We ended up having to get a cell phone for the duration of our trip in France - we were going to go without, but we simply couldn't take care of all the business (old and new) we had without one. We couldn't contact UPS France to complete the delivery of our temporary credit card. We couldn't contact the insurance agent to meet the terms of our rental contract. And we couldn't contact anyone else if the need arose. So...
Our first attempt was to drive into a neighboring town to where google assured us that there was an Orange (telecom company) office. Well, for whatever reason, we couldn't find it. We learned more about driving, navigating, and asking for help.
Next, we tried the common advice to look for a chip in a supermarket or tabac (small convenience store). Well, they only had recharge capability, and we needed an actual GSM chip.
By accident, we happened to see an offer at the post office (la poste) for a simple phone and chip combination. We couldn't tell, but it turned out to be a basic GSM chip (had we known, we could have just gotten the chip and put it in our phone - it used the same frequency and was unlocked). As it was, we paid 30€ (this included 20% tax - VAT). We expected to get a text that indicated the phone number. This is much like the situation in Costa Rica, so we were not surprised, and we prepared to wait perhaps an hour before we could use the phone. Well, two days later, still no text, we tried to call out for help. For help, you needed your phone number. AND! We couldn't hang up on the "help!" So... Even though the phone package came with some minutes, they're now gone. The next business day, we returned to the poste - the clerk was able to give us our number, and we bought a month of unlimited minutes (20€, no tax) - this is now enough to see us through our time here. HOWEVER! (this is so frustrating) In order to get the time applied to our phone, we have to call a number, navigate the directions, enter a code, etc. In French. Who recalls that the asterisk is called a star (l'etoile)?!? Fortunately (for me), Rick is dealing with that. After a few failed attempts - noise, response time, missed button-pushes - we head to the tourism office, thinking they could at least follow along and help us. Just as they are opening, Rick figures out the magic combination, and we finally have a connection! With minutes!
A week after we arrived, we're fully connected. I cannot imagine how anyone would survive if ALL their documents, money, and cards were stolen. We were lucky that Rick had a separate card, and that it worked. I don't have even a smidgen of advice for a lone traveler in that situation.
Apologies - no picture with this post...