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April 22 is a day for us to be in Rennes.  Rennes is the capital of the region of Bretange (Brittany) and the city we have to visit for our VISA validation.

Friday April 22, 2016 is the day we’ve been dreading and are relieved that it’s over! Our appointments with the Office français de l’immigration et de l’integration (French Office for Immigration and Integration) were at 9:00 and 9:30 today. We left our apartment at 6:15 am to catch the bus to the train station.  It was still very dark and of course, we came across a group of young men that hadn’t been home after partying all night.  Fortunately, we avoided their path and they ignored us.  We arrived at the train station very early because the buses weren’t running very frequently at that time of the day.  There was a train in the station going to the same place we were and we took it, leaving 30 minutes before our scheduled departure.  It was a TER (Transport express régional) regional train instead of the super fast, deluxe TGV.  We had two very comfortable seats together and arrived without any problems.

The map worked on Sandy’s iPhone and we found the building without difficulty.  There wasn’t anyplace around to buy a cup of coffee for the hour we needed to wait.  There was a girl waiting by the side of the road and Phil asked her if she knew of a cafe or bar near by. She did not. But a man walked by, heard the conversation and told Phil there was a bar/tabac nearby.  He gave us directions, in French of course, and directed us to the bar/tabac.  It was a 4 block walk and a great place to have an espresso.  Sandy also ate the pain a’chocolate that she’d brought with us.  As it was raining, we were happy to have a dry place to wait.

We arrived back at the Office français de l’immigration et de l’integration  just before the scheduled opening at 9:00 am.  We showed the receptionist our passport and official appointment letters.  She checked us off her list and directed us upstairs, all in French.  We waited in a waiting room.  Sandy was called first for her chest x-ray.  She was directed back to the waiting room after the x-ray was taken.  Next a nurse called her to ask questions, check over immunizations, measure her height and told her she might need to visit a doctor in Saint-Malo for a booster immunization.  Again, Sandy returned to the waiting room. By this time, Phil had talked to the nurse and had his x-ray taken.  Sandy was next called to go with the doctor for an examination. It was in French too and she didn’t have any problems.  For the 3rd time, she was directed back to the waiting room and Phil was called.

The administrator was the last person to see.  He examined our papers showing proof of ownership/residency of our apartment in Saint-Malo.  He asked for our photo and proof of 241€ payment. He put an “official” sticker and stamp on our passports.  He also explained how to request a “Carte Sejour” in August. We had to meet alone with each of the four Immigration officials but finally we were finished!!!!

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The VISA validation stamp we need.

There were two other people there going through the same process.  A young man from Tunisia was also going through the process for the first time.  He is a student in Rennes, but plans on returning to Tunisia at the completion of his studies.  The other person was an asian woman who spoke English but very little French.  He company in Asia had transferred her to France and she was enjoying her stay.  She was developing her French and she was really enjoying the desserts.  It was very nice to talk with both of them.  We had a lot in common with them and since we were all going through the same process we all had a lot of empathy.

We walked to the metro stop to take the Rennes metro to the

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main train station in Rennes.  The main train station in Rennes is going through a major renovation.  It is part of the SNCF plan to improve the rail service by increasing the speed of the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse / high speed train) in Brittany.  That means improved rails and facilities.

The whole time we were in Rennes it was drizzling or raining.  Beautiful city, but not a good day for touring.

The train ride back to Saint-Malo was good.  Sandy had bought baguette, ham and lettuce sandwiches to eat on the ride back.  That and an Orangina made for a nice one hour ride on the train.

When we got back to the apartment after 14:00 / 2 PM we had about had it for the day.  But it had been a successful day and we were very grateful.

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