Knaresborough and Mother’s Shiptons Cave

I have not been in the North of England in many years so it was time for a short break taking advantage of the nice weather (something not normal in England!!), and we made a visit to Knaresborough. 

Knaresborough is a charming small town next to Harrogate, the river Nidd and the Knaresborough Viaduct give a beautiful and magical touch to this town. It is easy to walk around the city and most places are dog friendly , so little Tsuki was happy.  We stopped for lunch at the Marigolds Cafe which is one of the many places where dogs are welcome. The restaurant has a perfect view of the River NIdd and offers boat hire too.  Knaresborough is a cyclist paradise and also people walk along the River Nidd with great views from the cliff edges. There are many lovely old cottages and not  far from the city centre you will find the ruins of Knaresborough Castle.

Mothers Shiptons cave is the oldest English attraction and it is located in Knaresborough. I have read about Mothers Shiptons and her prophecies so I was excited to visit this place. She foretold the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Great Fire of London in 1666.  She would foretell the future as a way of living and used to give advice to many people. Her story is sad as she was called a witch, without friends and family she lived all her life in the cave. 

Just before the entrance to the cave is also the Petrifying Well, the well  water comes from a spring which is rich in minerals. The ‘magical’ water turns things into stone and there are many petrified items hanging on top of the well. Many petrified items are on display in the museum not far from the cave. There is access at the back of the well where you can actually touch the water and make a wish letting the water dry naturally in your hands.

Mothers Shiptons burial place is unknown, the Church apparently refused to bury her so perhaps she was buried  in the Royal Forest and the exact location has always been a secret. Some historians say that  she may have been buried outside of York. There is a sculpture of Mothers Shiptons at Knaresborough’s Market Square and also a statue inside the cave.

The attraction has a children’s playground, an ice cream van selling a variety of lovely icecream and this place is dog friendly so they also have ice cream for dogs. There are displays of Alice in Wonderland and many other children’s tales, so this is not a scary place at all and little ones will have lots of fun. 

Rhoscolyn Walk to Silver Bay

Rhoscolyn Beach

Last summer we were again  in  Anglesey for a well deserved break from work and from Covid19. During August Wales had Covid rules in place and it was very safe. We did a new circular walk and we enjoyed the lovely views of the coast and the nearby forest. The walk starts in Rhoscolyn Beach and I suggest you arrive early as the parking site is quite small. This walk is perfect for those who  have a dog as Rhoscolyn and Silver Bay are dog friendly. Anglesey also has many restaurants and coffee shops where your fluffy friend will be more than welcome.

On the way to Silver Bay

Rhoscolyn Beach is a small lovely beach that looks more like a swimming pool because there are no waves at all so it is perfect for small children. It is from this beach that you can start the circular walk. If you are facing the sea then you have to walk to the left hand corner of the beach and that is where you will find double gates to start the walk.

This is Silver Bay

There are many sign posts with ‘Anglesey Coastal Path’ on them so you won’t get lost. You will follow a path with rocks and the coast on your right. There is a small rock beach below the cliff called Port Cae-Du and we saw people kayaking, so the access there is only if you have a boat or kayak. You have to keep on walking along the coast, you will pass small footbridges and a stone path will lead you to the beach in Silver Bay. It is a peaceful, lovely beach. There is a snack bar and clean toilets ( they are covid19 safe and there are sanitary gel bottles available). Walk along the beach (the sea on your right) and look out for steps next to an orange life ring. Just follow the way up the steps and here is where the pine forest starts. Keep your dog on a lead at all times. You will have to pass two kissing gates so you may find sheep in the field.

Entrance to the Pine Forest

Continue across the field, it will take a while, walk toward the houses, there will be a kissing gate and continue straight ahead where you will find another gate. You will find a road at the end here so you have to turn to the left, continue on this road as this will take you back to Rhoscolyn Beach. At this point we were not sure how long it would take but we met other walkers and they told us just to keep on walking straight on that road. You will pass the White Eagle restaurant and after that you will find the car park at Rhoscolyn Beach.

It took about 3 hours to do this circular walk, so it was easy and fun, we (and our dog Tsuki) enjoyed it very much and if you visit Anglesey I highly recommend it.

