Monday, June 13, 2011

Affordable Data Roaming In Europe With

As I mentioned it in a previous post, you probably know by now that whenever I travel abroad, I use local prepaid sim cards as not only the cost of data roaming with my main mobile carrier (Orange France) is outrageous but adding a data roaming option is just a nightmare.

The advent of the Internet and even more so the mobile Internet have changed the way we interact with the world and in particular the way we travel. I can't fathom being in a foreign country without having access to Google Maps on my iPhone. In fact, it is probably the situation where Google Maps is most useful. So, why aren't our mobile carriers allowing us to use our smart-phones this way when traveling abroad?

In my opinion, data roaming plans are nothing more than a joke. With Orange France, I have the option to activate a 7-day plan for €35 with 50Mb of data in Europe or 34Mb in the rest of the world. I'm sorry but 50 Mb is a joke nowadays. And Orange France makes it even harder to use this data roaming plan as you can't activate it in advance and when you do activate it, it can take between 1 mn to 48 hours to start working. And of course, you can't subscribe to such a plan for 2 weeks in a row: you have to renew it after the first 7 days have expired (and sometimes end up without a data roaming plan for 48 hours between two 7-day periods).

Of course, Orange France will tell you that roaming abroad costs them so much money that they have no other option than to charge such premiums to their loyal contract customers. So, can anyone explain how a small virtual mobile carrier such as is able to offer the same roaming plan for €4.99 to their prepaid customers? Yes, you're not dreaming: 7 times cheaper for prepaid customers compared to the price charged by Orange France to customers on a 2-year contract.

Combined with offering for voice roaming in Europe: 50 minutes for 7 days priced at  €4.99, you get something like €40 per month for 200 voice minutes and 200 Mb of data for roaming all over Europe. Compare this to the €45 my wife pays on a monthly contract with Orange France for 120 voice minutes in France only and 1Gb of data in France only (plus unlimited text messages though), and you can almost reach the conclusion that it is cheaper to use a German mobile carrier in roaming mode in France than a French carrier. Isn't this completely insane?

I sincerely hope that data roaming prices will drop in the near future, granting us Europeans what I would call a true "Freedom of Information Technologies."

Many thanks to Google Translate for allowing me to access website in English!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fine Dining: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Paris Etoile - Review

As I had never eaten at any of Joël Robuchon's restaurants, I decided to take advantage of my week-end stay in Paris to eat at the recently opened Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile located right on the famous Champs-Elysées Avenue in Paris. Even though this restaurant opened its doors only six months ago (December 2010), it has already earned two Michelin stars, hence achieving the same recognition than the original Atelier located rue de Montalembert.

Though the place is dark, its minimalist decoration give it an Asian touch and it's probably no coincidence that the chef is Japanese. The menu is not the same than at its sister location, though some dishes can be found in both establishments.

In addition, I must say that Robuchon's idea of eating at the bar in a more relaxed setting than what is usually experienced in top restaurants is great. Our waiter was very nice, knowledgeable and we interacted a lot more with him while sitting at the bar than at any other Michelin starred restaurant. I thought that added an even more positive note to the overall experience. As for the food, I must say this was one of the finest meals I have experienced and in my honorable opinion, it undoubtedly beats the meal I had at Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace last week. Not only were the preparation perfectly executed but they were also creative, original and sublime. My taste buds are still in awe two hours after leaving the table! Here are the dishes we got to try and I can only advise every single one of you to try them out on you own:

Amuse bouche: Lemon & Basil & Tapenade Jelly:

Sea Urchin on a spicy carrot jelly topped by a gold leaf:

Caviar with smoked salmon dices on a soft-boiled egg (the highlight of my meal):

Lobster with asparagus and morels:

Duck Foie Gras with almond stuffed cherries:

John Dory with coconut milk and coriander:

Quail with Robuchon's signature mashed potatoes:

Mango Mango dessert:

Red fruit sorbet with carambar cream: