This isn’t a travel story. It’s about the never-dying spirit of a traveler.
15 days across some beautiful countries in Europe – the planning began 4 months in advance. Numerous debates later, we decided to approach an agency for guidance. There is only so much you can see in 15 days, especially if you are not the ‘itinerary’ sort of traveler. Someone recommended that we go to SOTC.
Their representative handed me over a book with tour itineraries that we could choose from. She also recommended that we consider France, Spain & Portugal. We went through the book and realized that since we wanted to do a roadtrip, the suggestion looked wonderful. However, we had some concerns. We were aware that the visa-interview date(that we could view online) was not convenient. We checked with the agency and we were assured that we wouldn’t have to worry about it. Well, that’s all we needed. Someone to take care of the pains!
This is roughly the plan that we had come up with :
- Reach Paris
- Spend approximately 3 days in Paris
- Hire a self driven car
- Reach Loire Valley, spend 2 days
- 1 day in Bordeux
- 1 day in Nimes
- Return to Paris and return the car
- Go to Nice by train
- Spend approximately 3 days in Nice (We will hire our vehicle and go to the places)
- Go to Madrid from Nice
- Spend 3 days in Madrid
- Hire a car and go to Coimbra
- Spend 1 day in Coimbra
- Go to Lisbon and spend approx. 2 days (or less if required)
- Go to Seville and spend approx. 2 days
- Return to Madrid
- Fly out from Madrid on the 30th
The agency took up the flight bookings etc. but things were moving slow. Finally when we started working on the visa application, the over-confidence and lack of information on the agency’s part showed up. The lady who was attending to our case stopped taking calls. We were puzzled.
When we finally called the head-office, we were told that we had to apply for the interview dates at our end and that they cannot help us with any convenient dates.
It was already too late.
We were extremely disappointed since our break from work etc. had all been planned. But when all seemed lost, some angel told us that they had written to the consulate of France and got their interview rescheduled. This was great information.
We applied online and wrote to the consulate. To our joy, we got our dates with a couple email exchanges.Suddenly everything looked sorted out. We went ahead with another agency to help us with our bookings.
G&I were dreading the visa interview. Our visa applications were jinxed in some or the other way. We checked our documents a 100 times, wondered about all possible inquiry, prepared our answers and drank a lot of water.
We were at the consulate.
Our visa officer looked calm, happy and very helpful. She asked G all possible questions and wasn’t worried about my application. She was convinced that she could grant us the visa. She asked for G’s passport and he handed it over. She browsed through it and the look on her face was confusing.
Visa Officer : Sir, I need 2 empty pages on your passport.
G: Yes, they are there. (showing the pages)
Visa Office : No, I need 2 FACING pages.
G&I faced each other with a blank look.
Well, that was the end of it. The officer tried a couple of other possibilities but there was no way we could get a new passport in the next 3 days.
We woke up from our beautiful European dream. Only to sleep in the savannas of Africa.