Atlanta Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Dr Pemberton invented Coca Cola

 

Coca Cola, CNN, Gone with the Wind and home of the 1996 Olympics.

(And travelling on the Greyhound bus with the newly released prisoners.)

 

We just couldn’t pass Atlanta by with these  attractions on our doorstep.

We usually don’t drink Coca Cola, but we couldn’t resist a visit to the international home of Coca Cola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon sampling one of the 63 varieties from around the world.

 

 

The Coca Cola Museum was well worth a visit.  We saw some amazing displays and items from over a century of production.  One of the highlights was a compilation of TV ads from around the world since the advent of television.  And the tour ended in the dispensing room, where we could sample 60-odd varieties of drinks that Coca cola produces around the world!  Jenny loved the peach tea.

 

 

 

 

Inside CNN Headquarters

 

CNN was also great.  We did the official tour through all the levels of the CNN building.  They do an amazing job processing the news from around the world!  What I can’t understand is how they do such a lousy job of it!  With so much amazing news happening in all parts of the globe, they persist with their ridiculous practice of banging on and on and on about the same topic!

 

Hint: cover the topic and move on!

 

 

 

Since our arrival in the USA we have been subjected to countless hours of coverage on their ‘breaking news’ topics.  Examples: the Jodi Arias murder case, the Boston bombings and the Ohio kidnappings.

A personal highlight was being chosen to read the nightly news service behind the news desk, off the auto-script.

 

 

Margaret Mitchell’s house, where she wrote ‘Gone with the Wind’ was also on our itinerary.  This was a great insight into her life and the subsequent making of the movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final couple of highlights from our Atlanta visit were the Olympic Park and the Botanical Gardens.

If you go to Atlanta I would highly recommend strolling through both.  The first park features every medallist from the Atlanta Olympic Games 1996, while the Botanical Gardens is a magnificent, serene place to wander through.  It’s a bit of a contrast to much of the rest of the city.

 

Had a bit of fun leaving Atlanta.

We arrived at the Greyhound Bus Station on the same day  that they had released 20 prisoners.

In the words of the lady in the line ahead of us… “There’s some heavy shit happenin’ man.”

The guys were all dressed the same and held paper bags with their belongings. There were a lot of undercover cops everywhere.

They must have thought that Jon was one of the guards from the jail and kept calling him BOSS. eg. “Excuse me Boss, but what time does our bus leave?”

One of them changed into his old track pants before we left. He had obviously lost a huge amount of weight in jail as he had to twist the top of his pants around to hold them up.

 

 

 

Chatanooga Choo Choo

The Chatanooga Choo Choo

 

 

Every place in America seems to have a song about it and Chatanooga is no different!  But it wasn’t the train that took us there, but Dewey and Diane.

 

Dewey and Diane, two friends from the South American cruise, were great hosts.  They gave us a taste of several things that are a big part of American culture: food, war history and church!

 

 

With Dewey & Diane eating ribs & fried chicken

On the food front they took us to two restaurants featuring regional cuisine.  One was Sugars Ribs, a BBQ ribs restaurant overlooking the city.  Mmmmm, that sauce!  The other was called ‘Countryside’ and served up good wholesome family food in the southern tradition.  Great value!

 

 

 

 

 

House built in front of cannon left after the Civil War.

 

Dewey is an airforce vet, so military history is close to his heart.  They took us up Lookout Mountain  on the world’s steepest incline train.  There we saw a diorama film about the American Civil War.  They also drove us around to many of the historic battle sites in Georgia and Tennessee.  It’s hard to believe that 600 000 Americans lost their lives in that war!  Seeing all the memorial sites and plaques really brought it home.

 

 

 

Deer in the woods

 

Finally, church.  Religion is a big part of peoples’ lives in the south.

It was interesting to go along and share another American cultural experience.  They had a great band, nice people and even a shared fundraising meal to follow.

And if that wasn’t enough southern hospitality, Dewey and Diane drove us down to Atlanta, our next stop, a two hour drive in teeming rain, having already collected us from Knoxville, almost as far, to begin our stay!

