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Trip Report: Betty1 & friends in Burgundy and Alsace

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Jun 14th, 2007, 12:53 PM
  #21
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Oh, Coco, how could I have forgotten the tapenade salesman?? We bought two kinds and Meredith and I were still eating them in Alsace!

I can't remember what Meredith said for "agacé." Aggravated? Put out? I'll ask her if she remembers.

Sorry about that café. Next time, I'll let you choose for sure!

Susie, I'm not sure we are talking about the same chateau. The one we went to was called Chateau Philippe le Hardi. Is that it? As for the wine, I'm not a big wine-drinker and certainly no expert. I normally enjoy reds more than whites, but we did enjoy the "crémant" in the kirs as well as the Aligoté which was not very expensive. I'm afraid I don't remember any others we ordered and since I didn't bring any bottles home... I'll ask my friends what they liked and get back to you on that.
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Jun 14th, 2007, 01:44 PM
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Looking forward to hearing about your travels in Alsace!
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Jun 15th, 2007, 03:55 AM
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I believe the Japanese have also fallen for the Faux Chien of poodles which are actually lambs. It only came out because they seemed to like milk but found meat offputting
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Jun 18th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Topic 5: Highlights of Alsace

We apparently used up all our weather luck in Burgundy: most of the week in Alsace was rainy and chilly, but it didn’t keep us from seeing a lot of southern Alsace.

The drive from Thury to Grussenheim wasn’t too bad, just occasional misty rain. Luckily there was a break around lunchtime, so we stopped and picnicked on stuff we had brought from Burgundy. (Kudos to Meredith who had brought a plastic insulated bag which she used as her carry-on. Came in very handy on several occasions!) Arrived in Grussenheim around 5:00 pm and were greeted by our house owner, a very nice lady who a bit later brought us a home-made kougelhopf! (Sort of like a brioche with nuts.) Being a bit tired we decided not to go out that night and just grazed on leftovers.

The next day was Sunday. Kougelhopf for breakfast – yum! Our owner had told us there was a grocery store open in Holtzwihr, so we went for a few supplies. Explored a bit on the way back. All the towns here seem to end in –heim or –wihr! Very hard to keep them all straight. After lunch at home we set out for Ribeauvillé, a pretty village with a nice pedestrian-only main street. We parked in the free lot on the square and noticed a little wine-tasting kiosk there. We both liked a 2005 Pinot Gris (sorry, I don’t remember the name of the chateau) and Meredith bought a couple of bottles. (Still filling up that case!) Dinner that night was at the restaurant in Illhaeusern (see above).

Monday dawned chilly and rainy again but we were not to be deterred. Decided to head north to Obernai. En route we stopped in Bergheim and walked the ramparts in a misty rain, very nice. (Thanks, Stu!) Drove through St. Hippolyte, Kintzheim (very pretty), a few –willers and a -bach or two, stopped in Barr at a grocery, took a wrong turn, but got back on the right road fairly quickly and arrived in Obernai around 2:30. Another very pretty town. Did a bit of souvenir shopping, visited the Eglise St. Pierre et St. Paul and had some wonderful tea and pastry in a salon de thé. Cooked at home for dinner.

Wednesday, it was off to Colmar, just 10-15 km. to the southwest of Grussenheim. This was by far the chilliest day we had, probably about 50° or so. We walked about a bit, visited the very impressive cathedral, Collégiale St. Martin, and stopped for lunch at Les Dominicains. I had a very good choucroute and Meredith had tartiflette, another Alsatian specialty. In the afternoon we visited the Unterlinden Museum. Lots of interesting stuff and the Issenheim altarpiece is amazing. I had no idea that it is actually 11 separate paintings! One of the guards told me about a Japanese artist who had spent 2 years making a copy which is now on display in Tokyo. There is also a Gallo-roman section that has one of the best-preserved mosaic tile floors I’ve ever seen. So beautiful and complete that I thought it had to be a copy.

Leaving the museum we heard music coming from a nearby square. I thought it might be a Salvation Army band but it turned out to be a church group from York, England who had been touring in the area for a few days. The youngest member was only 11. We walked around a bit more, visited Petite Venise and stopped for some very welcome hot chocolate. Got back to Grussenheim between 6:00 and 7:00 and ate leftovers for dinner.

