Tag Archives: travel

Cruising in Stockholm Archipelago

Today WIT Blogger Wailana reports from the archipelago in Stockholm. Thousands of islands cluster off the east coast of Sweden, and no better time to explore them than in summer! Sunshine and a lofty 68 degrees F make for a perfect Wednesday excursion. The m/s Vindhem departs at least biweekly from Gamla Stan, with dinner, live music, and all you can eat shrimp. After a full day of sightseeing, it’s just a short hop on the boat at 7pm.

Check out Wailana’s photos!

Wish you were in Europe this summer or fall? Give out agents a call! 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com. Hope to see you and your family in the great European capitals before long.

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7 Reasons why Portugal is going to be the “Next Big Thing”

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The New York Post called Portugal “Europe’s Newest Darling,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Stunningly beautiful valleys and coastlines, a wealth of historic sights, wine cruises and cute trolleys—what’s not to love? Portugal has long been overlooked for its flashier neighbor Spain, and obvious attractions of France and Italy—our only question is: really, why did it take so long?

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1. Lisbon: The Tram and the Coffee.

Portugal’s adorable capital has all the charming trappings of any historic European city, but without the fanfare, the crowds or the crazy prices. Considering Paris or Rome this fall? Why not opt for Lisbon, where a night at a five-star hotel will set you back less than a measly 100 euros? Plus with postcard-perfect architecture, cute cobblestone streets and vibrant food culture, Portugal has a wealth to offer the “been-there-done-that” traveler to Europe. Did we mention the cutest tram that’s been operating for nearly a century? Oh yeah—and the pasteis de nada, custard tarts, that are said to be so mouth-watering its more like a religious experience.

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2. Porto: Wine and Bookshops.

Porto is famous for its eponymous wine, winner of numerous vinous awards, but did you know the town also plays a part in Harry Potter history? The cute bookstore Livraria Lello and its grand staircases were reportedly inspirations behind Rowling’s architecture in the HP series. Potter pilgrims have flocked to Lello for years, and the crowds are so thick that the store has begun to charge each person four euros for entry. The staircases were designed by one Xavier Esteves, an engineer with a passion for literature. Built in 1906 by the brothers Lello, the bookshop houses a sumptuous collection of bound books and a staircase so iconic, that it continues to inspire authors of all creeds and nationalities to this day.

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3. Sintra and its Coral Palace.

A mere 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, the hilltop town of Sintra is more fairytale dream than anything. Here the traveler will find spectacular castles and elegant palaces in the midst of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The Palácio da Pena was a modest chapel before it was transformed by King Fernando in the 19th century into a picturesque palace more akin to an underwater fortress. With its pink, yellow and gray facade, stone triton statue, Moorish tilework and stone columns resembling a coral reef, the palace is the pinnacle expression of aquatic grandeur if I ever saw one.

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4. The Endless Coastline.

The famous, West-facing coastline of Portugal means that there are idyllic sunsets nearly every evening. With over 800 km of coast, it’s no wonder that here you’ll find some of the best seafood dishes, world-class surfing hotspots and marine biomes in Europe! From volcanic sands of the Azores, to sandy beaches of Costa Vicentina, to the magnificent cliffs of the Algarve, Portugal’s beaches are no laughing matter. Seafood is always fresh, from the octopus salad to the Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams). Speaking of surfing, this is where some of the world’s best surfers come to practice—Nazaré is home to the largest surfed wave in recorded history—that’s a whopping 30m!

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5. The Beautiful, Timeless Azores.

Azores have been dubbed the “European Hawaii” and the “Next Iceland” and while we don’t know about that, it’s certainly a place for tropical adventure. Popular islands for free diving, waterfall rapelling, volcano hikes and whale-watching. Located 1500km off the coast, it’s a tropical island in Europe, with lakes, volcanoes and mountain.

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6. The Tour Guides are Amazing.

Okay, we’re biased with this one, but because Willamette Intl Travel has an awesome contact based in Portugal! Our local guide Anselmo Goncalves has been our go-to guide in Portugal and Spain for years! Our clients always rave about him. Join him for an unforgettable day tour through Lisbon and Sintra, or embark on a multi-day trip that celebrates wine in the Douro Valley.

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7. A Millennium of History.

