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Capri is for vacationing, la Dordogne is for living

Capri is for vacationing, la Dordogne is for living

Old Jun 25th, 2017, 07:53 AM
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Capri is for vacationing, la Dordogne is for living


I have learned so much from reading other people's trip reports and comments. Thank you. I would like to return the favor.

This is my trip report on the island of Capri, Italy and in La Dordogne, France. We are a family of four: my husband, I, and our two daughters I. and C. ( 4.5 years old and 17 months). My youngest sister K. joined us during this trip. Our friend L. joined us for the Italian portion of the trip.

Here is the itinerary:

2 nights in Rome
5 nights in Capri, Italy
5 nights in Sarlat, France

Rome has been covered in Fodor in exquisite details. I will start this trip report by arriving in the island of Capri. If there is any interest on how we got there, I will write that portion of the trip also.

June 1rst 2017

Frederico, the owner of the villa Il Pioppo in Capri is waiting for us on the pier. He is easy to spot: "Welcome to Capri!". Next to him is a convertible taxi and promptly our carry-ons are piled in the small trunk. The ferry from Naples to Capri was a short and enjoyable one hour and twenty minutes. My daughters I. and C. were having fun watching the seagulls. Before driving to our villa, we stop to get groceries for breakfast at a small store located at the the Marina Grande. It is 15 minutes of chaos trying to get yogurt, fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread and prosecco but well worth it as we have a taxi available now to carry the food.

Stepping into the villa, is like stepping into a dream. Every room is light and airy and has a view of the vivid blue of the Mediterranean sea. The jasmine, roses and other flowers spill their fragrance through the large open doors. The ceilings are tall. There are so many exciting outdoors spaces. My eldest daughter comes back excited: she found some swings protected from the sun by a trellis of grape vines. Frederico and Alessandra open a bottle of white wine. We have arrived home for the next 5 nights. My first thought is I have to bring my mother here.

The villa has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, a large living room, and a kitchen. There are four adults and two children: My husband and I with our two girls, my sister K. and our friend L.

The first day we enjoy our surroundings and relax from our travels from Rome. The trip was easy with the fast bullet train Roma Termini-Napoli Centrale. With two children, I had also pre-booked taxis for the transfers and it made the trip smoothly.

We eat bread, cheese, apricots and nectarines. We drink prosecco. Life is beautiful. I am so grateful I feel like crying.

My sister and I stroll into Capri town with my eldest daughter. Our villa is on a quiet road, via Grotta delle Felci. Unfortunately to get to the piazzetta in Capri town, there is a stretch of road -the via Marina Piccola- not pedestrian friendly and we have to plaster ourselves against the wall to avoid being hit by cars and mopeds. The ordeal last about five minutes. In the Piazzetta, a pedestrian zone only, we buy strawberry tarts. There are many brand name stores especially on via Camerelle. The paved streets are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

We fall asleep in our villa after gazing at the stars over the sea on our balcony.

June 2nd 2017

We are to meet a delegate of Gianni’s boat tour at the Marina Grande at ten in the morning for a three hour tour of the island. My eldest daughter I. and my husband take the funicular down from the piazzetta; my sister, our friend L., and I with baby C. in the Ergo Carrier elect to go down the stairs. There are flowers everywhere. Their perfume goes straight up to your head. We pet a few healthy looking cats on the way down.

The boat has an infant life vest and C. screams in protest as I put her in it. Baby C. calms down soon, as there are so many boats to look at. " Bateau, bateau" she points (both my daughters' first language is French since I am French). The cliffs of Capri are dramatic. We start going around the island. My husband M. chats with Andrea our captain. We bypass the blue grotto; the area is too congested. Eventually we stop at a nice swimming spot. My friend L. jumps off the boat; my eldest daughter I. and my sister K. follow suit. I give the baby to my husband and jump.

The water is cold. It takes your breath away. However, after swimming for five minutes it gets better. We laugh and venture far between two cliffs. The small pink crabs run away when they sense us. I get back to the boat with my daughter I. and give my husband a chance to swim. He has fun climbing rocks and jumping off.

The boat visits the green grotto and then sails through the hole of the Faraglioni rocks, Capri’s most iconic sight. We ask Andrea to drop us off at La Fontelina restaurant. La Fontelina comes to get us in their own barca and before we know it we are brought some bread and menus. The service is impeccable. The waiter brings my girls in front of the huge display of deserts. But what I. really wants is an octopus salad. My sister K. orders the seafood salad that looks like a giant prawn erupting on lettuce like mount Vesuvius. Once done eating, we trek back to the villa, a 1 hour hike, and then rest for the afternoon.

