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Topics - dvol

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1
Trip Reports / Europe Trip - Rome, Venice, Monte Carlo/Nice, Paris
« on: July 17, 2018, 11:51:24 AM »
As per request I will post all 4 parts of my trip report here and link to it in the individual forums.

Part 1 - Rome


This trip was booked spur of the moment (at least for me) about 2 weeks before we flew. I usually book my long trips months in advance. Being that I needed 4 seats in J on the same flight I was very limited in my options so I booked KLM: JFK-AMS-FCO through Flying Blue. I believe it was about ~60k + $250 per person (factor in that I transferred these points from Amex and received the 25% bonus so in effect it was really ~48k p/p).

Although it was a 777 with a 2-2-2 configuration I was pleasantly surprised by the comfortability and general condition of the seats and the business class cabin in general. The service was great and our FA couldn't have been more pleasant and helpful.





We ordered the kosher meal and while the appetizer portion was frozen solid:


The main was decent enough and did the job.


We landed a few minutes late in AMS and were strolling leisurely towards the lounge when we realized there was an enormous line by passport control. Thankfully the guards kept walking along the line and announcing "flights boarding before XX:XX time can come to this line" and after just 5 minutes we were directed to the much shorter so-called family line. This also meant we did not have to clear immigration in FCO airport which worked out very well since we had a tour scheduled shortly after we landed.

We stopped into the not too impressive KLM lounge for exactly 5 minutes (no time for pics) then had to walk what felt like the entire airport to get to our connecting gate. The flight was just over an hour and was the European "ghetto business" class where the middle seat of each business class row was skipped.

There is no UberX in Rome, only UberBlack or UberVan so we opted to take a regular taxi to our hotel, the Palazzo Naiadi (formerly the Boscolo Rome) which was a set rate of I think 50 or 55 euro and we managed to fit 4 people and 6 suitcases into one car. This was only possible because I had exchanged some Euro back in NY since the taxis do not accept credit cards.

We arrived to our hotel about 2PM, checked in and went straight to the Great Synagogue to meet David Walden from Rome for Jews for our 3 o'clock tour of the Jewish Ghetto. He had a bunch of groups going out at that time and luckily our tour was with David himself, and it was just the 4 of us with 1 other couple. The price was 250 Euro per couple, cash only.

The hotel was beautiful and the rooms were decent sized, especially for Europe. This was booked using 45k Marriot points(=15K SPG) + $110 per night and it was pretty centrally located, not more than a 10 minute taxi ride from almost everything we did.

Back to the tour:

David is very colorful and a great storyteller. We thoroughly enjoyed our semi-private tour with him and would highly recommend it to anyone. I won't walk you through the entire tour as there is enough info out there about all of these places, but here are some highlights, some of which I can name and some I haven't the faintest idea of:

The Great Synagogue:







In the streets of the ghetto:





The locals enjoying the scene:



Horsing around with David:



Our tour ended about 6:30 and we had some drinks at Bar Toto including their famous iced tea made with frozen lemonade. We then headed to Bella Carne for dinner down the street.

I'm not 100% sure if they offered non-Glatt meat as well, but as far as I could tell most (if not all) of the menu was Glatt. The food was very tasty while not blowing us away.

We had a 5 hour private tour scheduled for the next day at 1:30PM of the Vatican and Colosseum so we just went straight back to our hotel after dinner.

While I had inquired with both David and Micaela from Jewish Roma about Jewish tours of the Vatican and Colosseum, I was told that they did not do private tours in June and July as it is their busiest season. While we would have greatly preferred that, we chose a non-Jewish tour instead that did offer private tours.

After much research and finding that a lot of companies no longer had availability being high season and last minute, I booked through romeprivateguides.com and I have to say our guide was great (forgot her name), very informative and spoke English very well. The cost for the 5 hour tour was 546 Euro (350 for the tour and 49 entrance fees per person x 4). This included everything besides the taxi from the Vatican to the Colosseum.

