TRAVELING WITH OUR CATS TO FRANCE - PHASE 1: PAPERWORK

We made it! Mimi and Chloe are with us in France. Here's how it played out.

If you've read my previous posts on the subject, you are aware that there are rules to be followed when bringing domestic animals into France. They must be micro chipped. They must have all the appropriate vaccinations. They must pass a health examination within ten days of entry into France. And the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian for your state must sign off on their paperwork within ten days of entry into France. The timing is tight. The rules as published on the French consular website can be found here.

Again, as reported previously, we forewarned our new vet, Dr. Greg Leck, months in advance. (The vet who had cared for our Siamese step-sisters since their birth having retired, apparently just to avoid this craziness.) The girls were chipped. The paperwork downloaded, printed, and discussed. Meanwhile, in order to bring the girls with us in the cabin and in order to go through French customs rather than customs in Barcelona (so that the girls would arrive as French rather than Spanish cats), we chose Turkish Airlines - JFK to Istanbul to Marseilles.

We bought soft-sided carriers, left them out and open for the girls to explore, put their favorite toys in them, and took the girls for several short rides in the carriers in hopes that would acclimate them. The girls weren't happy about it, Mimi (the elder of the two by one year) being the more vocal. She would also occasionally mark the padding with a spot of piss - just enough to let us know that she was pissed. But all in all, they dealt with the carriers well.

As our day of departure approached, things began to get tricky. Our vet had trouble connecting with the USDA vet in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capitol about 80 miles from our home in Bath. The USDA wasn't responding to voice mails or faxes. Finally, during our visit to our local vet exactly nine days before our anticipated entry into France, we asked Dr. Leck once again to try to contact the USDA. Lo and behold, contact was made. "Fax me the paperwork," said the USDA, "and I'll get back to you in five minutes."

Yeah. Right.

But that's exactly what happened. Surprise, surprise. A quick tweak, another fax, and according to the USDA we were good to go. Good to go, that is, to Harrisburg to have the paperwork signed and sealed.

Can it be done over the counter?

Yes.

What are your hours?

8 AM to 4 PM.

Great. I hopped on my Suzuki and took the 80 mile ride to Harrisburg from Bath, found the right building, took the elevator up one floor, found the right office, and walked right in. And there, at the counter, was a sign that read: By Appointment Only. Appointment Hours 9:00 - 11:00 AM, 1:00 - 3:00 PM.

Frack!

I rang the bell. I begged.

Maybe it could be done today. Maybe not. The vet is a busy man. He might not be able to fit you in.

I proposed to go to lunch for an hour, come back, and see where things stood.

I went to lunch for an hour and came back. I rang the bell. The vet appeared.

You're the one with the cats going to France?

That's me.

That'll be $38.

Done.

I'll post once more when we arrive at our house in Quarante.



CHOOSING AN INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COMPANY - PART THREE

We've chosen New York International Shipping (NYINTSHIP) for our move to France. Reasons appear in a previous post. But basically, the decision came down to two factors, a reasonable price (including them packing our stuff instead of packing ourselves) and a couple of online reviews touting their operation in France.

I haven't been disappointed to date.

That's not to say that there haven't been glitches.

Glitch #1
Paperwork requirements are burdensome and confusing.That's not all the company's fault. We're talking an international move here. Bureaucrats want to see paper. But it's precisely for that reason that clear instructions and timely assistance is necessary. For instance, I was given a password for a secure portion of the company website from which I could download a number of documents. After much gnashing of teeth, I called the company and was informed that the password entry box only accepted small caps. Silly. And as I found out, sometimes small caps worked and sometimes they didn't. From that point on, I simply emailed  a request for a particular document. Worked well.

Glitch #2
Not a glitch, I suppose. More of a disappointment.

After the first flurry of paperwork leading to a firm quote, NYINTSHIP asked for a deposit to slide me into the schedule. I found $1,500 to be reasonable.

Do you accept PayPal?

Yes.

So I sent $1,500 through PayPal. And NYINTSHIP said that I was on the hook for the PayPal fee, about $45. Disappointing. As I've written in Part 2, I could see no sense getting stirred up about $45 on a deal this size. I need their good will more than I need the $45.

Glitch #3
Our final invoice will be about 50% more than the estimate.

I'm not complaining about this one at all. Our fault. We're taking more than we estimated at first. When you add the living room sofa to the list, the price is bound to bounce for a relatively small shipment like ours. But because the company needs weeks of lead time to schedule your pickup and shipping, unless you've solidified your plans early on and get an in-person professional estimate, you are almost bound to under estimate. I'd added 10% to my initial estimate on principle. Obviously not enough.

Our lousy winter weather caused a one-day delay in the arrival of the truck and crew. One day turned into two days. But once they arrived, the crew of four were quick, thorough and considerate. Boom. Done.

Have you ever seen a man build a box around a couch from a roll of corrugated cardboard?

Now we wait. I assume that there will be one more post in this series, the one in which I report that all went well with the shipping and delivery.

Please, Lord...

EDIT: To skip to my review of New York International Shipping after our move was complete, Click HERE.

10 YEARS OF EXPAT LIFE: COST OF LIVING PART 1

 I retired on April 1, 2014. Cathey and I boarded a plane at JFK on April 15th with four suitcases and two cats, determined to become lifet...