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Posts Tagged ‘France’

Can you guess the most popular European destinations to visit by rail?

Rail travel is the most sophisticated route to international adventure. Imagine sipping a cappuccino as you traverse the Tuscan countryside or enjoying a spot of afternoon tea while you await your arrival in Paris. It’s truly a relaxing, easy, and fast way to travel.

In fact, I believe rail travel is perhaps the best way to explore Europe. It quickly transports visitors between top destinations, without the hassle of road traffic or airport security. Plus, when taking a train from place to place, you depart from one city center and arrive in the next, completely eliminating the hassle and expense of those long transfers to the airport.

More than 713 million passengers traveled across the EU by rail between April and September of 2014, showing resurgence in popularity among locals and internationals alike. But can you guess what the top destinations to visit by rail were for the summer of 2014?

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Glimpse ancient, spiritual sites with Friendly Planet Travel’s pilgrimages


People have been traveling to places of spiritual or moral significance for centuries. These pilgrimages are usually personal journeys or important rites of passage.

We’ve been organizing pilgrimages for our travelers on an individual basis for some time now. However, more of our travelers have been asking about them, so we’ve put together 14 new pilgrimage tours.

All of these tours take travelers to places important to the Catholic religion. They span the map, from Italy to France to Spain. These pilgrimages have the same great affordability and value as our tour packages, while allowing travelers to visit ancient religious sites as well as experience the modern culture of these places.

We recently issued a press release announcing these pilgrimages. To get the full scoop, scroll down and read what they’re are all about.


FRIENDLY PLANET TRAVEL OFFERS NEW LOWER PRICING ON 14 CATHOLIC PILGRIMAGE TOURS FOR 2012

New pilgrimage program takes travelers to Israel, Germany, Poland, Czech, France, Spain, Portugal, Bosnia, Croatia, and Italy

JENKINTOWN, Pa. — (TRAVPR) – January 18, 2012 — Thirty years ago, Friendly Planet Travel, a leading tour operator that has helped thousands experience high-quality, affordable vacation packages to exotic destinations worldwide, began its business as a group pilgrimage operator. Over the years, the company has gained extensive experience arranging pilgrimages to fascinating spiritual and religious locales. Today, Friendly Planet Travel has expanded beyond its previous itineraries, and is announcing 14 new Catholic pilgrimage programs designed to go beyond the traditional pilgrimage experience. In addition, these new travel programs offer lower pricing that will place these important spiritual adventures within reach of many more travelers.

“We take pride in offering the best service at quality prices, and this policy applies to our new pilgrimage program as well,” says Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. “Travelers experiencing our pilgrimages will visit the most sacred Catholic holy sites and Marian shrines in the world. Plus, our programs will travel off the beaten path and into the picturesque towns along the countryside, exposing travelers to the cultural, artistic, and historical landmarks within these regions. Excellent exchange rates and land prices have allowed us to offer superior accommodations, itineraries, and services at a price among the lowest in the industry without compromising on quality. This is what differentiates our programs from others.”

All new pilgrimages include hand-picked, first-class and centrally located accommodations for excellent shopping and dining options; English-speaking guides; entrance fees; many meals; and an accompanying tour chaplain. In addition, these programs include multiple masses in ancient cathedrals and chapels, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and St. James Church in Medjugorje.

Friendly Planet Travel has eliminated as many one-night stays as possible and limited groups to 25 travelers, making for a spacious and relaxed touring environment. For example, all travelers will benefit from a window seat, as Friendly Planet Travel’s pilgrimages tour breathtaking sites of Biblical significance, such as the Sea of Galilee, the 14 Stations of the Cross, Vatican City, and the Sistine Chapel.

The 14 pilgrimages offer the Catholic experience of a lifetime by providing the chance to see major religious destinations throughout Israel, Rome, Italy, Spain, France, and other places in central Europe. Additional sites unique to Friendly Planet Travel’s pilgrimages include stays in Rocamadour and Avignon in France, Perugia and Cortona in Italy, Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Coast, and Regensburg in Germany. Featured pilgrimages include:

In addition to the 14 published pilgrimages, Friendly Planet Travel offers large and small groups expert customized travel services and personalized components, providing limitless opportunities for unmatched spiritual and cultural experiences for all involved. Whether it’s one of Friendly Planet Travel’s planned itineraries, or one that has been completely developed by and for a particular group, the services and pricing will be exceptional.