New Years Travel Ritual

Many countries around the world have their own tradition when it comes to welcoming the new year. Since i was a child i have been witness to many rituals on new year’s eve with family and friends busy getting ready with their ‘kabalas’. There are rituals for money, prosperity, love, and because this is a travel blog I thought about  sharing with you a Travel Ritual  that I have done many times and always works for me.

You may think that doing this in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic isn’t a good idea, but I can assure you that this ritual will work if you follow the details I will give you. This ritual is not only for those who travel by plane and it also works for those who travel by train or those who would like to go on a short break.

On the 31st of December pretend that you will go away. Fill your luggage with nice clothes (just a few and do not fill the suitcase), your favourite perfume, travel guides of the place you want to go, and also put your passport inside. Please use a new suitcase or one in  good condition, and don’t use an old or broken one. The suitcase must be any color but not black or grey. You will have  to do a short run during midnight with your suitcase, this could be around a nearby park, or around the estate where you live, it is up to you but remember this is not a marathon, please be careful  and wear comfy shoes.

The idea is to start running five minutes before midnight so the New Year welcomes you and your big travel wish. At the same time you can do the Money Ritual,  put a money bill inside your right shoe, and do a tiny pouch with rice or brown lentils and put them inside one of your pockets. 

So at 11.55pm get that suitcase and start running!. While running, think about that beautiful holiday destination, the plane taking off,  make that wish from the bottom of your heart.

Once you get back home (maybe very exhausted!), put the money in your wallet and keep the rice or brown lentils in a tiny pouch and keep it inside a drawer or a jewelry box.

Something that always happens to me while doing this ritual  is meeting people while I am running, they cheer me up saying things like ‘Have a great journey!’ or ‘Happy New Year and Safe Travels’. Something very important when doing this ritual  is to have positive thinking and that way you will attract what you wish.

Wishing you all a lovely and healthy New Year! 

Mona 

My Places to Eat in Amsterdam

Before Covid19 I was lucky to visit the city of Amsterdam and had a fantastic city break with a good friend of mine. It was a 3 day city break and we did research in advance, speaking with friends and checking Tripadvisor for places where to have lunch and dinner.

Indrapura: Rembrandtplein 40, 1017 CV Amsterdam

We went there on our first night in the city and it was my first time trying Indonesian food. The restaurant is very cozy, Asian vintage decorated and at night time they have a pianist which makes it a romantic place. We ordered Rijsttafel which is a buffet for two people or more. The food comes in small plates like Spanish tapas but in this case is an Indonesian feast. It comes in a 3 course meal and believe me after that you will be very satisfied.

Dragon City:  Damstraat 18, 1012 JM Amsterdam

This was our option for the second night, a Chinese restaurant that at first looks small but it is like the wardrobe of Narnia because once you are inside there is access to two more floors.The menu has many options to choose from. We were walking for long hours in cold weather so the wanton soup was perfect and we also had a lovely crispy duck meal for two. 

Coffee and Tia Maria

Small Talk: Van Baerlstraat 52, 1071BA Amsterdam.

It is located in front of the Stedelijt Museum. They have a big menu with coffee (amazing coffee), snacks, international dishes and also have Dutch Meatballs (Bitterballen). These meatballs are filled with mustard which I loved but of course it depends very much if you like mustard or not. This restaurant  looks small when you get in but it has many rooms and feels like a maze, nicely decorated and has street views on the second floor.

Peruvian Piqueo Platter

Casa Peru : Leidsegracht 68, (corner with Prinsengracht) 1016CP. Amsterdam.

There are many Southamerican restaurants in Amsterdam and my friend and I decided to go to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner on our third and last day in the city. We walked to the restaurant  from the Van Gogh Museum, it was an easy and short walk. If you are staying in the area near Voldelpark this restaurant is close to the park. We ordered  the one and only ‘Pisco Sour’, the popular and unique Peruvian cocktail. For starters we had a ‘Piqueo’ which is a platter with  ‘Causa, Anticuchos and Ceviche’, a fabulous combination. For mains my friend ordered ‘Chupe de Camarones’ (a soup made with prawns and vegetables) and I ordered a ‘Picante de Mariscos’, a seafood dish made with spices and white wine. 

