06/8/13
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David Royale

On June 8, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8:30 am.  Ivan and I had tea on the balcony and a slice of bread on the balcony.

Having breakfast on the balcony

Ivan reminded me that we would be eating a lot on a food tour soon.  Lil Dave went to explore the city more.

We met our guide Karen for the Taste Florence tour at La Norcineria.  Karen had a paper for us with different places we might go on the tour that included a map and space for notes.  I was happy since I always take notes during tours for the blog.

La Norcineria

She talked about the DOC/DOCG regulations for the food products.  This grocery store sells things like meat, wine and biscuits.  You can also buy boar meat here which is an organic meat that is lean.  Ivan and I both got to taste the Provolone Dolce (sweet) and a Picante.  The Picante cheese was better since it was sharper.  I also got a chance to try two Prosciuttos: di Parma and Tuscan.  Di Palma was sweet while Tuscan was salty.

Forno Bruschi Ivana was our next stop.  Ivan and I had a Schiaccata with artichoke and parmesan and a coccoli with mozzarella and tomato.  The Coccoli was delicious.  The breads are made on-site and they even deliver.

Our next stop was at the San Lorenzo Market.  Some stalls have remained traditional while some have become touristy.  The Market is open 7:30 am to 2 pm every day except Sunday.

We stopped at a stall called Nerbone – they’re known for their bollito di manzo (boiled beef brisket).  Ivan and I tasted the salsa verde (parsley, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, and capers) on bread which tasted great.

Eating a bollito di manzo

I got a bollito di manzo which was pretty good.

We got a short break to walk around the market.

San Lorenzo Market

Ivan and I each had an espresso and used the loo… then, we checked out the market.

Karen was very interesting and told us about the market.  They’ve been building a fruit market upstairs for 3 years but it’s still not done.

Ultima Spiaggia (The Last Beach) was our next stop in the market.  It’s a fish and chips shop.  We were served free white wine while waiting in line.

The guys at Ultima Spiaggia

Two of the guys who work there are easy on the eyes – it was term Karen had never heard of, but she understood what it meant even without explaining it.

Seafood mix at Ultima Spiaggia

The fried seafood mix we got here was so very tasty.

Karen led us to Enoteca Alessi.  It was time to have some wine, cheese and balsamic vinegar.  We walked down to the cellar which was filled with hundreds of bottles of wine.  It was really pretty down there.  We got bruschetta and a selection of cheeses to have with the wines.

Ivan with prosecco and bruschetta

Our first wine was a Prosecco.  It’s made with a minimum of 80’% of San Genovese grapes.  The wine was delicious.  The second wine was a Chianti Classico followed by a Carmignano.  The Carmignano was full bodied and tasted lovely.

Karen talking about wines

It was time for our balsamic vinegar tasting which we tried seven different kinds.  It kept making me cough since it’s so strong.  The saba and wine vinegar blend was really good and it’s good to put on ice cream, parmesan cheese and pasta.  Another vinegar was aged 12 years and is used as a medicine for sore throats.  The last vinegar was one of my favorites since it was very sweet since there’s a vanilla pod inside the bottle.

Ivan and I followed Karen to Vestri.  We got to try chocolates and gelato here.  Karen had a tray with 8 different chocolates.

8 different kinds of chocolates

Ivan’s favorite was dark chocolate and coffee and my favorite was a cinnamon chocolate.

Next, we were served up two gelatos: crema custard and raspberry sorbet.  The crema custard was very plain and boring.  The sorbet was simply delicious.

Our last stop was at I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi where we had a macchato which is an espresso with a stain (a small amount) of milk.

The Taste Florence food tour was wonderful.  I would highly recommend going on this tour.  You eats lots of great Italian food and learn a lot as well.

We walked around and I wanted to buy new shoes.  I think wearing my Northface sandals aren’t very good for my feet.  Bought a pair of pink Nike shoes at AW Lab.  Lil Dave joined us since we were going to see a famous statue soon.

We went on The Original David Tour.  Our tour guide told us about Michelangelo’s history.  He was only 20 years old when he created the beautiful Pieta statue.  Michelangelo was an arrogant guy which resulted in a fight that broke his nose and it never really healed right.

