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Eighteen Cold Gray Days in Paris & How We Loved it

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Mar 7th, 2013, 04:11 PM
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Eighteen Cold Gray Days in Paris & How We Loved it

Paris was the 3rd stop on GT and my month long trip in France. We started in Lyon http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-from-lyon.cfm and continued in Dijon http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...from-dijon.cfm before taking the TGV to Paris on February 10. We had rented an apt for 18 days. http://www.vrbo.com/323992
This would be the longest we had ever stayed in Paris. We eagerly anticipated being able to leisurely stroll the streets and enjoy the museums and galleries and, of course, enjoy the food and wine.

We have always been single digit apartment dwellers in Paris. This time we decided to branch out and stay in a double-digit arrondisement—the 11th. We rented an apartment on Bd . Richard Lenoir nicely positioned between Place Bastille and rue Oberkampf and a ten minute walk from the 3rd arrondissement. The building was in sort of a dead zone or perhaps I should call it a plumbing zone. We seemed to have had a plethora of plumbing supply stores surrounding us. The big market was just 5 minutes down the boulevard. We were about 5 minutes from 2 Metro lines, the 5 & the 9 and another 5 minutes to line 8. I point this out because we used the Metro a lot – a whole lot. The apt was about 10-20 minutes beyond our past apartments in the Marais and, perhaps due to the freezing temperatures, we frequently turned to the Metro for a warm, quick way to get home after a day out sightseeing or an evening eating out beyond the 11th. (Not to say we didn't do a lot of walking - this was Paris after all.) Overall we liked the 11th and in warmer weather probably would have enjoyed our stay there a lot more.

Next up - how we spent the cold gray days in Paris
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Mar 7th, 2013, 07:26 PM
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Loved your heading and the report so far. Looking forward to the next installment.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 07:33 PM
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Love it (and owe you an email about pushing up the plans for France - will send tomorrow)!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 07:35 PM
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My teeth are chattering already. Looking forward to more!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:11 PM
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I hope you tell us how you like the apartment. It looks very nice, and looks like a good deal in a good general area.

Looking forward to more.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:33 PM
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Thanks. Should have restaurants we liked ready to post tomorrow.

@stokebailey. - re the apt. It does look exactly like the pictures on the sight. First it had a cage elevator which I love and it worked great. We always stay without an elevator so this was a treat. The bed was two comfortable twins pushed together, not a king as they had told us. There was an armoire that was adequate for the two of us to store our clothes. One of the pillows was awful and I bought a new one which they said they will reimburse me for. LR/DR area was nice and comfortable.

Now the kitchen...I had read in the comments that it was not that great. I didn't worry about it because we rarely use our kitchen in Paris except for coffee and really easy stuff. This kitchen had a gas stove/oven which had to be both lit and the gas turned on. The coffee maker was practically falling apart and it was an effort to make our coffee. We had bought a really nice wine in Beaune and planned to make a steak one night to have with the wine. We never even tried figuring we might ruin a good cut of meat.
The bathroom was funny actually. A shower with no stall or curtain which just takes getting used to so you don't spray the whole room. It Had this bizarre metal dryer contraption above the shower but we were told not to use it. The washer was fine, but there was no dryer. This turned out not to be an issue as we laid clothes over the wonderful radiators that kept the apt nice and toasty.
So the bathroom and kitchen were relics from maybe the 50's. The manager said he keeps telling the elderly owner she needs to update. The other issue is that we live in an house so are not used to having anyone running around on top of us. The upstairs neighbor upon occasion was very noisy and got up 6ish some mornings. We also mentioned this to the manager and he said he has told her to not to that...walk around in high heels and play with her cat running back and forth in the night. We thought it was a toddler.
It was a decent rate. The manager was nice and responsive and very easy to deal with. Small security deposit upfront and nothing else. He said cancellation up to a few weeks before arrival would be fine...he'd return the sec deposit. so that was nice. Not sure if I would rent it again. Maybe for a shorter time when we wouldn't be as apt to want to eat in. That's the story on the apt.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:56 PM
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Thanks, yestravel! I'd like a French person to post taking a shower on YouTube so I can see how they do it without a curtain. Wearing a bathing suit, of course.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:58 PM
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Yes, it's esp hard for GT as he is 6'2"". I just find it not particularly relaxing ESP when I wash my hair.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 06:28 AM
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Gottravel here. The following describes highlights of our best dining experiences during our eighteen days in the cold grey Parisian winter. Further posts re museums, shopping, etc. will be up shortly...

