Learning so many new things – episode 1

The following are just some random things that came to mind during my train ride from Paris to Avignon on 1 Sept 2023:

BAD… If you’re coming to France for a long time, and therefore have a lot of heavy luggage, it may not be the best idea to plan a 4 day stay in Paris before moving on to your final destination, unless you’re planning to take an expensive taxi to your destination. The metro stations – at least the ones I encountered – do not appear to have any escalators or elevators. It is all stairs. I hope they have some very good system for transporting peope with physical disabilities here. I’ll look that up at some point. That said – identifying the right BUS route will help. They only have one “stair” to lift up to and it’s pretty low. I was able to get to the train station via bus without having to navigate any stairs so, really, that’s the way to go with a lot of luggage. Probably “off-hours” better than rush hours.

GOOD… People in Paris can be very kind and helpful. During my difficulties getting too much luggage up and down to and from the metro, at least 6 people offered to help me. I truly would not have been able to make it without their kindness. Merci, merci, merci.

BAD… Mint Wireless’s customer service is complete and utter crap. Supposedly wifi calling allows me to make calls to the US as though I am in the US. That was not the case, and after many tries with their AI which was really AS (artificial stupidity), I was able to “chat” with an allegedly real person who gave me something to try that involved restarting my phone. I asked whether I’d have to repeat the entire story another 10 times as I had in order to get a chat session to her and she said no and provided me a case number. Well, that was a lie. The AS didn’t give a shit about a case number – or at least was very confused by it. My multiple attempts to again chat with a person were unsuccessful and I ultimately gave up. So now I have no idea what to do. Spending $15 a month just to get 2-factor authentication for my various important US accounts seems kind of excessive. Grrr. I have about 5 days to figure out an alternative before handing more money over to Mint.

Update (8 Sept 2023): I was finally able to figure out the solution myself and wound up renewing Mint after all. I also discovered that if one needs to actually talk to a human and has access to a phone that can call their customer service number (which I couldn’t until I fixed my original problem), there might actually be real help available. I haven’t tried the solution to my second (not critical) issue yet, so we’ll see.

GOOD… It appears that my Free Mobile (that’s the company name) french sim card plan, which costs €2 plus €2.99 boost per month (I put the sim in an old phone of mine) DOES allow me to call the US without an additional charge (total around $5.50/month for essentially the same talk, text and data as the Mint plan). Unfortunately others can’t call ME without it being an international call. So I’m still working things out. I’ll update this post with what I’ve worked out.

BAD: Sometimes on an SNCV train, your seat number doesn’t actually exist. I had seat 86 (right car, right level) and looked and looked. The seat numbers jumped from 83/84 to 87/88 – I kid you not. I felt like a complete idiot until I came across another passenger who was looking for seat 85 – so it wasn’t just me! An employee – I think they were in housekeeping based on seeing them later carrying a trash bag – just pointed to a random seat and said “sit there.” I was a little worried that someone would have a ticket for that seat.

GOOD: The seat she pointed to was in a quad setup and the other 3 seats were empty – otherwise the train was fairly full. And I realized that Avignon was the first stop! So once we got going, no one was going to kick me out of the seat and I was going to be able to “spread out” my things for my entire trip. I’m writing this now from my own personal computer table. 😊 It’s been an hour and they still have not checked my ticket. I do wish I had managed to stop again at this wonderful chocolatier by my hostel. I ate everything I bought yesterday and am now feeling a bit peckish. Not sure I want to pack up my stuff enough to find the dining car though. It is only about another 1.5 hours. Currently going 262 kph btw. The windows are very large and the French countryside is beautiful.

Views from the train to Avignon.

View from the train from Paris to Avignon 2023 Sept 1
View from the train from Paris to Avignon 2023 Sept 1

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