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Me, myself and Dordogne – 2 weeks in the Beautiful French Countryside

Me, myself and Dordogne – 2 weeks in the Beautiful French Countryside

Old Nov 16th, 2011, 08:02 AM
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Here's a link to a thread started by justretired about using html
here at Fodors:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...characters.cfm
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Old Nov 16th, 2011, 08:56 PM
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TPAYT - Bravo on the bolding! And thanks for the link to the smileys \/

How long will you have in the Dordogne? If you only have a week, I would suggest to stay 2 nights in Rocamadour and the remaining nights in Sarlat. Rocamadour is too far to do as a day trip from Sarlat so its advisable to stay there for a couple of nights if you plan on seeing Rocamadour, Gouffre de Padirac and the small villages in this area.

My conclusion of Sarlat is that I probably wouldn't stay there again when I go back to the Dordogne because I would prefer to be further out in the "country". I find Sarlat a tad too touristy. However I think Sarlat is great base for a first time visitor if you're there for a week. (likewise, I wouldn't have chosen St. Cyprien over Sarlat if I only had a week for this trip) The main reasn for basing in Sarlat is that you're in a decent size town and have many dining options (within walking distance) to choose from. This is especially handy if you/spouse want to have wine at dinner! It also comes in handy to be in Sarlat for the market day (Wed and Sat) as you can easily walk to the market without worryng about parking (guests at the B&B in St. Cyprien shared some pretty horrendous parking stories re: market day in Sarlat. It is a gong show to say the least)!

By the way, I really loved the Tarn (eg: Cordes; day 1-3 of my trip) region and wished I stayed there longer than 2 days. I'll definitely go back there to explore the surrounding area (likely combinging it as a Languedoc trip), especially to see the Gorges du Tarn. But this would be too much to do if you only have one week in the Dordogne. For one week, you really have to narrow down the area you want to see and savour the experience (versus driving a lot per day)

St. Cirq - I'm glad you are enjoying the trip report BTW, I drove into your hamlet when I saw a turn-off for it en route to somewhere which I forgot now(need to check my notes). I recalled that was your hamlet because of your screen name and the numerous valuable tips you provided on my previous threads. Do you still own your house in St.Cirq? What a lovely hamlet. I would love to have a second home in this part of the world!


TDudette/ParisAmsterdam - Thank you for the emoticon tips!
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Old Nov 17th, 2011, 12:03 AM
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Apologies that the trip report hasn’t been very exciting for the last couple of days since I haven’t been doing many tourist activities and just wanted to chill out! the TR will get better once I get going again in Day 11.

<b>Day 10 – July 3 – Moving from Sarlat to St. Cyprien</b>


The day started off as a cloudy one. I packed up my bags so the housekeeper can clean up for the room for the incoming guests but left my luggage in the room until my departure late that afternoon. I didn’t get going until it was almost noon and my stomach started to rumble since I didn’t have breakfast except for a cup of coffee (I do love the nespresso machine that the Bowens have in the common area). Roy suggested I have lunch at the restaurant in the hotel that was just around the corner but the restaurant was closed for lunch. Then I decided to have lunch at La Petit Boire where I had checked the menu the day before (but was closed since it was Sunday). La Petit Boire is located diagonally across from Chez Le Gaulois near the tourism office.

Luckily I got there before the lunch rush so I was able to grab one of the sidewalk tables covered by an awning. I did the 3 course tasting menu because the value was far better than ordering a la carte and the choices were appetizing enough. I had a duck gizzard salad which was very nice and followed by a duck confit cassolet. Let’s just say cassolet is not a good choice on a summer day! I declined dessert and had a noisette instead. The meal was decent and I would classify this as one of the more touristy restaurants in Sarlat.

The clouds have cleared at this point and the sun was peaking through. I wandered into the square behind the cathedral where there is a well. (sorry, I don’t remember the name of this square and a google search did not come up with anything). I don’t know what it is but I just love being in this square. More clicks on the camera followed before returning to La Lanterne.

I left La Lanterne at 3pm after biding farewell to the Bowens and was on my way to St. Cyprien which would be my home for the next 5 nights. I came upon a beautiful sunflower field somewhere near Domme and stopped to take photos. I don’t know what it is about sunflower fields but I just can’t seem to get enough of them!

