2012 – Paris
Call me crazy, but I went with an Orange Mobicarte because I was told the it is the only pay-as-you-go micro-SIM available for an iPhone. (Getting my iPhone unlocked by AT&T is another horror story waiting to be told – luckily for all of us there is an FCC). Needless to say, service was poor. Texting worked only sometimes, or not at all. And help was never available. So, once again. BEWARE of Orange Mobicarte.
2011 – Lyon
It is with a heavy heart that I find I must criticize something in France. We love to visit France and have met many very nice friends and have had many wonderful experiences. France Telecom’s Mobicarte is NOT one of them.
Instead, the Mobicarte system seems designed for what would be called in the USA “theft of services.” In fact, the entire company seems to breed a culture of theft, especially against those who are not fluent in French. When you go into any Orange store, the attendants are so poorly trained that almost every answer to any question you have is wrong (whether they speak English or not).
Here is a brief overview of my experience with Mobicarte:
In 2010, I brought an unlocked Google Android phone to France and bought a Mobicarte SIM card to allow me to make calls in France at local rates. In addition, I could use the Internet because the phone is a smartphone. I was told in the Orange Mobicarte store on the Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse that my phone was setup properly and all was well. So, I bought 75 Euros of time for the rest of the trip. Overnight, France Telecom sucked all 75 Euros out of the phone because the phone registers itself on the Internet! The “technician” at the Orange store failed to tell me that for only 12 Euros per month, I could have had Internet “Illimitée” – essentially unlimited Internet access. By not telling me any of this, the good little employee (manager) of the store was able to steal 75 Euros from me. The word in French for thief is “voleur.”
After visiting 5 Orange stores in Lyon, I found one that had a person who could fix my situation and setup the Internet.
Fast-forward to 2011, June, in Lyon. As my Mobicarte number was still within the French system, I foolishly turned it back on… only to discover that the convoluted menu system would not allow me to turn on the Internet service. How crazy can they be? A lot crazy, evidently. Their system seems to have been designed in the 1950s by pickpockets. Oh, well. Next time, I’ll try SFR or one of the others.
France is a beautiful country… France Telecom is an ugly monolith that is helping to destroy France’s reputation across the globe, and especially with the English-speaking community.
We visited Paris, the Lauragais near Toulouse, Lyon, the Jura, Provence, and Collioure near the border with Spain. In Provence, we rented a house right in the center of a small village, Cucuron, for two weeks… a wonderful spot with many great local people, but many problems with the house – more on this later…
Please see other posts for more info on our trip.
On the hillside leading up to Lyon’s Croix-Rousse (des pentes de la Croix-Rousse), the traboules offer staircases and passageways between the area’s narrow streets, and insider views of the multi-storied courtyards in buildings where silk workers once lived and worked.
Today, in addition to long-time residents, this is a neighborhood of artists, designers, students and architects. New art galleries proliferate along rue Burdeau. A business incubator for fashion designers is sheltered on Place Therrioux, off rue René Leynaud. Original clothing and accessories are sold in the area’s designer shops and co-ops. St Polycarpe, the neighborhood church with its huge clock, is tucked into the narrow streetscape. There is an endless game of pétanque under the trees of Place Sathonay. The pedestrian-only rue des Pierres Plantées offers a steep walkway straight up to the plateau of Croix-Rousse. While exploring this area, don’t miss the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, just above the Place Sathonay, a ruin from Lyon’s early days as the capital of Gaul.
The Tourist Information Center at Place Bellecour offers guided tours in French and English (limited English tours off season) that include traboules or incorporate them into general city tours, depending on the time of year. A self-guided tour and map are available online in English or explore the traboules on your own by looking for small markers–square, yellow and blue signs on doorways and passageways in both areas.
Lyon, like Manhattan, has two major rivers on either side of its “downtown.” See this video about the rivers of Lyon, as reported by Logan Connors. And read on, below, about the two rivers that define Lyon.
Lyon is located at the confluence of two rivers—the mighty Rhône and the more tranquil Saône. This strategic location has made Lyon a hub for travelers and a center of activity since it served as the Roman capital of Gaul. Through the 19th century, Lyon grew to be the center for European silk production. Today greater Lyon is an industrial center and transportation hub. While commercial and tourist barges do ply the rivers, today’s transit hub includes the rail lines, air routes and roadways that link Lyon to major destinations in Europe and beyond.
The Saône flows from the Vosges in the North and becomes part of France’s canal system as it moves through Burgundy to Lyon. The Rhône begins as an alpine torrent and then a river in Switzerland, entering France near Geneva. At Lyon, the two rivers become one—the Rhône—continuing south to the Mediterranean.
The rivers flow together below the historic center of Lyon, at the tip of a peninsula or la Presqu’île. Bridges link the riverbanks on either side of the Presqu’île to transport rail, tram, automobile and pedestrian-only traffic over the two rivers. Quays and shoreline parks offer miles of walkways and bicycle paths. Fine old buildings line all four riverfronts in the old city center while redevelopment of le confluent, the industrial end of the Presqu’île, is extending the central city’s residential and business centers.
Stand in the center of the red, suspension footbridge, Passerelle du Palais de Justice, on the Saône and your eyes will be drawn to la Basilique de Fourvière. Below Fourvière, is Vieux-Lyon, the city’s tourist center and oldest quarter. Across the river, to your right, is the other Lyon hillside, Croix-Rousse. Known as the hill that works as opposed to Fourvière —the hill that prays, Croix-Rousse is a residential area of sweeping vistas and steep staircases that was once the center of silk production. At the foot of Croix-Rousse is the Presqu’île, Lyon’s classic city center, rich with architecture from the middle ages through the 19th century. The Presqu’île is home to Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts (fine art museum), Hôtel de Ville (city hall), major theater, opera house, tourist information center, and hundreds of restaurants, cafés, theaters, clubs, bars, as well as a shopping district with international, French, and local magasins (stores) and much more.
Walk onto the Rhône River footbridge, the passerelle du collège, from Presqu’île, for a glimpse of the city’s first skyscraper above the rooftops across the river. Known locally as le crayon (pencil), it is in the city’s vibrant business district, near Part-Dieu, the modern train station that offers direct train links throughout France and beyond, including TGV service to Paris in less than two hours. This side of the Rhône has many residential areas, universities, (with 100,000 students, Lyon is a young, fun city), museums, medical facilities, and le Stade de Gerland—home to Lyon’s famed football team, Olympique Lyonnais.
Upstream and high above the Rhône is Tête d’Or, Lyon’s central park. It offers a lake, zoo, botanical gardens, and acres of beautiful open space. On the edge of this park is Interpol’s modern headquarters and la Cité International de Lyon, a modern corporate, convention, and residential center that is also home to Lyon’s contemporary art museum.
To the south, the Rhône joins forces with the Saône through Lyon’s industrial center where refineries, factories, and a nuclear power plant are located. This is the area that has fed Lyon’s reputation as a business destination and industrial powerhouse. As the Rhône continues south, the steep hillsides bordering the river become the vineyards of the Rhône Valley, acclaimed vineyard areas that include Côtes du Rhône, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Crozes-Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and many more.
Two rivers. A great city. Lyon.