Picante de Mariscos

I have to say that in all these restaurants the staff was very friendly and had very good customer service. My reviews for these restaurants are already  on Tripadvisor. Let’s hope the travel situation goes back to normal sometime soon for us and go back to places we love!.

Winter in Amsterdam

It has been a year since I went to Amsterdam, time flies and I realized I never wrote about it. The Covid pandemic came to change people’s routine, for the travel lovers this is a sad never ending situation.  Anyway I am glad I made it to beautiful Amsterdam, a trip I did just before many airports had to cancel flights because of the pandemic.  Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is my favourite airport to stop over and travel to many places but I never visited the city. Last year a good friend had the idea of doing a ‘girl break’ in Amsterdam. I always travel with a black notebook, it is like a sort of diary to keep travel records and share them in my blog.

Since visiting Amsterdam I have so many memories of culture, architecture, lovely canals and tulips!  Amsterdam actually has more canals than Venice . The city is great for those who like long distance walks. My friend and I spent 3 unforgettable days walking around the city non stop, especially at night the city had a magical look with all the Christmas lights. We both had a list of things to do and bought tickets to museums online in advance.

On day one we decided to get familiar with the neighbourhood and check the distance between places. We stayed in an airbnb 15 minutes walk from the Amsterdam Central Train Station. I think it is ideal to stay around the train station because from there you can walk easily everywhere. Near Dam Square there are many places to eat and the area is great for shopping. We took a long walk (about 40 minutes) up to Rembrandt Park as we wanted to have dinner in a special place. So basically on our first day we were studying  the area and realized we did not need public transport. 

On our second day  we visited the Tulip Museum which is a small museum about the history of tulips and has a lovely souvenir shop. In front of the museum is the Anne Frank house/museum. We did not get in there as there was a long queue. We just saw the house front and paid our thoughts and respects to Anne. Of course you can have access to the house if you wish and its best to get the entrance tickets in advance online. We booked a boat tour in the afternoon so we had to hurry up and look for the canal where the boat would pick us up. The  tour was for a small group of people and it included snacks, drinks and cozy electric blankets. During about 2 hours the  tour guide gave us plenty of information about Amsterdam and the canals. Doing a boat tour is highly recommended, it is such a unique experience (and for couples a romantic one), you definitely get a different view of Amsterdam, it is magical at night!!.

On our third and last day we went to the Stedelijk Museum which is a museum of contemporary and modern art. We were happy to see an exhibition called ‘Migrants in Paris’ and it had works of Chagall, PIcasso, Mondrian and many more artists. There was also a very colourful exhibition of Shigeru Watano, a Japanese artist.

Also near the Stedelijk Museum it is the Van Gogh Museum. This museum is so popular and big, it is an entire building dedicated to Van Gogh’s art. You will see many paintings and also exhibitions to learn about his life. There is a gallery with personal items like letters  and family pictures. These museums are located in Vondelpark, a huge park with an ice rink during winter. 

I miss traveling so much and would love to visit Amsterdam again as there are still many places to see. You all may feel the same, Hopefully soon we will be able to travel again safely. My next blog will be about places to eat in Amsterdam. See you soon!.

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Stonehenge, Beauty and Mystery.

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I was lucky to visit Stonehenge in January this year before the Covid19 crisis and I had this blog pending to share. If you are doing a city break in London then you can do Stonehenge  easily on a day trip. Stonehenge is 2 hours and 30 minutes away from London, you can rent a car, take a bus or  book the trip with  a tour company. We booked a tour with a company called The English Bus, which is only for small groups and our tour included a visit to the city of Bath.

We went to Stonehenge during winter so it was very cold, and  because of the location it was also windy. So just in case it is always good to carry a beanie hat, a scarf and a face mask which is now required. On arrival at the English Heritage site we had to take a bus for about 5/10 minutes to where Stonehenge is, and if you decide to walk it may take you  about 15-20 minutes. The ticket office at the English Heritage site offers a  pre-recorded audio with the entrance ticket, so it is up to you if you want that included. 