Onion soup and frisee salad with bacon and poached egg at Au Pied de Cochon. It’s true that this restaurant is cliched and over-touristed. But we have yet to find an onion soup anywhere in Paris that’s nearly as good. And it’s something of a bargain in over-priced Paris. Probably best for lunch. Inexpensive (for Paris).

A glass of superb Coteaux du Layon at Frenchie. Our meal was good, the desert was better, the accompanying dessert wine was out of this world (at €10 a glass, it should have been). The staff were kind enough to note the wine name down on a large piece of paper. The wine flash card spared me from subjecting staff at various wine stores to my French, which ranges somewhere between mangled and nonexistent. Our dishes at Frenchie during two recent visits have ranged from the sublime to the merely good. This time, our starters (“ferra,” a lake fish) and plats (pigeon for me, polock for yestravel) were good, desserts (a sugar tart and stilton cheese with speculoos) were excellent. Accompanying bottle of pinot noir was very good. And the glass of Coteaux du Layon…. Friendly staff. Expensive. Restaurant Frenchie 5-6, rue du Nil 75002. http://www.frenchie-restaurant.com

The entire dinner at Le Casse Noix. We met up with with Foderite gracejoan at her wonderful apartment near the Eiffel Tower beforehand for some Loire sparkling wine and pistachios. Then we walked to Le Casse Noix. YT and gracejoan both had a delicious butternut squash soup while I had jambon au persile accompanied with greens, a dish I had meant to get while in Dijon prior to our arrival in Paris. Tasty! Plats were magret de canard (YT and gracejoan) and “pave de rumpsteak” (me). Both dishes were delicious and the steak was perfectly done (i.e., very rare). Desserts were floating island (YT and gracejoan) and the cheese plat (me). We accompanied the meal with a great Cotes de Rhone and followed it with a heart attack. ;-) Le Casse Noix is at 56 rue de la Federation 75007. www.le-cassenoix.fr/

Lunch at Le Petit Bal Perdu, 25 rue Oberkampf 75011. YT’s dish was forgettable, but I had some little raviloles in a blue cheese sauce topped with walnuts that was wonderful. We were divided on the half carafe of house red. I liked it, YT didn’t. No website, at least that I could find.

Reed. Simply fantastic – everything was great! Cauliflower soup, pate with salad, roast chicken with mushrooms, risotto with Parma (or was it Serrano?) ham, pumpkin and sage, and tarte tatins for dessert. We liked it so much we went there again for our penultimate meal in Paris; both of us had the risotto the second time. The restaurant was almost empty both times we went, which allowed us time to talk to the chef/owner as well as watch her prepare our dinners. 11 bis rue Amelie 75007. No website.

Lunch at Camille. This place is an old favorite from previous trips. Deux salades landaises and a demi carafe of rouge, s’il vous plait. I’m not sure we’ve ever had anything here other than the salad landaise. Cramped, crowded and inexpensive, with the kind of neck-stretching people-watching that only the Marais can provide. 24 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75003. No website.

Dinner at Septime. A split verdict. YT liked it a lot. I thought it was pretentious, overpriced micro-portions of fusion food, mostly tasty, occasionally unexciting, and never identifiably French. (We ate at Itinéraires a couple of years back and felt the same way.) And both of us hate the “mystery menu” concept…for a start, it makes one reliant on the server’s judgment in regard to wine. In this case, the wine pairings were nothing short of fabulous, but they drove the price from above the roof into the stratosphere. Five courses and four flights of wine will do that. (One wine, an “orange” wine from the Veneto region of Italy, was particularly good.) In all fairness, other than the initial seafood appetizer – raw oysters, mussels, razor clams in a watery sorrel sauce - I thought the dishes were very good. Bottom line: I could have had the same meal in San Francisco or New York for 2/3 the price. 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011. http://septime-charonne.fr

L’epigramme. Another favorite from a previous visit. YT had snails in mousse and roasted lamb. I had foie gras and a cashew-topped chicken breast with polenta. All the dishes were transcendent, as were the desserts – try the mango tart. Moderately expensive but definitely worth it. It was a dead heat between L’epigramme and Reed for best meal during our stay in Paris. 9 Rue de l'Éperon, 75006. No website. This place is so old school that I doubt that the owners even know what a website is.