Washington, the nation’s capital!

Washington DC

The nation’s capital.

Capitol Building

 

 

Americans flock to this place, as do visitors from all over the world.

We enjoyed our few days in Washington and could easily have spent many more.

 

We stayed at a hotel downtown, which was a great idea because it enabled us to walk everywhere.  This took us to:

 

 

  • The Museum of American History: brilliant, could have spent a whole day there
  • The White House, with increased security after the Boston bombings
  • The White House

  • The Capitol building, a stunning building, including tour, which was a great insight into American politics and it’s history
  • The National Art Museum, great paintings, wonderful atmosphere
  • The Washington Monument, a typical architect-designed obelisk. What is it with obelisks?
  • The WWII Memorial: heaps of veterans on visits from all over America
  • The Korean War Memorial, unique
  • The Lincoln Memorial, a tribute to a much-loved president and site of Luther-King’s speech
  • Lincoln Memorial

  • The Martin Luther King Memorial  and gift shop, inspiring
  • Arlington Cemetery

  • The Arlington Cemetery, including the JFK memorial – wow, so many victims of war!

 

 

Washington is an amazing city.

The museums are not only stunning, they are free!

We were there in fine though fresh weather, which was great for extended walks around the city.

And we loved it.

We could have easily spent a lot longer to do justice to all of the fabulous museums, but we did get a good feel for the city and it was great staying in the center.

Philadelphia, home of Rocky Balboa

 

Rocky Balboa statue

Philli was our next stop after Atlantic City. 

We only allowed ourselves a couple of days in the USA’s old capital but we managed to pack in some interesting experiences:

The Museum of Art, featuring the Rocky statue and the steps he famously ran up.

We did too!

Memo to self: need to get in shape.

Although a lot of Americans would have trouble doing it.

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       The Sugar City Casino for an evening meal and more free slot dollars -Jenny the non-gambler managed to turn her free $20 in slot play into $160, but still continues NOT to be sucked in.

·         The annual Philadelphia Science Fair, with crazy scientists doing experiments

·         An antique market, with lots of interesting memorabilia

·         Walking along the Delaware River, lots of joggers

·         A famous Philadelphia cheesesteak: huge & pure cholesterol -It tasted OK, but last one I ever have!

·         The Reading Markets, great fresh food, coffee, atmosphere

·         The Liberty Bell, big and famous

·         Old Town, with many preserved/restored historic buildings

·         Penn’s Landing, recently upgraded riverfront area.

Only a couple of days in Phili, but a real insight into America’s history.

Town Hall

Atlantic City on the Jersey Shore

New York was a little too expensive to stay for long, so we headed south to one of the best value places in the USA: Atlantic City.  Atlantic City is only a couple of hours from New York.  It is right on the Atlantic Ocean and is in the state of New Jersey.  New Joizy, as the locals say it.

Bally's Casino on the famous boardwalk

The New York Port Authority bus terminal, only a short cab ride from Mary our Australian friend’s place, has regular bus trips to Atlantic City.  New Yorkers used to flood down to Atlantic City for the sun, the beach, the boardwalk and the casinos!  Now that casinos are opening up everywhere else in America, the flood has become more of a trickle, and the casinos are struggling a little, except on weekends.

 

They still turn over some serious money through gambling in Atlantic City but the drop in numbers has become a concern.  There is a string of casinos all around the city and they all have to compete for the gambling dollar.  This is what attracted us to the city in the first place.  The hotel/casino/resorts were offering ridiculously cheap deals in order to attract us, especially from Sunday – Thursday.  Hotel rooms that once went for up for $300 a night were available for as little as $40!  One of our suites even featured two bathrooms.

 

Caesar's Casino

 

During our time in Atlantic City we took advantage of all the bargains on offer.  We rotated through several of the main casinos and also stayed two weekends with Martin and Shawn, our friends from the South America cruise.  We were given free slot dollars as part of our bus fares.  Jenny, a non-gambler,  managed to turn hers into a profit!