Portugal has had the same borders since the 11th century—that means incredible historic preservation, and plentiful old castles and sites. Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. And who can forget the mighty ramparts of Moorish-inspired Sao Jorge Castle that overlooks Lisbon?

Plus:

  • Azulejos tile art.
  • Melancholic Fado music.
  • Madeira’s non-volcanic pools surrounded by lava rocks and aquamarine waters.
  • Sea Cave Tours in the Algarve.
  • Ride a gondola in Aveiro with picturesque waterways.

And the best part? It’s still relatively undiscovered by tourists! Which means the crowds aren’t there yet. Expect to find many authentic and tranquil places, a far cry from Venice and Barcelona.

Read more about Portugal on our blog:

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6 Travel News Tidbits

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1. Viking Cruises partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises will sponsor National Geographic’s first fully scripted global anthology series, “Genius,” which will tell the story of Albert Einstein. During the global premiere of Genius — April 25 at 9PM ET/PT on National Geographic — Viking will showcase their brand campaign “Time.” The Founder of Viking, Torstein Hagen, is a lifelong admirer of Einstein and a physicist himself. Read more on their website.

2. Hilton rapidly expanding

In 2016, Hilton opened a whopping 354 properties — that’s nearly one per day! Hilton is especially progressing in China, with 328 properties open or to open. In total, Hilton has 4875 hotels open worldwide.  

3. More attention to flying needs for children with neurological issues

Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® are sponsoring airport “rehearsals” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The programs are designed to alleviate the stress that families who have a child with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities experience when flying. It provides families the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Learn more here at The Arc’s website

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4. What’s NEW for the 72-Hour Visa Free Transit in Beijing

Beijing has introduced new regulations concerning the 72-hour transit without visa. Travelers must now fill in an application and wait for clearance. An application form and background check are required for stays over 24 hours. So travelers need: 1) onward ticket, 2) application form, 3) background check. This system doesn’t necessarily exist in other Chinese cities as they can be different. In Shanghai, for instance, you can stay double the time (6 days / 144 hours) without a visa. Ask your WIT Travel Agent to Learn More.

5. Avalon Waterways Announces A New Ship

Avalon Waterways is expanding in 2018 with a new ship for the Mekong River, adding new active and themed cruises and cutting the single supplement for all European river cruises. The line’s next new ship will be based on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. The 36-passenger vessel will be called Avalon Saigon and will launch in September 2018. The cabins will be slightly bigger, at 245 square feet, with sliding French balcony doors that extend 9 feet. The 14-foot windows have screens to keep out insects. Ask your WIT Travel Agent about available cruises, itineraries, and pre- and post-cruise land tours. 

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6. Did You Know? Two-thirds Of Travel Websites In EU Mislead On Prices

According to a European Commission report, 2/3 of EU websites display misleading prices. Of the 352 price comparison and travel booking websites checked in October 2016, the Commission found 235 gave prices that were not reliable. The sweep of websites, conducted with consumer protection authorities, found that in 1/3 of cases, the final price was not the same as the first price shown. In 1/5 of cases, promotional prices were not available at all. Additionally, in 1/3 of cases, the final price or the way it was calculated was not clear. In a quarter of instances, websites did not make it clear that room availability applied just to that site, and rooms might be available through other channels. The Commission said the 235 websites will have to correct the irregularities and it will ensure sites comply with national enforcement procedures.

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Filed under Avalon Waterway, China, Cruises, Europe, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises

Aarhus: 2017 European Capital of Culture

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Aarhus is the 2017 European Capital of Culture! Congrats Aarhus!

Why should you visit this “City of Smiles”? Loads of reasons!

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Aarhus tends to get overlooked by its sister city Copenhagen, but for Aarhus this bit of anonymity plays well for its personal style. Unlike many of the gentrified European capitals, Aarhus maintains its distinctive style and Danish flair The town loves its cobbled streets, old architecture, and lively museums.

The town, fairly quiet until recent years, is now abuzz with internationally acclaimed chefs and innovative breweries, and it’s home to three Michelin-star restaurants. Culture afficinados will love the town’s art exhibitions, that spill from captivating museums onto the streets in public installations.

