11 December 2014

Vézelay etc.

If it hadn't been raining off and on, and pretty windy, we would have happily left the car behind and walked up the hill to the top of the village of Vézelay on October 21. As the Michelin Green guide says, "The charms of Vézelay don't come for free. They reveal themselves to those who take their time and seek them out, who make the effort and pay attention to every detail, every old stone — each ray of sunlight makes the visitor admire and adore the colline éternelle that much more." The name Vézelay might be related to the name Vesuvius, because the village is on a steep hill that reaches for the sky, dominating a river valley. About 500 people live there.


The original abbey church at the top of the hill was consecrated by the pope in the year 878. In 1050 the church was rededicated to Saint Madeleine, and on her tomb there many miracles were performed. Crowds of pilgrims have made the trip to Vézelay over the centuries. We, unfortunately, couldn't hike up the hill in such stormy weather, but we've done it before, about 20 years ago. Maybe we'll get another chance one day.

On more mundane subjects, I'm happy and relieved to say that my old car passed inspection yesterday. And that I actually got my passport renewal application sent off to Paris.

The car, which is 14 years old this month, is a little Peugeot with a diesel engine. It has more than 170,000 kms (100K+ miles) on it. French law requires cars more than four years old to pass a rigorous inspection every other year, and for different reasons mine failed in 2010 and in 2012. Neither time was the reason for failure very serious, and the car finally passed after minor repairs and adjustments were carried out.

This time, the Peugeot came through with flying colors. It passed safety inspections and an emissions test. I credit both my good mechanic and the trip to Burgundy. Obviously, the mechanic has kept the vehicle in good working order. Driving it back and forth to Burgundy in October, a round-trip of some 1000 kms, with the help of a bottle of additive poured into a full tank of diesel fuel to clean the injectors and cylinders, probably helped it pass the emissions test. Most of my driving consists of short stop-and-start trips around the Saint-Aignan area.

The inspection, called le contrôle technique or CT is very thorough and costs 72 € for a car with a diesel engine. That's just over $90 U.S. at current rates. I'm good to go for two more years.

Renewing my passport cost more: 131.55 € in all. And that was after we finally managed to take a decent photo of me and print it at the size specified in the instructions supplied the U.S. Embassy in Paris. I won't be too surprised if the passport people at the embassy reject the photo, but maybe I'll get lucky. Otherwise, I'll have to try to find a professional photographer who can produce an acceptable photo and print it at the required size.

The cost of renewing a U.S. passport is 94 € here in France — almost $120. Sending the papers and old passport to Paris cost me 12.50 €, and the self-addressed Chronopost envelope I had to send with the application for the return of my passport cost 25 €. So in all, about $160. Ten years ago, for my previous renewal, it cost much less than half that much. Isn't it nice that inflation rates are as low as they are?

22 comments:

  1. My passport is up for renewal too...I have to get on that over the holidays. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. For me, getting the photo was the hardest part. And the money, of course, but you have to have a passport, so you have to pay.

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  2. Wow a lond history abour the original abbey

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  3. Still working on a photo strategy for my passport renewal. I have to present in person at the Australian embassy too as part of the process. My passport will cost the equivalent of US$200. Plus I have to do my British one a few months later.

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    1. Wow, Susan, I hope that Australian passport is good for at least 10 years. By the way, there's a professional photographer in Descartes. Have you tried him? http://www.photographe-touraine.com/Le-studio-photo-fr,1,11085.html

      There's another in Loches...

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  4. We can't go to the embassy for passport renewal any more. It has to be done via mail. There used to be a few photo shops near the US consulate in Paris that did the photos, but of course, now that you can't do the thing in person, that makes no sense. There was a local photographer in Nogent who would do the photos with the US format for me. I think one of my daughters did what you did, Ken, did it herself, and had no trouble renewing. I must renew at the beginning of next year. I think I'll get one of the family to take my picture for it and try that method.

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    1. Ellen, I did my own photo for the last renewal, 10 years ago, and it was accepted. I'm trying to be optimistic about this renewal. The problem with taking your own picture is the lighting -- no shadows allowed. So you have to have the right setup. And then the printing has to be just right too. I'll report back on my photo and whether it was accepted.

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    2. Ellen, another thing: I never answered your comment and question about the English muffins Walt made. He told me yesterday that he followed the recipe as it was written except that he just used the flour we had in the kitchen, which wasn't bread flour. It might have been type 45 (pastry flour) even, not even 55 (all-purpose). It worked.