Our tour started at the entrance to Vatican City at 1:30 and our guide was great about taking us only where we wanted to go and skipping what we didn't want to see. We also got to skip the enormous line circling the streets since we had booked the tour. I do have to say that our guide said something about making a reservation for 4 Euro and skipping the line as well. But I do recommend a guide since we saw all these other tourists wandering around looking completely lost and having no idea what they were seeing or where to go (audioguides and all- it's still confusing).

Once we finished Vatican city we hopped an Uber to the colosseum. We found it very fascinating and again really appreciated having a tour guide. She kept us enthralled and we were actually surprised when the 5 hours was up. I doubt this would have been the case if we were part of a much larger tour group and so that is the main reason we chose to do only a private tour.

None of us had really eaten yet that day besides for some snacks and we were starving by the time the tour was done. We took another Uber back to the Ghetto and went to Alice Pizza. They serve by weight and not slice and the pizza was incredible.



We then headed back to our hotel, had some drinks, freshened up and went back to the ghetto for dinner (like I said, just a short cab ride from our hotel).

This time we went to Su-Ghetto and I for one was too exhausted to remember what I ate but the food was very good and nobody went to sleep hungry.

The next morning we checked out at about 11 and had the hotel hold our suitcases so we could do some more touring on our last day. We walked from our hotel to the Trevi Fountain (about 15 minutes) and shopped for some trinkets in all the tourist traps along the way. The streets were packed and the sun was BAKING but it was a nice colorful and enjoyable stroll. All of the really expensive designer stores are in the blocks near the Trevi Fountain and we enjoyed browsing and even picked up a few things. Because the dollar is doing pretty ok against the Euro right now (I believe it was 1.16) we were able to get some great deals and still get the 12% tax refund as well.

By the time we were done we had to run back to our hotel, pick up our luggage and run to make our 6:15PM train to Venice. I had booked Treno Italo since it was cheaper for that day than Trenitalia although the timings were very similar. I booked the first class seats and the entire ride took about 4 hours. It was actually very enjoyable and the views were out of this world.



Next up:
Venice

2
Up In The Air / AA Offering
« on: February 12, 2018, 10:30:06 AM »
Djsk

3
Trip Reports / Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« on: August 24, 2017, 12:23:31 PM »
A few months ago I met a sales rep from a South African safari tour company who also did kosher safaris and the idea of a kosher safari stayed stuck in my head. Fast forward a few weeks and my husband and I decided that we would do a South Africa trip in August to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.

I sent an email to the tour company with the amount of time I wanted to spend there (6-7 days), and my dates (anytime in August). I knew absolutely nothing about SA, had never been and knew only 1 person that had visited there. The tour company was fantastic in helping me plan this trip and guided me every step of the way and answered all of my many, many questions. Could this trip have cost me less if I booked everything myself (in which case I could have used points for some of it)? Yes, although without points I donít think the savings would have been too significant. Would I book it through the tour company again and/or recommend others to do so? Definitely. They took care of everything from the domestic flights in SA, to the tour guides, to the kosher food and more. Due to certain circumstances we were able to splurge on this vacation a bit and so booking this way was completely worth it for us, but to each their own.

After I got a few prospective dates from the tour company I had to see which dates would work best with flights that I could find since I did want to book that solely with points. Due to my husbandís work we could not be gone for more than 1 Monday and because we were leaving 2 kids behind we didnít want to be away more than 1 Shabbos or too many days in general. I searched Alaska for availability in F on Emirates and found availability JFK-DXB-CPT on August 9. I transferred 185K SPG points (in 3 increments) to JAL since 115k JAL points were needed per person. I did the first transfer on a Monday and by Friday morning all 3 transfers showed up in my JAL account. There was enough availability on Alaska that I wasnít worried it would disappear in those few days, and worst case I would book alternate dates since I hadnít confirmed the rest of my trip yet. For the return I was not seeing anything on Alaska for Emirates in First on any of my desired return dates. Being that one-way fares on EK in F from SA were pretty decent I ended up booking my return with Amex points and getting 50% back (this was in May). I booked a flight leaving Johannesburg on Wednesday evening August 17 with an 18.5 hour layover in Dubai and arriving back to JFK Friday at 9AM.

All pictures were taken by my iPhone 7 and Iíll be the first to say they are probably awful. My husband did take his GoPro Hero 5 (with Karma grip) but we havenít even looked at all the hours of footage and pictures on there yet.