The B&B is located in a hamlet outside of St. Cyprien which was exactly the rural France I was looking for. I had no problem finding the B&B (all thanks to my wonderful TomTom) even though it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I highly doubt I would have been able to find the B&B without the GPS!

After settling in, it was already almost 7pm so I drove to the village of Meyrals which was located just 4km from the B&B. I had dinner in one of the two resturants in Meyrals which was called Merenda (I was advised by the B&B not to go to the other one due to the mediocre food. Don’t worry, the B&B owner here is much friendlier and hospitable in comparison to the Bowens. They also speak fluent French unlike the Bowens.). The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor (with a tabac on the ground floor) and had tables on the patio. I had one of the patio tables which had a magnificent view of the valley basking in the soft dusk sunlight. What a gorgeous view!!

I didn’t want anymore canard so I had a vegetarian pizza which was quite delicious (Just in case you noticed that I’ve had several meals of pizza, I want to say that I hardly ever eat pizza at home. I guess I’m just overwhelmed with all the French food and wanted something more “normal”). The pizza was great and the service was very friendly in this family-run restaurant. I felt like I was one of the locals eating in this local haunt!

Up next: Font de Gaume, meandering along the Vezere…
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Old Nov 17th, 2011, 04:00 AM
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Why am I not surprised that your Sarlat B&B owners didn't speak French??????????? I have been holding back all my nasty comments about people (unfortunately mostly British) who move here and never learn to speak French or integrate into French society. I will continue to hold them back, but it really is a shame. I always wonder what would happen to French people who moved into a small English town and assumed they would never have to learn English. I suspect their neighbours would be less understanding than most of the French people I know who are just mystified by people who move to France and never learn French.

I hope when you were in Meyrals, you tried Le Jardin D'Epicure, which has better, more sophisticated food than many of the local restaurants. Marina, who runs it with her partner, is the daughter of our plumber - one of our sources for good restaurant recommendations.

We have a soft spot for the Meyrals area, as we spent a week there the first time we came to the Dordogne. A week in the centre of Sarat - in May, in 1987, so less busy than summer. Then a week in a farmhouse in Castels. Despite cool weather, and a fair amount of rain, we fell in love with the area - and still feel the same way, having lived there for more than 17 years now.
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Old Nov 17th, 2011, 07:09 AM
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Thanks for the tips on where to stay. We probably would do 10 days in the region and a few in Paris. We'd like to stay longer, but our cats will not approve. We prefer to have an apt. but realize that most of them are rented on a weekly basis. Therefore, we will also look at B&B's and hotels.

As the snow starts to fly here in Wisconsin I will have plenty of time on the computer to go through the Fodorite"s suggestions. I do love the planning. It adds months to the trip.
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Old Nov 17th, 2011, 07:59 AM
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Oh boy, have to agree with Carlux about the (mainly) Brits who move to the Dordogne and never learn French. It's shameful. How can you run a B&B and not know the local language? Beats me.

Anyway, just wanted to say that the owner of La Merenda is (or used to be) a Hungarian man who was the first person to take me house hunting in the Dordogne. He bought the place (La Merenda) when it was in complete ruins and lovingly built it back up and turned it into a restaurant/bar. Before he made it a restaurant, when it was just a bar, we used to go there when my kids were really small because it was such a friendly place. We'd have a glass of wine and talk with the owner and the locals and the kids could run around and play. I have such fond memories of that - and the brocante owner across the street who was such a gossip! Meyrals is an interesting little spot and I've enjoyed watching it change over the years.

And yes, I still have my house in StCirq.
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Old Nov 24th, 2011, 12:22 AM
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Apologies for the hiatus. Work has been crazy the past week!!

<b>Day 11 – July 4 – 20,000 years of history staring in your face. Awe-struck.</b>

I had an 11am appointment at Font de Gaume for an English tour. After an impressive breakfast spread in the covered courtyard, I drove the short distance to Font de Gaume which is located near the town of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (I think most people just call this town Les Eyzies). The ticket was purchased almost 4 months in advance knowing that only a limited number of people are allowed into the cave per day and I wanted an English tour.

After getting my ticket and going through the gift shop, an up-hill path (approx 400m) takes you to the entrance of the cave. I was early so I was the only one walking the path. I thought to myself that mankind was in this area some 25,000 years ago. How do you even begin to grasp that? 25,000 years!!! That’s like time in a different dimension. Wow.

