sections of Paris.  An easy Metro ride of 15 to 20 minutes of most major Paris attractions, it has been great to be away from the throngs of tourists downtown.

Our Airbnb accommodation has cost us about $100 Canadian per night.  We have a small one bedroom flat, within 5 minutes of a Metro Station.  We highly recommend this area for your future travels.  Our closest Metro stops are Glacière, Corvisart, and Place D’Italie.  From our residence we have two major outdoor markets within a ten minute walk…a definite plus if you plan to cook which we do almost daily.  We have really enjoyed shopping at these markets which include high quality fresh produce, meats, cheeses, breads and confections.

I will be afraid to get back on a scale once I return to the U.K.!  We are walking in excess of 20,000 steps most days which will help.

The Metro system here is fantastic!  We have been traveling extensively throughout Paris, and I don’t think we have ever waited more than 3 minutes for a train.  About 22 Euros for a weekly pass….worth every penny.

We find English speaking people a little harder to come by in this section of Paris, but as long as we make an effort with our minimal ability in French, everyone has been very helpful.

As Garry mentioned in our last entry, our stay will likely be extended for a few days due to delays in receiving our visa replacements.  We thought about going to rural France, but our little flat is available until the end of the week, so we’ve decided to stay put in Paris.  There remains, a lot we would like to do here including going for a night view at the top of the Arc de Triomphe, a visit to the Louvre, and a trip to a huge park on the western edge of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne.

Last night, we had a picnic supper in the Jardin des Tuileries, my favourite downtown park, located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. Established in 1664, it is one of Paris’s most popular green spaces with a large pool and many statues scattered over the area.

Below are photos of the Tuileries, along with some shots of our accommodation.

View from our balcony
View of our courtyard from the 7th floor
Tuilieries Fountain
Tuilieries Sculpture

An Unexpected Holiday in Rural France

Having been once pickpocketed it was time to deal with UK Immigration about our stolen Residence Cards.

First the facts:

  • British Residence Cards stolen
  • Told when we entered the UK that if these were stolen or lost outside of the UK we must get a counterfoil or visa to return to the UK
  • Once in the UK we would then apply for a replacement card

Simple enough except:

  • Given my background with Immigration I know how the visa systems work
  • In our passports which we have possession of are our UK visas
  • The visas are clearly marked ‘multiple entry’ and valid to June 5, 2017

So re-entry to the UK should be possible based on my knowledge – the ‘multiple entry’ visa is valid until June 5.  The haunting question is whether there is an unique UK law that nullifies multiple entry visas in these circumstances given what UK Immigration told us.

Our next step was to contact the UK Immigration.

There are two ways to do this:

  • send an e-mail
  • call their pay per minute line

I decided to do both.

The email contact attempts to reply within 24 hours – so off it goes with my precise question.

I then call the pay per minute line, where the person tells me I must reapply for a card.  I tell her that is not possible, it is clear from the website that you cannot apply directly because you must first be in the UK not outside of the UK.  A terse short conversation ensues until I conclude this person knows nothing about what she is talking about and hang up.

Next call – ah!  The person listens and clearly understands the question – is the visa valid for reentry?  In the end she says that is a good question and she does not know the answer to that question.  She is honest which I appreciate, but why am I paying for this call?   Will they not call me back with an answer if they do not know the answer?

Third call – yes the person listens again, and concludes that ‘probably’ it will work but again the person is not sure.  I could ‘give it a try’.

The problem with ‘giving it a try’ is twofold.  First if there is some provision in UK law that nullified the multiple entry visa, then we would be refused entry and forever after I would have to answer ‘yes’ to that question common with all visa applications, “Have you ever been refused entry to a country?”.   Second this assumes we would be returning May 31 as planned, then, if refused, we would start the process of obtaining a new visa.  They require up to 15 working days for visas – so we would be in mid June to late June before we could return.

Three days have passed no answer to the precise written e-mailed question.

On balance we decide to act conservatively and spend the  €246 euros each and apply.  The application takes about four hours to prepare, then we must make an appointment with a company that handles UK applications [they act as a proofreader and mailbox with biometrics, and are not a decisionmaker].  The appointment made on a Friday is for the following Tuesday.

We attend the appointment.  The sympathetic reviewer expresses his regret over our loss.  We redo our fingerprints, photos.  He then forwards the application to Immigration in the UK where the wait of up to 15 business days begins.  They hold our passports while we await a decision.

That night, unexpectedly, we finally get a reply to our written e-mail.  YES your original multiple entry visa remains valid – just as I suspected.

As an aside to any one who has worked in the field of Immigration this is very basic knowledge.  It is unbelievable that the cost per minute line could not give a simple definitive answer.  My expertise is Canadian Immigration law and there was always a possibility that UK Immigration had a law or regulation that nullifies the UK entry visa once the Residence Card is issued.