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As the 2017 Capital of Culture, Aarhus is celebrating with year-long events and jubilees around the theme of “Let’s Rethink!” Aarhus was voted #2 as the best destination in Europe by Lonely Planet. The city is a popular port for cruise ships, such as the HAL Rotterdam and Princess’ Regal Princess. (Ask your travel agent for dates and deeds!)

Make Aarhus a stop on your way through Copenhagen and Germany, and we assure you, you won’t regret it.

Cultural Highlights

The Danish Royal Theatre will perform Røde Orm, a Viking saga on the rooftop of Moesgaard Museum, based on a novel by Swedish writer Frans G. Bengtsson. (May 24 to July 1.)

The Garden, an huge, interactive art project stretching more than 4km. It will explore nature’s role in art, intellectual history, and contemporary society. Presented in 3 iterations: The Past (April 8-Sep 10), The Present and The Future (June 3-July 30).

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Hone your cultural taste at ‘Tree of Codes,’ a modern ballet by Olafur Eliasson, or Janne Teller’s ‘Nothing’ at the Danish National Opera. The Jewellery Box houses a unique collection classic Danish jewelry from the 19th century.

Regular events include Aarhus Pride (June 3), the Moesgaard Viking Moot (last weekend of July), and the Aarhus festival (Aug 24-Sept 3). Join the lively 28th Aarhus Traders’ Market at Tangkrogen (May 11-14) or Explore the World festival, a 2-day celebration of tradition and culture (June 2-3).

For more inspiration, check out how to Enjoy a girls’ trip to Aarhus and Explore the city on foot.

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An example of what you might see at a Viking moot

Paphos, Cyprus, also bears the 2017 Capital of Culture alongside Aarhus. But that’s for another time.

Did you know? WIT Agent Nancy can trace her roots all the way back to settlers from Denmark!

Call WIT to discuss your summer vacation in Europe with one our qualified agents today. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Travel News: TSA ramping up for Spring Break

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TSA getting ready for Spring Break Travelers

The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up for the Spring Break travel period, which usually begins around the end of February and continues into April. According to a release, the TSA expects to screen about 62 million travelers at airports across the country in March alone, and it expects to hit a ten-year high traffic volume. “As we approach the Spring Break travel period, security remains our top priority, and we are taking every measure, both seen and unseen, to protect the millions of air travelers,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia. The agency is also collaborating with vendors, airlines and airports to open automated screening lanes in the coming months. Such lanes are designed to improve the screening process by automating many of the functions and allowing passengers to move more quickly through a security checkpoint. Automated screening lanes are currently available at Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International.

Record Number of Cruise Ships On Order 

When 2017 opened, there were a record 73 cruise ships on order, and now, according to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, that number has surged to 82 with recent orders from Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and a small unnamed luxury brand. The orderbook now totals at least 82 ships, not including a number of known options, meaning the cruise industry is looking a decade of solid growth even as older, smaller vessels are retired. The orderbook is well up from another previous record of 70 ships on order, set in 2016, which eclipsed the year 2000, which saw some 67 ships on order early in the year, according to data from Cruise Industry News. While ship volume is a record, the average size of ships is staying put at approximately 3,000 passengers, offset by smaller luxury and expedition ships. The average tonnage of ships on order is approximately 117,256. 

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One For The Record Book: Holland America Line’s Eurodam’s 11th Perfect USPH Score

Kudos to Holland America Line’s Eurodam as it earned its 11th consecutive 100 score on a routine US Public Health inspection, a run that’s unprecedented both for the company and the cruise industry. The inspection was held Jan. 14 during a turnaround at Port Everglades at the start of a seven-day Caribbean cruise. This follows on the heels of sister ship Koningsdam achieving a perfect score on its first USPH inspection in December. In 2016 five additional HAL ships aced USPH: Eurodam, Maasdam, Veendam, Noordam and Westerdam. The year before 10 perfect scores were received by seven HAL ships: Eurodam, Noordam, Veendam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Ryndam and Statendam.

British Airways strike for 7 days

Unite, the trade union of British Airways’s cabin crew, has announced another strike for seven consecutive days from March 3. The mixed fleet crew, who make up around 15 percent of the total BA cabin staff, have been in a long-running dispute over pay and Unite said that the solid results announced earlier on Friday by BA’s owner IAG meant they could meet the union’s demands. If you’re booked on British Airways, please check their website for updates before your flight. 