We watched a fair amount of TV in the evenings (good for our French!) and saw a couple of good movies. One I just caught the end of was “Le Papillon” with veteran actor Michel Serrault and a wonderful little actress, Claire Bouanich. I looked it up on my computer when I got home to learn the rest of the story and to see if I could buy it. It is available on Amazon. Haven’t bought it yet but plan to do so. It would be good for French classes: good story, nothing x-rated, beautiful scenery and the French is easy to understand.

Wednesday we finally had some sunshine and warmer temps, so decided to head for the Ecomusée south of Colmar. Stopped in Eguisheim, another very cute village, maybe my favorite. We walked the ramparts all around the town, did a little shopping and had lunch on the main square beside a beautiful fountain and beneath a stork’s nest on the church. Found the Ecomusée but decided not to visit. It was expensive (13&euro and looked a bit run-down. Instead we decided to take advantage of the good weather by driving the Route des Crêtes in the Vosges. Beautiful! Stopped for pictures at the Lac de Lauch and for coffee at Hohneck. At 1362 meters, I believe this is the second highest peak of the Vosges, after Grand Ballon at 1424 m. Although we did not do the final hike up to the top, the views were still magnificent. At Col de la Schlucht, we turned west and drove through La Roche du Diable, past the Lac de Longemer and around the lake at Gérardmer. Finally we headed home by driving north to Fraize, over the Col du Bonhomme to Lapoutroie and Kaysersberg. We were too late to see much here, so decided we would come back on Thursday.

Well, I guess I don’t do “succinct” very well! LOL! Actually, I had a private request not to be too succinct, so I hope this is a fair compromise. Will finish up with Alsace tomorrow. In case anyone is looking for info on specific sites, perhaps I should tell you where we did not go. Since Meredith and I both prefer smaller towns and villages to big cities, we did not go to Strasbourg. (Both of us had been there before.) We did not go to Riquewihr or to Haut-Koenigsbourg. (Been there, done that.) Except for the trip to the Vosges and a brief excursion into Germany, we pretty much stayed in the Haut-Rhin department.

A demain!
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Jun 18th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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Great report. I look forward to the rest. We are off to Alsace next week!
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Jun 18th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Just realized that that "private request" was actually quite public! I thought Coco had said that in an e-mail rather than here. Hope this meets with your approval, Coco!

I've discovered something about editing here. If you copy and paste from a Word document and then try to change something here, it won't "take." You have to go back to the original, change it there, and recopy & repaste the whole thing! At least that's how it seems to work for me.

Update on my car rental charges: I've got my final bill. The extras, other than gas, were $102.97 (airport pick-up, extra drivers and tax). Gas was $59.65 (25 liters @ 1.71€ per liter - not as bad as I had feared). Total of $162.62.
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Jun 18th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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Hi Betty , we visited all your Alsace spots (we stayed in Colmar)
You had a wonderful time and we get to share it!
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Jun 18th, 2007, 03:53 PM
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Betty, this appears to be Dijon week. I just finished reading Ira's report and now yours. I went to the Universite de Dijon for a summer class too many years ago to mention. I have been back a few times. I have also been to Alsace. I remember eating so many macaroons in Riqhwihr and deciding that the place on the left at the top of the hill had the best ones. When I finished tasting all the macaroons, I could not eat dinner. Ha!

I do most of my long distance traveling through home exchanges. I have an apartment in Vienna this summer as my deal and can't wait. One of my oldest friends will be joining me for part of the trip. She had extra vacation time and wanted a suggestion from me as to where to go. Did I have a deal for her! We will be staying in Vienna as our base but will do a 4 day/3 night trip to Budapest. Never having been to Hungary (and being 1/4 Hungarian), I am really looking forward to that.

You might be interested in looking into home exchanging (you exchange CARS with the homes). The only disadvantage is that you do not know where you are going to end up and the deals are done way ahead of time. For example, I already have my deal for 2008 (Brisbane, Australia). The financial end of these deals is obviously an advantage.

Thanks again for posting!
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Jun 18th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Hi, Mimi! I thought about you when Meredith ordered the truite bleu at the restaurant in Illhaeusern!

FauxSteMarie, we enjoyed the macaroons, too, but we bought ours in Ribeauvillé and some more in Eguisheim, I think. Made great snacks on our longer drives! I wish I could do home exchanges, but I doubt anyone would want a small apartment in my little corner of SC!
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Jun 19th, 2007, 07:29 AM
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Retired people looking for golf and tennis might be delighted with your apartment. You might also get some takers from within the US. It does help me that I live in the DC suburbs though. I can't say I get a million offers (for that you need to live a fancy apartment in NYC or in Hawaii), but I get enough to always get something attractive.