To learn about any of Friendly Planet Travel’s pilgrimage specials, departure dates, and full itineraries, please visit the pilgrimage page on the company’s website. For more about Friendly Planet Travel, please visit Friendly Planet’s website; Friendly Planet Travel’s blog; or contact Jackie Zima-Evans at 610-228-2138 (office), 215-534-2973 (mobile), or write to Jackie@GregoryFCA.com.

Press contact:
Gregory FCA
Jackie Zima
Associate Vice President
610-228-2138
Jackie@GregoryFCA.com

Company Contact:
Friendly Planet Travel
Peggy Goldman
President
215-572-9594
PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com

Standing together 10 years after September 11

In the next few days, most, if not all Americans, will be thinking about Sept. 11, 2001. Memories of that day come back to me every year. It was an unforgettable day, but despite the horrific circumstances, one moment of my 9/11 experience actually gave me hope.

My husband, Ilan, and I left for Nice, France, on Sept. 10, 2001. When we boarded our flight we were thinking of nothing but a fun vacation with friends. When we landed on Sept. 11 and learned what had happened, we sensed the world had abruptly changed and had suddenly become a darker, more frightening place.

In the days that followed, Ilan and I wondered how our lives could ever be the same. When we felt we needed a break from the horrific images on the TV, we wandered out to stroll in Saint Paul de Vance, a lovely and picturesque French village not far from where we were staying. We came upon a small boutique with a huge, hand-lettered sign in the window. It read, “We stand in solidarity with our American friends. American tourists are welcome to call home from our shop without cost.”

This small, kind gesture by a French business owner gave us a glimmer of promise at a dark time in America’s history. And 10 years later, as we reflect on where we were that fateful day, we can remember not only remember the loved ones we lost but also the kindness shown by complete strangers as well as friends all over the world. It’s a memory that, each day, reminds me that my idea of calling our company “Friendly Planet” was no mistake after all.

The Wall Street Journal features my memorable travel moment in France

Standing Together: A tale of travel and solidarity 

I’m lucky to have traveled a great deal of the world. And I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life on the road. So when The Wall Street Journal asked readers to share their most memorable travel stories, many sprang to mind, but one stood taller than the rest.

I submitted it a couple weeks ago. And then the paper’s editors e-mailed me saying they’d like to publish it as an article. I was so flattered, and of course gave them my permission. The Wall Street Journals’ editors published it on Saturday.

You can read the full story on WSJ’s website. It’s about my trip to Nice, France during 9/11, the emotional days that ensued, and the kindness of the French.

But I was in for another pleasant surprise. I received some touching comments from WSJ readers, and I want to share them with you. Here they are, taken directly from my inbox. Thanks again to the editors for publishing my piece and the readers who wrote in to me.



Dear Ms. Goldman,

I just read your article in the WSJ entitled “Standing Together After 9/11″. We were in the same area of France at the same time. Your experience is exactly the same as mine. It was my first trip to France. I was pleasantly surprised to find the people so kind and caring in Southern France. My friends back home find my “French” story hard to believe. Thank you for verifying the truth of my experience.

Regards,
Joycelyn Schmid




Ms Goldman,

I read with great interest your article in travel section of todays WSJ.
My husband and I along with my sister and brother in-law left Chicago O’Hare on Sept. 10th 2001 for Paris. When we landed nothing had happened yet. We arrived at our hotel much too early to check in, so a nice young woman let us store our bags in a small office.
When we returned later in the afternoon she greeted us with apologies over and over again.
She did not speak English so she just ushered us into the small office with a small tv and we watched in horror the planes flying into the World Trade Center.
After two days in Paris, we rented cars and drove to St. Maximin in the south.
We arrived there on a Sunday and got to the house we rented and then just walked around the little town. There was a concert going on at the church so we went in and sat down.
The organist was going to be using the organ which dated back to the 11th century.
The first piece he played was the Star Spangled Banner. It just sent chills down your spine. Women were coming up to us crying and saying how sorry they were. Obviously they could tell we were Americans.