The David was supposed to go on the outside of the Duomo on the buttress, but was placed in Palazzo della Signoria.  It was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873.

We went to the Accademia Museum to see the David statue.  It’s supposed to be a 15 year old boy, but really it’s the perfect man.

The beautiful David statue

David is about to fight Goliath.  From the front view, he looks ready, determined and confident.  His head, hands and feet are really big compared to the rest of his body.  But, David was going to be on top of the Duomo – so Michelangelo did this on purpose.

On the side view from the right, you notice his thick eyebrows and he looks scared and there’s a  moment of doubt.  I found that he looked rather sad.

The David statue is 14 feet tall.  The group’s next view of the statue was from the back.  The rock in his hand makes it steady.  Michelangelo put a small piece of wood behind the leg that makes the statue steady.  An x-ray found out that where that wood is placed is the weakest point of the statue.  Michelangelo must have been a genius to know that without having advanced technology available to him.

Lil Dave wanted to climb the statue, but that was a big taboo since the museum doesn’t even allow pictures of the David statue.

The last view was from the left side of the front view of the statue.  Our guide pointed out the veins in his arm, forearm and on his neck.  It showed how nervous he was about his upcoming fight with Goliath.

I was really moved by finally seeing the David statue… I actually got tears in my eyes.  I’m a big fan of Michelangelo’s work.  It’s a beautiful statue and our guide thinks that you see something different every time you view it.  I hope I get more chances to see it.

Our guide said that Michelangelo’s friend said “You don’t have to see any other artists if you’ve seen Michelangelo’s work.  This tour is a definite must since you skip the line for the museum and it’s great to hear more about Michelangelo.

Ivan found us a taxi and we got it back to the bed & breakfast.  We grabbed our luggage and headed to the airport.

We flew from Florence to Barcelona, Spain.  We checked in to the Airbnb apartment we stayed at the first time which is right on La Rambla.

Later that night, we had dinner at Tapas Royale with lots of tapas and a glass of red wine.

We went to the back to the bar for dancing.  Unfortunately, the music was too lounge-y to really get into.  We danced for a little bit before heading back.

Source: David picture

06/7/13
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Tuscan Countryside

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8 am on June 7, 2013.  We had the free breakfast on the balcony.

We took a taxi to the Florencetown office.  We were all going on the Tuscany by Vespa Tour.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a ride through the countryside.

The group consisted of 10 people and one monkey.  Two vans drove our group to the campgrounds.  At the grounds, we chose our helmets.  No monkey sized helmets for Dave, but it was alright since he’d be travelling in style in my fake Tokidoki bag.

The guides were Vito and Jean Luc.  The scooters weren’t the classic Vespas you would expect since it is a Vespa tour, but PIAGGIO Zips.  Ivan was disappointed since he saw a cool blue Vespa he wanted to ride.  Unfortunately, it was for a private tour.

Everybody who wanted to drive had to learn how to drive a scooter or show the guides they could drive on.  Ivan has ridden scooters all over the world like Thailand, Croatia and the Philippines – so he passed with flying colors.

Ivan driving a scooter

I tried to learn once in Bali and I revved too fast and crashed.  Ivan thinks I’m too short to ride a scooter.  So, I just let Ivan drive which he loves doing especially going fast.  I love riding behind him while holding onto him tightly.

A few people have never ridden scooters and sometimes the guide told the person they wouldn’t be able to ride today.  He thought a few people needed more practice.  Ivan thinks that if you’re thinking of going on a Vespa tour when you’re driving, you should know how to ride one since it is expensive.  You might as well just book a tour where they drive you around in a van.

Our first stop was at a vineyard where one of the guides talked about Chianti wine and Sangiovese grapes.

Our guide talking about Chianti wine

The group got back on the scooter.  I took photos of the scenery while Ivan was driving.

Lovely Tuscan countryside

It was quite green and gorgeous all around us.

Vineyards and Mountains in the distance

We drove up even more and got a beautiful view and had a chance to stop for photos.

