Andi’s AB”Sees” with Lauren Smith

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Next Destination: Russia (Fingers Crossed)

Ever have a place that just calls to you? The one that whispers your name and tempts you to buy that plane ticket or book that hotel? Russia is that place for me. I’m not even sure why Russia has snuck to the top of my “where to visit” list. (As far as I know, I have no connection to it ancestry-wise.) But I’ve since stopped questioning it and jumped into research. (Hello! Lawyer and writer here!) So today I’m sharing some of the spots I’d love to visit there when I have a chance:

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  • The Winter Palace – Think of that famous scene in the animated movie Anastasia where the adolescent grand duchess is dancing in the ball. The opulence, the decadence, the glowing lights and laughter of the beautiful dancers. It’s all part of the tragic story of a fallen empire and a family that was brutally slain at the beginning of a social revolution. (http://stpetersburg-guide.com/history/winterpalace.shtml)

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  • Yekaterinburg – This is apparently a very quirky town and they have a huge monument in the ground that is essentially a keyboard — like the kind you find on your computer. I’m not kidding! (http://snarkynomad.com/places-to-visit-in-russia/)

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  • Basil’s Cathedral – The iconic association of Russia worldwide is always linked to the beautiful onion style domed architecture. I find it fascinating and beautiful and would love to see it up close. There’s no better place to do that than St. Basil’s. Urban folklore says that Ivan the Terrible, who commissioned it to be built, had the builders blinded so they could not build anything as beautiful ever again! (http://www.moscow.info/red-square/st-basils-cathedral.aspx)
The Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum
  • Hermitage Museum – It is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world (and technically part of the Winter Palace) and founded by Catherine the Great — one of my favorite historical figures. (I actually dressed up as Catherine in my high school for a historical roundtable discussion.) The Hermitage is technically part of the Winter Palace but is the museum portion. (http://www.bestourism.com/items/di/6914?title=The-Hermitage-Museum&b=248)

 

I’m sure part of my fascination with Russia has to do with its rich history. The mysticism! The tragic fallen empires! The beautiful sights! They all offer so much to someone like me —  who lives and breathes the stories of the past. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Russia before, be sure to leave me some suggestions!

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Lauren Smith is a romance author, living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her series include The League of Rogues from Samhain Publishing, and The Surrender and Her British Stepbrother series from Grand Central Publishing. She has also written for Heroes & Heartbreakers Blog, The Daily Quirk, and Bustle. For more (including cute animal photos), follow Lauren on Twitter @LSmithAuthor or laurensmithbooks.com.

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Andi’s “AB”Sees” the World – Sarah (2)

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Hey guys, it’s me again! Sarah from What Sarah Read! I’m back with another guest post for Andi’s AB “Sees The World” feature. Last time I talked about my bookish bucket listbut today I wanted to share a little bit about one of my very favorite travel destinations!

DISNEY WORLD!!!

There is so much I love about “The Happiest Place on Earth” and I’m so excited to talk about all of my favorite rides, sights, sounds and bites! Let’s start off with The Magic Kingdom! It’s a sentimental favorite for my husband and I. We love the classic Disney feel to it and it’s always the first park we go to when we arrive to Disney World. There’s nothing better than the feeling of walking through those gates, hearing the classic Disney music and looking down Main Street USA to Cinderella’s Castle. Ummm…no….YOU get teary eyed every time!

Disney - Welcome
Source: disneytouristblog.com

Our favorite rides at this park are old-school Disney classics! They are original to Disneyland Park out in California and I am so happy they brought these favorites out to Orlando when they first built the parks. Splash Mountain is such a blast with all of the funny scenes throughout, and who doesn’t love a big plunge at the end with the very real chance of getting completely soaked? I’m a total diva and suit myself up in a poncho before we hop in our log. As much as I LOVE this ride I really don’t want to walk around the park afterwards soaked from head to toe. Out of all the parks in all of Disney World our absolute favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean. Don’t ask me why cause I don’t really have a reason for you. It’s probably because it’s the first ride we went on together during our first trip to Disney together, but we always rides it at least twice a day when we’re at the Magic Kingdom.

MK FAVE RIDES
Source: disneytouristblog.com

Animal Kingdom is another favorite park of mine because they really do an amazing job of immersing you into the experience. The theming is top notch…I mean would you look at this view!

AK
Source: disneytouristblog.com

My favorite rides at Animal Kingdom are Expedition Everest and Primeval Whirl. Expedition Everest is this amazing roller coaster that takes you through the Himalayan Mountains on a broken track and the mythical Yeti to attack! It’s a fast-paced and fun roller coaster with some of the best ride theming in all of Disney World. My other favorite ride is Primeval Whirl, and although it may be classified as a “kiddie coaster” this ride makes laugh so hard with all of its sudden twists and turns. Both coasters are a MUST ride for my hubby and I when at The Animal Kingdom.

AK FAVE RIDES
Source: disneytouristblog.com

Next up we have Disney’s Hollywood Studios! This park is like stepping onto an old Hollywood movie set. I love all the neon lights and art deco architecture. It’s my husband’s favorite park theme-wise and I must say, it’s absolutely gorgeous at night.

