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Winter city break to Reykjavik, Iceland!

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Hey everyone,

So as most of you probably know, I’ve not long got back from a brilliant trip away to the beautiful city of Reykjavik in Iceland and I had a truly amazing time so wanted to share my write up with you all! I’ve reviewed quite a few aspects from the holiday on my separate Trip Advisor account so I will post links to those where appropriate. And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to in Reykjavik…

THE HOTEL

When booking with Easyjet Holidays we opted to stay at the 4* Reykjavik Lights hotel, which only opened in June 2013, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for us! The hotel was immaculate, with modern features including a brilliant power shower, flatscreen LCD TV and free wifi throughout.

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Breakfast was included in the deal and was plentiful with lots of pastries, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and fresh fruit available along with hot drinks, milk and fresh juices to choose from. The bar area was located alongside the reception and the breakfast was served at the bottom of this room too, so everything was together which see it easy and very accessible considering the lift was 50metres away!

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Our twin room was bright, airy and spacious with large windows letting lots of light in and the beds were so comfy! I just wish we had a view from our room as front facing rooms looked out across to the snow topped mountains which would have been incredible, but unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to be allocated a room with a view.  A word of advice though; email the hotel directly before you travel and if you ask for a mountain view room you should be able to get one!

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My only slight criticism about the hotel was its location from the city centre as it was a good 40 minute walk away and was too far away for us to travel to day and night. We did however benefit from the mini strip which ran along side our hotel and was home to a number of restaurants, shops, a bank and  a pharmacy which came in useful. Had we not been on the mini strip we would have got taxis into the city each night to go out for dinner, but we wanted to save our money for tours and the sights that we were going to see!

You can view my Trip Advisor review for the Reykjavik Lights Hotel here.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Our hotel was located just outside of Reykjavik city centre, around a 40 min walk or a 10 min taxi ride away. We were a five minute walk away from Laugardalur, Reykjavik’s well known recreation centre, which was home to the botanical gardens, family zoo and park, the sports hall, ice skating rink and the famous outdoor thermal pool. We visited nearly all of these attractions as they were so close to our accommodation and also booked a number of tours through Reykjavik Excursions who operated a pick up and drop off service directly to the hotel which was brilliant.

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The outdoor swimming pool and the family zoo were our favourite attractions; we loved the water slide (big kids!) and the pool was a lovely 30 degree temperature which we didn’t want to get out of! Just a warning though, in Iceland and other parts of Europe you are required to shower naked before you enter the pool area. There are communal showers but there are also a few private showers allocated so don’t worry if you panicked like us about stripping in front of strangers! There were hot tubs around the pool area which was very relaxing; we visit around 7pm and stayed for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel area for dinner.

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The zoo was very small and low key, more of a farm park than a zoo but it was very cute and we did enjoy ourselves! There were daily shows where the keepers fed the reindeer and seals and there was a mini aquarium and farm area with pigs, cows and sheep. I wouldn’t recommend it for a day out as you can only spend around 2hours max at the park but for kids it’s great or you can go there to kill some time if you have a late flight.

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THE EXCURSIONS

We booked a couple of tours through Reykjavik Excursions, one of Iceland’s biggest tour operators and we certainly weren’t disappointed with the service we received! We booked two trips whilst during our stay; The Blue Lagoon Tour and The Golden Circle Tour both of which were incredible! We only had three full days to fit everything in and also wanted to spend some time exploring the city centre so choosing these two tours gave us enough flexibility to do this.

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The Blue Lagoon is a large geo thermal spa which is set on a large power station in South West Iceland and is one of the country’s most famous attractions, listed as ‘One of the 25 Wonders of the World’ according to National Geographic! We booked to go in the evening so we could see it all lit up and it looked absolutely stunning. We were picked up by Reykjavik Excursions from our hotel and taken to the site via a comfortable 1hour coach journey with a few more hotel stops along the way.

