Every ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it's not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash.
Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the "approved" format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.
Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can't do it at the mailing counter).
2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn't let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).
Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home.
Total cost: €171.95
Total time: 2 hours (plus "4-6 weeks" to receive my new passport)
Annoyance level: High
The US Embassy is only 20 minutes from my flat, but they won't let you come to the Embassy in person to renew and pick up your passport, which would save on the Chronopost envelopes and cash mandat fees and the trips to La Poste (I'd rather wait in line at the awesome US Embassy than my boring neighborhood post office). The only time you can go to the Embassy is to get a new passport, if your name has legally changed, or to replace a stolen or damaged passport, and even then, if you live here (ie it's not urgent) you need an appointment. And taking a peek, I see the earliest one available is April 17th.
So now I'm waiting to see if my new passport will arrive before my next trip to the US in June!
As an aside, I'm also getting my first French passport. I currently have a French National ID card (issued free to all French citizens as proof of ID, and can be used traveling in Europe). My appointment for that is April 2nd, at the police station a block from my flat, and the cost is €86, which I can pay with Timbres Fiscaux (special stamps you can buy quickly with cash at any tabac; one is across the street from me). Official French passport photos can be purchased in any photomat in the Paris metro (usually €5 for 4). So why not just get a French passport and use that instead of my US one? Because it's illegal for me to enter the United States with a foreign passport (one of the rules of double nationality). Still, I think in a pinch it's nice to have both on hand. Plus I won't have to wait (or go in a roundabout way) to go to Cuba. :-)
And the Passports are in!!
The US passport arrived on March 30th (sent the renewal forms in on March 13th), and my new French passport arrived on April 20th (delivered the application forms on April 1st). So just 17 days to renew the US passport and 19 days for a new application for the French one. Not bad!
Now I'm ready to travel!