Whenever I hear now about how the rude the French are I love sharing this story.

thank you.
Nancy Hansen



It’s was so nice to hear Nancy’s and Joycelyn’s travel stories. I would love to hear some of your memorable travel stories. Feel free leave a comment to this post with your story.

A look inside Friendly Planet Travel’s Iberian Coasts Cruise (part 2)

I’m sure by now most travelers interested in cruising have seen ads for American cruises such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Of The Seas. Have you ever noticed that not one of these ads tells consumers where exactly the boat takes cruisers? Rather, the entire appeal of the cruise is the cruise itself. The destination is the boat.

While this is wonderful for those who want to plan a vacation floating around the middle of the ocean on a boat that more closely resembles a thriving metropolis, that’s not what Friendly Planet Travel had in mind when they began planning the Iberian Coasts Cruise (or any of its cruises, for that matter). Why would they, when there’s Italy, France, Spain, and Morocco to see?

WELCOME: Louis Majesty reception area

During my time aboard the M/V Louis Majesty, I learned that they do it a little bit differently in Europe. When I first stepped foot on the Louis Majesty, I was struck by the vessel’s understated elegance. Less of a traveling circus, and more of a traveling hotel, with all the luxuries you’ve come to expect from Friendly Planet Travel.

The style on board is redolent of the art deco made so popular in the 1920s, which helps you feel that when you step on board, you’re about to embark on an adventure that transcends both time and place.

Many of the sights, sounds, and smells of Europe and Northern Africa are much the same today as they were hundreds of years ago. And life on the ship, with elegant common areas and impeccable service from a staff who truly appear to love their jobs — from the officers to the wait staff — is a small step back in time.

The outside cabin, while not overly large, offers all the comforts of home, including — and as a relatively seasoned world traveler, this was quite a pleasant surprise — power outlets for both European- and American-style plugs.

Imagine tucking into bed after a night at sea, including decadent dinner at the Four Seasons Dining Room, a stroll around the ship’s upper decks, and a quick dance at the Louis Majesty disco.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Louis Majesty outside junior suite

Now imagine waking, the room still dark with a hint of sunshine leaking in from the curtains behind your bed. You pull back the curtains to let the sun pour in and before you lies Marseille, France. The homes, stores, and restaurants all different shades of muted pastel. In the distance, you can see the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde overlooking the city, with the island of Chateau D’If not far off the coast.

This isn’t hard to imagine on the Iberian Coasts Cruise, because this is your view on your first morning aboard the Louis Majesty. With an entire day at port before me, I didn’t waste any time to get into town.

BEST VIEW: Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde

While Friendly Planet Travel offers a number of optional shore excursions at each port, I set out this morning alone with my husband, who was able to accompany me on this incredible journey. We spent hours walking up and down the cobblestone streets with a map in our hands. The February weather was chilly, but nothing to keep you from spending an entire day taking advantage of all there is to see in Marseille.

We walked up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde, which offers a breathtaking view of the entire city and port.

From there, we walked on, snapping pictures and ducking into cathedrals. Marseille is a fascinating combination of ancient buildings and traditional French architecture mixed with a subtle new world cosmopolitan flare.

Of course, we had to stop for a fresh baguette and some cappuccino too. Then on we walked. And when we felt like we had taken enough pictures and walked down enough narrow, winding streets, we popped into a small bar overlooking the harbor and enjoyed a cold beer and some olives while we watched the busy city.

EXPLORING ON SHORE: Strolling the streets of Marseille, France

When the day had finally come to a close, our cabin was a welcoming sight after an entire day spent exploring on shore. Marseille was truly an unforgettable city, and tomorrow … Barcelona!

A look inside Friendly Planet Travel’s Iberian Coasts Cruise

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that here at Friendly Planet Travel, we can’t ever over-emphasize the importance of world travel and cultural discovery. That’s why Peggy makes a point of encouraging everyone in the office to get out and explore Earth’s riches whenever possible.