June 3nd 2017

Long leisurely breakfast. I dress up my daughters and do a fast photo shoot. The place is a living canvas. I change them out into cotton dresses. We hike to the restaurant Le Grotelle, where we drink fresh orange juice. From there we take via Pizzolungo, a long staircase with breathtaking vistas, all the way down to Da Luigi. Our plan was to swim there, but we balk at the twenty one euro each we have to pay to access their swimming spot, especially since we don't want to stay long. We end up eating at Da Luigi and while the service was awful (orders got forgotten, waiting for one hour to get white sangria) the food was excellent (I loved the pumpkin pie with pesto). The owner of Da Luigi was herself great and was responsive to our problem accessing food and drinks. Maybe they were short staffed that day.

We took the boat shuttle back to Marina Piccola to swim on the public beach. Since all the beaches in Capri are rocky I am glad that we have water shoes. From there we climb up the stairs back to our villa (thirty minutes).

Once again the rest of the evening we stayed in and cooked after we picked up a few more groceries from the supermarket on the corner of via Marina Piccola and via Provinciale Anacapri. We make nice salads with tomato, mozzarella and avocados. We grill salmon and chicken. We are drinking prosecco with every meal. I just can’t get enough of the views from our villa. Pictures cannot do justice to them.

June 4th 2017

It is my sister's birthday and today we have exciting plans. We get up at five o’clock in the morning and quietly leave the villa. The babies are sleeping next to my husband; our friend L. is a night owl and she won't be up till 9am or 10am. Walking to the bus station in Capri, my sister and I breath in the morning air and watch the sky change from grey blue to pink, signaling the sunrise. We giggle like school girls on a summer vacation, free of any responsibility.

In Capri town, young Italians looking like a disheveled Gucci add, spill out of the club where they have been dancing all night. They are wearing white, gold and bronze. All the girls have tall high heels and a matching clutch. They hop into convertible taxis.

We don't have long to wait for the bus from Capri to Anacapri. It departs at six o’clock and cost 1.80 euro each. We share the bus with the locals, who worked all night. The sun is coming up on the sea and the sky takes on magnificent colors as we climb up and up towards Anacapri. The bus is a short ride of ten minutes. We are dropped off to take our next bus, the one that goes to the Blue Grotto. Like clockwork it arrives at six thirty. This time we are alone in the bus with the driver. We tell him of our plan to swim in the grotto and he agrees that today is good day as the sea is calm and there is no wind.

Locals swim in the Blue Grotto before eight in the morning or after six at night, after the tourists are gone. Knowing this, we climb down the steep stairs on the cliff and stare at ,the small opening.

" You are kidding right? That can't be the entrance." says my sister doubtfully.

I have seen pictures online and see the chain on the rock. The sea is calm, very calm. The sun is out now and the Blue Grotto will be lit from the reflective light. It is now or never. I lower myself in the water from the ladder. The water is warmer than I expected. I see though the opening, round lifebuoys on the back rock of the grotto and I know we are in the right place.

We swim in; it is fantastic. The water is a luminescent blue. My sister wants to swim deep into the cave but I am a bit afraid of the Loch Ness monster of Capri.

We don't stay long. Soon we are walking along the Sentiero dei Forti. It is a two hour hike from the Blue Grotto to the Lighthouse. The first part of the hike is disappointing. It is close to shrubs, mosquitoes and spider webs. We have a map since the turns are not always marked well.

We encounter a donkey and it's friend, a pig, blocking the trail. We are afraid of them and them of us. My sister shoos them away.

The second half of the trail is gorgeous; we walk out on the open rocks, on top of the cliffs. On our right is Ischia. From the Lighthouse we catch the bus back to Anacapri. It is almost empty.

Anacapri has woken up since we began. People are in the streets but the tourist tours are not there yet. It is nine o’clock in the morning, and we decide to have a coffee and a lemon almond cake at the villa San Michele, built by Dr. Axel Munthe. We visit the famous villa and admire the vista of Marina Grande from above.