Ivan & me in red with a vineyard behind us

The group drove around more and stopped at Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini.  It’s a 17th century villa.  The wine tour was first.  Ivan and I have gone on a lot of wine tours, so we usually zone out.  I just took some photos.

Fattoria Delle Corti wine barrels

Outside, there’s a lovely garden with lots of bushes and flowers.

Lovely garden at Villa le Corti

Lil Dave ran around the garden and climbed up a tree.  Ivan was looking forward to lunch.

The group went to the restaurant for lunch.  Lil Dave munched on his banana and peanut butter sandwich.  Ivan and I started off with bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Lil Dave put a slice of banana on a bread with balsamic vinegar which was oddly good.

We were given two of the wines that are made at the winery.  The two wines were Le Corti Chianti Classico and Don Tommaso Chianti Classico.  Ivan really liked the Le Corti while I liked the Don Tommaso better since it was spicy and more complex.  We only got a free half glass of each wine.

A tasty bruschetta came out next.  Our table was filled with wine lovers and weren’t sure if we got free refills since some of the glasses on our tables were empty or getting really low.  Ivan asked if we could get a refill, but you have to pay for more wine.   For how much they charge for this tour (€120 per drive or €210 for 1 driver + 1 passenger), they should really give you unlimited wine.

Red wine and Pasta

Then, we got a spaghetti with tomato sauce which was followed by a creamy pasta.  I liked the second pasta probably since it was creamy.  The food was very tasty.

Dark clouds started appearing in the sky.  It looked like rain would be coming soon.  Our last stop was at a gelateria called I Pini.  Everybody in the group had to pay for their own gelato if they wanted to eat some.  Again, they should include this in the tour especially since the small gelato is only €1.  Ivan and I were stuffed, so we shared a limone (lemon) and pistachio.  Lil Dave got a banana gelato with extra banana.

The Tuscan Vespa Tour was a great tour.  I recommend that you go on this tour to ride on a scooter for a lovely day in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.  The group was taken back to the campgrounds where we had to wait for the vans.  Our driver took us back to a square.  It started raining shortly after we were dropped off.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I took shelter in Coronas Café.  Ivan and I each had an espresso while Lil Dave had a banana Italian soda.

It stopped raining, so we started walking more since we wanted to get back to the b&b.  It started raining harder so we popped into a bookstore.  The books were in Italian, but the store had souvenirs and cute products.

We were off again to Ponte Vecchio which is a cool Medieval bridge.  It started raining again and we stopped into a bread shop.  After, we walked back to Artevita B&B.

That night, we went to a local place nearby where the servers only speak Italian.  It was very popular and the wait was too long.  So, we walked down the street to another restaurant which I can’t remember the name of.  Ivan and I shared mussels, grilled vegetables and pizza with anchovies, basil, bufala mozzarella and chopped tomato.  Lil Dave got a banana pizza.  This restaurant must be known for their pizzas since every table had at least one pizza on it.  The meal was delicious.

Ivan & me with our melonchellos

Ivan and I had a sweet melonchello after our dinner.

06/6/13
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Florence

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early on June 6, 2013.  We left the hotel at 9 am and then walked to the train station.

The train left at 9:25 am headed to Florence.  The train was 11 minutes late and arrived at 11:02 am.

We stored our luggage in the storage at the train station.

We walked around the market since we had time to spare before Ivan’s family and D showed up.  The stalls were selling leather belts, journals, Italian masks, and souvenirs.

Ivan’s family and D were on a tour that Ivan booked.  They didn’t like their tour guide since he kept making up stories and he was crazy.  I bet he was actually pretty interesting.  I’m sure it’s better than a boring monotone tour guide who makes you want to fall asleep.

Ivan checked out a few of the restaurants to find something good.  Our group ended up at Trattoria pizzeria da i matti.  It was really pretty inside.

Inside Trattoria pizzeria da i matti

Ivan and I shared a tuna and onion pizza and a spicy penne arrabiata.  The food was tasty.

Neal and D wanted to head back to the cruise ship.  We walked around the markets with Denise and Ken.

Florence & religious souvenirs

Ivan and I bought some souvenirs.