ALL ABOARD: The M/V Louis Majesty

The benefit, besides being surrounded by travel enthusiasts, is that every Friendly Planet Travel employee can talk your ear off about how a trek to Machu Picchu or a cruise down the Yangtze River or a meal of tapas y cervezas in a Spanish piazza changed their life. That’s one of the reasons Peggy sent me off on Friendly Planet’s Iberian Coasts Cruise the other week. And over the next few weeks, I’m going to tell you ALL about it.

The nine-day cruise aboard the M/V Louis Majesty embarks from Genoa, Italy and spends time at fascinating ports of call in Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Alicante, Spain; Gibraltar, B.C.C.; Tangier, Morocco; Casablanca, Morocco; and Malaga, Spain. As you can imagine, it’s a dizzying adventure to some of the most culturally significant and extraordinarily beautiful sights of Europe and Northern Africa.

Here on the blog, I’m going to tell you about my own experience on the Iberian Coasts Cruise, and give you an in-depth look at life on and off the Louis Majesty. So stay tuned, because I’ve got a head teeming with stories, a camera brimming with photos, and fingers that are itching to unload them all here!

Hot new holiday tour: Cruise the Iberian Coasts!

If the idea of icy roads, frigid temperatures, and chapped lips doesn’t appeal to you for the holiday season, take heart. Along with our Mediterranean Highlights by the Sea cruise, we’re also christening an Iberian Coasts Cruise this upcoming holiday season!

FP_France.jpgOn the Iberian Coasts Cruise, travelers will visit fascinating ports of call in France, Gibraltar, Morocco, Spain, and Italy, while enjoying superior accommodations aboard the cruise ship M/V Louis Majesty.

Let’s get the nitty gritties out of the way first, shall we? The package includes roundtrip flights from New York, an eight-night Iberian Coast cruise, a two-night bonus stay in Rome, all meals aboard the cruise, and daily breakfast in Rome. Vacationers can explore the ports-of-call on their own, or take inexpensive optional shore excursions. For all of this? $1,399.

FP_Barcelona.jpgNow for some of the juicy details. After arriving in Genoa, Italy from New York, travelers board the M/V Louis Majesty and head for Marseilles, France. Vacationers can enjoy all the splendor of Marseilles by visiting independently its must-see sites, including the Old Port, the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, Phare de Sainte Marie lighthouse, the Centre Bourse, and the adjacent rue St Ferreol district (the main shopping district in central Marseilles), just to name a few.

After a day at sea, the M/V Louis Majesty will then dock at the British colony, Gibraltar, and then continue on to Tangier, Morocco. Outside Tangier’s bustling port, vacationers can take in the city’s stunning environs: hills surrounding a broad bay with a long stretch of beach.

For travelers interested in learning more about Morocco’s diverse cultural heritage as the closest major African city to Europe, a visit to Tangier’s Museum of Moroccan Arts and Antiquities would be a fascinating stop. Another not-to-be-missed experience is a visit to the Grand Souk, where  bargaining skills are put to the test while shopping for treasures such as brass, leather, rugs, and silver.

The next morning, the ship docks at Casablanca, Morocco, the largest city and main port of Morocco. And a city that I have a feeling travelers might feel to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ;)

After Casablanca, it’s back to the European side of things with Málaga, Spain. Málaga is one of the liveliest cities on the Costa del Sol, a 100-mile stretch of gorgeous Mediterranean coastline which boasts some of the best beaches in Spain.

FP_Barc2.jpgMálaga is also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and home to the renowned Picasso Museum. There’s time to explore independently, as well as an array of optional shore excursions. But of course, travelers must be sure to sample some of Málaga’s sweet wine and tasty tapas.

The cruise continues along Spain’s coast with two more stops at ports of call at Alicante and Barcelona, before finally arriving back in Genoa on the tenth day of the journey. From there, vacationers will be treated to two more bonus nights in Rome at absolutely no cost to them.

The season’s first Iberian Coasts cruise takes place Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, and promises to be a culturally rich, historically fascinating, and scenically beautiful holiday trip. There are four other departure dates throughout 2010, running from February to December.