Meanwhile I accumulated ‘reward dollars’ just by playing poker in the casinos, which enabled us to dine for free on several occasions.  I also managed to relieve some of the poker players of some of their hard-earned  cash during the course of our stay.

 

 

 

Trump Plaza's heated pool & hot tub.

 

One of the piers - Atlantic City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are lots of dining options in the city.  Bands, comedy acts, singers and other entertainment acts are featured around town.  There is a nice beach and an amazing lengthy boardwalk which is fun to stroll along during daylight hours.  And the pier shops and restaurants, with their stunning views, are also a highlight.  Jenny and I had a favourite spot out on the multi-million dollar enclosed pier.  We could sit there, a hundred metres out to sea, having a meal or a coffee, admiring the views.  There was even an indoor board walk overlooking the ocean, with beach chairs surrounded by sand. The views are amazing!

All in all a relaxing stay.

New York, New York

Sailing into New York Harbor

 

 

 

Start spreading the news.  After a 35 year gap, we returned to the amazing, vibrant, bustling city of New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this time we didn’t bus it from the airport after lengthy delays and stay at the grotty YMCA.  We sailed into New York Harbour on a luxury cruise boat, moored on the Hudson River at Pier 88 and walked, yes walked, to our apartment on Broadway!  Yes, our teaching friend from Murray Bridge days, Mary Sayers, lives in an apartment on Broadway, opposite the Ed Sullivan Theatre and within sight of Times Square.

What a fantastic location to experience New York!  Sleeping on Mary’s sofa bed by night, we were able to take advantage of all the incredible things on her doorstep.

 

Central Park

 

 

Central Park was only a stroll away so we wandered down there a few times during our stay.  It is such a wonderful place to have in the middle of New York.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the highlights of our visit:

  • Travelling around New York
  • Visiting the World Trade Centre site
  • Wall Street, the bull statue and surrounding streets
  • Watching the street performers
  • Catching the Staten Island Ferry for a trip past the Statue of Liberty
  • Being part of the audience for the Dave Letterman Show
  • Italian dinner with gimlets with Richard and Jane (off the boat) and their daughter Carol
  • Thai dinner with Mary
  • Central Park
  • Watching the ice-skating in front of the Rockefeller Center
  • Skating Rink

  • Site of John Lennon’s death and Strawberry Hills
  • People watching
  • Wandering the streets of New York
  • Time Square by day and by night
  • Living in the thick of it all!

We had a wonderful time in fresh Spring weather, only days after New York was hammered by Winter snow storms.

Cruise Around South America

Carnival Splendor

 

 

 

Wow, a 48 day cruise from  Los Angeles around South America, through the Caribbean, ending up in New York City!

It seemed too good to be true.

We were on a 5 star floating hotel, stopping off at numerous exotic locations along the way.  With fantastic food, all our travel, luxury accommodation, entertainment, great facilities, an amazing staff and 3000+ like-minded travellers, it was brilliant!

 

 

Near one of the pools.

 

When we left Australia we had only intended to take the first leg of the cruise, from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile.  We were then going to ‘do’ South America before working our way through Central America, the Carribean and on to the USA.

But hey, plans change.

 

 

 

 

 

The day before we boarded the cruise ship, the Carnival Splendor, we were in our hotel in LA checking out other cruise deals on the internet.  The very ship we were cruising on was offering last minute special deals for the 2nd and 3rd legs, from Santiago around the ‘cape’ to Buenos Aires, Argentina and then from Buenos Aires to New York!

So, being the flexible travellers that we are, we decided we would take advantage of this situation.  We booked the THIRD leg from our hotel room to create PLAN B, which was to travel overland from Santiago, across the Andes and then re-join the ship in Buenos Aires.  Then, during the 1st leg and after lots of persuasion from other travellers, we upgraded to PLAN C, which was to do all three legs.

 

 

Here are some of the highlights.

Arriving in Cabo San Lucas

  • We stopped in 11 countries along the way: USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Barbados and Antigua.

Guatemala

  • Equador

  • Lima, Peru

  • Lima, Peru

  • Arica, Chile

  • Valparaiso, Chile

Puerto Mont, Chile

Ushuaia, Argentina - Most southerly town.

