Paris Report Sept 2006

Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:39 PM
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Paris Report Sept 2006

Well, it's long overdue for my Paris trip report that I took back in September. So here goes.

Photos are here: http://tinyurl.com/2buxp4

September 9, 2006: Au Revoir Vancouver!

Todayís the big day. Iím flying out to Paris. Iím so excited. When I arrive in Paris, it will be Sept 10, 2006 at 1pm their time.

In the meantime, Iíll be entering daily updates here, no photos guaranteed. That may have to wait until I come back, unless the internet station has a flash card reader (doubt it though). Even then, I think Iíll post just one photo a day if possible.


Sept 10, 2006

Arrived safe & sound. However, my shuttle bus never showed up, so I had to take the train from the airport to downtown. It was a very interesting ride thorugh, going through north-east of Paris, which isnít a pleasant scenery. If you recall a couple years ago riots between the youths and police, with car bombs and all in the suburbs of Paris, the train goes through this particular suburb. Itís extremely ghetto-ized, with lots of grafitti, maybe on every single building along the way. I was thinking, what am I getting into here?

(As for the shuttle bus fiasco - always check your dates and make sure you give the arrival date at your destination, not the departure date from your origin, which can be two different dates. The shuttle bus came on the 9th, the day I left Vancouver, not the 10th, the day I arrive in Paris. So itís clearly my fault here.)

Okay. My highlights of the day are Notre Dame, cruise and dinner.

After checking in, I went down to the two islands that comprises the origin of Paris, and where Notre Dame stands. Notre Dame is HUGE and imposing. When I got there, mass was in session so I didnít see as much as I could. But was able to take photos without flash. I did light a candle for my uncle, Ralph, who was in critical care. (flashback to now - I think I'm becoming a believer of prayers - he has improved greatly and beyond expectations)

Took a Bateau Parisian river cruise in the setting sun. It is very awesome. Took lots of photos of the Eiffel on a clear blue day.

For dinner, had pizza and wine at Pizza Roma. €11 total. It was pretty good, I had margherita pizza, which is about all I could stomach today, after the nerves of a no-show shuttle and an interesting train ride. The restaurant seem to be a local favourite, and no one spoke English, but I knew enough French to get by. Everyone that came in for dinner were greeted warmly by the people, as they are known to each other. I was greeted warmly in the way an unknown would be, but not as old friends.

Back to the hotel room at the Hotel du College de France. It was a decent room, clean, and small. I had a nice view of a church down the street if I leaned out and looked to the left. I thought it was well worth it.

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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:40 PM
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Sept 11, 2006

I woke up at 7:30 am to get ready for a long day at the museums, namely the Louvre, Orangerie, and perhaps líArc du Triomphe. I had breakfast at the hotel for 8 Euros. I know I should be finding ďmyĒ cafe but right now, I donít know Paris, let along whatís around the corner. I do know thereís coffee, baguettes, croissants, cereal, yogurt, ham, cheese and juice downstairs, so why not? Coffee itself was quite good, and had a croissant with confit du myrtle (blueberry jam), orange juice, and for extra energy, a piece of baguette with ham and emmanthel cheese.

After getting directions on how to get to the Louvre by foot, which is a mistake, actually - very doable as it is in walking distance but think about how much standing around are you going to do - I noticed the cafes nearby - most have coffee and croissants for 6 euros, and they are usually just only one cup of coffee and one croissant. If thatís all you subside on, then itís good, but honestly, when youíre going to do a lot of walking and a lot of moving around, you need more than just a coffee and croissant. So the 8 euros at the hotel is actually a better deal in the long run.

First, to get a Paris Museum Pass. It was recommended to go to a smaller attraction to buy the pass, rather than to to the Louvre, and get in line to buy one. So I stopped at La Conciergerie. La Conciergerie is, or was, a prison for the French Revolutionís condemned. There were three levels of holding cells, based on your class and social status. If you were weathy and could afford your own cell, you had your own cell complete with a desk for writing your last will and testament. If you werenít weathy enough to get your own cell, but could afford a single bed, you would usually share a cell with someone of a similar social stature, but with your own bed. But of course, if you were poor, penniless, well, youíre in a small cell with maybe 3 other people in a similar predicament, and you make do with a straw bed on the floor. The French never had to worry about overcrowded prison back then - their prisons were actually simply holding cells for that date with Madame Guillotine. Also featured was a reproduction of Marie Antoinetteís final cell, which was definitely much more luxurious than the cell for the bourgeious previously mentioned.

