Passport Fiasco: Having Fun with Houseguests

Living in Provence Means Having Lots of Guests

We are more likely to have visitors now that we live in Provence, France. Back home in Cincinnati, Ohio, there weren’t that many people who “happen to be in the area on vacation” and wanted to stop by for a few days. Nope, the midwest really isn’t the perceived vacation paradise that the south of France is.

Not All Guests are Equal

So now that guests are coming through more often, and we’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly, I like to think that I’ve learned to be a better hostess–as well as a better guest myself. Recognizing that there are a lot of different guesting and hosting styles, I prefer the kind of guests who have some idea of what they’d like to see and are willing to pitch in on meal prep and dishes. A bit self-directed, if you will. Seriously, there are so many different kinds of things to do around here, it’s a bit difficult if you tell me you want to do “whatever”. Are you outdoorsy? Want to stick to the cities? Maybe quaint villages are your thing? Gimme a clue, because I’d like to make your visit enjoyable for us all, and this isn’t one-size-fits-all. We are super lucky that there are so many things to do and see in the region.

The Good Guests

Some of my favorite guests were a couple that had been on the road for a while. They were here over Thanksgiving (late November, for you non-Yanks), so the weather was a bit grey and drizzly. They were road-weary. They had only brought a small backpack each. They were awesome as heck. They just wanted to hang out, have luxuriously in-depth conversations, catch up on their writing and photography, visit the local markets and cook good food together. It was so pleasant, I felt like I was on vacation too. Jessica and Matt–come back ANYtime!

Our Latest Houseguests Were…Hmmm…

This last round of company was on the other end of the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong–they were lovely people. I just didn’t get much chance to enjoy their visit. At all. Here’s how it went down: My friend from the US writes that her daughter and friend are travelling through Europe before starting a semester of university in London. Of course, I extend the invitation to stay. She puts us in touch, and I get a general sense of their plans. Arriving Saturday, leaving Monday or Tuesday, got it, I’m happy to pick you up at the airport. You’re coming from where? What flight?  Radio Silence. Umm…Hello? Still coming? Kinda hard to know when to come get you without that info. Silence. Ok, well, I’ll prepare the guest bed just in case.

Day of–their arrival info comes through email. Okay! We’re in business. Saturday evening, I head down to the Marseille airport. The plane is 10 minutes late. Perfect, I was running a bit late myself. Not perfect, it’s awkward, actually. You ever have this experience where you are waiting in a crowd for someone you’ve never met? Each young woman that walks past me, I must be giving them a funny look like a lost puppy or a desperate older woman looking for a friend. Maybe I should have brought a sign or something. I’m just not that Pinterest-y.

Half an hour later, still waiting. Text her US phone number and it doesn’t go through. Just me and the limousine guys, who did bring their signs. They are using the erasable boards that our kids use in class–so smart of them. Hour later, call her. Straight to voicemail. Hmm… I distract myself by petting the little dog with the woman next to me. He proceeds to make a mess on the linoleum floor.

Phone rings! Whee! It’s her! They are in “holding”. Huh? The friend (of my friend’s daughter) apparently isn’t a seasoned traveller and left her passport on the plane. Hoo boy. Okay, keep me posted. I’ll be sitting over by the Burger King. More waiting.

Jailbroken but Not Free

Two hours later, the young women are free to go. We are all relieved and hungry. They’ve been given an email address and phone number for lost and found. Because it was a British flight, the French airport staff and police were not allowed on the plane to get her passport. She was not allowed back on the plane, as she didn’t know it was missing until she got to passport control. And all the British staff had left for the evening. Truly a Catch-22.

The next day was Sunday. We had planned a big hike East of Gorges du Verdon with friends. It required us all getting up early and packing a picnic and it was worth every bit of lost sleep.

See? It looks like some kind of travel poster.

Throughout the day, the girls and their parents (back in the US) tried to get hold of the airline, to no avail. No one responded to the emails we sent. Calls were stuck in hold, unanswered, or answered by people who didn’t know anything and couldn’t help. Being 20-somethings, the girls lit up Twitter, and the representative there said they had to call to get assistance. Woof. Another Catch-22. So we got online and took the first American consulate appointment available on Tuesday morning. After our day out, we all had soup and wine and went to bed.

Sleep It Off

The next day was Monday. It was a beautifully cool and drizzly Fall day, if you like that kind of weather (like I do). I got up for the regular routine, hubby bought croissants for our breakfast, no peep from the guests. I take the car for oil change and dog for walk, still no peep. Maybe that was a toilet flushing off in the distance? The dog has disappeared now. Hmm…2:30 in the afternoon I hear stirrings. Apparently the dog had gone back to bed with them and they were all just getting up now. Wow. I’ve completely lost the ability to sleep like that. Jealous? Yes.

Too late to do much sightseeing, I drop them at the l’Occitane factory store. Still no word from the airline’s lost and found. A new email address for the airport lost and found is responded to right away. But since the passport was left on the plane, they’ve got nothing for us. Desolée!

Hurry Up!

To get to the consulate in Marseille, we need two hours. Especially in the morning during rush hour. So we need to leave at 7. At 7 on Tuesday morning, I’m ready, my daughter is ready and willing to be dropped off at school early, our houseguests have not yet been seen or heard. So I go into Mom Mode. “Time to go! Get your stuff in the car!” Needless to say, we head out a bit later than planned. And there are traffic accidents. Several traffic accidents. The highway might as well be filled with the farm tractors and bicyclists that are so common on the backroads at home. We are barely moving. I’m panicked, driving as fast as possible whenever I can, which isn’t often. This is not fun. The girls are very quiet in the backseat. I really can’t tell what’s going through their minds.

We arrive in front of the consulate with one minute to spare. I’m in disbelief that we made it. “See that ivy-covered wall on the left? Get out of the car and run toward that flag!” They fuss around with bags and papers while I’m blocking traffic and the dog is whining and antsy after the long ride. (It was too early to take him to the dog sitter’s house, so he got to come to the big city with us.) They finally get out and head off to the right. Sigh. I’ve done my best. Either she will make the appointment or she won’t.

It Worked!

She does! She makes it on time to the appointment! The consulate people are super kind and efficient. Halleluiah! Within an hour, she is out on the street with a shiny new passport in hand. Well, the old lost one was shiny new too, but this one is in hand! Our friend now proceeds to talk more in the next two hours than I’ve heard in the past two days. Turns out, she’s not a glum mopey millennial after all. She’s a much-relieved, intelligent and witty young lady. Who knew?

We have just enough time to walk around a bit and have lunch before getting back in the car and heading to the airport. Did I peel out after dropping them off at the Departures terminal? I hope not.

 

 

 

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Melissa

Midwestern by birth and global by nature.

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