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  5. There are times when I think there must be a secret intergovernmental agreement to make passport and citizenship documentation as expensive as possible - I'm amazed at what the UK government is charging people for immigration and citizenship applications and processing. I've forgotten what my last passport renewal cost me, but at least I did the photo myself - took a bit of arithmetic to get the sizing and proportioning of the image right for their rules, and in the end the photoreduction of it they use to put in the passport made it all so wishy-washy anyway it would have been money down the drain to go to a professional.

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  6. the passport costs are that expensive here also. must be a guvmint conspiracy. ;-)

    2 years for inspection? WOW! wish the USA would do that, instead of every year. :-(

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  7. Car inspections here in Northern Virginia - including the emissions inspection cost about $35 per year. 30 years ago I guy was elected governor of Florida on a promise to eliminate the car inspection system - he delivered on that promise.

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    1. So 35 dollars a year is still less than the 90 dollars every two years here in France. Not surprised about the governor of Florida.

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  8. Bonjour Anne Marie, only rich people can afford passports, I guess. Or need them.

    For your car inspections in Pennsylvania, what is the annual price? How thorough is the inspection? I think in N.C., it is pretty cursory. And then in Calif. the only inspection (my data date back to 2002 or so) was for smog standards. I don't remember what it cost.

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  9. Ken, we thought of you the other day* when we saw the Joan of Arc statue near the Art Museum in Philadelphia, the one you photographed in Paris. Philadelphia's Joan was really shiny.

    *Of course I think of you every time I check your blog.

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    1. Hope you enjoyed your time in Philly.

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  10. Good luck with the photo, Ken! Alabama has no auto inspection as you can imagine- we have lots of old clunkers including our 77 VW bus which burns some oil in it's old age. I hope you return to Vézelay someday and take in the view.

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    1. Thanks, Evelyn. N.C. has auto inspection, but I think it's pretty cursory. California had an emissions-only inspection, if I remember correctly. Walt and I went to Vézelay in 1993, and I had been there in 1989 as well.

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  11. Hi Ken, we just recently got visas for travel to India…at a cost of nearly $300! Each. They do last for 10 years, but still. That did include a $100 fee to get it expedited…two days instead of multiple weeks. I recall the good old days when we could go in the morning to drop off the passport and application, have a nice lunch in SF, then pick it up on the same day. Sigh

    I hope your passport photo works out and your renewed passport is returned to you promptly. I assume they handle it in Paris, and do not need to send it stateside….

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    1. Christine, my passport fee, with the shipping, is starting to look pretty reasonable. I wonder how much I was charged for my first passport back in 1969...

      The passport renewal is processed at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. They don't send it to the U.S., so I should get it back pretty fast, if the photo isn't rejected.

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  12. Ken, there are more "old" cars in France than I have seen anywhere other than Scotland...
    I think both peoples have a general tendancy to "buy well" and "look after" any real investment...
    as an example:
    In my house in Scotland I "inherited" varicose items, including a rather dark, but in very good condition, all wool wall to wall carpet.
    The pattern said it dated from the mid-to-late Sixties.... so almost 30 years old when I bought the house...
    the vendors told me that it had been lifted and cleaned every two years...
    and when I lifted it, I found a ticket stapled to a corner that was dated four years before I bought the place...
    the house had been on the market for two...
    it had cost £75 to have collected,cleaned and returned by a firm in Inverness.
    The Caithness slab stone floor underneath... the real floor... was equally clean.
    Presumably washed whilst the carpet was "away".
    Wonderfull!

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  13. Ken,

    It seems to me that the State Dept and its equivalent ministries in the western world , like Foreign Affairs in Canada or Foreign Office in London or Quai d'Orsay must have passed the word. For the past five years most of them have either boost up the cost of having a passport ( yeah all in the name of security, biometrics and whatever /whomever is making money off of us travellers ) or start charging for administrative 'business at the consular offices of their embassies .
    The airline industry is not of any help also since it is the ICAO which instituted the requirements for the picture quality and readable passports or what-have-you. Canada has a huge diplomatic mission in DC but Canadians residing in the US have to send their application for passport renewal ( including Fedex costs both directions) to Ottawa.

    We are supposed to live in a versatile and technology world but, alas, efficiency is not part of it.

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    1. Thanks, Beaver. We who live in France get our passports renewed at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. My last passport was not one of the biometric ones. I remember it costing me $50 (not euros but dollars).

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