Well, I have my Museum Card, and now itís on to the Louvre. Itís a fairly easy walk along the Rue de Rivoli, but several blocks. But of course, since itís my first day, cíest rien.
The Louvre. Itís HUGE from the outside. I walked along Rivoli, and got to the first gates into the court yard of the Louvre, which is known as the Cour Carrée. What? No glass pyramid? Okay.. maybe if I walk through the arcade from this courtyard to the next one, Iíll see I. M. Peiís work of art, or controversy, depending on what side you are on. But you know, once youíre there, youíll find that it works. I donít know how, but it just works. Maybe itís because itís been there for some times now that it becomes synonymous with the Louvre, but Peiís Pyramid belongs. As I walked towards the line up at the pyramid to go through security, I noticed a rainbow coming from one of the fountains . Just magical!

Security - bags and purses on conveyor belts, sensor wands waved over me, and I pass through. Wow. Itís pretty impressive, I was so awed I didnít take any photos. I went over to the information desk, to figure out where I want to start, by getting one of the plans. I decided to go thorugh the Italian collections today, including La Joconde, so that means going to the Denon wing. What greets me at the Denon wing was the Victoire de Samothrance, or the famous Winged Nike.

Victoire de Samothrance

Due to the huge popularity of the Denon wing, particularly the 15th to 17th century Italian paintings in la Grande Galerie, there were No Cameras signs everywhere. This meant, no photos allowed. This is not particularly enforced, and people still cheated with their cellphone cameras. It doesnít matter - I can see these paintings in person, and I can get a book at the giftshop for references later on. The Louvre also has an extensive database of all their collections on the website, that you can get a pretty good look at. And I can always come back here to Paris again.

These paintings are spectacular in person. You might have seen some of them in books, or on posters, or in print somewhere, or even copies. But to see them in person can give you the chills. Botticini, Raphael, da Vinci (or what you can see of, with the Da Vinci Code fans crowding each Da Vinci painting, looking for clues), Fra Bartolomeo, Caravaggio, you name it.

I loved the drapery depicted in the paintings - you see the fold, and the light and shadowing. Itís hard to say what I like the best. I thought Raphael was awesome. I liked Fra Bartelomeoís ďLe Mariage mystique de sainte Catherine de SienneĒ but the must amusing set of paintings was Guiseppe Arcimboldoís 4 Seasons. Iíll let you look it up yourself to see why I think itís amusing and cool. Donít google it, use the Louvre website.

La Joconde. She has a room named after herself. She is the single most popular painting in the whole of Louvre. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Mona Lisa, by the profilic da Vinci. I have to say, itís not overrated, nor underwhelming. It is what it is. No more, no less. And I liked it for what it is. She was not as small as people made it out to be, but certainly perhaps the smallest painting in the room itself. AFter weaving through this small sea of crowd up to the front, it was nice to see. Poeple did still take photos, or phone camera photos, and security guards watched but rarely took action. Then I had enough of the people, and turned around, and Ö wow. This painting, ďLes Noces de CanaĒ by Véronèse was just breathtaking. It was a large scale painting, taking up the entire one wall of this room, 6,77 m high and 9,94 m wide. It was quite beautiful.

Then I decided to have a look at the apartment of Napoleon. Once upon a time, the Louvre was a royal residence, and Napoleon was no exception. Napoleon seem to suffer from delusions of grandeur!

I had enough by now, and this was just one floor of one wing plus an apartment. Luckily I had set aside another visit to the Louvre for Wednesday afternoon. I was starving. It was well past 2pm, and the museum cafes were full or busy. I decided that I might as well get out and look for this salon de thé called Angelinaís, that Iíve heard so much about.

Angelinaís is world famous for itís hot chocolate, and I guess I had to try it. But first, a more sustantial lunch consisting of quiche Lorraine, mescul salad, and un carafe díeau (tap water). It was pretty decent lunch, and then finally, under the watchful eye of la dame at the table next to me, the Chocolate chaud díafrique. It is richly thick chocolate, served in a little pot, that you pour into your cup, and then add whipped cream, also served to you in its own dish. It is delish!

Since Angelinaís was only right across rue de Rivoli to the Tulieres Garden, I decided to check out the Tulieres Garden. It was basically a plot of land with trees and plants, but with benches for people to rest, eat lunch or read, and a couple of cafes to drink wine or espresso. But at the very corner of the Tulieres Garden is líOrangerie, where Monetís Waterlilies permanently resides.