And I stayed in Ribeauville in Alsace. In fact, that bed and breakfast is about my best memory. I got into a big discussion with the owner and it turned out that we both had had children with club feet and lots of surgery. We compared specialists in Europe and the US! Very nice B&B at the exterior of Ribeauville. At this point I do not remember the woman's name, but I do remember the macaroons in Riqhwhir!
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Jun 19th, 2007, 01:42 PM
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Since we were to return home on Saturday and thought it best to spend Friday night near CDG, Thursday was our last full day in Alsace. We had passed through Kaysersberg on Wednesday but had not had time to visit so we went back on Thursday. We had a look at the Albert Schweitzer museum but decided not to go in. Instead we walked from one end of town to the other, soaking in another charming Alsatian town and looking for an inexpensive place for lunch. (We always seemed to be looking for a place to eat!) Finally settled on a small café where Meredith had a croque monsieur and I had a tarte flambée (a lot like pizza, but with a base of fromage blanc rather than tomato sauce). I got my best souvenir here: a large advertising poster for Ici Paris magazine that was displayed in the window of a newsstand/souvenir shop. It caught my eye because it featured a large photo of Jean-Pierre Pernaut, the very attractive (IMO) anchorman of TF1’s 13 heures news broadcast, which I have been watching on the net for years. The poster was of course not for sale but when I told the owner that I had a “friend who was a big fan of Jean-Pierre and would be thrilled if I brought it to her,” she agreed to take it down and let me have it! To be fair, I bought the magazine as well. I do love souvenirs that I don’t have to pay for, not just because I’m cheap, but also because I enjoy the challenge. Meredith bought another couple bottles of Pinot Gris here as well.

After lunch we walked about a bit more and then decided that since we were so close to Germany we should take advantage and cross the Rhine. We headed for Freiburg, made a pit-stop just across the border (maybe in Ihringen?) for bathroom and coffee. Meredith, thank goodness, speaks a bit of German as well as French. I know maybe 10 words! We arrived in Freiburg by mid-afternoon, went to what appeared to be the main square and visited the cathedral. There was a service going on so we just quietly slipped in and listened for a while to the beautiful music. A very talented soprano was singing something that sounded more modern to me. Back outside we bought ice cream from a vendor who immediately switched into English and told us how much he loved Americans! We walked around a bit more and then thought we should head home. Thanks to Meredith’s excellent “nose,” we made it back to where we had parked the car. (Without her, I would still be wandering around Freiburg!) Back across the Rhine, we had dinner at the Lagon Bleu restaurant in Marckolsheim: simple inexpensive menu, but surprisingly good. Then it was home to Grussenheim to pack. We settled up with our landlady and said our goodbyes Thursday night since she would not be there when we left Friday morning.

I enjoyed our time in Alsace, but, no offense to the Alsatians, it doesn’t feel “French.” I am thrown by all the German-sounding names, never quite knowing how to pronounce them. (Eguisheim was pronounced ay-ghee-sem by our landlady.) It is certainly beautiful, with all the half-timbered houses and flowers. We remarked how drab the villages in the Vosges seemed by comparison. I was also struck by the fact that here it seems that WWII was just yesterday. Our street in Grussenheim was called rue de la Deuxième Division Blindée (street of the Second Armored Division). There was apparently a big battle here in January 1945 and just a short walk from our apartment, there was an armored tank that has been left as a memorial to those who died defending the village. In the churchyard cemetery there is a separate section that contains thirty-four pink sandstone crosses (and 2 Muslim crescents) all with names of men who died during this 2-day battle. Near the tank there was also a Jewish cemetery, completely enclosed. We asked our landlady about it and all she would say was that they were killed by the Germans. Also as we were returning from Germany we happened upon a sort of open-air museum that was part of the Maginot line, with bunkers, tanks and still-visible craters from the bombings. As an American, I feel how fortunate we have been to have never experienced having our country invaded as France has and wonder how we would react in similar circumstances. No better or worse than the French, I suspect.