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On arrival we made our way straight to the lagoon to make the most of our time there. The water was a sweltering 40degrees but it was amazing and as soon as we got in we knew we didn’t want to leave! There were jets of natural steam surrounding the lagoon which added to the atmosphere and there were wooden boxes around the pool areas which contained the famous silica mud face masks, designed to leave your skin feeling incredible. We then stood under a powerful waterfall which gave a rejuvenating head, back, neck and shoulder massage as you stayed under it for as long as you could manage; it genuinely felt as if there were human hands massaging my body it was incredible!

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There was a bar located in the lagoon itself which served drinks and refreshments- you could purchase these items using wristbands which were allocated to you on arrival, and could then pay at the end before your departure. On site there was a cafe serving drinks and snacks as well as the well regarded Lava restaurant which was fully booked during our visit. The Blue Lagoon shop stocked all the natural skin products on offer in the spa as well as the usual tourist souvenirs, and there was also a viewing platform where you could see the lagoon lit up in all it’s glory.  The coach collected us at 9.30pm as the last trip of the night and we were dropped safely back to our hotel by around 10.30pm. ! The tour was brilliant and we were so glad we booked – I would definitely go back if I were to visit Iceland again.

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The Golden Circle Tour was a shortened version of the full eight hour day trip organised through Reykjavik Excursions and is probably the most popular tourist destination in the whole of a Iceland. Visiting the same attractions but with shorter stops at each one, we were on the road for six hours. Firstly we visited the UNESCO World Heritage site, Pingvellir National Park, which gave some stunning views over the mountains, rivers and hills surrounding the area. This park was historically important for many famous events in Iceland and is renowned for its geological significance.

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Next up was the geothermal field of Haukadalur, home to the spectacular phenomenon that is the ‘Great Geyser’. The area is a natural wonder of hot springs and boiling mud pools, with the Strokkur Geyser erupting every 5-10 minutes shooting up a column of hot water and steam into the air. We were lucky enough to see the Geyser erupt three times and I caught one on film which was brilliant, the memories will stay with me for a long time and I showed my family and friends when I got home and they were amazed! The souvenir shop on site was excellent with lots of lovely gifts and there was also an informative museum detailing why the Geyser’s erupt as they do.. We had a wonderful time at the Geyser’s and I managed to take some brilliant photos!

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Our third and final stop was Gullfoss, or the Golden Waterfall as it is also known. Gullfoss is apparently more powerful than the Niagra Falls and we walked down the 110 steps to get there before we were able to take in the sight ahead of us; it truly was breathtaking! After admiring the waterfall and learning about the history of it, we made our way back up the steep steps and headed for yet another souvenir gift shop! Afterwards we made our coach journey back to the hotel and then headed out to dinner after a long day out on the road.

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On our last full day we headed straight to Reykjavik city centre to explore the local shops, restaurants and landmarks. I particularly liked the famous Hallgrimskirkja cathedral which was definitely worth visiting, as well as the eye catching Harpa building which is home to popular Icelandic concerts and shows. We spent the day shopping for souvenirs and had lunch in a lovely restaurant located near the city’s popular club scene which supposedly comes alive at night!

Unfortunately we weren’t also able to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights as the weather was pretty cloudy during our stay and we had booked ourselves up with the other tours we had already committed to!! I would love to go in search of the Aurora Borealis again though, whether that be via a return trip to Iceland, or somewhere different like Finland or Norway – watch this space!

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On Friday 7th November we headed back to Iceland via Keflavik airport, and their excellent duty free section! Overall we had a brilliant trip full of fun, adventure and memories which will stay with me forever! I would highly recommend Reykjavik as an exciting city break or weekend away with friends, family or partners and would love to return to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights which we unfortunately weren’t able to see!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post about everything that Iceland has to offer, please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know more on certain areas of the country! As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

Love Jess x

Birmingham weekend: Shopping and Disney on Ice!

Hey everyone!

So I’ve not long returned from a brilliant weekend away in the popular city of Birmingham for a shopping and theatre trip with one of my closest friends. We headed to the Copthorne Hotel in central Birmingham which was excellent value for money at just £54 for the night! The hotel was positioned perfectly for exploring everything that the city has to offer, and we loved being able to walk everywhere rather than having to get a taxi!