I waited outside the cave (there’s only one entrance and it is heavily gated) chatting with a lovely American couple. Soon the remaining people on the 11am tour arrived. The previous group emerged from the cave shortly before 11 and the tour guide jokingly said “Ha, here’s the group from the previous night”.

We had to leave all of our belongings in this locked area before we could enter the cave. It was cold inside the cave which has very low ceilings. Unfortunately it was hard to understand the tour guide’s heavily accented English so I missed a lot of good information. The paintings are very impressive and I was awe-struck that I was starring at something that was made some 20,000 years ago. I was especially impressed with the use of the contours of rocks to accent the animals. I left the cave speechless.

The tour last about an hour and I had a decent lunch in one of the touristy restaurants in Les Eyzies. I was planning to go to the pre-history museum in Les Eyzies but felt like going for a drive in my air-conditioned car instead on this hot summer day. I decided to do one of the suggested routes in the Green Guide which involves taking the D706 to St. Leon sur Vezere (another most beautiful villages in France) and ultimately to Montignac. It was a beautiful drive through shaded windy (and very narrow) lane along the Vezere. I took the turn-off to St. Leon sur Vezere but couldn’t find parking so unfortunately I couldn’t walk around. I intended to go all the way north to Montignac but got sidetracked when I saw a huge Intermarche.

Now there’s something I love about foreign grocery stores, all the things that look so similar yet so different. I ended up spending almost an hour inside the Intermarche by carefully wandering the cheese, deli and local wine sections. I picked up some items which I can use to throw together a light dinner for that evening.

After arriving back in the B&B, I fixed myself a delicious mid-afternoon snack of French cantaloupe with perigord noir ham, brebis cheese, canned mackerel and preserved white asparagus. I was very pleased with my snack of French goodies. Imagine my horror when I read the label on the glass of white asparagus which says it was made in China! Shocking!!!

The rest of the day was spent lying on the lawn chair in the backyard of the B&B. At around dusk, I took a walk around quiet hamlet and came upon a magnificent view of the sun setting behind the tree line. The cloud formation was spectacular at that very precise moment. Words cannot do its justice.
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Old Nov 24th, 2011, 03:02 AM
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Too bad you didn't manage to stop in St Leon - a beautiful place, with one of the most wonderful Romanesque churches in France.

I agree that supermarkets in other countries are often really interesting. We like to wander around them too. And you must come back in the spring, when the white asparagus is fresh - and local. Needs cooking though, which is not easy in a B&B.
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Old Nov 24th, 2011, 06:03 AM
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Carlux - Unfortunately I didn't go to Jardin d'Epicure in Castels. I really enjoyed my time in Meyrals/St. Cyprien. It's great to be out in the country when I spend most of the year living in a concrete jungle!

I had no idea St. Leon had a romanesque churches. What a shame that I couldn't find a parking spot that day.

This just means I need to come back to the Dordogne sooner rather than later.

Yes, the white asparagus!!
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 06:30 AM
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<b>Day 12 - July 5 - Almost made it to Gouffre de Proumeyssac</b>

Another lazy morning at the B&B on this overcast day in St.Cyprien. I finally got on the road at noon and did one of the driving tours in the Michelin Guide called the Vezere to the Dordogne (80km round trip - allow one day as suggested by the GG). I started the journey in St.Cyprien and headed north on the D49 to Campagne and St.Cirq for a quick look around.

Then my plan was to go to the Gouffre de Promeyssac (I read about this in one of the Dordogne tourism magazines and the caves looked really interesting. Also rated 2 stars in the GG). When I arrived at the Gouffre, the parking lot was almost full but I found an empty spot without too much trouble. The Gouffre's main attraction is the cave but it also doubles as a family park where families can have picnics and kids can play around. So if you're here with your kids, it's a great place for a picnic lunch and let your kids run around. I headed to the cashier to buy my ticket to ride the "basket" down to the bottom of the Gouffre. Now there are 2 ways to go down to the Gouffre, one is on foot led by a guide and the other way is in this "basket" that fits about 8 people and used to be horse-drawn. The basket was how people entered the caves originally. Here's the link to the cave:

http://www.perigord.com/proumeyssac/

The lady at the counter said I could go on the next tour in about 20 mins (I presume it would otherwise be a wait if I wasn't traveling alone as they were taking appointments at a near by desk) When I reached into my purse, I realized I left my wallet (including my drivers license!) in the B&B!! I was horrified that I was driving in a foreign country where I can't speak the language without my driver license!! I envisioned myself getting pulled over by the French PoPo and getting locked up in a prison cell in the next village's prison cell! Panic set it but I still managed to ask for a reservation for the "basket' ride for the next day.