Friday was another drizzly day for our long drive to Paris. We set off just before 11:00 am. It was slow going at first since there is no quick route over the mountains, but after that it wasn’t too bad. We stopped at a nice shopping center on the outskirts of St. Dié for coffee and picnic supplies. Unfortunately, the rain never let up enough and we wound up “picnicking” in the car near Nancy. We made it to the outskirts of Paris around 6:00 pm and, of course, ran into quite a bit of traffic. We finally found (see above) our B&B in the tiny village of Jagny by about 7:30 and immediately went to dinner in Luzarches at the restaurant Cottage Trianon. We had perhaps our best meal of the trip here: we both had a wonderful crudités plate to begin, then steak (faux-filet) for Meredith and lamb chops for me. For dessert Meredith had rhubarb pie and I had a fruit salad. With a pichet of wine it came to about 60€. When we first arrived, we had a nice conversation with another customer who spoke excellent English. (He had just returned from a business trip to Chicago.) He kept trying to tell us what we should order and told the owner to give us some foie gras and to put it on his bill! He apparently was a regular customer of the restaurant. He left shortly thereafter. We never saw any foie gras and, of course, did not mention it to the owner. After our meal we talked politics with him a bit but left as soon as we could to get back to our B&B before dark. I would recommend this B&B, Gentilhommière de Jagny, to anyone looking for a place to stay near CDG. Just be sure to take the exit off the Francilienne (D104) toward Mareil-en-France, rather than taking the N16 toward Luzarches. It only took us about 20 minutes to get to the airport Saturday morning.

So, the rest you know already. This was another wonderful trip for me. As many times as I have been to France over the years, I still find that there is always something new and different to see. I continue to be amazed by its infinite variety.


A final installment tomorrow about cell phones, my bête noire!
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Jun 19th, 2007, 02:22 PM
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I did a bit of Alsace when I had a home exchange in Nancy, by the way. Nancy is worth visiting itself for all the Art Nouveau and because it is a nice place by itself. I did go down in one of the Maginot line installations while I was there (I believe the town was called "Bitche") and also went to Verdun. If you have a chance to visit Verdun on another trip, don't miss it. It is very moving--to the point of tears.

Thanks again, Betty, for the wonderful trip report and for bringing back many memories for me.
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Jun 19th, 2007, 05:30 PM
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Thanks, FSM, glad you enjoyed it. Many years ago I spent a year as an "assistante d'anglais" in Albi. I had a room in the school whose address was 32, rue de Bitche, I assume named for the town, or perhaps a WWI battle. You can imagine my parents' reaction when they saw my address!
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Jun 19th, 2007, 07:21 PM
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Yes, and I think I took a photo of the Bitche town sign. It was quite fascinating to visit the underground headquarters of the soldiers along the Maginot Line. The stench must have been terrible as there were not a lot of showers. The main recreation, given the number of bottles in the installation, must have been drinking.
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Jun 20th, 2007, 04:41 AM
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HI B,

>I had a tarte flambée (a lot like pizza, but with a base of fromage blanc rather than tomato sauce). <

Isn't that a great dish? Beats pizza all hollow.

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Jun 20th, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Yes, Ira, I did like it much better than pizza. Perhaps I should have said that it "_looks_ a lot like pizza..."

And now for my final installment.

Topic 6: Cell phones

I have struggled for the past several years to find the best option for cell phones. I currently own 3 which are supposed to work in Europe, but each one has its advantages and disadvantages. It has taken me a while to understand that some functions depend on the cell phone itself (hardware) and others on the service I use (SIM, software). The choice of which phone/ service to use also depends on how frequently I plan to use it , where, for what length of time, and for what purpose.
In the past when I have had larger groups traveling in more than one car, I needed at least 2 phones to be able to reach each other in case we got separated. This year, since we were all traveling together, that was not a concern. I only wanted a phone that would work in France so that, if necessary, we could reach Mitch who was traveling separately from the rest of us (he also has a Cingular phone w/international roaming), and to make an occasional call to restaurants or the B&B where Meredith & I were staying. I also wanted to be reachable in case of any emergency at home.

For a phone to work in France (& probably the rest of Europe) it has to be GSM and to have at least one of the frequencies used there (900/1800), better if it has both. (With just one of the two, you will more frequently find that you are in a “no service” area.) If you want to use a different SIM than the one it came with, it needs to be unlocked. As I understand it, some phones come unlocked, others can be unlocked (with varying degrees of difficulty) and others cannot be unlocked. It is the SIM that carries your phone number and determines how much you pay for outgoing and incoming calls.

(To the experts here [like xyz123] I’m sure this all sounds very elementary, but you must understand that I am technologically challenged, have little experience with cell phones at all and have never sent a text message or used voice mail! I’m hoping this might be helpful to others who are similarly challenged.)