JFK-DXB-CPT

Since my departure was booked with JAL miles we were not eligible for the chauffeur pickup. We got to the airport about 2.5 hours before our flight time (which was 11:20AM), checked in at the dedicated First desk and headed straight to the Emirates lounge.



While it was a nice lounge it wasnít extraordinary but we did love the fact that we boarded directly from the lounge. This was our first flight on Emirates and what an experience. We boarded and were immediately greeted by the FAs and shown how everything worked and given pajamas and Bulgari amenity kit:



 


We had seats 3E and 3F:



We were immediately offered drinks, snacks, newspapers, magazines and of course champagne and the FAs came through with Arabic coffee and dates. The purser also came by to introduce himself.
There was only 1 more passenger in F on this flight and so after takeoff we had them make up the window seats in row 3 on either side of us as beds and kept the 2 in the middle as seats.



I have of course seen countless photos and reviews of EK F but nothing comes close to the real deal. It was an amazing experience and was almost like a trip of its own.
Being that this was the A380 equipped with showers, we scheduled our showers for 1.5 hours before landing. Since there are 2 we were able to schedule them for the same time and the FA made sure with us that she had our permission to wake us then if we were sleeping.
We were floored by the size and elegance of the bathroom and it was a real treat and unlike any other airplane bathroom Iíve seen before:



And of course, thereís nothing like a shower at 35,000 feet:



The bar/snack area for first class:



 


The bar for business and first located behind business class:





While we ordered kosher meals we didnít end up asking for it as we had brought along sandwiches and that was good enough for us.
Neither of us could sleep much between the excitement and it being in middle of the day for us but the 11+ hours flew by (pun intended :P) and before we knew it we were landing in Dubai. Our connection time was just under 3 hours (They did have a 1 hour connection but I could only find business availability on that flight). We headed straight to the first class lounge which was truly impressive and MASSIVE. It stretches the entire length of the terminal and was easy to get lost in. We scheduled our complimentary 15 minute massages and had some coffee in the lounge while we waited. Besides the numerous bars and snack spreads in the lounge there is a complimentary restaurant inside as well as a pretty large smoking area:



Unfortunately we could not board directly from the lounge for our flight to Cape Town so after a while we made our way down to the gate. They shuttled all passengers to the plane (a surprisingly long almost 10 minute ride) and they had separate shuttle buses for each cabin. While I didnít get to see the economy or business shuttles these were the seats on the First class shuttle:



Our 777 waiting to take us to Cape Town: (I was scolded for taking photos)



This was an older 777 and while the seats themselves were identical to those on the A380, the screen was smaller and not a touch-screen and the remotes were much more outdated. The bathrooms were regular airplane bathrooms and there was no star lighting on the ceilings. There were only 8 seats in first class and besides for 1 empty seat, all were taken. While we were originally seated in 1E and 1F in the middle, my TV wasnít working so I was moved to the only open seat available which was 1A. This was fine since by that point we were exhausted and slept through most of the (pretty bumpy) flight.

Next up: 3 Days in Cape Town


4
Up In The Air / Delta Comfort +
« on: May 17, 2016, 03:18:52 PM »
As of March 16 Delta has started selling Economy+ as a completely separate separate cabin (W) class. It's not possible to just purchase it as an add-on any longer.

http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/11/15/delta-comfort-plus-changes/

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Up In The Air / Biz SLC-NYC
« on: March 27, 2016, 07:35:26 PM »
Which would be the best airline to fly in biz from SLC-NYC? Afaik nobody flies that route with lie-flat seats, which airline has at least decent seats? Just flew DL EWR-SLC on the Airbus A320 and it was disaster.

6
Deals/Deal Requests / Pro-Form 14.0 RE Elliptical $349
« on: September 10, 2015, 06:45:30 PM »
Saw this a while ago $399 now at $349

http://m.sportsauthority.com/products/13185693

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Up In The Air / Delta JFK-TLV "V" pricing $1 base fare
« on: August 25, 2015, 01:38:44 PM »
Bookable on Expedia.

Pricing $1 base fare + tax = $696 - only works when V fare is available, not showing accurately in ITA Matrix.