Christmas in September: Mediterranean Highlights by the Sea

It might be September, but it certainly feels like Christmas here at the Friendly Planet Travel office. That’s because I’m thrilled to announce the release of two new cruises: Mediterranean Highlights by the Sea and the Iberian Coasts Cruise. Not only are the prices on these trips incredible for the outstanding quality of travel, but they both have departure dates over the upcoming holiday season.

Want to do something with your family during the holidays that no one will ever forget? Leave the details to us. Today, I’m going to tell you all about the seven-day Mediterranean Highlights cruise for only $1,299 (and stay tuned for all the details on the Iberian Coasts Cruise).

How about spending Christmas Day exploring the ancient coastal town of Trapani, Sicily? Although most of the city has been modernized, much of Trapani’s architecture still reflects its medieval past and ancient heritage. Some of Trapani’s best preserved structures include the Annunciation Sanctuary, the Pepoli Museum, the Spedaletto Palace, and the Church of Saint Augustine. In additional to its rich history, Trapani’s westward position on the Sicilian coast affords some of the most spectacular views of the beautiful Mediterranean sunsets.

FP_Spain.jpgBut that’s just one day. Our Mediterranean Highlights cruise is a fantastic celebration of the cultural riches and natural beauty of the Western Mediterranean aboard the M/V Louis Majesty cruise ship, Louis Cruise Lines’ newest, completely refurbished addition.

Our journey is an exotic living mosaic, where every port recalls another magnificent era of castles and fortresses, ancient cultures, exotic art, and architectural treasures and grandeur. We’ll visit fascinating ports of call in Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia, and Malta while enjoying superior accommodations every night aboard our cruise ship.

Travelers are free to explore themselves throughout the day in destinations such as Marseilles, France; Sicily, Italy; and Port Mahon, Spain (to name a few). Or, take advantage of some of the inexpensive tours we’ll be providing.

This is one of those Friendly Planet Travel packages that not even everyone at Friendly Planet can believe. I’ve told you about how our good relationships with our suppliers often translate into savings for us, which we of course pass on to you! Well this is the perfect example of that practice at work.

The $1,299 price includes roundtrip flights from New York, a six-night Mediterranean cruise, all meals aboard the cruise, and group transfers. Not only have we been given very special rates for Friendly Planet travelers, but we’ve gotten a free one-level upgrade in our pricing from our cruise supplier. That means when a passenger pays the lowest price (for an inside cabin), they’re getting an upgrade to the next level of inside cabin for free. This same upgrade policy applies when booking the already heavily-discounted outside cabins. If you’ve ever been on a cruise before, you know what a great deal this is!

FP_Italy.jpgAnd it’s affordable for the whole family. Children up to age 18 (maximum two children per cabin) can share with two adults for free. The only additional costs are the taxes on the cruise and their cost at the hotel in Rome.

We’ve also struck a deal for our single travelers, who often get slammed with hefty supplemental fees when cruising alone. We’ve negotiated discount rates for them, so the supplements will be lower than cruises usually charge. Stay tuned for more information about both the singles and children deals.

FP_Rome.jpgAnd finally, after the cruise docks at its final port-of-call in Genoa, we’ve included an optional, free two-night extension in Rome. The flight to Rome is, of course, also included, as well as all transfers. While in Rome, travelers will stay at the centrally located, 4-star Hotel Genova.

This year’s Mediterranean Highlights cruise takes place Dec. 19 to Dec. 28, with six additional departures throughout 2010. As I said, the perfect holiday trip for you and your family! And keep in mind that December in the southern Mediterranean is gloriously temperate; perfect for taking in the view from the ship’s deck, enjoying the full spa, and spending days touring.
 

