Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Riding the Railway (Bradshaws Penny's Guide to a short stretch of the London Overground)

For the first time this visit, I went into Central London today.  I had to get a signature certified at the French Consulate.  The railway station is about 10 - 15 minutes walk from the house, according to how muddy the route through the woods is and, of course, whether you are going downhill to it or uphill on the way back. 

I had plenty of time so ambled down, got the train to Victoria, stopping at West Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton stations and the Tube to South Kensington. So far, so good.

The Consulate is only a short walk from the tube station and I found it easily enough. 

London : Kensington - French General Consulate

London : Kensington - French General Consulate (Lewis Clarke) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Getting in was not so easy, however. The 'bouncer' on the door was very pleasant but would not let me in without a piece of identity issued by the government - with a photo on.  Like a passport or Driving Licence.  Of course, I had not brought either. Back home I went, pausing only for a cup of coffee and a croissant, enjoying the scenic views of Brixton, Herne Hill and West Dulwich stations.

Having collected my passport, back I went to the railway station...

...getting to know my way around now and getting fitter too!

Arriving back at the consulate,(of course, passing through West Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton stations) it took several minutes for them to decide whether they could let me in or not (must be that dodgy passport photo), but eventually I did make it through the door... and the x-ray machine for my bag and coat... and the metal-detector thingy for me.

The man on the door spoke flawless English, unlike the man on reception who instructed me to sit down on one of the two chairs "opposite the till". Till?  I looked around for a checkout lady, but there appeared to be none.  Finally I realised that he meant opposite the Caisse  (which translates as the cash desk) which, of course, I could not see as it was simply a window in the wall, much further down the corridor and only visible if you wended your weary way down the corridor. So, I wended...  In a tiny side corridor (yes, opposite the cash desk-booth thing) was an open door giving on to a miniscule office with a young lady ensconced behind a desk that almost filled the entire space, and there were, indeed, two chairs outside that door.  Both, of course, occupied.

The occupants were obviously not waiting to see the lady in the miniscule office, and were eventually called by a lady who popped out of another door, opposite and further down, with a passport for the little baby which the woman was holding.  As they put on their coats and put the baby in the carry-chair, I noticed the lady in the miniscule office putting on her coat.  Pausing only to say goodbye to the couple in passing, she came out of the office and shut the door.  As she passed by I gave her my most pleading look and she responded by asking what I was waiting for.  I told her it was certification of a signature and she nodded and said she would be back in a minute.

To say my heart sank is an understatement.  A French minute can be a very long time! She was obviously going outside - probably to get a sandwich - and it seemed unlikely that she would be back in any short space of time. However, I was in luck - she was back within 10 minutes, and stamped and signed my papers - and did not charge me anything!

Thank you, nice French lady.

I felt I deserved some lunch myself, so popped over the road to the V & A where I knew there was a good cafe.  

I had a mediocre meal, and a lukewarm coffee. Again!  Next time I'll stick to Tea and Cake, which they do very well.

So, after that, back home (via Brixton, Herne Hill and West Dulwich stations of course) and the bracing tiring walk up from the station...

Maybe I'll go somewhere else tomorrow - and perhaps I'll take sandwiches and a flask!


marigold jam said...

It's not only you - my French friend who lives in UK and has done for 50 years has had a terrible time trying to get into that place to renew her passport!

Babajeza said...

Quite an adventure. A friend of mine went to the Chinese consulate in Berne a few years back. There was a very long queue. When she was almost there, the conuslat closed and the had to go home without her visa (two hours by train, half an hour by bus) and try it again the following week. Then she was lucky! :-)

Elizabethd said...

I had to giggle! The French do so love their rules and regulations and bureaucracy. Even in a small office, ie CPAM, we have been through the same type of 'welcome'!

quilterliz said...

G'day Penny. Great post. Made me laugh. It really was an adventure, wasn't it? Take care. Liz...