The 3 phones I own are

1) the Nokia 3310 that I use at home, GSM, service provider is Cingular, unlocked. (I stay with them because I have an old plan – 15 minutes a month for $15.00, with rollover – which suits me very well as I don’t use my cell phone much here.) Advantages of using this one in France: I can get have Cingular turn on international roaming, use the same phone number. Disadvantages: it is a tri-band which means it only has one of the frequencies needed in France, so is sometimes out of range; cost of calls is fairly high: $1.29 min. unless you pay $5.99 mo. to reduce that to 99¢ min. I believe that is for both outgoing and incoming.

2) a Mobal World Phone which I purchased a couple of years ago when it was on sale for $29, GSM, dual band 900/1800 (so cannot be used in US), unlocked as of a few weeks ago (very proud of myself that I was able to find a code online and do that!) Advantages: its SIM does not expire, you can use it anytime even if you haven’t used it in several months or a year. Cost of calls is charged to your credit card. Disadvantage: high cost of calls: $1.25 min. within France, outgoing and incoming, $1.50 min. to the US. Would need to provide UK number to friends and family here.

3) a little Motorola that I bought a couple of years ago in France, GSM, dual-band 900/1800 (cannot be used in US), locked. (Cannot find an easy way to unlock it.) Advantage: small, easy to use and, if used with a French SIM, it greatly reduces the cost of outgoing calls, incoming calls are free. Disadvantage: French SIM cards expire after 6-9 months of disuse. Since I only travel to France about once a year I would have to buy a new one each time at a cost of about 30€. (That was right as of a couple of years ago, I think, although someone here recently indicated that they could be purchased for much less. The top-up cards can be had for something like 7-10€ but I believe that is only for SIMs that are still valid, i.e. have been used in the past 6-9 months. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that.)

So, for my purposes this year, I decided to take my Nokia to use while still in the US or when I returned, and my Mobal. I used the Mobal once (to call the house owner in Burgundy) with its original SIM and was charged $2.50 for that call. When I got to Burgundy, I put my Cingular SIM in the Mobal phone and used that the rest of the time. I decided not to pay the $5.99 to reduce the price of my calls since I didn’t intend to make or receive that many. (If my math is right, I would have had to make calls lasting a total of 20 minutes to break even.) By using the Mobal phone rather than my Nokia I never had any trouble connecting to a French service. Sometimes it was SFR, sometimes Bouygues, sometimes Orange. I made 5-6 calls of a minute or two (several to the Gentilhommière’s answering machine!), one was 5 minutes, and was charged a total of $18.06 by Cingular.

So these 2 phones served me well and I was satisfied with the charges. Had I been staying longer, using the phone more frequently, or planning to make or receive calls to/from the US, it would perhaps have been worth buying a French SIM and using that instead. I would only use a cell phone to call the US in an emergency. For other purposes a Télécarte is much less expensive.

I hope this is helpful to someone. Please correct any misinformation I may have unintentionally dispersed! I would be glad to hear any suggestions as to how I might do it differently next time. Just remember to keep it simple!!


To conclude (at long last!), I hope this report has been useful and/or entertaining to some of you. To Kate12 in particular, thanks for your comments and encouragement. I hope my experiences in Burgundy and Alsace will, in some small way, make your stay easier or more enjoyable. And to anyone else who has responded, thank you. As someone else said, it’s nice to know you have an “audience.” Finally, a big “merci beaucoup” to the entire Fodorite family! I have learned so much from you and appreciate all the time and effort you have devoted to making this forum so helpful to all of us.



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Jun 20th, 2007, 01:01 PM
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Thanks very much for the run down on the phones. I am doing a home exchange in Austria soon and did look at the Mobil World Phone you mentioned. Ultimately, I decided not to buy one. I will just use my exchanger's equipment--for better or worse. He will have mine.
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Jun 20th, 2007, 01:20 PM
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In the working class neighborhoods of Paris, it costs 3 to 5€ to unlock a phone at any phone shop.
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Jun 20th, 2007, 01:41 PM
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Thanks, FSM. I should have mentioned that the Mobal phone is now selling for $49 for dual band and, I think, $99 for a quad band. Each person's situation is a little different so I hope what I have posted will help someone in making their decision. You may well be better off using the phone that comes with your house in Vienna.

And kerouac, thanks for that useful bit of information. Would that be for _any_ phone?
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Jun 20th, 2007, 01:46 PM
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I have never had to unlock a phone. I just see what is written on all the signs: "Déblocage 3€"
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