American Airlines boards passengers based on ticket cost

American has announced an update to its boarding process that will take the new fare into account. The company says that starting March 1, boarding groups will no longer be called by their current name. Instead, travelers will now board as part of a group ranging from Group 1 to Group 9. The changes may spark some confusion amongst travelers, who are used to the airline only using four groups to designate main boarding lanes. Now, however, groups 1-4 designate priority boarding lanes, while groups 5-9 represent main boarding lanes. Basic Economy travelers will be the last to board. Other airlines are likely to follow if this boarding method proves effective. Read more here: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/american-airlines-announces-new-boarding-process-022717.html

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Jimmy Fallon Loves Travel Agents

What better spokesman could there be for the new Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando than Jimmy Fallon himself? Jimmy turned up in person at a reception for members of the travel press to showcase the new ride and Universal Orlando Resort’s new water theme park, Volcano Bay, coming in April and May, respectively. And there was even a nod to travel agents. “Of course I use a travel agent. Travel agents get you the best rooms and the best rates,” Jimmy said when asked by TMR. “I was friends with a travel agent growing up in Saugerties, NY; I’ve used a travel agent my whole life. I don’t even know how to book my own trip.”

Egypt’s Visa Fee To More Than Double

Egypt is increasing fees for entry visas from $25 to $60 for incoming tourists starting 1 March. The foreign ministry informed airport security officials about the fee increase earlier this week. Egypt last raised the fee for its visa in April 2014, when it was increased from $15 to $25. Several tour operators have said that the decision would cause problems for tourists who booked trips based on the old rate. Some in the tourism sector say the decision should have been announced several months beforehand, expressing fears that the move might affect the country’s efforts to revive tourism, a pillar of the economy and a key source of foreign currency. 

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Pisa Is Adding A Ferris Wheel To Attract Tourists

Pisa, Italy, known for its leaning tower, is adding a Ferris wheel to attract tourists. Andrea Ferrante, Pisa’s culture commissioner, announced details about the wheel on state television, the Associated Press reported. The wheel will be more than 165-feet tall. (The tower is about 183-feet tall.) Italia Nostra, an organization dedicated to preserving Italy’s history, has come out against the ride, saying it will “clash” with Pisa’s Medieval architecture, AP reported. Controversial or not, the attraction is set to rise in a parking lot this summer to test if tourists like it. In addition to getting a bird’s eye view of the leaning tower, riders will also be able to see the Mediterranean. Pisa is on Italy’s western coast, about an hour’s drive from Florence. Ferris wheels have become popular as tourist attractions in several cities around the world. The London Eye may be the most well-known.

Elvis still a star

Nearly four decades after Elvis sang his last tune, his legacy got a US $45 million boost with the Thursday opening of a major new attraction at his Graceland estate – an entertainment complex that Priscilla Presley says gives “the full gamut” of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. About 200 people streamed into “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” after the late singer’s wife cut a ribbon and allowed fans to see the complex for the first time. Resembling an outdoor mall, the 200,000-square-foot campus sits across the street from Graceland, Presley’s longtime home-turned-museum. The complex features a comprehensive Presley exhibit with clothing he wore on stage and guitars he played, a showcase of the cars he owned and used, a soundstage, a theatre, two restaurants and retail stores.

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Travel News of the Week: NatGeo’s Best List

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National Geographic Traveler Announced Its Annual Best of the World List

They list 21 must-see places to visit in 2017. The destinations were all chosen by the Traveler editors and fall into one of three categories- Cities, Nature, or Culture. The full list can be found in the December/January 2017 issue of Traveler magazine, available on newsstands nationwide starting November 29, and online now at NatGeoTravel.com/BestTrips2017.”This special issue takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world’s best destinations,” saidGeorge Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “We think this year’s list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery. It’s not just about where to go, but why to go now and how to make 2017 a year of enlightenment through travel.The online hub includes an immersive visual experience with 360 videos along with helpful tips and facts for planning trips to each locale. Visitors will also find inspiring illustrations to download and share. National Geographic Traveler (six issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 15 international editions. The National Geographic Travel digital group shares its inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps with its @NatGeoTravel community of over 20 million. – See more at: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/national-geographic-travel-announces-best-of-the-world-list#sthash.kD4wGuiu.dpuf