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On arrival we left the car in the hotel parking lot (£12 for 24 hours) and checked straight in. We were a bit early and unfortunately our room wasn’t quite ready so we left our bags with the reception staff who were super friendly and nothing felt like too much trouble.

We headed for a day of shopping at the well known Bull Ring centre which was home to hundreds of big store names including Debenhams, John Lewis, New Look, Forever 21, The Disney Store, Hollister and many more. We took a particular liking to The Disney Store (obviously!) and were also pleasantly surprised to see a large cuddly Olaf from Frozen waiting to greet customers outside Build a Bear!

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The Bull Ring was great and I’d love to return to do some serious Christmas shopping as you can buy pretty much anything from the diverse range of shops on offer. If however you prefer strolling up and down the traditional high street rather than staying in one mall then Birmingham City centre can give you that too. There are plenty of well known stores from Primark and H&M to Armani & Lipsy so there’s definitely something for everyone. Both offer lots of restaurants and eateries so you can easily stop to recharge your batteries and take some time out from your shopping!

After a good few hours of exploring we headed back to our hotel (5 min walk away) and got changed and ready for the main event, and the reason for our trip, which was the wonderful Disney on Ice show at the NIA arena. We’d had the show booked since the summer and couldn’t wait to get there and watch it; being immersed in the world of Disney sounded like heaven to us! Anyone that knows me will know that I’m a complete Disney fanatic which is why I was so excited about this trip!

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We had bought some Minnie ears outside the arena for just a fiver from market stall sellers as we knew the official merchandise inside the arena would be super expensive! We did however buy a programme (£9) and there was lots of choice for Disney fans inside we just couldn’t afford to buy anything else!

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The show was incredible with the story telling, famous music and the lighting all making it truly stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed the hour and a half long performance. There was something for everyone; from a Disney Princess showcase to scenes from Aladdin, Pinnocchio, The Incredibles  and of course The Lion King with repeat appearances by Mickey and Minnie throughout.

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There was also an amazing finale with all the characters coming back out to a final performance of The Circle of Life and parading round the rink posing for photos- we were so jealous of people with the rink side seats! It was so magical we didn’t want it to end! Starting at 6.30pm, with a 15 min interval, the show finished around 8.30pm and everyone slowly filtered out of the arena and back to reality – shame!

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We wanted to eat out somewhere for dinner and found lots of lovely restaurants dotted around the pretty canal and bridges near the arena. We did however decide to eat at a brilliant Chinese restaurant at the hotel which was amazing, but if I were to return I’d eat near the canal and go for drinks afterwards on the main strip which was just round the corner.

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Overall we had a fantastic weekend in Birmingham and are already planning our next trip back up there in the Spring time when there’s another Disney show on!

This week I’ll be busy packing for my upcoming holiday to Reykjavik which I am so excited about! I’ll be posting details about this trip when I am home on 7th November, but for now I’ll concentrate on getting everything ready and making sure I don’t go over my allocated baggage limit.. wish me luck!

Love Jess x

Throwback Thursday – Disneyland Paris 2013!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my latest blog post – THROWBACK THURSDAY – which will be a new monthly feature and will detail information about some of my favourite past trips so that I can relive some of my best travel moments! I tend to post reviews on my Trip Advisor account whenever I travel, so I will also include links to relevant reviews and you can ask me questions about my past trips which I will try to answer as best I can!

So on to the first Throwback Feature and it’s definitely a gooden….

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DISNEYLAND PARIS 2013

For those of you that know me, I am a massive Disney fan (well, I suppose geek is a better term!) and I’d visited Disneyland Paris before when I was 13, but when I went last November with my ex-boyfriend I was so excited to be able to go and do everything properly, as an adult!

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We visited between 5th-9th November 2013 just in time to watch Mickey’s Magical Bonfire & Fireworks display and we also caught the first few days of the Christmas period which was beautiful.