Coming back from the villa the tourist hoards have now descended on the town. We take the bus back to Capri from the bus stop above piazza Vittoria (a stop before the main station) so we have a least a place standing in the bus. We are sandwiched like sardines. Travelers at the bus stop of piazza Vittoria cannot get in. We pick up apricots, peaches and chocolate at our local supermarket. By noon we are back at the villa, exhausted and happy. The children are playing in the small hot tub (not heated- cold tub.). We relax for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening we dress up and go to celebrate my sister's birthday at the restaurant Panorama: great views, lemons trees, friendly service. My daughters love basil leaves. The waiter brings them to the garden and picks some fresh ones for them to munch on.

A perfect day.

June 5th 2017

We get up late. By the time we are ready to explore Anacapri it is already eleven in the morning. Our friend goes on her own to visit Sorrento. We catch a convertible taxi in Capri. The taxi driver puts on some music and we dance all the way to Anacapri. From there we catch the chair lift up Monte Solaro. The staff direct my husband how to hold our four years old on his lap and have his backpack hanging on his right shoulder. I hug my 17 month old and show her the gardens we pass from above.
Once there we find the trail down easily. We detour to see a church, Maria di Cetrella. Back in Anacapri we are picked up by the shuttle of the Da Gelsomina restaurant and whisked away to their authentic restaurant. Food is excellent and the music is classical Italian opera. We make use of their swimming pool. Later the shuttle brings us back to Anacapri and we take a taxi back to the villa, dancing again with our arms.

We pack our bags after dinner. This is the end of our vacation in Capri. Good bye, we will be back.

June 6th 2017

I should have had a good night of sleep since today is supposed to be a grueling day of traveling. We are to take two taxis, one ferry, two trains, one plane, and one car. But I tried to cook calamari for the first time last night and villa smells of fish. So, we opened up all the windows to air it out. It brought in many mosquitoes ready to eat my innocent children. Until one o’clock in the morning, I am the mosquito killer with a cloth in hand, using it like a whip. I am sure I look like a mad woman leaping and twisting. Every time I think I am done and I turn off the lights, I hear them. I turn the light back on and sure enough they are on the wall next to the crib or on my daughter's cheek. Finally I fall asleep to wake up three hours later at four thirty in the morning.

Unfortunately, there is no time to make coffee this morning. I wring my hands in despair like lady Macbeth before carrying the suitcases down to the street. Our taxi man Carlos is great. He shows up on time at 5:15 in the morning and literally brings the taxi onto the ferry to help us with our bags. I love ferries; we are soon settled in with coffee and blueberry muffins from the on-board cafe. At the port of Naples we have a taxi waiting to take us to the train station, Napoli Centrale. The trip in the train is easy. We have business class ticket bought at a super economy price while they were on sale through Trenitalia. Our second train is to the town of Ciampino. I chose trains to avoid any potential traffic. We are early at the airport. Three hours early. And this is when it gets tough. We are so tired waiting for our Ryan air flight to Bordeaux. My husband falls asleep on the luggage on the floor.
In Bordeaux we pick up our rental car and head out to Sarlat-la-Caneda. We finally arrive at our airbnb rental on rue Fénelon within the medieval town. The parking lot is very close by. We carry the children and I let them sleep without a bath. My sister finds a Vietnamese restaurant (which seems quite out of place in an authentic medieval french village) downstairs open for take out. I shower and fall into a very deep sleep.
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2017, 08:08 AM
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Magical. Look your writing style. I look forward to more.
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 08:11 AM
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Vietnamese restaurants are very much a part of France, absolutely everywhere.
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 08:18 AM
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Wow! What a trip (so far). I love your writing style and can't wait to read more. I hope you will share the contact info for that house in Capri!

Your babies are lucky to have a Mama like you!
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 11:56 AM
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Great TR! Looking forward to reading about Sarlat.
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 01:05 PM
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Loving this, and yes, the Dordogne is absolutely for living, and living really well!
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 01:36 PM
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Thank you for reading.

This is the vbro (home away) link for the villa in Capri:

This is is airbnb link for the apartment in Sarlat:
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 02:57 PM
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Fantastic trip report and beautiful pics! We arrive in la Dordogne in 35 days. Excited to read the rest of your report!
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 04:00 PM
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June 7th 2017

Capri is for vacation and Sarlat is for living. It only takes a few days before my sister and I are plotting to have my parents retire in la Dordogne. The scenery is lush, green and alternates between ravines and cliffs. People of this area are like kindred spirits ( yes, I stole this expression from Anne of Green Gables).