We checked out the church Santa Maria del Fiore which is free to enter.  It wasn’t that big inside.

Apse artwork

Ivan and I had gelato at Grom.  Ivan’s parents went back to their tour.

Ivan wanted to go see the David statue replica at Piazzale Michelangelo to meet up with his parents.  I was feeling hot and sick since I had a sore throat.  I stayed in a park while Ivan went to find them and take pictures.  He said he would be back in 30 minutes.

I relaxed on the grass in the park.  I saw a few kids playing and lots of people relaxing in the park.

I walked around to take pictures of a cool bridge and then headed back to the park.

I was ducking under a chain to get on the sidewalk and I hurt my ankle when my right foot went down.  I screamed loudly since it really hurt.  One guy who was passing by said Are you ok?  I said I’m fine.  I was just trying to play it off.  So, I rushed off and started taking pictures of a statue.  It actually really, really hurt bad.  I was mad at this point since it was almost an hour and there was no sign of Ivan.

I walked around to find a place to buy water.  I came across CLET’s studio.  The guy who makes the funny things on street signs.

Heart sign by CLET

I guess he lives here in Florence.  I thought Ivan was going to come back soon so I didn’t bother going into a café to grab a water.

He came back a few minutes later.  Neal told Ivan via email later that they were going to see the replica of the David statue at a different square and not the Piazzale Michelangelo.  It was a long steep way up, so that’s why it took awhile.  Plus, Ivan was waiting for them and then he ran to the other square.  Ivan told me he saw Clet’s studio too.

Later, we checked in to Artevita Bed & Breakfast which is a lovely place.  Our room had a balcony with a beautiful view.

Ivan on the balcony

We were looking forward to having breakfast on the balcony tomorrow.

That night, we took a fun Pizza & Gelato making class.

Ready to make a pizza!

The main teacher was Davide and he was friendly.

The Pizza & Gelato making class

Davide showed us how to make gelato.  Everybody didn’t get to make their own gelato since there was only one machine. It was cool learning about it though.

The other teacher Julio wasn’t very nice. He got mad at me and Ivan since we were talking during his demonstration on how to roll out the dough and put the toppings on. He was like a school teacher. We got to roll out the dough and put the tomato sauce and our toppings like salami, basil and olive oil.  We had wine while we were making our pizzas.  We were told to customize our pizzas.

Davide put my pizza in the oven.  Later, I was waiting for my pizza.  I was asking Julio if he moved any of the pizzas since mine was in a certain spot.  He said yes.  I asked him if he could ask Davide about which one was mine.  Ivan told me later that I was being way too loud and everybody heard me.  Julio didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t sure which pizza was mine. Somebody said You should have customized it.  I put 3 salamis on it, but so did somebody else.  I asked him if he could ask Davide which pizza was mine since he was keeping track, but he didn’t seem to care and didn’t ask him.  Davide was talking to somebody.  I don’t like Julio since he ignored me.  Even if you don’t like somebody, you should treat everybody the same in your cooking class.  I think Davide should be the only teacher since he’s really friendly.

Ivan’s pizza turned out better than mine.  Mine was tasty with salami on it.

Salami Pizza by Jen

Davide retrieved the gelato from the machine.

Davide taking out the chocolate gelato

Soon after, we got to try the chocolate gelato which was delicious.  Everybody got a diploma and a recipe book at the end.

Ivan is proud for getting his diploma

It was a really fun class.

06/5/13
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Rome Food Tour

At 6:40 am on June 5, 2013, there was a loud knock on the door.  We assumed it was room service.  Another knock was heard, louder this time.

It turned out to be two Security guards and Terry Gattis.  They informed Ivan that he had to leave the Norwegian Epic cruise ship by 7:30 am by order of the Capitan.  Ivan asked why… but was just told to pack his stuff and get out by 7:30am. Nothing in writing..nothing from the captain..nothing official whatsoever.

We had to leave early anyway as we had a food tour book in Rome, so were planning to be off the boat by 7.30am anyway regardless of the fact that we were being kicked off the boat.

We were actually ready to leave by 7:15 pm, but then they started saying that we COUDLN’T leave as officials had to come. They blocked us in the room and kept Ivan prisoner there.