Crepes at West Country Girl. 6, Passage Saint-Ambroise, 75011. Inexpensive and delicious crepes, friendly Parisian hipster staff and tasty Breton cider at €2.40 glass. Not only was the restaurant named after a Nick Cave song, but the space doubles as a recording studio on days when the restaurant is closed. It became our neighborhood stand-by. http://www.westcountrygirl.com

Barbeque in Paris? Yes – and as good as any within forty miles of where I live in Washington DC. Blues Bar-B0-Q is at 1, rue Sedaine 75011. I can personally vouch for the ribs and the pulled pork sandwich sure looked great. And the accompanying music was appropriate: heavy on the Willie with just a touch of blues and R&B. The owner hails from Texas and got her training there and it shows. http://www.bluesbarbq.fr

Dinner at Alain Milliat. This was one of our boisterous outings. Gracejoan had invited us to join her and some friends for the evening. We started with wine at her apartment then moved on to the restaurant. We had reservations for six, but a seventh had joined us and the restaurant had not seen the e-mail adding the extra person and was quite annoyed. In keeping with the Parisian attitude that the customer is always wrong, there was some snippy back and forth between the wait staff and the French members of our party. However this was all forgotten after we ordered wine and added new offenses to culinary decorum. All in all, we made some new friends in France and had a great evening. Restaurant Alain Milliat had a limited menu the night we went – two starters, two plats, two desserts - but not to worry…everything was excellent. This was one of the runner-ups in the best food category. As well, it has a sideline selling high-end fruit juices and jams. 159 Rue de Grenelle, 75007. Restaurant menu and reservations via http://www.lafourchette.com/restaura...-milliat/16583

Lunch at Le Comptoir. Another old favorite. We’ve eaten here several times over the years. The food has always been excellent, the service hurried but friendly. Cramped space. Another runner-up in the best food department. The menu changes daily. No reservations are accepted. Your best bet – at least in February - is to show up ten minutes before the doors open at 12:00; you might want to make that half an hour in the temperate months. Highly recommended. 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon 75006.

Chez Janou. Our last meal in Paris. This place is fun and serves great Provencal food in enormous (rare for Paris) portions. The décor consists of movie posters from French film posters from the bygone days of French cinema in the 1950s. Try the mushroom appetizer. If one orders chocolate mousse for desert they have been known to bring over a huge bowl and you just help yourself and help yourself and help yourself. (I passed, YT didn’t.) A must for chocoholics and mousse lovers. 2, rue Roger Verlomme, 75003. www.chezjanou.com

Auberge Flora at 44 Bd. Richard-Lenoir. A nearby neighborhood restaurant that serves tapa-size dishes of French food. The small portions were nice as they allowed for multiple selections; we ordered five altogether. The duck w/ citron vert was particular good. The bread is outstanding. And they had Coteaux du Layon by the glass. What more can one ask for?

Hot chocolate at Jacques Genin. 133, rue de Turenne 
75003. Although YT liked it more than I did – I think Angelina is better - we both agree that hot chocolate is the perfect drink for a cold overcast afternoon. Perhaps a little added brandy would have enhanced my opinion. http://jacquesgenin.fr

Fougasse at Chez Manon, a bakery at 25 rue Bretagne. The fougasse was every bit as good as we remembered from prior trips. Closed Mondays, which gave us a fright when we first ventured by – we thought that it had gone out of business.

Banh Mi sandwich. Despite the long association between France and Vietnam, Vietnamese food is relatively hard to find in Paris. But we prevailed and had a great banh mi sandwich at a nameless storefront at 7, rue Volta off rue Rambeteau in the upper Marais. This may have been the bargain sit-down meal of the trip – a banh mi sandwich and a can of tamarind juice for a total of seven and a half euros.

Sunday falafel on rue de Rosiers in the Marais. Skip the lines at L’as du Fallafel and go to Chez H’anna down the street. The wait is shorter and the falafel is every bit as good. 54 Rue des Rosiers, 75004.

Pistachio muffins and cerise (cherry) muffins at Pattisserie Gerard Mulot. Absolutely heavenly. We made it to two of the three locations, in the 3rd and the 7th. Info at http://www.gerard-mulot.com/paris/ac...rard-mulot.php

Speculoos. It’s a dessert spread. It comes in a jar and costs two Euros and change in supermarkets. I was never quite sure what was in it besides ground-up Dutch cookies, but it sure was good when I had it with blue cheese at Restaurant Frenchie. A description and history is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculoos#Spread_history Take heed - this stuff is addictive.