Our first day I had planned to go canoeing on the Dordogne river in the morning. With temperatures starting at 49F, it is too cold. Furthermore, we have to get groceries and explore Sarlat. My husband, our eldest daughter, and I go downstairs around 8 am. My sister stays behind with the baby.

The apartment Le Sénéchal is on the third level, with thick yellow stone walls, a mix of medieval and modern. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom. It does not have wifi. Sadly we said goodbye to our friend L. in Capri. She had to go back to work.

Sarlat's market is setting up and it is a joy to see and smell the produce. We buy most of our essentials, and non essentials such as 30 euros worth of truffles that we can't use entirely. (Unless we decide to extend our trip). My daughter I. is happily chatting with all the merchants: "Maman on peut habiter ici? C'est mon pays."

We eat breakfast back at the apartment. The whole family walks around Sarlat, discovering side streets. The children dance to the tune of an accordion and chase pigeons. After lunch, we drive to the Castle of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle overlooking the Dordogne river. Castelnaud is a fun medieval fortress with narrow staircases. We buy a shield and a toy archery set for I.

Dinner is at the Présidial, a lovely restaurant, less than 2 minutes from our apartment.

June 8th 2017

Pascal, our guide for les Combarelles is exceptional. Under his guidance, the cave walls become alive with horses, mammoths and even a cave lion! He flickers his lights; the shadows deepened. One of the reindeer appears to be drinking water from the river and I can see the outline of it's tongue. Pascal shows us a few indecipherable tectiform symbols. I am profoundly touched. Why did these humans crawl for more than 40 meters to draw and sculpt on the walls of these caves? They were not living there. The cave conditions were, like today, uncomfortable, dark, humid and cold. Their drawing are incredibly beautiful.

There is something very intimate about the experience of les Combarelles. It was just us with an English speaking couple who brought in their own private guide. Camille is warm against me and sleeps most of the time. Cave temperatures are around 12 C.

My sister and I emerge out and head out to le Font de Gaume. Our tours are in French and tomorrow my husband will have his tour of the Font de Gaume in English. Today my husband and my eldest daughter are having fun at Le Conquil, a dinosaur park, medieval cave dwelling, and obstacle course all in one.

My sister prefers le Font de Gaume especially for the two beautiful bisons and the polychrome wolf that we see. Our guide shows us a hand print from around 17,000 years ago. Some of the paintings are defaced with nineteen century graffiti but as you go deeper into the cave it subsides.

My experience is a spiritual one. I feel like am reaching out into prehistory to understand my ancestors. I am deeply moved.

We meet up with my husband and my daughter. We all drive down to the small village of Domme. I love walking the wall down to the public gardens. Domme sits high and the whole valley is seen. We get ice cream while we wait for the L'Esplanade restaurant to open. The statue of a marquis, Jacques de Maleville is in front of our bench. I note that he not only survived but thrived through the French Revolution, Robespierre era of terror, Napoleon, and King Louis XVIII. Impressive.

Our best meal in France is at the L'Esplanade. The waitress is playful with my daughters. The cheese plate is excellent. The never ending sunset basks us in soft light. Another perfect moment. We drive the winding roads down. It feels like the sun will never set, even at 10:30pm.

June 9th 2017

We head out to Lascaux IV today. The French tour is at 10:48am and the English one at 11:06am. It is a reproduction. I am nevertheless astounded to see the richness and the amount of drawings. The colors are vibrant and I can just imagined what an experience it would be to see the real cave. I am grateful that the French are preserving and protecting this cave. But I am not moved like I was at les Combarelles and le Font de Gaume. The environment is more sterile. It is not "the real thing".

We don't have time for the Parc Thot. In the gift shop, I buy a children's book "Cropetite" and a real woolly mammouth. My husband goes to his tour of the Font de Gaume at 2:15pm. Meanwhile the rest of the family heads out to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, where we eat ice cream at Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe. We have less time then we thought, especially with the winding roads. It is already time to pick M. up from le Font de Gaume. We take route D706, pass by the Roque Saint-Christophe, and see the impressive rock shelters from the road but we don't stop.

The rest of the afternoon is spent relaxing in the apartment after grocery shopping at Carefour. We cook a huge plate of girolles; eat a lot of cheese and drink wine. The children go to sleep early. I have time to read my novel, The Handmaid's Tale and write in my journal.