American Is Cutting Flights To Cuba, from 13 roundtrip flights to 10

As US airlines begin flights this week to Havana, the long-awaited travel surge to Cuba is already a bit shaky. American will daily round-trip flights between the US and Cuba to 10, from 13, starting in mid-February because of lower than expected demand. The company also will fly smaller jets on two routes. Other carriers, including Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines, said bookings so far are in line with expectations. Southwest declined to comment. But airlines have kept fares low to fill seats. Eight airlines, including American, began initiating service to Havana this week, with a total of 500 flights to the city expected to have been completed by year end, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Flights to smaller Cuban cities began earlier this year. Any cutback to Cuba flights isn’t likely to hurt the airlines’ business in a material way.

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Supersonic Jet Faster Than The Concorde Gets Its Public Debut

A skinny little airplane parked in a hangar of the Centennial Airport aims to revolutionize how people fly and reintroduce the world to supersonic flight. Boom Technology has spent two years designing a supersonic passenger plane with the financial economics the defunct Concorde could never achieve. A full-size mockup of a smaller test plane will be unveiled publicly soon. If all goes well in flight tests next year, the company will move ahead and build a full-size 45-seat aircraft that can travel 2.2 times faster than the speed of sound at a price on par with business-class tickets for a 3-hour-and-15-minute flight from New York to London.

BBC Earth Experiences Rolling Out on Holland America Line

Passengers onboard Holland America Line ships can now look forward to BBC Earth Experiences, currently available on ms Koningsdam, ms Noordam, ms Rotterdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Zuiderdam and ms Eurodam and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet (except ms Prinsendam) by March 2017. Passengers can “now experience more of the world’s natural wonders, test their knowledge of our planet and participate in some family-friendly competition through the cruise line’s exclusive partnership with BBC Earth,” said Holland America in a prepared release. The new offerings immerse guests in BBC Earth’s experiences. A highlight is “Frozen Planet Live,” a concert based on the BBC Earth “Frozen Planet” television series. “Frozen Planet Live,” on each ship’s main stage, features live musicians playing a musical score by George Fenton as the images unfold on screen. HAL also unveiled a new partnership with Food Network’s “America’s Test Kitchen.”

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Daily Ski-Passes In Europe Cost 54 Euros On Average

This winter season, skiers must pay few euros more than last year for daily ski-passes in Europe. In most winter resorts, the price is 54 euros for one day of enjoying the slopes. The price for a daily ski-pass for one adult in Austria will increase by an average of 1.14 euros or 2.72%. Skiers in Austria will now pay an average of 43 euros for a daily ski-pass. Skiing in the Alps is the most expensive, but in Switzerland the prices are even higher. Daily ski-pass prices have increased by 0.65 euros or 1.13% to about 54 euros on average. Prices in Swiss ski resorts, however, are the most stable and show the slightest increases in four years. Italy is the leader with an average price increase of 1.37 euros – to 43 euros. Italy is therefore as expensive as Austria as of now. This year for the first time in the ranking the cheapest ski destinations were identified. This year it is the Czech Republic, where visitors pay on average 27 euros for a daily ski-pass. Other destinations cheaper than Austria are Germany (34 euros) and France (38 euros). On our side of the Atlantic the price increases are by far the highest. While Italy has the highest price increases with 3.22%, the rates in Canada and USA are 6.04% and 6.81% respectively. In the US, a one-day ticket costs around $89 (84 euros), in Canada about 92 Canadian dollars (65 euros).

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Iceland’s Crystal Caves

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The Ice Tunnel at Langajökull

Ice Caves in Iceland are truly a unique experience, as they appear only in winter. The summer heat carves out dramatic holes and caverns in the glacier. By late autumn, they freeze again into caves of dazzling beauty, so resplendent that they’ve been dubbed “crystal caves.” Since ice is an ever-changing element, ice caves often change from year to year, or disappear altogether. Officially, the season runs from November to March. 

Iceland is known for its breathtaking and photogenic crystal caves. Streaks of black silt tattoo the brilliant cerulean blue of the ice. Only a handful of reputable guides will take you on an adventure of ice and glaciers—ask your agent at Willamette Intl Travel who they recommend. Continue reading

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