Example dates: Oct. 31-Nov. 8

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Deals/Deal Requests / Baby Formula coupon
« on: July 21, 2015, 01:02:56 PM »
http://abcformulaexpress.com/

I use this website and I find their prices are usually same or cheaper than Amazon - on my formula at least: Enfamil Reguline is $24.99 on their site and $25.98 on Amazon: http://abcformulaexpress.com/enfamil-reguline-infant-powder-20-4-oz.html

I got an email from them today that they're having $10 off $100+ with coupon code "summersale"

(ETA to add website)

9
Trip Reports / dvol's Maui and Oahu TR
« on: August 27, 2014, 12:10:02 PM »
Trip Report - a bit long:

8/17 -checked our bags all the way through to JFK-LAX-HNL-OGG (HNL-OGG on HA) without an issue - the rep even checked the interline baggage agreement first although according to HA's website they no longer allow this.
JFK-LAX lie-flat beds in biz and we were part of the 15 religious jews on the flight :). LAX-HNL in first- sat directly behind Tim Gunn. Had a 2 hour layover in HNL and then finally arrived to OGG. Until we got our rental car and got to our hotel was about 7PM.

Andaz
The service here is just great and the hotel itself is stunning. Got upgraded to an ocean view room due to me emailing the hotel in advance and telling them it was our wedding anniversary (it was). We had 2 suitcases with frozen meals (we were 4 people in total) and they took it down for us to their special "kosher storage" freezer right away, unpacked it for us, and brought back up our suitcases. We were told that any time we wanted a meal to just call down and let them know which one we wanted - they were labeled - and they would bring it up for us. I had reserved microwaves and fridges in both rooms before we came and they were already prepared, we also had a toaster delivered from Amazon to the hotel 2 days before we arrived and they had that brought up right away as well. Just one time when we ordered food were we mistakenly charged "delivery and heating fee" of about $100, but that was corrected as soon as we called down.
We just got to our rooms and passed out, as by the time we were settled was past 10PM.

8/18-woke up at 6AM (still on NY time where it was 12PM) and took a stroll on the beach. Didn't do much of anything except relax by the beach and pool and stop by Walmart since we were still a bit jetlagged. In the evening we drove to Lahaina for the Warren & Annabelle's magic show. I had called and had been told they were full that evening but then received a call back saying they were adding a row in the back with "extra legroom" if we were interested. I wouldn't recommend it since it sort of felt like the chairs were throwing us off although the view to the stage was good. The show was entertaining and funny and we really enjoyed it. We were too exhausted after the show to explore Lahaina so we just headed back to the hotel.

8/19 - our plan was to start the Road to Hana at 8AM. That turned into about 10:30 being that we're from NY :). We had 2 door and 4 door Jeep Wrangler converteribles which was great for the drive and made several stops including Ching's Pond, some waterfalls, etc. Then we stopped by the Black Sand Beach where we took a dip and checked out the lava cave down there. We then bbq'ed in the park and by the time we were done it was almost 7PM so we were advised by a local there not to head back to Wailea by taking the road all the way around but to head back the way we came.

8/20 - We rented snorkel gear from the Andaz - $10/daily for a set - and went snorkeling on the beach right in front of the hotel. Because it was already about 10AM the water was a little wild but we still got to enjoy the snorkeling for a bit.
We spoke with the Andaz concierge and booked an Express snorkel tour at the Molokini Crater for 8/21 in the morning. We then tried to book massages at the Andaz spa but they were completely booked until Friday, when we were departing. So thanks to Maui Revealed we decided to check out the Spa Grande at the Waldorf Astoria down the road. They had the "Ohana Special" listed on their website good until 8/31 where for $135 you could get 1 of several treatments plus 1 hour access to their facilities and a 5 minute body scrub. The service was great, the spa was fabulous and we were able to use the facilities both before and after our treatments for as long as we preferred, no mention of the 1 hour limit. When we were done we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed the Andaz pool and beach.