Having Stonehenge in front of you is fascinating and at the same time brings  many questions. There are many theories on how these huge rocks arrived on the site, and  the main theory is that some of the stones came from Pembrokeshire in Wales. Now it is difficult to imagine exactly how all these stones were brought and arranged in perfection the way we see it now. I have been to Anglesey, North Wales many times and around the island you can find Neolithic burial chambers, smaller than Stonehenge but similar in style. Also there are burial chambers in South Wales, so I wonder if the people who built Stonehenge were actually from Wales? But again the question is : how they managed to carry all those stones from Wales to South England?. 

If you look closer  at some of the stones, you may have noticed that they have a  similarity to the large stones in Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco, Peru. Just coincidence?. The stones have small holes  in order to fit another stone on top of them. Stonehenge for sure had ancient architects  and the best astronomers, it was built with precision marking the solstices.  Stonehenge was also a burial place, as cremated bones have been found and DNA studies show that those remains were from people in West Wales.

We saw from far away some caravans parked near the site and we were told that they were UFO fans. They overnight near the site waiting for  alien manifestation. The theory about ancient aliens involved in building Stonehenge is believed by many. In the past people used Stonehenge as a place to do rituals but this is not allowed anymore and nobody can touch the stones either. There is a souvenir shop  and cafe on site and you will need face covering to have access.

Definitely there is something magical about Stonehenge and everything about it is fascinating. Mystery is also what makes it so beautiful.

Save Chester Zoo

Save Chester Zoo 

red panda, nature, Chester Zoo

The Red Pandas recently had two cubs.

 

When I moved to England one of  the first places that blew my mind was Chester Zoo, and since the very first visit I fell in love with the place. Chester Zoo is not just a zoo, it  is a place where families get together, children have the best educational experience ever, it has an incredible unique history and it has been upsetting to hear that because of the Covid 19 situation the UK government has ordered the zoo to remain closed indefinitely. 

elephants, nature, Chester Zoo.

Elephants have plenty of space to play, run and they also have a waterfall!.

 

My family and I have been members of Chester Zoo for many years and we have many wonderful memories. It has so many different animals that it is difficult to say which are my favourite, I love them all!. During the years the zoo has helped so much with breeding programs, rescue animals and they are looking for a solution to the  EEHV which is a deadly virus that kills elephants. Not many know the story behind the zoo, how it started and how it became the place it is now. 

kangaroo, Chester Zoo, nature, loving animals.

Sangria is the name of this lovely Tree Kangaroo.

Chester Zoo was opened in 1931 by Mr George Mothershead and his family, The zoo is a registered charity and doesn’t count with government funding. Chester Zoo was named the best zoo in the UK and it is within the top ten best zoos in the world.

rock hyrax, nature, Chester Zoo, save the zoo

Cute and small, it is a Rock Hyrax

 

The BBC Drama Series ‘Our Zoo’, tells the story of Mr George Mothershead and how he and his family worked so hard to establish and open Chester Zoo. The story is a huge example of how much the Mothershead family loved animals. They  dedicated their lives to look after species in danger of extinction which has been a priority for many years. It is not just a zoo, Chester Zoo  is a ‘home’ for animals.

giraffes, nature, Chester Zoo, loving animals.

Giraffes have also been born in Chester Zoo thanks to the breeding program.

 

People from around the world come to visit Chester Zoo every year. A friend from America  was more than impressed to see that the animals live in a beautiful massive land. All the animals are well fed, clean, big animals have plenty of space to run freely, and they have dedicated teams who look after them.  The zoo is safe simply because it is  huge, and a lot of measures would be in place when opening again. 

cheetah, nature, Chester Zoo, breeding program.

Cheetahs as cubs look like kittens.

 

There is a campaign to help Chester Zoo as they urgently need to raise money, please visit their website for more information and how to make a donation :https://www.chesterzoo.org/saveourzoo/

black rhino, nature, Chester Zoo

Black Rhino, mum and calf sometimes can be seen running and playing, it is amazing!.

 

All the pictures I have shared on this blog have been taken in the last 15 years as a Chester Zoo member. Let’s save our beautiful zoo!!.

 

Let’s plan for Future Travel

Let’s plan for Future Travel

 

I am busy reading!.

 

We are all going through  a difficult time with the Covid 19, and I am sure  many others like me had to cancel their holidays and feel anxious wondering when it will be safe  to travel again. The  future of the travel industry is dark at the moment, for some there is fear of going back to a normal life after lockdown because we don’t know for how long we will be with the pandemic. My family and I have been isolated for more than a month now working from home, studying or doing exercise. It has been difficult but  we are now used to the ‘stay at home’ routine and we know we cannot book a holiday but at least we can plan about it.