Amora Moutarde de Dijon. The strongest mustard I’ve ever taster and a bargain at 62 Eurocents. The container – once you ever make it through the incendiary contents – is intended to re-purposed as a drinking glass. Collect them all! Available at most markets.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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Wow! Thanks for the thorough info on your dining experiences - sounded fantastic. I just wish I didn't read this before lunch. ;-)

I'm so glad you decided to do a Paris trip report, afterall. Looking forward to more.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 10:25 AM
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OMG! What is your secret for staying so slim after all that? Anyway thanks for that detailed report (again, you're brave!), looking forward to reading more...
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Mar 8th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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Part #2 of 3 - Museums.

Musée Jacquemart Andre. This is a fabulous small museum housed in a once owned by an upper middle class couple, [Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart-André]. The house itself was constructed in the 1870s and the interior is simply stunning. It provides a real glimpse into how the other half – or half percent – lived back in the day. They collected paintings, primarily Italian, of artists ranging from Tiepolo to Botticelli to Rembrandt. A superb Mantegna, “Ecco Homo,” is alone worth the price of admission. We’d been meaning to come here for years and finally made it this trip. 158 Boulevard Haussmann 75008
http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/fr/home

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A must for modernists. We’d come here on our last trip to see the permanent collection and returned this time for a temporary exhibition (“L’art en Guerre 1938 – 1947”) that left the two days after our visit. However, the permanent collection is both free and provides an excellent overview of art from the first half of the 20th Century. An additional plus: The museum, compared to other museums, is under-visited – you can actually contemplate paintings without being jostled or distracted. The neighboring Palais de Tokyo hosts temporary contemporary exhibitions. 11 avenue du Président Wilson 
75116
http://www.mam.paris.fr/en/home

Musee d’Orsay. What can you say? One of the best art museums in the world. We’ve been there on just about every trip to Paris. We used to seek out particular works and had developed an expeditious itinerary to take us through the museum to view our favorites. Now, we’ve been there so many times that we just wander. There’s a Thursday evening discount, starting at 6:00.

Maison Europeene de la Photographie. This under-visited yet superb venue in the Marais has rotating multiple shows of photography – we saw the excellent Joel Meyerowitz exhibition (last day is April 7, 2013). 5/7 Rue de Fourcy - 75004 Check the website for future shows – there’s always something of interest here. http://www.mep-fr.org/english/

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, the other major Parisian photography venue. We saw the Howard Greenberg photo collection here (exhibition continues through April 21, 2013). In my opinion, this was quite possibly the greatest collection of black and white photography ever assembled under one roof. It had everything from Arbus to Weegee. If Ansel Adams' "Moonrise over Hernandez, NM" had been included, it would have been the perfect black and white photo show. The Fondation is housed in a modernist building at 2 Impasse Lebouis, 75014. Check the website for future exhibitions. Admission is free after 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. http://www.henricartierbresson.org/index_en.htm

The Louvre. We hadn’t been here for years. It’s impossible to see everything in one go and you’ll frustrate yourself if you try. In my opinion, the best approaches are to either cherry-pick what you want to see – any travel book on the museum should have the highlights - or to focus on a particular area. We tried to cherry-pick; however, due to the confusing layout of the museum, spread between three wings with dead-ends and closed corridors, we ended up focusing on statuary and the ancient Middle East…French sculpture and the royal apartments of Napoleon III in the Richelieu Wing, monumental ancient Assyrian sculpture in the Sully Wing and Italian sculpture (Michelangelo and Canova) in the Denon Wing. We also visited the new Islamic Art section, which I found underwhelming after viewing Canova’s sublime “Cupid and Psyche.” YT, who also loved Cupid and Psyche, enjoyed the Islamic Art Section, although she did find it a bit weirdly laid out. Exhibits consisted of carved wooden screens, nice Ottoman ceramics and some handwoven carpets.