8/21 - We left our hotel at 5:30AM and drove to the Makena Resort about 10 minutes away for the 6AM checkin with Kai Kanani. We departed at 6:30AM and headed to the Molokini Crater where we were 1 of only 3 boats. The captain told us that during the day there can be about 2,000 people in the Crater which is why they do such an early tour for those that want to go when it isn't so crowded. They served a light continental breakfast of coffee, fruit and pastries and then we went snorkeling. It was raining lightly but it didn't affect the snorkeling in any way and in fact the water was quite calm. The snorkeling there was beautiful and we got about 40 minutes to explore. I then proceeded to get extremely seasick - I'm not a fan of boats and try to avoid them when I can - and spent our next stop at Turtle Town trying to pretend I was back on solid ground. I was able to see some of the turtles from the boat though and the rest of the snorkelers seemed to be enjoying it. All in all, a pleasant crew, a nice clean boat and would definitely recommend it if you can get yourself out of bed that early.
We went back to the hotel to change and recharge, and then headed out to Haleakala. The drive was stunning and we went up to the Leleiwi Lookout where we got some great pictures and saw some amazing views. We decided to head back down after that since there was still about 2 hours to go until sunset and we didn't feel like waiting around for it. Due to valet recommendations, we stopped in Makawao and Pai'a on our way back to the hotel where they had a bunch of cute little shops but they all close at 6PM except for the food places so that was a bit of a disappointment. We stopped into Mana Foods in Pai'a to stock up on some kosher snacks and then went back to our hotel.

8/22 - We took the 7AM complimentary outrigger canoe tour (had booked it on 8/18) and it was really fun. We saw a bunch of splashing a few feet from our boat which our guide told us was a shark. We thought he was kidding but when we returned he told the beach crew and they all got super excited and said it was very rare to see. All in all, it was definitely worth the price  ;D. We then spent an hour by the pool and then packed up and headed to the airport for our flight to HNL.
The flight was delayed a bit so we got to HNL a little later than planned. We had arranged a pickup for some Shabbos food from Oahu Kosher and so we went to the Ala Moana Hotel to pick it up and then started our drive to Ko'olina where we were staying. The traffic is horrendous as we were told they were widening the highway so there was construction. We stopped into Walmart near Ko'olina to pick up some essentials and then made it to our hotel about 30 min before shabbos.

Marriott Ko'olina Beach Club
Besides for Oahu being a bit of a letdown after Maui, we were in for a bit of a disappointment with the hotel as well. Talk about a downgrade, especially coming from the spectacular Andaz. Ko'olina seems to be a gated community and has several hotels, a small shops/food court and a golf course. The Marriott hotel itself looks pretty dated although the grounds are nice. We were told that most of the people staying there were owners, since this is a Marriott vacation club and perhaps that is why the service is what it was - subpar and not too friendly. At check-in each guest gets a wristband, a room card and a towel card. There is no service at the pools or beach, meaning you need to get your own towels from the towel huts and set up your own beach chairs. The towel card is traded in at the towel huts for 2 towels and is returned when you return the 2 towels. Failure to return the towel card at check-out is a penalty of $25 per card.
We had a "mountain view" 2 bedroom villa with a full kitchen and a living room area with a view of the gorgeous parking lot from the 4th floor. We were right next to the stairs which was convenient for Shabbos since the pool and beach area is accessed by the 3rd floor. The beach is actually a lagoon and is extremely calm, so it was good for swimming and was full of little kids with tubes. They have 3 pools and 7 jacuzzis but all but 1 of the pools were packed with kids so it's definitely more of a family-friendly place. There is a 1.5 mile boardwalk along the 4 lagoons that you can walk which is behind 3 or 4 hotels including Aulani, a Disney hotel which looks new and very nice and the JW Marriott. There is also a free shuttle that takes you around Ko'olina every half hour.

8/23 - Shabbos.

8/24 - Went to use the pools some and then headed to Waikiki. The valet told us to go to the zoo and park there - $1/hr and that is where the strip seems to start. We stood for a while watching the surfers - there was even a surfing contest going on at the time - and then strolled the shops. We went to the flea market on Duke's - total waste of time, all the stuff was overpriced and obviously made in China. We did come across a "Jerusalem falafel stand" that said he was kosher but had no supervision and that his kitchen was in the Chabad house. We stopped by Chabad on our way to the airport and they told us he indeed uses only kosher food and rents a kitchen from them but with no hashgacha we weren't going to eat there.