I believe that Waterlilies was one of his last works, and my, what works on a grand scale. They really donít like it when people take photos, but as long as youíre not using flash, they leave you alone. Itís a very small museum, with about 2 or 3 rooms dedicated to Monetís Waterlilies, and then downstairs, an exhibit of other impressionist paintings. I canít recall who else, Iím sure Manet, and Van Gogh. Anyways, I canít really get an entire painting in one shot, so I didnít try.

At the end of Tulieres Garden, you cross the street and youíre in Place de la Concorde. Itís basically a plaza type of place, with statues and fountains. Itís pretty impressive, actually.

From here, I started to walk towards the Arc du Triomphe, but halfway there, I thought to myself, I want to climb it, but if I walk over there, I wonít be able to. So I took the metro which was just one stop away. It was probably a wise move, with about 286 steps.

Once I got to the top of the Arc, the view was pretty cool, seeing the spokes of traffic around the monument. I took photos of it, but somehow, in the excitement of this, I forgot to take the photo of the Arc du Triomphe itself! Well you see a little bit of it from Place de la Concorde above.

Surprises du jour: Parisiens are friendly. Yes. Friendly. Tap water is quite very good.

Get a Paris Museum Pass. You avoid line ups. You get security guards flirting with you, as it happened at the Orangerie.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:43 PM
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Sept 12: Now I understand the whole ďgardez líeauĒ thing. You know, gardy loo, or how the word loo came about. If you walk onthe sidewalk on a narrow street under apartment windows, watch out for people watering balcony plants. today is going to be 29 degrees - Orsay museum today. Au revoir. PS I canít sleep very well without my cats.

I found a cybercafe; but all the ones with the English keyboards are taken. Alors; French keyboards again: For example, where the aís are; is qís. Where all the wís are; is z; and where all the .ís are; is : and so on. Once you get the hang of it; cíest bon: But it may make no sense to you.

Musée díOrsay was fantastique. But not for the reasons you might think. The sculptures, in my opinion, blew me away. I donít even know who the sculpturers were. The works were just amazing.

St-Germaine-de-Prés, the boulevard, was pretty cool. I just walked along this very long street; and itís wonderful. Found Laduree; got some macarons. Tout sucrè!! Also the church of the same name, was pretty awesome. One of the oldest building in the city. I thought it was more impressive than the Notre Dame (but I havenít been up the towers yet).Stopped for a croque-monsieur, wine & espresso. Found Starbucks, got my SIL a mug, and stopped at FNAC for more flash compact card.

I think Iíll go to Jardin du Luxembourg, and then head on back to the hotel to rest and decide where to go for dinner.

Et cíest ça pour maintenant!

Ended up not going to the garden, and had dinner at a small bistro/tabac, where I had the entrecote. It was funny actually, the waiter gave me a menu; and then when he took my order, he simply said what I'll have, which is the entrecote. Um... I was actually thinking of something else, but if you insist!

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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:44 PM
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Sept 13: Itís not as mucky as yesterday, but still warm. I was going to do the stairs to the Notre Dame but it is too warm to attempt 500 steps. Went to Ste-Chapelle, and wow, the stained glass walls were just amazing. But thatís just a short visit; so went back to Notre Dame for a more leisurely tour. Got there in time for a noon mass, so I sat for the mass. It was quite nice. The centre is blocked off for mass; but you can still walk around the peripheral to take in the church. A nice blend of tourist attraction and a functional church - it works somehow. The mass area is roped off with signs asking to respect church services, but it doesnít stop people from walking right up the centre aisles and stand in front of the priest giving communion to the congregate, and take flash photos. Doesnít matter what nationality they were, all over. Nice.

Went to the Memorial for the Deportation, where France acknowledges their role in the acrocities committed during Vichy France, particularly deporting Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, ďsocial misfitsĒ and the like. Itís very simple, but very powerful.

Berthellon ice cream. Very well-deserved of their reputation. I had a pear ice cream - yummy.

Found a wine store, and got a Chateneuf-de-Pape and a Bordeaux - for under $35 Euros. For both, not each.

Now dropping off the wine, have a youghurt, and then off to the Cluny to look at those tapestriesÖ. and do another Louvre looky-loo. Dinner somewhere, of course.