This is great news – I was right all along and we can proceed to the UK with our original visas.  A huge sigh of relief EXCEPT we then realize that our passports were forwarded to the UK and we must await a decision.  ARRGH!

One sliver of hope remains.  The agency in Paris retained our passports.  They do not forward them to the UK.  However what if, upon receipt of those newer applications the UK cancelled our old visas and reissued new ones.  At that point without a valid visa we could be refused entry and would start the process of applying yet again for a new visa along with yet another payment of €246 each.

There are many problems with management of the Immigration program by the UK government, and the Canadian system is similar.  First at no point can you talk with an experienced immigration officer.  Sorry fifteen hours of classroom training then working at the pay per minute call centre does not cut it.  Second governments have inserted a private company between the user or constituent.  That private company buffers the process, so the government does not have line-ups outside their offices but something is lost.

In this case what could have been a simple question and answer across a desk, turns into a paper war with complete bungling of both information and decision-making.  Does it really save resources?  I don’t think so – in this case what could have been a five minute question and answer period has turned into time spent by the private company interviewing us, transmitting an application, then UK government resources spent evaluating an application that was unnecessary in the first place, then returning the material to the Paris visa centre.

So off we go for an unexpected holiday in rural France while we await the return of our passports to the visa centre in Paris.

Life is tough – an unexpected holiday in rural France.

Next post – a visit with Sean [son] and Jessica [daughter-in-law] in Paris for the weekend.  And maybe some pictures from a very warm day +32 and sunny.

Spring Sunday Market

Early Sunday morning, when many stores close, is the time some street markets open.  Many of these photos were taken a short walk from where we live, near Metro Glacière.  There is a wealth of food – sausage, wine, radishes, tomatoes, fish, mushrooms and fruit.

Time for an early morning stop at the boulangerie

 

A feast for the eyes and palate.
Simmering mushrooms

 

 

 

Thoughts from Paris

Every time we pop our heads up from a Metro Station we are delighted to get a new view of this magnificent city.  Like Vancouver, there are many things to do that don’t cost money…mainly meandering through beautiful shopping districts, neighbourhoods and parks throughout the city.

We have been here for a week and today marked the first time we paid an admission….we toured the magnificent Musée d’Orsay, which houses a wide selection of art masterpieces from around the world.

After riding the Metro for a week, I have learned that Parisians love their shoes!  It’s natural to have your eyes downcast while in transit, and admiring the footwear of both men and women has been fascinating.  High end, trendy, fashionable, unique and expensive.

Garry and I cook every day and we have really enjoyed shopping in smaller markets for simple, fresh ingredients.  Much of the high quality produce is from Spain, and this week we have been savouring the first crop of strawberries from France.  So much tastier than ours…don’t know why.  Other things we have been enjoying include sausage, cheese, wine, pastis and of course, daily croissants.  We have long walks every day that helps offset the above.  One day this week we set a new daily record on the Fitbit…33,000 steps!

 

Père Lachaise Cemetery & L’église de la Madeleine

Lunchtime at L’église de la Madeleine.  The image reminds me of the Ezra Pound poem, ‘ The apparition of these faces in the crowd, petals on a wet black bough’.  It was a poem written about his experience of 1913 in the Paris Metro.
Morning Père Lachaise Cemetery
Irises at Père Lachaise Cemetery. At Père Lachaise are the tombs of many famous artists and individuals including Edith Piaf, Macel Proust, Rossini, Chopin, Bellini, Bizet, and August Comte
One of the unique tombs. Rodenbach was a Belgian Symbolist poet.

 

Sunday in Paris

Beautiful Sunday at the Bastille market with the odd heavy downpour.  Then a trek to the Marais.  No robberies to report.

Regarding the robbery, add to the above – wow – Sean and Jessica were of great help.  Within a very short period they had supplied us with a list of phone numbers for banks in Canada, location of the police office in the 13e Arrondisement, arranged interpreter on standby if needed and information about how to wipe my stolen android cell phone.  My Google account linked to my cell enabled me to send a message to the phone that says – if anyone turns this phone on, erase everything on it.

Because of the police shootings in Paris we were met outside the police station.  Outside the police office were a couple of officers with automatic rifles.  We were given a form to complete, and, the next day when we returned, we went through a body scan, just to make certain, before being allowed in the small police building.

Simple dinner — because nearly all food stores close on Sunday.

This is one of my favourite fountains in the world. Lot’s of playfulness as fish squirt water at turtles and vice versa.  It is at the far end of Luxembourg Gardens.
Heather’s fantasy comes true – Paris Candy Store
Luxembourg Gardens in May
Luxembourg Gardens – Flowers