8/25 - checkout is at 10AM, no exceptions according to their policy. They hold your bags for you and allow use of the resort and all of its facilities on the day of checkout. But I slipped the maid a $20 bill and we didn't see her until 12. We decided to spend the next few hours at the spa and went to the JW Marriott down the road since our hotel didn't have a spa on-site. The spa is in a small building right next to the hotel and is quite old - decrepit comes to mind. One of the massage therapists told us that Marriott's contract runs out at the end of the year at this location and they were closing down and possibly reopening in the future as a Ritz. After we were done we made our way to the airport and flew back HNL-LAX-JFK in first and biz.

All in all, a spectacular trip and one we'll remember for a long time.

10
General Discussion / Microtia Surgery by Elky Kamins
« on: December 17, 2013, 11:35:04 AM »
This just broke my heart.

http://www.gofundme.com/5qt5bk

11
Seems to be a glitch on lord & taylor's site - putting in the 25% off "friends" code takes off 65% instead. Total is $52.50 down from $150.

Seems to be the only item so far this is working on.

Must add 2 to get free shipping as it's not shoprunner eligible and free shipping is only over $99

http://www.lordandtaylor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lord-and-taylor/mia-2-sonic-skin-cleansing-system-in-pink-0218-20401--1

12
Deals/Deal Requests / Nook HD " $99-$179
« on: December 09, 2013, 12:11:38 PM »
http://www.booksamillion.com/nook?id=5866082351057

For the 7":

8gb: oos

16gb: $99 (down from $149)

2.99 for standard shipping. Free if your are a club member.

For the 9":

16gb: $149 (down from $269)

32gb: $179 (down from $299)

13
Deals/Deal Requests / Le Creuset Dutch oven gift set
« on: December 08, 2013, 04:42:23 PM »
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 4-1/2-Quart Round Dutch Oven Gift Set, Cherry
Only $169 on amazon as lightning deal. Other colors for $175

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B009HL3I1Q


14
Deals/Deal Requests / Macy's 25% friends and family sale
« on: December 03, 2013, 10:17:43 AM »
Got this email today:

Macy's.com   
Online today & in-store tomorrow: extra 25% off, even on your favorite brandsóan exclusive offer! promo code: FRIEND

TO GET FREE SHIPPING: Place $99 of qualifying items in shopping bag. No promo code. No end date. The minimum purchase amount for Free Shipping does not include gift wrap charges, purchases of gift cards or tax. Offer applies to Standard Shipping to one location and may be applied to Premium or Overnight Shipping for an upgrade fee. Free Shipping does not apply to furniture, mattresses, purchases in Macy's stores, prior purchases or international orders. Due to size and/or weight, certain items bear a shipping surcharge, which will still apply. TO GET EXTRA SAVINGS: Place qualifying items in shopping bag, then enter promo code FRIEND in the box labeled ďHAVE A PROMO CODE?Ē and click ďAPPLY.Ē You can enter the promo code in your shopping bag at any time before or during checkout. Only one promo code may be used per transaction. EXTRA 25% OFF reg., sale & clearance prices, with exclusions listed. EXTRA 10% OFF electrics, electronics, furniture, mattresses and rugs, with exclusions listed. EXCLUDES: Beats by Dr. Dre, Dallas Cowboys, Dyson (online only), Karastan Rugs, Le Creuset, Maui Jim, Montblanc, New Era, NFL Gear, Oakley, TAG Heuer, Tempur-Pedic, Wusthof, menís & womenís athletic footwear, gourmet food & candy, kidsí shoes, baby gear, cosmetics, fragrances and toys. Not valid with other passes or discount offers. Not valid on Deals of the Day, Everyday Values, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, Kidsí Buy More Save More Styles, prior purchases or gift wrap. Discount code valid online December 3-9, 2013; online & in-store December 4-9, 2013.

15
RECARO ProRIDE Convertible Car Seat, Blue Opal $219.99 + $60 amazon gift card

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003IT4YAM/?tag=cl03f-20

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