 

I have not been in Asia yet, and traveling to  Japan is on my pending travel list. So instead of feeling sad  I decided to take advantage of the current situation. I have joined a Japanese class online.  This was something I wanted to do for a long time, and thought this is the perfect time. Also I have started watching  Japanese Dramas  on Netflix and Viki in order to get used to listening and practicing the language. 

 

A lovely book for Matcha lovers.

There is something special about Japan, and I have always been curious about the country. It started when as a child I used to watch Anime cartoons in South America and my love for Japanese Gardens and cherry blossoms came later on as an adult. Recently I decided to also learn about baking Japanese cakes. I am particularly obsessed with all matcha related things so  I purchased cooking and baking  books online. ‘Tanoshi Ke-Ki’ is a book by Chef Yamahita Masataka and it has wonderful Japanese cake recipes, and if you are a matcha lover like me then ‘The Matcha Cookbook’ by Aster is definitely the book for with unique and easy recipes to try at home. There are many  talented You Tubers dedicated to Japanese culture and cuisine. My favourite Japanese cooking channel  is one called ‘Just one Cookbook’ and thanks to Nami’s channel I have been learning new fantastic recipes.

Matcha Fairy cakes.

 

During isolation I have also had time to do a lot of reading and doing research about the places I will visit in Japan. I was not happy about reading just a travel guide, so also I have a few books that talk about history, etiquette and food.  Something that always cheers me up and elevates  me is listening to foreign music. It doesn’t matter what country it is from, but music will always take me back to special places with lovely memories.  Music is like medicine for the heart and soul.

I have been in touch with family and friends who live abroad more often than usual. We are all in the same situation and it is good to talk about it with the ones we love. I know I will go to Japan one day so I will  keep myself busy learning about the country.

 

A Short Break in Anglesey

Newborough Beach great for children and furry friends.

One of our favourite short break destinations in North Wales is the Isle of Anglesey, and during the summer last year our holiday was a bit different  Now we have a new member in the family and she is Tsuki (a Pomeranian cross breed), and we took her with us to Anglesey, so this was officially the first holiday with Tsuki.

We booked a cottage for six days with a big garden. Anglesey is a dog friendly island, with beaches and restaurants where well behaved dogs are welcome. We did a lot of walking every day and enjoyed these beautiful places:

Newborough Forest:  Newborough has a massive  sandy beach and they have a map by the car park entrance with information of where  dogs are allowed. This beach is so big you may need two days to explore, there is a forest with a special trail for children and also you could visit Llanddwyn Island (also called Love Island) when the tide is low.

Stepping Stones: Not far from Newborough Beach are the Stepping Stones. Its is a short walk starting from  The Marram Grass restaurant to the Afon Braint river. It may take you 15-20 minutes to get to the Stepping Stones and you can try crossing it if the tide is low.

Stepping Stones

The map for the walk to Bwa Du and Gwenfaen’s Well

Rhoscolyn Walk: We found a great place for a long walk in Rhoscolyn thanks to an old map we found in the place we were staying. The walk starts from the Rhoscolyn Car Park, passing by the beach and take the way on your right. Follow the signs of the ‘Anglesey Coastal Route’, you will see people also doing the walk and you won’t get lost. This route gives you the most beautiful views of the Rhoscolyn coast and village. On the way you will find St Gwenfaen’s well,  in the past people believed that the water had healing properties. Keep on walking for about 15-20 minutes and you will see a diversion route, that is the way to get to Bwa Du (Black Arch) which is a beautiful rock formation. After that you will find again the signs for the Circular Walk going back to Rhoscolyn village. This is a long walk and takes about 3 hours.

St Gwenfaen’s Well

Trearddur Bay

Trearddur Bay:

Everytime we visit Anglesey we have to visit Trearddur Bay, a beautiful sandy beach, it is a favourite for parents with small children, and there are many places to go for lunch or dinner and I will write about places to eat in Anglesey in a separate blog.