The Cluny Museum of Medieval Ages was quite sublime. This building has been built around 1400-1500, with the gallo roman baths downstairs. So in fact, itís actually much older than 1400s - dating back to the Roman times. Itís really weird - these buildings are still standing, and some of the buildings back home are falling apart, and theyíre only built in 1945 or later. So much for progress. The toilettes were downstairs, and security guard joked that the bathrooms were built during the Roman times, so donít expect modernity. He lied - fully functional, and I donít know if Iím disappointed or relieved to find working modern toilets.

Decided to take the metro somewhere, to the Madeleine metro station, and the Madeleine church was just there, so I went in. The church is quite different from the Notre Dame or St-Germaine-de Pres. I think the Madeleine was completed during Napoleonís time, well after the Revolution and the such. It is huge, as the other church, but very very sombre. The Notre Dame and St. Germaine is about the glory of God, where Madeleine wasnít and thatís quite a remarkable difference in time, and the society in each time.

Walked over to Tulieres Gardens, which is adjacent to the Louvre. I wish we had parks like this in Vancouver. We have the Stanley Park, and little bit of green areas, but the difference is the maintenance. These little parks, or squares, are maintained by city workers, and only open during opening hours. It is locked after opening hours, and I think its what makes these parks very usable and enjoyable, unfortunately. But just before heading over to the Louvre, found another cafe, Cafe Flotte, to sit and have un soupe díognion et un croque monsieur Poulaine, avec un expresso after that.

This time I stuck with the French paintings at the Louvre. It is extremely large scale, and fascinating. But you can only do a little bit at a time, before you get claustrophobic as the air is still quite humid.

Walked over back to Latin Quarter at dusk. Itís quite lively on the pedestrian bridge, with people enjoying the sunset, picnic on the bridge etc. Unfortunately, when youíre by yourself, you are an easy target for gypsies and/or beggars, so I didnít linger much, even though Iíd like to stay and watch the Eiffel Tower lights.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:45 PM
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September 14: Cloudy today, much cooler. Went to the Eiffel Tower today, and can I say this: overrated? I mean, itís pretty cool to see this in person, and to go up in the tower via elevator, all the way up to 3rd floor, but once youíre on it, okay, letís go, whatís next? It wasnít busy, so things went quite fast. So Iíve got rest of the day free, and decided to find the Fat Bike Tours where they have English keyboards, write this up, and book a couple tours - the Montmartre walk tomorrow, and the Versailles bike tour on Saturday. Since paintings and sculptures donít talk to you in the literal sense, I need to interact with people now. So, might as well take these tours. For the rest of the day, Iíll just walk around, and perhaps go over to Luxembourg Gardens as I havenít been there yet. Au revoir!

Sept 15: Going to keep it quick and if I have time tomorrow morning at Fat Bike Tour office to elaborate more. This morning went to Le Grand Epicerie - the inspiration for Urban Fare in Vancouver. Urban Fare pales terribly in comparation to this shop. Itís a gourmandís dream. Itís a bit more pricier than if you just go to the local verger (grocer), but just for the experience, hmm. Oh, and prawns. Why do we have the smallest prawns available? These prawns were jumbo huge xtra large prawns. And it says prawns, not lobsters, so I know my prawns. I think next time Iím in Paris with someone, Iím going to suggest an apartment hotel type of place, just so we can cook like Parisiennes. Lots of different kind of fish - we live on the Pacific Coast, and Iím so jealous that we donít have these kind of variety. Huh.

Then went to Montmartre for the walking tour. Fantastique. We did the slow incline climb, starting in the Red Light District, whre the famous Moulin Rouge stands. Focus was on Toulouse-Latrec, interesting fella there. Next, the Montmartre Cemetary. We only saw a bit of it, with the focus on Dalida for some reason. Dalida was a very famous French chanteuse with a very tragic life, but wonít get into details here. But the grave marker is interesting. As we left, I spied a cat sleeping on top of a tombstone, so took a photo of that. Anyways, all very interesting climb, saw the vineyards of Montmartre, and the Bateau-Lavoie - where the artists all worked. Van Goghís apartments, etc. My internet time is running out, so Iíll have to stop hereÖ.

