This is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness log
Ive been in Aix now for about a week (out of 6 weeks planned). When I was getting on the train from Paris to Aix, something popped in my knee. Upon reaching Aix, I went to pharmacy and got a pair of crutches—people were very helpful—and my knee is doing a little bit better each day, although for safety I still take use crutch when walking.
I’m renting an apartment through AirBNB. The apartment is ideally located and quite functional, with a small kitchen area, including a washing machine. I rented the place for a month, and will travel to Avignon next, where I also rented an apartment.
I did buy a one-month membership at a gym here in Aix. It cost me 99 Euros, although I could have paid 15 Euros per visit instead. Lifting weights is a part of my overall health regime, although I don’t exercise as often as I should. I am using the “Loft” gym. The owner is clearly a bodybuilder.
People are friendly, but fewer people than expected speak English (some do, but it’s a hit or miss thing). My landlady is very friendly and it was her and her daughter that helped me get a medical appointment for my knee. The doctor was efficient and immediately wrote a prescription for an MRI. He understands that I want to know if and / or how much damage there is for my 3-month stay in Europe.
At the hospital, the people scheduling were helpful and curious. I understand that one or two were flirting with me, in a friendly and non-serious way, although I didn’t understand them at the time. One nurse spoke good English and she told me that.
My French is spotty and slow. If I had an eternity to think I could speak better, but the conversations keep moving and my brain quickly falls behind. I tried Italian, which I speak better than French, but no one (or very few people) seems to speak it here. I’m hoping my French is improved while here.
I did manage to do some more research, at the library this time. With help, I found a book that summarizes some of the happenings, about 100 years of history—events—in Aix and from that I can request journals (newspapers), one month at a time from their archives to learn more about what happened.
I’m using Google Translate to helpme read. I just take a photo of the page (or several paragraphs) and the image finds the text and then translates it for me—much better than me trying to work through every sentence, although sometimes I do.
I’ve noticed how much faster the battery of my phone drains here in either Aix and in Paris. I attribute it to a couple of things: 1) I use location services more and it uses power, too; 2) the phone struggles to find and keep connections more, either because the cell towers are farther apart or because the stone buildings block the signal more——or both.
At home, I can go 2 days before the phone’s battery level even get’s close to 60%. Here, I need to plug the phone in to keep the charge above 55 or 60% after just a half day.
It’s easy to switch your phone to local number, just find a service provider and buy a prepaid SIM card with the data and minutes you’ll need. I bought what was considered a 2-week card (although he card is good for 6 months) with 1000 minutes of talk time and 10GB of data for about 44 Euros from Orange (one of the largest providers in France). If I run out of data (I never use many minutes) then I can recharge it.
Getting a local SIM is much more efficient than using your US number. I will probably get a new card when I go to Italy (as usually do).You just pop the card in your phone out and insert the new one and Tah-dah you’re in business.
I use Watts Up and I also have an app that makes my phone an extension of my Vonage VOIP phone in the US, so calls (minutes) are free, but I need the data for when I am not near a free WIFI signal. I also use an encrypted VPN when using WIFI to keep my traffic secure.
To navigate the streets, I use Mapme (or is it mapsme). You download maps in advance so the system does not depend on having a signal while you’re walking, and it’s pretty good.
Oh well, another day gone.
An update on the whole Orange Tourist phone thing (Nov 1, 2018):
I was very careful to only sparingly use data (I used 1GB in 2 weeks and zero minutes taking), but the service expired in 2 weeks nonetheless. I Tried to recharge the phone at an Orange office in Aix, but the man there said he could not help me “Pas ici”—this despite the Orange web site (topup.orange.com) saying that’s where I should go. I did manage to recharge it for 2 weeks 5GB and 500 minutes for 21+ Euros (with tax).
It was a frustrating morning, and I did use as much French at the Orange office as I could, even arguing (slightly) with the man in French, but my sense is that he simply did not want to help. I suggest not counting on the Orange office in Aix.