We pay a visit to the Spanish Consulate all the way across town. Pourquoi? you may ask. There is a story here, which we have saved until now.
The day before we left New Orleans was filled with errands and goodbyes, so that it was 3:30 p.m. before I could get home to print out boarding passes for our flight.
To my shock and horror, the boarding passes printed out with a legend at the top saying “visa required.” I had never seen that before.
My first instinct was to call the local French Consulate, who was most friendly and said that we didn’t need any sort of visa as long as we were not to be in France more than 90 days. That is true, but we would be in Europe altogether more than 90 days. She didn’t seem concerned.
Meanwhile I also sent an e-mail to the French Consulate in Houston, where visa are actually issued. That official called back and said we can only stay in Europe for a total of 90 days. Otherwise, we need a long-term visa, which takes weeks to obtain.
Checking the web, Google confirms that visits to the so-called Schengen Zone (the EU) are limited to 90 days without a visa. Feeling foolish and naive, I called Delta to change our return date to within the 90 day period so we would be able to leave. We can settle the issue once we get to Europe.
Delta accommodated, albeit with a $600 change fee.
But the new boarding passes only say “passport required” this time.
Thus our visit to the Spanish Consulate in Paris way up on Blvd., Malesherbes.
There, a very friendly official led us to a back room to talk to an equally friendly official, who says she cannot issue a visa but doesn’t really think one is necessary anyway, since we are already here. She advised us to plan for a full month in Barcelona, but check with the local police when we arrive. All pretty casual. She doesn’t see a problem.
Encouraged, if not completely convinced, we walked down Blvd. Wagram to the Arc de Triomphe, where a line of at least six police cars stand guard along the street in front of the roundabout. Each car has at least two officers, all dressed in flak jackets and carrying large weapons. We later saw a group of four soldiers in camo and automatic weapons enter a bistro as if they are in attack mode. Since there was no news otherwise, we assume they were practicing.
Paris is on alert.