Greetings, dear reader. Finding Wifi in France (pronounced wee fee here) is a little like finding a needle in a haystack, not that I am complaining. Actually, I've been frantically banging away at ye olde typewriter keys, but alas, no easy way to post. Our home has internet but the French keyboard is a killer. At any rate, at last I have found a spot to hit the internet waves while touring the lovely & famous Beaujolais Wine Country in Burgandy! Voila! Here is the first installment of "My French Memoirs".
***July 29th turned out to be a day the French bound Hostetters will never forget—for two reasons. Though it had been a long flight from Seattle to London, the trip had been smooth as silk and virtually uneventful. Yes, it had been a long all-nighter and another all day of travel, but we were very tired, but happy all went so well.
We arrived at Heathrow 20 minutes ahead of schedule putting us there at 12:00 PM. It was a relief to touch down, even though we knew we had another leg to go on EZ Jet bound for Lyon, France. That flight left at 6:00 PM out of Gatwick. We were feeling prit-tee smug about how we’d planned a good amount of time to make the next flight.
“This should be a piece cake,” I said to Rahn. And until we hit the United Kingdom’s Customs counter we were blissfully unaware of the obstacles that lie ahead. But, as usual (for us), things don’t always go as planned. The lovely customs agent looked at us kindly asking to see our passports. I eagerly pushed mine towards the little pass through, anxious to get going. “Hmmmm,” she said, after a bit. “Do you realize this passport has been reported lost or stolen?” (Reason # 1 on the scale of unforgetable was about to unfold.)
“Hunh?” I said, giving her a totally blank stare. By this time my heart was racing a mile a minute and my brain was doing the same. “How could this be?” I asked myself over and over. I had slid through the Seattle airport liked greased lightening! I had even had my passport scanned there in the check-in kiosk without a hitch. It all seemed crazy and hard to believe.
“Yes, yes...I am afraid this is a stolen passport and my records show it was replaced. Do you remember this?” She asked. My next intelligent remark was: “Ummmmm…..Well, I’ve had a couple replaced, so I guess that could be. (If you know us at all, you don’t need any further explanation here.) “But look, it says it isn’t expired until 2013. So, it must be the correct one—right?” (I think she detected my lack of self assurance.)
“No, I’m afraid not. In this case, we are required to confiscate it. I will have to speak to my supervisor.” (I must say, she seemed extremely kind considering she was a government agent and was about to nab my passport.)
The wait seemed like forever as Rahn and I bantered back and forth on how the heck this could have happened. We had been so proud of ourselves, being able to so easily find our passports at home. And surely if we had the passport replaced we would have destroyed the old one….surely....The more we thought about it and the picture on it, the more we realized this was probably not the passport we’d used two years ago to go to Italy. Mon Dieu! Once again, God was smiling down on the Hostetters. The British government decided to allow us to keep the passport, though they would not stamp it with the proper documentation. They did, however, stamp a piece of paper with an explanation. The choice was ours, we could “take our chances” and try to get into France on the old passport or go to our Embassy in London and get a temporary one issued. They were not at all reassuring France would let us in.
The latter option seemed smartest, but it was questionable as to whether we could pull that off. Would we be able to navigate the underground to get to London? Once there, would we be able to find the U. S. Consulate? And if we did, how long would the red tape of the bureaucracy tie us up? Then, would we quickly and easily find our way back to the underground to get back to Heathrow? In addition, if we made it to Heathrow, could we quickly find the right connection from Heathrow to Gatwick? And last, but certainly not least, would we make the flight connection from there to Lyon, France?
(Stay tuned, dear reader, if you’d like to know what happens next and Unforgettable #2!)