  • Cape Horn

  • Visiting Penguins, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Montevideo, Uruguay

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Rio de Janiro

Olinda, Brazil

Brazil

Barbados

Barbados

Antigua

Antigua

Sailing into New York Harbor

  • New York City

  • There were some great poker games on the trip, casino and private.
  • We crossed the Equator going down and coming up.
  • We met some fantastic people from all over the world.
  • The weather was excellent.
  • The hotel director invited us to a flash party with others who had ‘caught his eye’ during the trip.

Onboard party with the captain.

Glacier

  • Seeing the fijords and the glaciers at the southern tip of the world was amazing
  • And the food….double serves of lobster for example.
  • We saw hundreds of penguins.
  • Rounding Cape Horn was trouble free.
  • We had our first taste of the beautiful Carribean and its sparkling turquoise waters.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening, we enjoyed the shows on board, all the ports of call and all the little dramas happening on board the ship.

 

 

A few amusing incidents from on board:

  • One couple was several days into the trip when they discovered that the ship was NOT returning to LA.
  • People who earned enough points in the casino were awarded free alcoholic drinks all the way to New York.  Some of those people were already on full drinks packages.
  • One guy (perhaps a few cents short in the dollar) was travelling on his dad’s credit card.  With no bill to be issued until the end of the first leg in Santiago, he was happily spending up on drinks, gambling and even a painting at auction.
  • Another young lad, travelling with his mother on his mother’s card, was ‘rescued’ from the poker table in the casino by his mother a couple of times, much to his embarrassment.
  • One woman allegedly switched off one of the gambling machines, hoping to avoid her losses.
  • Another woman was considered missing after not returning to her cabin all day and wasn’t aware of it until she saw her photo on an ‘amber alert’ missing poster.
  • A woman on the ‘free drinks package’ threw up in a flowerpot in one of the fancy restaurants on the ship.  She and her companions then asked to shift tables because the one they were at stank!
  • One female traveller, whose husband doesn’t like long cruises, was left at home with 48 frozen dinners to tide him over.
  • When we rounded Cape Horn the ship was on such a lean that the swimming pool emptied and there was temporary flooding.

Great fun!

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The main reason we went to Dubai was because our cruise ship, Celebrity Solstice, was leaving from there.  We had heard a lot of publicity about Dubai…. reclaimed land, seven star hotels, world’s tallest building and so on, so this was a chance to take a look.

We stayed in Dubai for 3 days, plus an extra day on the ship before it sailed.  Our hotel was way out of town, but taxi fares are very cheap, and it also came with a free shuttle bus to some of Dubai’s key attractions, so it worked out well for us.  The area was a kind of commercial zone but the hotel had a great pool, nice cafe and complimentary newspapers. The roof top pool had the hottest water we have ever experienced and that was just from the sun. – Lovely.

There are some amazing shopping malls in Dubai which are well worth a look, but it’s not the sort of place you would be returning to, except for a holiday in the sun at a resort.  Having said that, what they have in building an impressive city in the desert is nothing short of incredible.  It’s staggering what a bit of oil can do… an overpriced product if ever there was one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what is there to see…..

* the Burj Khalifa building, which is (was?) the world’s tallest building

* the Burj Al Arab, the famous 7 star hotel

Burj Al Arab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Palm Island and the stunning Atlantis Hotel

Atlantis Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*a whole bunch of impressive shopping centres

The Dubai Mall is built around the Burj Khalifa building and features an aquarium, an ice rink and a great water setting.  There is a water and light show displayed nightly.

The Mall of the Emirates features an indoor ski resort where they supply the punters with skis, toboggans and even appropriate clothing.

 

 

They have also tried to make Dubai a kind of sports mecca, with international golf, tennis, horse-racing, cricket, rugby and even their own F1 Grand Prix.

 

 

 

All the big brands are in town and there are numerous fancy cars around the place, no doubt connected to oil again.  Men in flowing white robes are everywhere.  With heaps of expats and plenty of money, there seems to be an almost obscene fascination on spending.  Unless you are into desert activities, or sun-worship, there isn’t much else to do.