I drove back to the B&B with extra caution and obeyed the speed limit. It was an unexciting ride and I made it back to the B&B without being arrested by the local PoPo.

The rest of the day was spent reading in the backyard (this overcast day was a bit too cold for a swim in the pool). The B&B proprietors cook dinners for the guests (26 euros per person excl drinks) a few nights a week and tonight was one of those nights. I had signed up for the dinner a couple of nights before as I've read reviews on TA that the dinners are quite good. At about 7:30, other B&B guests and myself settled in the courtyard for our 5 course meal. The main entree was roasted chicken which was very tender and juicy (am so glad that duck wasn't being served!).
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 06:35 PM
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Your B&B sounds pretty nice. Hope you get back to the Gouffre!!

Still enjoying this a lot!
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Old Nov 29th, 2011, 11:12 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement Taconic! Apologies that the updates have not been very frequent the past week.

I'm taking notes from your trip report for a future trp to the Dordogne - seems like I missed out on some really nice places!
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 03:51 AM
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<b>Day 13 - July 7 - Finally Made it to Gouffre de Proumeyssac</b>

I woke up to an overcast day in St.Cyprien. After breakfast, I drove to Limeuil, which is another most beautiful village in France. I hiked up the very steep "main drag" and had a look around town. Limeuil is at the confluence of the Vezere and the Dordogne. The rivers weren't particular spectacular on this overcast day.

Next stop was Prunat to see the church. There was a restaurant next to church called Julien and I thought it would be a nice place for lunch. After visiting the church (which was ok), I saw a nice restaurant next to the church which I thought would be a good place for lunch. The restaurant is called Julien. There were still a few empty tables outside but the proprietor apologetically told me that all the tables were reserved. Turns out the restaurant is really full and he only had an opening next week (if my memory served me correctly). I later talked to the B&B owners about this restaurant and they agreed it's one of the best restaurants here. I've marked this one down as a must try when I return to the Dordogne.

Leaving Prunat on an empty stomach, I drove to Le Bugue and had a quick lunch at Chez Monique. I ordered open sandwich of smoked salmon, warm potatoes and a sprinkle of chives. It was so simple yet very delicious.

Then I was off to my 2pm reservation, which I made the day before, at Gouffre de Promeyssac. The 2pm slot only had 8 people as that was the maximum number of people who can fit into the basket (aka the "nicelle" in French). The basket was the original way that the miners entered the mine. The basket ride (including entrance fee into the cave) was 16,50 euros. You can also opt to walk into the cave (for a price which I cannot remember). I can't say for sure if it is something I would recommend if you're here as a family as 16.50 per person seems rather expensive. The cave was spectacular and I would highly recommend it (either by entering with the nicelle or by walking).

After an hour in the cave, my afternoon laziness was setting in so I decided to drive back to the B&B for a break and a dip into the pool (the sun finally came out!)

Around 6:30pm, I drove to the weekly night market of St.Cyprien. To secure myself a parking spot, I decided to get there a bit earlier. I saw merchants setting up on the main street but the goods on sale weren't particularly "french". Similar to the Sarlat market, there were a lot of stalls selling trinkets made in China or elsewhere in Asia. They definitely didn't look very local to me! The parking lot was the "food fair" but the food didn't look particularly appetizing so I took a pass and decided to head to Merenda again for dinner on the patio. There's just something I love about Merenda.

Tomorrow would be my last day in the Dordorgne...
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 07:43 AM
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Piccolina: so glad you are back with more memories of the Dordogne. waiting for your last day!
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 09:28 PM
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Tacon - many thanks for being such a loyal follower! Will savour your Paris adventures over the holidays
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 10:12 PM
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<b>Day 14 - July 8 - Last Day in the Dordogne</b>

Today would be my last full day in the Dordogne before heading to London. I had mixed feelings about leaving - on one hand, I was sad to be leaving such a beautiful place but at the same time I always want to leave a place on a high note. Now don't get me wrong, I love being in this beautiful part of France but I do miss the pace and conveniences of being in a big city. Living in a city definitely makes me appreciate the peace and tranquility of country life that much more.