Bryn Celli Ddu

Bryn Celli Ddu Chamber: I was amazed to learn that Anglesey is an island with many burial chambers, and you can find them all around the island. There is a legend that long time ago giants lived in Anglesey, others say that the Druids built the tombs. It is amazing to find that the walls inside the burial chamber are with prehistoric art. Like Stonehenge, Bryn Celli Ddu is aligned to the summer solstice. This is a magical and spiritual place.

Church Bay

Church Bay: Another place for a walk is the lovely Church Bay in the North West coast of Anglesey. It could be difficult to park but we decided to go around lunch time so we parked in the Wavecrest Cafe, so after lunch we went for a short walk to the beach. There is a circular walk route starting at Porth Swtan. We preferred doing a short walk  from Porth Swtan where we found a beautiful natural arch, in order to find it you will have to go down using a path by the cliff side as there is no access from the beach.

Cemaes Bay

Cemaes Bay and Moelfre: One of the best Coastal Walks for stunning views is the one in Cemaes Bay, There are two beaches and it is lovely to walk along the promenade. It is a short drive from Cemaes Bay to Moelfre, so you can try visiting these two places in one day. Moelfre is a village in the north east coast of Anglesey, there is a small beach but also you could get to Llgwy Beach which is bigger. Also the Lligwy Burial Chamber and Hut Circles are located  in Moelfre, a must see for those who love prehistoric places.

Moelfre

All the beaches I have mentioned are dog friendly but  it is always good to double check if dogs are not allowed  in the summer season. Anglesey is a big island and I still have pending places to visit, so hope to go back sometime next summer and give you and updated blog with more amazing beaches or villages to visit.

 

The Magical Huacachina Oasis

After our Ballestas Islands tour we headed to The Huacachina oasis which is located near the city centre of Ica. There are many hotels and restaurants so it is great for a full day trip or if you wish a long weekend break. Huacachina is surrounded by dunes which makes it a perfect place to practice sandboard and have fun exploring the oasis.

sandboard, travel, Ica, Peru, Huacachina, viajes

The Sand Dunes at Huacachina

There is a legend about the oasis and it says that during the Inca empire there was a beautiful woman called Huacachina who was going to get married. But the groom did not show up to the wedding, he was an Inca warrior, and on a fight with  the Spaniards they drowned him to death. So Huacachina ended up with a broken heart. The legend says that she cried so much that her tears became what it is now the oasis. People also say that at night when it is full moon a mermaid is seen in the oasis, which sounds a bit creepy. Anyway I love this sort of legends or stories and I think this makes the place even more interesting and magical.

sandboarding, Peru, Huacachina, Travel, Ica, adventure

My family having fun in the dunes.

The Huacachina oasis used to be pink in the past and eventually changed colour to green, some people say it has medicinal properties. It is possible to swim in the oasis and also there are pedal boats for rent, and if you like adventure sports  then don’t miss the opportunity to do sandboard. Our tour included an introduction to sandboard and a buggy ride on the dunes, something that we will never forget, it was the best experience ever!. Our buggy driver was an expert jumping in high speed, the buggy is for six people and we were all screaming and laughing at the same time with the adrenaline to the top we absolutely loved it!. Once you are on top of the dune the buggy stops for people to do sandboard and also it is a great opportunity for taking pictures or selfies with the Huacachina oasis on the background. I think there is something special about being in the dunes, we all felt so happy and with energy,  and the view of the oasis is stunning!

sandboard, Peru, Ica, travel, holidays, adventure

We are ready to go on the buggy!

We still had something pending in our Ica city tour and that was to do wine tasting!. Ica is officially the capital of Pisco and  Peruvian Wine. We did visit to a viticulture centre called ‘El Catador’ where they explained us how Pisco was made and how wines are produced. Pure Pisco is made with a grape called ‘Quebranta’ which has been growing in the Ica region since old times. It was very interesting to taste different Pisco varieties, like for example a drink called ‘Cachina’ which is fruity and sweet. At the end of the tour many decided to buy some bottles of wine to take home as souvenirs.

Peru, travel, Ica, Cachina, wine, Pisco

Our souvenir from Ica, a bottle of Cachina!

The Peruvian South Coast has many amazing places to visit and the city of Ica has always been one of my favourite and I will keep this journey in my heart because of the memories experienced with my family. Ica is the perfect place for adventure lovers!.

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