Well worth the visit.

 

Homeward Bound on a ‘Relocation’ Cruise

Instead of flying home from Europe, we were keen to try and find a cruise that was heading towards Australia.  We were lucky enough to find a luxury cruise ship that was doing a ‘relocation cruise.’  For little more than the cost of an airfare, we were therefore able to book our passage on board the luxury ship ‘Celebrity Solstice’ for 12 wonderful nights out of Dubai. – Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as one night in Dubai, we were able to visit Muskat Oman, Cochin India, Port Klang Malaysia and Singapore.  In between we stayed in our luxury ‘stateroom,’ dined on magnificent food and took part in lots of fun activities.

Having tasted the luxury life available on board cruise ships (search Venice cruise for details), we are certain that cruises will always be a part of our travels in the future.  On the sort of cruise we were on, it is very economical!  This is because we did not have to pay any additional airfares and were basically on the way home.

 

As well as getting a great cruise on a magnificent ship, we also received:

  • Superb food, around the clock
  • Access to three swimming pools, whirlpools and deck-chairs
  • Heaps of bars and lounges
  • A casino, with Texas Holdem Poker
  • A great gym, half court asketball
  • An excellent show, every night, with top class entertainment
  • Lots of other activities including games, trivia
  • Acres of real lawn on the top deck, for crochet, bocce & golf putting.
  • A chance to meet lots of like-minded travellers
  • On board library, films, talks, game-shows

Muskat, Oman was an interesting port city.  The sea-shore area has been nicely developed and it was fun to wander around the town.  There are lots of shops in the nearby bazaar and a few interesting mosques and local buildings.  The salespeople are very passive compared to Egypt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cochin, India was a real highlight.  Having spent time in the golden triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra on a previous trip, it was interesting to compare it to Cochin.  Cochin wasn’t as hectic, but over 2000 cruise passengers offloading still makes an impact.  Many passengers stick to the shore excursions provided by the boat, but we always like to do things privately.  You typically save 70% by doing it this way and you are free to take as little or as much time in each place as you like.  We shared a taxi with Danny and Lily off the ship and did the ‘backwaters’ on the first of our 2 days in Cochin.

Our ‘2 level boat’ featured a roof you could sit on for its 2nd level, but we had the boat to ourselves and really enjoyed all the sights.  We saw villagers washing, boating, fishing, tending to their ducks and going about village life.  Very relaxing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day we checked out the local sights around Cochin, via another shared taxi, with the same driver.  This included churches, mosques and the famous Chinese fishing nets.  It was interesting wandering along the shore-line.  We even spotted local cricket games in progress.  My favourite visit was the meat market where the local butchers killed their animals on the spot: very fresh, but the doe-eyed expressions on the decapitated goats’ heads were somewhat off-putting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone for goats' heads?

 

View of the new part of Cochin from the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Klang, Malaysia was a bit of a disaster.  There were major delays due to two accidents on the road leading from the port, and no taxis due to the blockage.  Even the official shore excursions were late back to the ship, so departure was delayed by more than an hour.  Some independent travellers were unable to make their planned trips into Kuala Lumpur, but having spent two weeks there on a previous trip, we weren’t too fussed.

Our final stop was the very clean and modern city state of Singapore. We disembarked at the impressive new cruise centre. It was then off to find Rusi and Umesh’s apartment where we would be staying.

And the overall cruise experience?  Fantastic!  Lots of fun, lots of great food and we met many interesting people from a range of countries.

River Nile Cruise

Imagine sitting in a swimming pool, on the top deck of a luxury cruise boat, sailing down the Nile River.  Meanwhile, the rich tapestry of Egyptian life passes by.

 

 

 

 

 

From Aswan, we joined the ‘Nile Festival’ cruise boat, for a trip down the Nile River to Luxor.  All of the cruise boats are ‘5 star,’ but some are more 5 star than others.  Some of our travel companions were booked on another, more luxurious boat, which they had chosen on the basis of pictures and videos in England.  So they were somewhat disappointed with their ‘upgrade.’  Still, this one was more than adequate.