I went to tell Denise and Ken that we would meet them at the train station and there was trouble, but I didn’t go into detail.

Finally, left at 7:45 am.  We didn’t get anything in writing.  I bet they’ll claim that we voluntarily left the boat and there’s no record of it.  They also didn’t help us with flights which they said they would.

We got a shuttle to Civitavecchia and walked to the train station.  We missed our food tour because of the stupid commotion and ended taking the later train.

We got a hotel room near the train station at Hotel Hollywood.  They were very friendly to us.

Thankfully, Ivan rescheduled our food tour for later today.  We went to the Vatican to meet up with Ivan’s family and D.

St. Peter's Square

We walked around the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square.  I sent a postcard from the Vatican to my sister-in-law.

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I took pictures while Ivan tried looking for Denise, Ken, Neal and D.  He called them and they were waiting across the street.

Everybody popped into a souvenir shop that has a toilet and lots of Catholic related souvenirs.  I bought a few things for my family.

We said good-bye since they walked around Rome for hours and wanted to get back to the cruise ship.

Ivan thought it was a good idea to stop for an espresso since we were going on a food tour later.  The café we stopped in had cool décor.

Cool decor in the cafe

It also sold lots of books and old pictures.

Ivan and I stopped at a bar to have a glass of limonchello.  It’s fun to walk around the streets of Rome and find a nice place to have a drink or something to eat.

We walked to Piazza Farnese to meet up with our guide for the Rome Food Walking Tour which took us through Trastevere, Campo di Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto  Her name was Francesca.  The group consisted of just me and Ivan.

One of our first stops was at Ruggeri Delicatessen which is an old grocery store in Campo di Fiori.

Me with salami

I got to try the salami and we both tasted the bufala mozzarella and pecorino romano.  The mozzarella is so fresh.  It’s not refrigerated  and should be use within two days.

Our next stop was at a Forno which is a bakery.

Lots of things to try at the Forno

We tried the pizza bianca which is really popular.. which we’re not really sure why since it’s only bread with olive oil on it.  We found it really boring.  Ivan and I also tried bread with tomato on it.  I tried bread with mortadella which is ham that’s flavored with spices.  The mortadella was mild and tasted good.

Walked through the Jewish Ghetto which is now a luxurious place to live.

Fontana delle Tartarughe

It’s always sad to hear the stories about the Jews that were taken away because of the Nazis during World War II.  There are plaques in the road in front of the houses that states what happened to the people who lived there.

We stopped at a little unassuming restaurant for supplì and fried cod.

A tasty supplì

Supplì sounds like it would be soup but it’s actually a fried rice ball with tomato sauce.  Both tasted great.

Francesca was full of knowledge about food and the history of Rome.

A street in Trastevere

Our last neighborhood was Trastevere.  I love this part of Rome since it’s a beautiful area with lots of greenery.

Our second to last stop was Sette Oche in Altalena Reclamavano la Cena – whew! that’s a mouthful.  Ivan and I each got a bowl of Cacio e Pepe pasta.  It’s a dish with lots of Pecorino and pepper.

Me with tasty cacio e pepe pasta

It’s one of my favorite pastas in Italy.  Ivan and I enjoyed our pasta with a lovely glass of red.

It was off to a gelato shop called Fior di Luna.  Our guide told us that we could pick 2 or 3 flavors.  Ivan tried strawberry and chocolate while I got banana and dark chocolate.

Ivan with his gelato

The banana was so good – it tasted like I was eating a banana.  Yummy!  It was a sweet way to end this great tour.  I recommend this tour if you want to try lots of great Italian food.

We were so tired and stuffed, so we headed back to the hotel.

06/4/13
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Pompeii Legends

On June 4, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I got off the Norwegian Epic boat at 10 am in Naples, Italy.  The weather was overcast and wasn’t very nice.

We got a taxi to the train station.  Ivan didn’t realize that we got on the wrong train.  A lady who worked at the station said it was the right one.  Oh well.  We had to get off and wait for another train headed the right way.

