The process is more complicated than I imagined - the hardest part being trying to take a decent passport picture of a newborn! The requirements are so strict - looking straight ahead on an all white background; not smiling, closed mouth, etc. etc. After months of trying (of what seemed everything) we were finally able to take the pictures at the only authorized photo place in Clermont-Ferrand (which of course is still a good 15 - 20 minute drive away)! They set Nathan down on a white pillow that has a piece of cardboard just underneath the pillow case to keep him steady. Then quickly, they stand over him and try to take his picture before he moves his head, blinks, starts crying or throws up all over himself! But finally, a success! The picture is not at all flattering - but for the next five years it will have to do!
Aside from the picture, I also had to prove that not only I was a US Citizen but that I had lived in the US for at least five years, 2 of which were over the age of 14. Sounds easy enough, but having documented proof is much harder than it sounds. Thanks to my mom, I had all of my elementary - high school records with an official seal, and of course I spent almost an entire afternoon counting all of my foreign trips and tracing passports stamps to see all of my entries and exits. The things I won't do for my son! So after packing up all of these documents plus birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc and on Sunday, March 14th we hopped on the train to Paris.
This being Nathan's first train ride, we were very excited and very nervous. We had no idea how the baby would react on the train. Much to our surprise, he made himself comfortable and passed right out!
This makes me hopeful that he will react well on the 7 hour car ride to Italy in a few weeks and that he will be able to handle the flight back to the States. Mom on the other hand, was not so comfortable. We arrived in Paris in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel. We were very lucky and found a hotel right in front of the Louvre and only a 10 - 15 minute walk from the US Embassy. Nathan had no problem making himself right at home.
After settling in, we headed to enjoy a nice evening in Paris making sure to stop in front of the Louvre to get a view of the beautiful sunset!
I couldn't believe how well Nathan was behaving and it what an amazing location for our first family vacation. I couldn't think of a better way to spend an evening than walking with my son and husband and enjoying with Paris as the backdrop. Not very many people get to have this experience.
After a short walk we ended up at the Champs-Elysee, where we settled into to a nice Restaurant to enjoy a late dinner.
The instructions from the US Embassy specifically say not to take anything with you as there is no storage for any bags. Obviously the person who wrote this has never travelled with a baby. We carry a diaper bag full of clothes, diapers, milk, etc. just for a quick morning out. How were we supposed to survive an undetermined amount of time at the embassy without any of these things? So, we decided to take it all with us. So we headed out with a diaper bag full of wipes, hand sanitizer, milk, diapers, toys, blankets, and what seems like hundreds of other things - then the fun began.
Security at the US Embassy is INSANE. We went through 3 security checkpoints filled with metal detectors and bag searches. Considering how much stuff we had, this was no easy task! They made us taste Nathan's milk - I guess in case it was some other kind of liquid we would carry in a baby bottle? I was the lucky one who got to taste the milk- and much to my surprise it was not as bad as I imagined. Cornel was the lucky one who got to try on the hand sanitizer! With our belongings in shambles - we finally made it in and waited we waited patiently to be called. It was almost like waiting in line at the DMV, you get your ticket and watch the screen to see at which window your number will be called. I was surprised at the number of people that were there at 9 in the morning on a Monday. The embassy is apparently a happening place to be. To make the waiting a little bit more pleasant they have a HUGE picture of both President Obama and Hillary Clinton! Just the lady I need to see before having my first cup of coffee!
We were finally called up and after going through all of our paperwork and paying the $150, we waited some more. I just have to say, that sitting at the embassy is much more entertaining than watching a talk show. I am amazed at how many people lose their passports while traveling abroad. It is reassuring to know, I suppose that should this ever happen to me, I wouldn't be alone. After two hours at the embassy, we were finally finished at the embassy. All that was left to do was wait patiently for his official US Birth Certificate and Passport in the mail.
It was almost 11, and we still had not eaten breakfast, so we stopped into a cafe around the corner from the embassy to enjoy a nice French petit dejeuner.
After a quick coffee and some pastries (pain au chocolate to be exact - what else?) We took a nice stroll down the Champs-Elysee and enjoyed the sunshine! We wanted to celebrate the big occasion so we went where else - The Disney Store! Nathan got his choice of any toy...and walked away with a stuffed Mickey Mouse!
We didn't have a lot of time, since our train was leaving at 5. With such a short amount of time, we wanted to make sure to take Nathan to see the Eiffel Tower. Luckily he stayed awake long enough to indulge his insane parents who wanted to do nothing else but take pictures.
Since it is so exhausting putting up with us, Nathan decided it would be better to take a nap. He didn't get to see much else of Paris after this! Luckily, we have the pictures to remind him later.