 

The cruise, for us, was a 4-nighter.  Other options are available, in both directions, or even return.  Just to cruise on the boat and enjoy the facilities, meals and passing views, is enough.  But you are also treated to some stunning shore excursions.  Just when you think you have seen all that Egypt has to offer, there is more.  Those Pharaohs were busy boys with all their constructions, especially Ramses II, who ruled for more than 60 years.

 

 

 

Our first stop out of Aswan was Kom Ombo, site of a magnificent temple.  Our visit was timed to coincide with sunset so the weather was pleasant and the lighting on the sandstone temple enhanced its appearance.  A lot of the final work and decoration of this temple was done by Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII.  Adjacent to the temple there was a collection of 20 mummified crocodiles!  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but another interesting sight nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Next stop was Edfu, where we overnighted.  Here we were treated to an early morning visit to the Temple of Horus, which Lonely Planet claims is the most completely preserved temple in Egypt.  In spite of its elevated position and stunning size, it was completely covered by sand and was dug out in the mid 19thcentury.  There were quite a lot of visitors there, a comfortable number really, so it must be very crowded when tourism is at its peak!

At one stage Egypt was receiving over 5 million visitors per year, but now it is claimed to be less than 20% that.  It must have a huge impact on many businesses and individuals who rely on tourism.  You get the feeling too that most of the current crop of tourists are not really in a spending mode, at least in terms of souvenirs.

 

 

 

 

 Transport to and from the temple was by horse and carriage and clopping through the dusty streets between the mud brick houses gives you the feeling of going back in time.  On the way back from the temple there were hundreds of children heading off for school, amongst the bread salesmen, donkeys, other horse-drawn carriages, early morning shoppers and inquisitive locals. Great scenes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esna was our next ‘stop’ later in the day.  There the cruisers pass through two locks and it’s a great opportunity for the local salesmen to draw alongside the boats in smaller boats in an attempt to make a sale.  They are very persistent and enthusiastic and happily hurl their goods up onto the top deck of the boats in an effort to sell something.  As you pass through the locks they are right alongside on the pier as well.  There were a couple of takers for their wares and it made for fun entertainment as some goods landed in the pool or fell into the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving in Luxor in the mid-afternoon, we still had many more sightseeing opportunities in store.  Our guide Mohammad is a 24 year old product of the Institute Tourism course.  He was extremely knowledgeable and accommodating.  We visited the Luxor Temple and the Temple of Karnak on the first evening.  Both are well-preserved, stunning must-see attractions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning we were up before sunrise to experience another amazing highlight.  We travelled by van, boat and another van to an isolated area where we boarded one of ten hot-air balloons for a flight over the temples, ruins and sights of Luxor.  It was wonderful.  Captain Emad looked after us very well and we shared our basket with three Brazilians: Aldo, Bruno and Maria.  In spite of a hard landing with four bounces and a flip, due to a 17 km/hr breeze, it was a fantastic experience!  Check out Jenny’s video.

More sightseeing followed breakfast and check-out.  We saw the amazing Valley of the Kings and were treated to the interiors of three of the many tombs in the area.  Stunningly well preserved!  Even a lot of the colour remains on the wall friezes.  Our final visits were to the Al-Deir and Al-Bahari Temple and the statues of Memnon.  All good and made better by Mohammad.  By the time we boarded our evening flight to Cairo, we were cactus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do go to Egypt, make sure you do a cruise, experience the pyramids on a camel, don’t miss the hot-air balloon ride or any of the shore excursions.   They are all incredible.

If you would like to experience the wonders of Egypt, our friends Sue and Helal, who live near the pyramids, would be happy to arrange it for you:

Email: helalselim@gmail.com   or sue.hartshorne@gmail.com

 

 

 

They are also able to welcome you for a home stay with lots of great local food.

They can arrange the highlights of Egypt to suit all budgets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from Sue & Helal's rooftop garden.

 

Sue & Helal's pool

 

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