Musee Nissim de Camondo. 63, rue de Monceau 
75008. Another glimpse into a past era. Camondo was a collector of French furniture and art objects from the 18th century. We had been looking for small museums that we had never visited and this fit the bill. It seemed much smaller than Musée Jacquemart Andre, but was no less elaborate. It also has the advantage of bordering on the lovely Parc Monceau which is a nice place to have lunch before or after visiting. Tickets can be bought in combination with a visit to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs . http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/english-439/

Musee du Luxembourg. 19 Rue de Vaugirard 75006. This museum is adjacent to the Luxembourg Gardens. It doesn’t have a permanent collection, but instead hosts revolving shows. We saw a blockbuster Chagall retrospective there this trip. (It’s there through July 21, 2013.) I never appreciated Chagall until I saw this show. On a previous trip we saw a superb, if poorly staged, Modigliani retrospective. If you go to a show there, get tickets in advance (they’re sold at FNAC locations); otherwise, you’ll have to wait in line. Info is at http://www.museeduluxembourg.fr

The Petit Palais. This overlooked venue is recommended for the architectural sublimity of the building, the wonderful gift shop and the nice permanent collection. The permanent collection is free.

Pere Lachaise cemetery. Not sure if this counts as a museum, but a visit here is it worth it for the extravagant statuary alone. You’ll be in good company. Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Max Ernst and Jim Morrison – among many others - are buried here. In particular, check out Oscar Wilde’s monumental grave. And the monuments to those murdered in Nazi camps during the Second World War – they’re on the outer perimeter near the east side – are truly moving. Visits are free unless you aspire to take up permanent residency.

Also…we ran across a fantastic, if somewhat depressing, black and white photo show at a gallery at 12 Boulevard des Filles du Calvarie 75011. (I think the name of the gallery was “Le Petite Douce Noire.”) While this show is gone by now, this location is certainly worth checking out if you’re in the vicinity. We also liked the moody, atmospheric photography at Atelier Valencin (46, rue Saint Sebastien 75011); you can view Valencin’s photography on-line at http://www.thierryvalencin.com
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Mar 8th, 2013, 10:35 AM
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Hi! coco & YG -- glad u r enjoying the report or the highlights of ouur trip at least.
Some storm we had here, huh, YG?? If you r into Chagall don't miss the show at the Luxembourg when you visit Paris. It was truly a wonderful show. I loved it!
@ coco - We walk and we walk and we walk, probably 10 mies or so a day. Even with our hasty retreats into the metro sometimes with the frigid weather, we still walked and walked. Having an elevator for once avoided the climbs to the apt, but we hit the steps for the down.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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MMMMMMMMMMMM!

Glad you made it to Septime. I am in the "really liked it" camp. I've been to a handful of your listed restaurants and am happy to have more for the list for the next time!

Wegmans carries Speculoos. Mine does, anyway.

Hope to see you at a GTG soon...
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Mar 8th, 2013, 11:39 AM
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18 nights in Paris, I'm so jealous! Thanks for the thorough food reviews. Your itinerary is exactly where I want to go next time though unfortunately I won't have anywhere near a month to spend.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 11:39 AM
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BTW, love the format of your report. As well as the content...
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Mar 8th, 2013, 11:41 AM
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Count me as a fan of Septime too though I understand the could be anywhere comment.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 11:59 AM
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Thanks, glad you are enjoying it.

@flygirl -- really! Wegman's. Which one is near you? I just may have to make a trip out there. Trader Joe's supposedly has it, but its like $10 a jar or something ridiculous like that. I tell you I truly became addicted. When I got back I read that Delta airlines apparently served the cookies I think on some flights and the Americans have gone nuts for it. So I guess I'm not alone.

@Patti - Lyon can easily be seen in 3-4 days and Dijon in a couple days. We are fortunate to be able to enjoy the towns at a very leisurely pace.

Re Septime -- I don't think that we thought the food wasn't good, just not noticeably French. As we said, we can get that fusion type food pretty much anywhere these days so its a disappointment when we have it in Paris
@flygirl I remember you had reported you liked it better than Frenchies and I think I did too.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 12:36 PM
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Wegman's also carries Biscoff cookies! Sooo good for dunking in tea. I ran out and may have to buy some more.

I enjoyed all of the meals that we had in December. Frenchies was good but not so good that I'd feel bad I missed out - huge hassle to get a rez. I'd go back, sure, but I wouldn't try as hard to get in either.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 12:42 PM
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Good to know, thanks. I was thinking 3/3/6 split between Lyon/Dijon/Paris.

There are entire threads on the Flyertalk Delta forum devoted to Biscoffs. I had no idea speculoos came in a spreadable form. Sounds like something I need to stay away from
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