We wanted to go to Sorrento to meet up with Ivan’s parents, but Ivan thought we should just head to Pompeii for lunch and possibly a tour of the ruins.

Lil Dave wanted to go climb around the ruins, so we set up a time to meet him later on.

Ivan was really hungry, so we went in search of a restaurant for lunch.  Ivan and I thought Pizza e Pasta looked good and it was perfect since that’s what we wanted!

Ivan eating healthy

Ivan and I got stuff from the pasta bar which was artichoke, aubergine, sundried tomatoes and fresh bufala mozzarella.  We also got a delicious Pizza Marinaio, which came with shrimp, mozzarella, lemon and rocket.  We also shared a Penne alla Siciliane which is a pasta with mozzarella, aubergine, Parmesan and basil.

We decided not to take a tour of Pompeii since we did a great tour the last time we were here.  Ivan and I walked around and bought a bunch of souvenirs.

Limonchello & melonchello souvenir bottles

We got a train to Naples and walked back to the Norwegian Epic cruise ship which was a mile away.

At 5 pm, we were back on the boat where we rested for awhile.

Ivan and I went to Denise and Ken’s room to talk about our day.  Neal and D joined us a few minutes later and told us about their day in Capri.

Later, Ivan, Neal, D and I went to see Legends in Concert.  The impersonator show featured Tom Jones, Adele and Tina Turner.  Tom Jones looked just like the real Tom Jones.  I’m not the biggest fan of Tom Jones, but he was good.  I really enjoyed Adele and Tina Turner.  Adele sang beautifully.  She did struggle with the high notes of the song Someone Like You.  I can definitely sing it better – I’ve sung it before in my singing class.  Tina Turner was really good and danced around a lot.

Ivan, Neal, D and I headed to the buffet to eat.  At the front of the buffet, a lady named Joannaline was telling us to ‘washy washy’ with the hand sanitizer.  Ivan said no and made a joke spitting in his hands.  Obviously, he didn’t spit in his heads.  But, Joannaline Marquez thought he did.

Ivan and I were trying to find food to eat.  An Indian maitr’d came over named Tanberg D’Souza saying that we must wash our hands since it’s mandatory.  Ivan and I both told him it’s not mandatory, it’s optional.  He said Ivan spit in his hands though.  He said he didn’t and it was a joke.  Tanberg asked for Ivan’s room number and he wouldn’t give it to him.  He said he was going to write him up.  I was trying to see his name tag, but was trying to hide it from me.  I said I want to know your name.  He told me he would give me his card.  Tanberg went on the phone to call somebody else.  He kept asking Ivan for his room number and he told him 12345.

Two security officers came over to our table.  A lady asked for Ivan’s room number since he supposedly spit in his hands.  He made up a number and gave it to them.  It was 12345.  Somehow, they believed it.  Neal left the table since he was embarrassed.  D remained at the table.

Another security officer named Terry Gattis came over and said to Ivan You were spitting in your hands.  Ivan told him it was a joke.  Terry asked Do you think that’s funny?  I said yes, but probably shouldn’t have.  D said it was a big misunderstanding…but, not to serious Terry.  He asked for Ivan’s room number and he said I gave it to you.  Ivan also said that he’s trying to eat.  Terry said you’re done eating and took his plate.  He told Ivan to come with them.  I thought it was hilarious and said Yah, you should put him in handcuffs too.  We got dirty looks from everybody around us.  I didn’t care.  D and I made funny waving movements with our arms to people showing that we didn’t care.

D and I ate and I figured it would all be alright in the end since it wasn’t that big a deal.

D came back and said she talked to Jill the cruise director.  She told her that my friend needs to talk to you because her husband was taken to the prison.  She said It’s not me you deal with.. she has to talk to the head Security guy.  She didn’t even give a name to D.  She’s not much help.

They took Ivan down to the security office and made him give them his room number. Ivan found it cool that he got to see the inside of a cell on a cruise ship, because usually these are out of bounds on behind the scene cruise ship tours.

Lil Dave had a fun day with a group of monkeys he met in Sorrento. He had fun with them on the cruise ship as well.

Ivan and I used the internet in the room before going to sleep.

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