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The giant Christmas tree had been put up and the decorations were appearing more each day. We were even lucky enough to see the Christmas Calvacade which was a new parade so that was very exciting! Just so you know, it’s kinda hard for me to go through this trip in detail as I’ve had a difficult break up with my ex this year so I’ll just focus on this happy time and share my experience with you all!

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THE JOURNEY:

We travelled by Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to the Disney station at Marnee La Vallee and caught an early train so we could make the most of our first day! We had never gone by Eurostar before and found the experience to be completely stress and hassle free and super convenient!

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The only change we made was at Lille station for a short connection that then took us straight in to Disney itself. The train journey was around 2 and a half hours, and with short check in times and no limit on baggage we much preferred the train line to the airport!! I would definitely choose the Eurostar over flying to Disney when I plan my future trips.

THE HOTEL:

You can read my official review of the Newport Bay hotel on my Trip Advisor account here.

We stayed for four nights five days in the three star Newport Bay Hotel which was located a short ten minute walk away from the Disney Village and the parks. We had requested a Lakeside room as we were staying for our anniversary, and the view we got certainly didn’t disappoint as it looked out across the impressive Lake Disney.

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We were located on the ground floor which we didnt mind too much but I think I would have chosen to stay a bit higher up if I could and will factor this in to my next visit. Breakfast each morning was plentiful but the Continental did get a bit boring after a few days and we missed a good old English fry up! I did love the hotel though, it’s the biggest of all the Disney hotels and it’s stature is certainly impressive.

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Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, captains bar, cape cod restaurant and the yacht club restaurant which offers a varied buffet dinner should you choose to eat there one evening which is what we did! I loved the nautical theme that ran throughout the Newport but my favourite elements by far were the meet and greet area and the merchandise shop located in the foyer, both of which were truly magical! The characters did meet and greets at all the Disney hotels and you could pop in and out of the reception areas of each hotel which we thought was brill – photos below were taken in ours, The Newport Bay (Pluto & Goofy)  and the stunning Hotel New York (Minnie) which I would love to stay in next time!

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THE PARKS:

We found November a great time to visit as the queues for rides were virtually non existent! We visited Monday-Friday which was definitely the best time to go as I’ve heard weekends can be stupidly busy with some queues over 100mins long! We didn’t experience waiting times anywhere near as long as this and were so pleased that we could go on all the rides and enjoy it without spending our days queuing. The Disneyland park has five different lands:

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Photo map of parks courtesy of dedicatedtodlp.com

Main Street USA – home to loads of merchandise shops and boutique stores lining the way up to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the prettiest part of the park! This is also where all the character parades take place throughout the day.

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Fantasyland– also where the castle is located but filled with kids rides, restaurants and character meet and greets. You can queue up in the Princess Pavillion and get a photo with your favourite Princess although you don’t know who you’ve got until you enter the booth which keeps a lovely element of suprise – some of the looks on the kids’ faces were priceless!

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Discoveryland– the sci-fi area, a favourite with the boys, home to the ever popular high thrill Space Mountain roller coaster, Wall E photo opportunity and Videopolis which previews great shows with Mickey and Co.

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Frontierland– a cry from the Wild West with the trademark Big Thunder Mountain ride, cruise liner that sails round the land, the Haunted Mansion experience and cowboy saloons a plenty! The Aladdin Agrabah experience is also not to be missed.

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Adventureland– climb aboard the mighty ship and the virtual ride inspired by the famous Pirates of the Caribbean films and journey with Indiana jones on a white knuckle roller coaster ride. We also loved the swinging bridge that connected you to a different part of the land.

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Walt Disney Studios – the studios are located adjacent to the Disneyland Park with many rides and new attractions.  Crushes Coaster, Aerosmith Rock n Roller and The Tower of Terror are there for the  thrill seekers plus there’s plenty for kids too.

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The animation studios offer a fascinating insight into how many of the famous Disney films were made, from the original Snow White & the Seven Dwarves to modern greats including The Aristocats, Fox & The Hound & Tangled. The studios are home to many daily shows including the famous animagique and cinemagique as well as Stitch Live.

