Posts Tagged ‘prep’

Computer says “non”

January 14, 2010

Extricating ourselves from France is no easy task. To cancel a contract, whether for phone, internet, bank or even membership to the local DVD shop, seems to require at least three letters, signed references, a passport scan and a signature in blood.

The problem is that French companies love paper and nothing can be done until they receive lots of it. This is why you can’t set up an internet service online or arrange a phone line by phone. Only a letter will do.

For instance, when applying for an annual pass for the Velib free bikes scheme you are encouraged to fill out the form online. It is only when you get to the end of the form does it tell you to then print it out, send it by snail mail and wait for six weeks to be processed. This tends to be the rule in France with very few exceptions.

So it was with great trepidation that we called our mobile phone company to cancel our contracts. The conversation confirmed our fears:

Manna: We want to cancel our contracts as we are leaving the country.

Phone automaton: Ok I just need your proof of employment in the country you are moving to and proof of address.

Manna: We are travelling around the world for six months but I can send you the booking to prove we will not be anywhere near France.

PA: Can you send me proof of employment in each of the countries you will be in?

Manna: No, we’re travelling.

PA: So you won’t have a job.

Manna: No we’re travelling!

PA: Er, in that case, hmm, we would need an attestation de mairie (an official letter from the town hall) of the place you are going to. And proof of address.

Manna: Of all 14 countries?

PA: Yes

Manna: So you need 14 attestations de mairie?

PA: Er, yes. Or a letter of employment.

Manna: From each of the 14 countries?

PA: Er, yes…

After a couple of calls to other automatons I eventually got through to a guy who spoke English and crucially possessed the ability to think beyond the confines of his computer. He said that it does not matter if we are employed for one week or one day. “We just need the paper” were his exact words. At least he admitted it.

Hopefully a hastily written note saying we are working for one of my friend’s companies and living at a friend’s house in London (at least for four days!) will suffice.

Unfortunately, this is just one painful negotiation out of many we have had to do over the past few weeks. Don’t get me started on the €1,500 that British Airways wanted to charge us to transport our cat to the UK.

Suffice to say, organizing a six month trip around the world whilst simultaneously moving from Paris to London is not the most straightforward of tasks.

But apart from the mind-numbing bureaucracy there is no doubt that I will miss this place.

I’ll miss the many free parties and events organised by the French government – the frenetic energy of Fete de la Musique, the friendly fervour of the local Balles de Mairies, the phenomenal fireworks of Bastille Day.

I’ll miss the many French bank holidays which fall on Thursday or Tuesday, encouraging you to take four-day weekends.

I’ll miss the expat life where you can go to a party and in one night meet friends from the US, Canada, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, Romania, Moldova and even some from France.

I’ll miss the multitude of quality restaurants within walking distance from my apartment.

I’ll miss fois gras (it’s so wrong but so right).

I’ll miss being able to drive or hop on the train to the Alps for the weekend.

I’ll miss my eight-minute commute into work.

I’ll miss the outdoor ping pong tables; walking across the Seine at night; Velib culture; my local gay bakery; apero evenings; croissant mornings; running on the Jardin du Palais Royal; sleeping on the Champs de Mars; drinking vin rouge; eating côte de boeuf; and never getting tired of the amazing architecture of this city.

Most of all I’ll miss the many good friends I’ve made in Paris who hopefully I’ll stay in touch with for life.

There’s no doubt that my three-year stint here has been a great adventure and I’m delighted I got the chance to do it. But now it is time to move onto the next one and I’m very much looking forward to that.


Around The World In 180 Days

December 18, 2009

The first time the idea was brought up, it was still early summer. Vaguely inspired by a combination of frustration in stalled plans (moving to London) and our friends (Chris and Steph’s one-year round-the-world trip), we began contemplating whether this was even a possibility for us. We discussed it at length, deliberating whether this was a responsible thing to do, whether the timing was right, whether we could afford to take such a big leap. And then, and neither of us knows why or what happened (work? summer holidays? life in general?), it stopped coming up in conversation and we promptly forgot about it altogether.

About a month and a half ago, we went to Manchester to visit Marc’s family. Over some roast beef (Marc) and a giant bacon chop (obviously, me) at Mr Sam’s Chop House, the idea of a round the world trip —or RTW for the hip and initiated— was reintroduced, the seeds replanted, the plan rehatched. And this time, aided by a recent shift in circumstances and perfect timing, what started as a flight of fancy transformed itself into a real, feasible project that would serve as a rather luxurious transition in our move from Paris to London. Not to mention as the scratching of the metaphorical itch before we settled down to more serious ventures involving jobs and mortgages.

And so, after much consultation with friends, family and each other, we made the decision. Notices given, furniture sold, friends informed, tickets bought…we are now officially flying away on 8 February 2010!

It’s both terrifying and exciting at the same time, and although we are both fully committed to the plan, there are still moments of debilitating fear and uncertainty. For me, there are multiple fears, ranging from the mundane (what if I can’t make it to Macchu Pichu because I’m too out of shape?), the realistic (what if we get all our luggage stolen and we have to wear the same underwear for a week?) to irrational (What if this causes eternal bankruptcy and nobody wants to hire me in London because travelling the world for 6 months is completely irresponsible?). When The Fear comes I sometimes break out in a cold sweat, and if it comes in the middle of the night it invariably gives me insomnia. Lately it comes less.

Our itinerary, which we have picked apart, scratched and fiddled with a million times, now resembles this:

Rio de Janeiro — for Carnaval
Ilha Grande
São Paulo
Cuzco, Macchu Pichu
Lake Titicaca
Parque Nacional Madidi (rainforest!)
La Paz
Punta Arenas
Puerto Natales
El Calafate
Buenos Aires (Felix and Agustina wedding!)
Northern Argentina
Buenos Aires
Cairns, Great Barrier Reef
Hong Kong
all the way down to Ho Chin Minh
into Cambodia
then into Laos
followed by Thailand
A week on a beach somewhere, preferably in a luxury hotel

We would appreciate any tips you could give us regarding any of our destinations, or backpacking tips in general. Or any comments you may have regarding our genius/totally stupid plan.

This blog will be where we document our (mis)adventures. Stay tuned for more updates.