The weather was a mix of sun and clouds. After another savory breakfast on the patio with fellow guests, I did a load of laundry and hung the clothes out on a clothing line close to the neighboring horse farm. For a city person like myself, having my clothes hung outdoor is quite an "unique" experience. Nothing beats the smell of fresh laundry that's been dried in the sun. While I was hanging my clothes, a little brown pony came up to the fence and just watched while I did my laundry. Now that's not something you experience doing laundry at home!

The only item on my agenda today is the Jardin de Marquessac. I arrived there at 11:45, which was just in time for the 12pm English tour of the garden (and it's free too!). The group only had 5 people and the tour guide (speaking fluent English) showed us to the look out where you can see all 3 castles and toured the chateau together. We were then left on our own. Feeling some hunger pangs, I headed to the restaurant and sat at one of the covered outdoor tables with a fantastic view of the Beynac castle and the Dordogne valley. I ordered a Kir as the apertif followed by a salad with an additional cabecou.

One of the four resident peacocks paid the diners a visit and paced back and forth on the ledge in front of the tables, as if taunting us with its beautiful feathers. Too bad it didn't open its tail!

After lunch I visited the famous boxwood garden of Marquessac and had my happy camera moments. I then followed the guided walks suggested by the garden's map which offered some magnificent views of the Dordogne valley including Beynac and Roques Gageac. I walked to the Belvedere which was situated at the other end of the garden.

I then set off for a drive on the D53 (Thank you Stu for this suggestion!). However, I drove the route from Castelnaud to Belves which was backwards from the original recommendation from Stu. Nonetheless, the route was fantastic and I ended up in Belves which is another most beautiful in France. Belves was having its annual village party soon and the whole town was decorated in colorful banners and decorations. Each street has its own colors and some of the major merchants (eg: banks, la poste) even did their logos in these colorful plastic decorations. The town square was even more spectacular with colorful banners strung from building to building. I wish I could be there for the fete!

It was then back to St. Cyprien, followed by a sunny afternoon by the pool. And of course, where would I head to for my final dinner in the Dordogne? Merenda, of course!


<b>Day 15 - July 9 - Au Revoir Perigord Noir</b>

I couldn't have picked a better day to leave the Dorodgne because it was a cold and rainy day! My flight to London via cityjet (a subsidiary of Air France), which cost 80 euros including all taxes, was at 10:30. The drive from St. Cyprien to L'aeroport Brive Valley de la Dordogne was about 1.5 hour. I set out from St. Cyprien at around 7:30 so I could have a nice and relaxing morning drive without feeling rushed.

Since I had driven my friend H to the same airport a week ago, I already knew that there would be a gas station (about 2km from the airport) which was manned after 8am. The check-in took all of 2 minutes and I then returned the rental car to the rental car parking lot (it was raining so hard that I had to illegally park the car in front of the airport to unload the luggage. Since I was on my own, I had to check in the luggage first before returning the car to the lot). I took about 20 photos of the car, exterior and interior, in case there would be any dispute with Europcar (and there was none). If you read my previous entries, you would know that I was very apprehensive about returning the rental car to an unmanned drop box. But the process was easy - just taped the parking lot ticket to the key and dropped it in. Voila! I really didn't need to waste so much energy worrying about this.


Sadly this marked the end of my wonderful 2 week stay in the Dordogne. Until next summer...


Thanks for reading my trip report!
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 11:56 PM
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I'm glad to see you got back to finishing your report - and very glad to hear that getting the car and yourself to the airport was without drama.

Thanks for the heads-up about Belves. The day I went they were having a market and it was a real locals' market with lots of food products and very little of the tat you mentioned about St Cyprien. In fact it was just as I hoped a French market would be which pleased me as I had opted out of the Sarlat market.

I notice you stayed true to your vow re the lodgings ;-). Best wishes for the coming holidays and your future travels.

From Aussie M
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Old Dec 16th, 2011, 12:13 AM
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Hi Eigasuki

Thanks for reading my trip report! Too bad I wasn't there for Belves's market. It sounds like something I would have really enjoyed. Did you see the decorations set up for the fete?

Happy holidays and all the best in your upcoming travels. May our paths cross again...

From Canadian M

PS: Which vow re: lodgings?
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Old Dec 16th, 2011, 03:53 AM
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Thanks for such and interesting and fun to read report!
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 11:42 AM
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