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When we were there we watched the Stars & Cars parade which was fab and had some great floats including my all time favourite The Little Mermaid who I didn’t see on my first visit back in 2007 so I was super happy to catch a glimpse of Ariel!

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There is plenty to do in both parks but Disneyland itself is my favourite as it is truly magical! I would recommend spending at least 2 days in the park and 1 day in the studios to make sure you can get everything done and you can allow time for queues, meet and greets and parades etc.

DISNEY VILLAGE:

The Village is located near the front of the parks and is near to all of the Disney hotels, you actually walk through the village to get to them which is lovely! The Village is home to a large cinema showing the latest Disney related films, plenty of restaurants and bars (please see the next section EATING OUT for more info) as well as loads of lovely merchandise shops where you can buy anything from fridge magnets to cuddly toys.

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We loved the look of the PanoraMagique which was a large hot air balloon that takes you over the village and Lake Disney offering spectacular views of the resort. Unfortunately this attraction was closed during our visit but it’s definitely something I’m keen to try next time I go!

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EATING OUT:

There are loads of places to eat and drink throughout both parks and the brilliant Disney Village which we loved! We ate in Cafe Mickey, Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe and Earl of Sandwich in the village, all of which were amazing, but the dining experience we had at Cafe Mickey was incredible!

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I’d been back in 2007 but there were more characters this time and it wasn’t as busy during lunch hour (may have been different during the evening) but we got to spend more time getting photos with the characters which was a bonus! Unfortunately, I stupidly managed to delete around 200 photos from our last couple of days at the park which I was completely gutted about. I had taken loads of pics with the characters from our Cafe Mickey lunch but they were all lost; I guess it just means that I’ll have to go back on another trip as soon as possible though!

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We also ate in the Hakuna Matata and the Bella Notte restaurants in the parks but didn’t stop anywhere in the Studios so I’d like to try somewhere there next time I go. Eating out can be pricey but after all it is Disneyland and if you don’t go all out you won’t make the most of everything this amazing place has to offer!

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Ooh just a tip, make up some baguettes at breakfast to save money on lunch and take a few empty water bottles with you as you can fill up for free at the various water fountains throughout the parks!

DISNEY DREAMS

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This magical light show, which runs every evening at 7pm, is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and definitely deserves a paragraph to itself! It costs the park around £1,000,000 to put on this show every single night but, for thousands of Disney fans, it’s definitely worth that! Sleeping Beauty’s castle turns into a wonderful sight with laser beams, water fountains, music and the most beautiful lighting you’ll ever see.

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The show tells the tale of Peter Pan trying to chase his shadow and, with the help of Tinkerbell, he goes through lots of different magical worlds before he finally pins his shadow down. With music from Tangled, The Lion King, Beauty  & the Beast, Brave and many more this is a truly brilliant all singing all dancing phenomenal masterpiece which will leave even the most grown up of grown ups wanting to watch it all over again!

I don’t really know how to summarise my Disney trip as it was completely incredible and I just didn’t want to leave! We packed in as much as we could into the five days and truly got immersed into the wonderful Disney spirit; it’s hard not to soak up the amazing atmosphere that is present throughout every corner of Disney. I can’t wait for my next visit and am already planning to go next Halloween to see what that’s like as I’ve heard it’s brilliant – I’ll keep you updated on my plans for that one!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my first ever Throwback Thursday feature and I can’t wait to share my next trip down memory lane with you all! Again if you have any Disney related questions that you need help with just get in touch.

Bye for now everyone!

Love Jess x

Hello!

Hi everyone – welcome to my first ever blog!

I have decided to create a travel blog as I absolutely love visiting places and would love to share my experiences with other people and asnwer questions about my trips! I have been to lots of places in Europe and am planning on going to America for the first time next year on a month long expedition to take in the sights of the famous West Coast.

Creating this blog will keep all my memories and will allow my friends and family to see what I get up to while I am away on my big summer break next year! I’ll also be posting reviews on places I’ve already visited this year and will be asking questions on area that I plan to visit later on in 2014 so look forward to interacting with lots of you!

Happy reading!

Jess 🙂 x

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