For dinner at Brassiere Ile de St-Louis for some authentic Alsatcien fare. Walked back to the hotel, and see Notre Dame awashed in night. No camera with me tonight - darn it!
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:51 PM
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September 16

Today was the Fat Bike Tourís Versaille Tour. Oh my goodness. I think I mentioned earlier that Napoleon had a bit of a superiority complex. Napoleon pales in comparison to Louis XIV, aka the Sun King. Versaille is huge. We started off at the F.B.T. office, to get our bikes, and then rolled through the streets of Paris. Very unnerving. But we got to the train station all in one piece each. Got on the train, rolled through Western Paris, where it was largely development until we got to suburbs, with houses (not apartments for a change). And then finally the last stop - Versailles. Part of the tourís appeal is to go to the market and pick up some picnic stuff, like bread, charcuterie, fruit, cheese and the like. Peach and figs - in season, so delicious stuff right now. Oh, and a 90 cent crepes - cheaper than the 3E crepes Iíve seen around here in town.

Then we rolled through the streets of Versailles the town, and got to Grand Trianon gates. The Grand Trianon, of its pink marbles and so on, was apparently the ďget away from it all at the Chateau VersaillesĒ kind of place, very peaceful, overlooking the man-made canal. Then we biked it along the canal, which is an X shape, or a + shape actually. Stopped and had a really peaceful lunch, and then when lunch was done, got back on the bike again, and went to the Chateau itself. It was pretty big, but not as big as the Louvre, and largely under renovations due to that big storm back in 1990s where it did a lot of damage to Versailles. So didntí get to see the Hall of Mirrors in itís full glory. Saw only about 7 of 17 mirrors, so it was just to give you an idea of what it looked like.

The tour was pretty good, only that I was a bit disappointed not to see Marie Antoinetteís hamlet - we didnít go by there for some reason or another.

Coming back, again, rolling through the streets of Paris. coming back was easier than going because it was all one way streets, and what are the drivers going to do if they see a gaggle of cyclists ahead of them? Honk? Sure. Let them honk. (for some reason I was almost going to say, let them eat cakeÖ)

I returned to the hotel, pooped out, and passed out. The Blue Van had left a message confirming pick up for the day. Thank goodness.

Sunday, 17th Sept. I packed up, checked out, and put my luggage to the side; and went out for a walk. It was an early Sunday morning, and I went towards the Seine. No traffic, so I was able to take photos of Blvd St. Germaine and the various small streets without too many people. Found a cafe and had my first at-bar expresso - I know! On my last day!

Checked out the bird market that was just setting up. And finally one last look at the Notre Dame, remembering that au revoir is not good bye, it's until we meet again.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 08:52 PM
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Unfortunately I'm not as good a writer as some of the other Fodorites, but hopefully after my Spring 2008 trip, I'll be more descriptive, and more detailed!
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 09:24 PM
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I enjoyed reading your report--better late than never! I leave for Paris in less than 3 weeks, and I'm obsessively checking every Paris post to be sure I have every possible idea documented in my notes.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 09:39 PM
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I think your trip report was wonderful and very easy to read, and am glad you had a wonderful trip.

I haven't been to Paris yet (hurry up May), but after reading many of the trip reports on this forum, I sometimes feel like I've already been.

The styles are often quite different, but I learn something from every one of them and always enjoy reading them.

Hope the time passes quickly for you until your next trip.
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 09:50 PM
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Thank you for your delightful trip report and your pictures, which are wonderful!
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Old Mar 1st, 2007, 09:52 PM
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Great photos too.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2007, 07:06 AM
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Thank you Barb, Artlover and Kaz.

Barb, you will have a great time! You posted a question about Monoprix. I went to the Monoprix just at the Grenelle metro stop, and I bought a messenger bag-style purse there. I needed a similar style so I could carry my mapbook with me as the purse I had took with me was too small. It was a real life saver - and to this day, I still get asked where I got my cool purse from! I didn't think that they had a great selection of cosmetics at that store, but better selection of personal supplies like hair products, skin products and the like! Do report when you come back as to which Monoprix was the best to shop at!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2007, 08:41 AM
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This was a great trip report. I am leaving for Paris on April 17 and like Barb I also check every Paris related post. I also loved your pictures, especially the ones of the Orsay sculptures.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2007, 11:03 AM
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Great report and even better photos. I'll be in Paris at the end of the month, not that I'm counting the days or anything, and I'm eating all this stuff up.

Thank you!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2007, 12:50 PM
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You've FINALLY posted your Paris report!

Had fun reading it all over again, and can't wait till we head there in May!!!

SIL
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Old Mar 2nd, 2007, 07:00 PM
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Saving this to read later. Looks great!
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 02:28 PM
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I really loved your report. I felt I was there with you. I'll be there soon - early June.
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