June 10th 2017

I look up and see a circle of blue sky above me. Already the temperature is dropping in the Gouffre de Padirac. Moss covers the rocks and I pass my hand over them to feel their softness. We continue our journey deep into the Gouffre following my daughter in front of us who skips along like a leprechaun. We get to the small boats and I smile thinking of the Phantom of the Opera with Christine on an underground lake. Soon we are on foot again. We see an enormous, natural underground cathedral with an impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites.

There are not too many travelers at 10am in the morning. But at the completion of our tour, lines are starting to form at the embarkation area. Exploring the Gouffre de Padirac reminds me of Jules Verne's novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Today, we are 1 hour and 20 minutes away from Sarlat in the Lot department. As we emerge out of the Gouffre, we are starving. Rocamadour is twenty minutes away. The restaurant Jehan de Valon is associated with the Best Western. Under the linden trees, we are seated atop the cliffs of Rocamadour and proceed to have a long leisurely lunch of four courses.

There is not a lot of time left to see Rocamadour; we briefly see the sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary taking the elevator up (except for my sister and my daughter who decide to climb the stairs). We drive off to Pech Merle as we have reservations for the 5pm tour, the last one of the day.

Pech Merle ended up being our favorite prehistoric cave. As the guide proceeds to continue down the passage, I stay behind and alone, I absorb the spotted horse paintings. It is so quiet. Camille is against me sucking her thumb. The spotted horses are in movement, running. I am completely still. The paintings are beautiful. Next to the horses are hand prints. Who are you? Why was this painted?

The guide show us fossilized foot prints of a child walking through mud. The grotto was sealed 12,000 years ago. Despite not being able to date the footprints with carbon dating, they have to be at least 12,000 years old. We see Venus drawings associated with the woolly mammoths.

I saw a total of four caves: les Combarelles, le Font de Gaume, Lascaux, et Pech Merle: each of of them different, each with their own energy. I am so happy I did not cut out any of my itinerary. Driving to Lot and seeing Pech Merle was an incredible experience. Now that I am back home I can't stop reading about the Cro Magnons.

We finish the evening in Saint-Cirq Lapopie, a village perched on a steep cliff, where we eat quickly; it is quiet around 8pm and the architecture of this vertical village makes for interesting photography. However we are tired and by 9pm we are driving back to Sarlat.

June 11th 2017

We pack early and keep a separate bag for a change of clothes. We drop the key off and check out of our apartment Le Sénéchal. By 10am we are at the canoe rental place in Vitrac. On the Dordogne river my husband rows first with my daughter and my sister. With the baby, I drive to La Roque-Gageac, a village along the Dordogne river . My husband and I switch places when he arrives at La Roque-Gageac.

I am canoeing in a S fashion, not very effective but the strong current of the river Dordogne is very forgiving for a novice rower. We pass Castelnaud and then Beynac. I would have liked to spend more time exploring the perched villages of the Dordogne river. Next time.
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 04:10 PM
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Wonderful! Thank you.
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Old Jun 25th, 2017, 04:37 PM
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June 11th 2017 to June 12th 2017

After canoeing, we drive back to Sarlat to buy wine at Julien de Savignac's store. Unfortunately, I forgot it was Sunday today and the wine store is closed. Quickly, we buy sandwiches and drive to Bordeaux.

We drop off my sister K. at the airport of Bordeaux for her flight at 10:20pm. We settle in for the night at the Kyriad hotel next to the airport. The room is very big with two king beds and a baby cot. It serves our purposes. The following morning our flight with British Airway is uneventful. On the transatlantic portion, I am be seated next to a skycot for the baby.

La Dordogne blew me away. I am already planning my next trip.
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Old Jun 26th, 2017, 05:27 AM
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Thank you so much for this trip report. I really enjoyed reading about the Dordogne as I am heading there in September. Your time there sounded great.
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Old Jun 26th, 2017, 07:28 AM
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Great report. Mushrooms and caves, a happy combination.
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Old Jun 27th, 2017, 01:53 AM
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For anyone reading this and contemplating renting canoes on the Dordogne - rent kayaks instead. Canoes are heavy and clunky and hard to maneuver if you don't know what you're doing or don't have a lot of paddlers. Kayaks are light and simpler and very maneuverable.
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Old Jun 27th, 2017, 09:52 AM
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Thanks, StCirq -- was thinking of a canoe, but will try a kayak instead.
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Old Jun 27th, 2017, 02:22 PM
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What a wonderful TR. Thank you for sharing. We have had friends recommend Capri for us next year in Italy with the children and after reading your TR I am swaying towards it too. x
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 03:04 PM
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