A little look at gran Paris (part 2)

Last week I gave you a little taste of beautiful Paris, through the eyes of my friend Leanna. When we left off, Leanna had described a diverse segway ride past many of the most incredibly attractions of Paris. She continues …
Our Segway tour guides, Simon and Billy, prepared a double-secret list of “best restaurants” not generally known to tourists. We seized immediately upon that. Our favorite restaurants that week were on that list. That was a much-appreciated extra “tip” from the guides to us!
FP_ParisBridge.jpg

That same day, after exploring the Jardins du Luxembourg, we embarked on a night bike tour. The bikes were without lights, but we did have reflective jackets to warn any other tourists that we approaching.
We rode at breakneck speed from the Eiffel Tower to the Latin Quarter, over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis, past Notre Dame, down the Champs Elysee to the Seine, where we took a midnight flyboat up and down the river. The boat trip treated us to sights along the riverbanks — folk dancers, rows of young men mooning the boat, lovers leaning against the walls with wine, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower on the hour.
Next, we enrolled in a wine and cheese tasting class, held in an old subterranean cellar, formerly some sort of prison. Our sommelier was very French, very knowledgeable, and the wine was delicious (we scored a bottle of Sancerre). The other folks in the class were fun, and we ended up sitting with the family of Ted Nugent (remember “Cat Scratch Fever”?).

FP_ParisWineCheese.jpg
Of course, Leanna’s description of delectable French delicacies doesn’t stop there. Stay tuned for the final post tomorrow, when Leanna will tell you all about the romance and flavor of dining in Paris.

A little look at gran Paris

In my travels over the years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to visit Europe. I’ve toured lots of cities and have rarely found a single one that I wouldn’t want to visit again. However, Paris remains in a category all by itself.
I admit that Paris is my favorite, and each time I go there, I expect to be disappointed in some way, so that I can finally bump Paris from the top of my favorite places list and give that revered spot to another city. But it never happens. Paris never disappoints. It only inspires, entertains, enchants, engages, and always makes me fall in love with it all over again.
A business associate and friend, Leanna Johannes, spent a week in Paris last month for vacation. Like me, Leanna knows a great city when she sees one. She agreed to write about her journey, which I’ll post here on our blog. Enjoy, and see if you can resist planning your own visit to Paris after reading! The following was taken right from the pages of Leanna’s journal …
Although our entire week in Paris was filled with sunlight, romance, and good food and wine, certain occasions deserve particular note.
First of all, our hotel, Relais Hotel du Vieux Paris, was the perfect place to spend our time there, as it was located in the heart of the St. Germain de Pres, not far from the Latin Quarter, near the Place St. Michel and Metro. It is on a quiet street, just around the corner from the action and romance of the night cafes and street scenes.
Our windows opened to fresh air and a view of the Seine. Our room was spacious (by European standards), air conditioned (an important question to ask if you are making a reservation,) and had half-timbered beams exposed in the ceilings and walls (and even the bathroom with a tub).
FP_Paris.jpg
The attention to detail was impressive, from the Brunschwig & Fils fabrics to the piping lining the draperies and beams. The owner, Madame Odillard, and her staff were extremely helpful everyday. We agreed that this will be the hotel we return to, as there is nothing to improve upon.
FP_Paris2.jpgWhile in Paris, we spent our days taking in as much as the Parisian culture and sites as we could. The first sightseeing tour we took was the City Segway Tour of Paris. What a sight! I mean us on Segways — that was the sight. We tried so hard not to look like tourists — no athletic shoes, no jeans — and there we were, in a pack of obvious tourists, Segwaying at high speeds through the beauty of Paris.
We started at the Eiffel Tower, motored by Napoléon’s Tomb (originally built by King Louis XIV in 1676 as an exclusive place or worship for the Royal family, now the resting place of the most famous Frenchman in history), Ecole Militaire, Les Invalides, Alexander III Bridge (my favorite bridge of all), Grand and Petit Palais, and on to Musée D’Orsay, through the plaza of the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens (where we had lunch at a café nestled in the chestnut trees), down the Champs-Elysées from the Place de la Concorde, and past the Arc de Triomphe.
That’s a lot to see but we covered it all on those fast-moving, foot-friendly Segways! We booked our tour through Fat Tire Bike Tours, and found our young guides very helpful and friendly.

Stay tuned, because I’ll continue with Leanna’s trip through Gran Paris next week!

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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