Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My painless visit to the French Consulate

Gone are the days when I knew everyone at the French Embassy. One of my friends used to work there and we spent a good amount of time barbecuing or just chilling out at the gendarme's house on the grounds of the French residence. All the administrative duties were a bit simpler when you knew you would see a familiar face in a bit of an uninviting environment.

I'm not saying the French consulate on Aylesbury road was a horrible place, far from it, but as a French abroad, the last thing you want is to come face to face with a microcosm of French society. Let's be honest here, the French Embassy never really had a good reputation, and I have my fair share of annoying anecdotes, but trust me, they don't all come from the staff.

I'm sure you've all heard stories about unhelpful members of staff, and yes, there were times where I felt I was talking more to a prison officer than a consulate representative. But I have also witnessed bad behaviour from French people, who think they are entitled to everything, that they can bypass you in the queue or just be disrespectful to the staff and other users. And sometimes, it's not even the French. The icing on the cake has to come from a foreign woman who took all of her clothes off inside the consulate when she was refused her visa. I wasn't there but I've been told the story by the guy who was at the counter that day. And trust me, it wasn't pretty!

Anyway, I'm sure you can understand I try to stay away from the consulate as much as I can, unless it's for a few drinks, which sadly is not going to happen any time soon (unless I'm invited for the 14th of July or something...).

Today, however, I had a very positive experience. I was completely stressed out at the idea of going to the consulate to renew my son's passport. Firstly because I had never been to their new place on Fitzwilliam Lane and I am really bad at driving in Dublin. I always get lost and can barely follow GPS directions. The second reason was I was afraid of not having the proper documents (the proof of address only had my name on it and not my husband's), or that the pictures wouldn't be the right size (it happened  before), or that my kids would misbehave, or that I would be late etc etc.

I left very early and bribed treated the kids with a Burger King lunch. I didn't get lost and understood the GPS directions, and was half an hour early. I almost died when I found out the cost of the cark park ( 2.90 euros per hour!!!), but I didn't know how long I was going to be in there for so I forked out 6 euros just to be sure. Of course the youngest wanted to go the toilets, but luckily there was a pub only a few steps away from the consulate, so we took the opportunity to sit down and have a drink. After all, we had half an hour to spare.

At 3pm sharp we were in front of the gate. We were let in and my handbag went through a security scan. I was mortified at the idea of the man there, seeing all the crap that was inside, but he didn't say anything. The waiting area was empty and they had a good selection of toys for the kids to play with, something that was cruelly missing in the old place. I waited no more than 10 minutes before being called in and all I was hoping for at that stage was for my kids to avoid talking about poop and fart, their favourite subject of conversation at home.

The lady was very nice and the process was painless. The pictures were fine (Phew!), the proof of address as well, and the phone call she took in the middle allowed me to take my son to the toilets for the 4th time since we left the house. My son had a very insightful question for her: "Why do you speak French and work in Ireland"?. He never asked me the question! He also tried to charm her by counting to ten in French and was all-around well behaved. My eldest was oblivious to the whole thing, playing on his tablet.

20 minutes later and I was out. Painless I told you! Of course, I realised I picked the right day, between Christmas and New Year, when Dublin traffic would be light and the consulate quiet. The appointment process was probably helpful as well, because there was less waiting than before. Thankfully I'm not the one who will pick up the passport once it's ready, and the next time I will be at the consulate will be for the French elections. At least I know how to get there now!