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Source: disneytouristblog.com

My very favorite THRILL ride in all of Disney is here as well…Tower of Terror! I love to hate this ride! When I get into that elevator car I seriously start to freak out and wonder what the heck I was thinking. But the second I hear that bell *DING* and the elevator drops I remember why I love the ride so much. You’ve also got Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at this park and if you love indoor coasters this one is for you. Plus, it’s all themed to the music of Aerosmith and this 80’s kid loves that!

DHS FAVE RIDES
Source: disneytouristblog.com

Ohhh Epcot, I mean, I do love you. You’re in Disney after all! I just wish you had some newer and more relevant attractions. Out of all four parks Epcot would have to be my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy my time spent there but the theming really doesn’t do it for me and none of the rides really get me overly excited.

Epcot
Source: disneytouristblog.com

What I DO love about Epcot is The World Showcase! I am a wanderlust at heart and have such an appreciation for different cultures, varieties of food and unique architecture, so World Showcase is like someone dropped me in the middle of travel bug heaven. I can get a margarita at the Mexico pavilion, a glass of wine in Paris, or a stein of beer in Germany! Are you sensing a theme here? The World Showcase at Epcot is such a beautiful area to stroll through and take in all the sights. Stopping at each pavilion to get a taste or a sip of something that each country is known for. Quick bit of advice, it’s better to go in the evening when the temperatures are cooler and you can check out the amazing fireworks show that takes place out on the lagoon.

WORLD SHOWCASE COLLAGE
Source: disneytouristblog.com

So, there you have it! Some pretty great reasons why I love Disney World so much! Be sure to check out the hashtag #sarahsdisneyvacay on Instagram for lots of photos from my latest trip back in February! I just can’t help but take a million photos when I’m surrounded by the happiness and magic that is Disney World! Here’s some of my faves…

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Thanks so much for having me again, Andi! I always love to find an excuse to tell people all about my love for Disney World. If you’re planning an upcoming trip and need some tips, tricks, or help with planning, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter!

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age,
dreams are forever.”

– Walt Disney

CLOSING
Source: disneytouristblog.com

All of the gorgeous professional photos in this post are courtesy of the fabulously talented Tom Bricker of the Disney Tourist Blog!

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Thanks Sarah for guest posting!

You can find her here:
Blog | Twitter Instagram

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Andi’s AB”Sees” the World – Sydney

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My Seven Wonders of the World

Okay, so most people know what the Seven Wonders of the World are (and I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). They’re really fancy and cool places that Dudes from History have deemed important enough to call the “Seven Wonders.”

But my Seven Wonders are not lighthouses or temples or humongous statues. Nope.

Andi asked for some people to shoot her travel post ideas for while she’s on vacation (which was an awesome idea), and I knew immediately what I was going to talk about: my Seven Wonders of the World. Basically just really cool and interesting places to me that I can’t wait to visit in my lifetime!

1. The Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, New York

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Okay so I’m pretty sure everyone talks about Strand Bookstore (usually just called The Strand). If you’re a bookworm, I’m pretty sure you know all about The Strand. For one thing: it’s old. 86! Maybe it’s because I live in Vegas and the oldest bookstore here is like 18 years old, but 86 years and counting seems like a lot.

Second, it’s located in Manhattan aka New York City aka My Favorite City Ever. Seriously, I love New York. I love cities and I love its history and I love all of its hustle and bustle and I even like the traffic. So naturally I’m a little biased about The Strand; I just would love to go to a NYC bookstore and think I might just put it on my list next time I’m visiting the East Coast.

THEY HAVE TWO AND A HALF MILLION BOOKS. EIGHTEEN MILES. OF. BOOKS. Please, someone hold me. I could spend a year in this bookstore. They have rare books, used books, new books… it’s also three and a half floors so sign me up.

2. Barnes & Noble at The Grove, CA

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Clearly bookstores with more than one story are my weakness but oh my god this bookstore. I work for Barnes & Noble, live one state next to California, and have somehow NEVER been to the B&N at The Grove, which is where pretty much every author goes on tour (especially if they’re “big”). It’s just The Place for book signings it seems, right next to anywhere in NYC. I’ve added it to this list because I’m pretty sure it’s the most impressive Barnes & Noble I have ever seen (not including the ones in NYC which are also impressive). I’m just so in love with this one and can’t wait to add it to my California travel plans!

(Side note: I was in California in 2015 and almost went to the Grove B&N but was foiled by not being the driver and being roughly an hour from it. Boooo.)

3. HarperCollins’s Publishing Office

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Okay so I’m pretty sure everyone knows about the infamous HarperCollins publishing office: modern, sleek, a wall of books in cool-looking shelves, full of natural lighting… What more could there be? It’s just unbelievably gorgeous to me!

Since I want to get into publishing I obviously ogle publishing houses (Scholastic is another one), but I think HarperCollins might be one of my favorites. I just love the way it looks when you walk in, so fresh and clean and open. That’s one of my favorite atmospheres! I’m not a fan of dark offices or small spaces, so walking in to something that is so open and bright is awesome (@HarperCollins hire me).

4. Buckingham Palace

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Talk about a 180! I went from books to Buckingham Palace… but hey, these are my Sever Wonders. 😉 That being said: BUCKINGHAM PALACE. I’m almost positive you can’t actually go in the Palace (someone please tell me I’m wrong), but just standing outside it would be awesome. There’s so much history here! Kings and queens, princes, royalty, wars… England is just a really cool and interesting place to me.

I threw this on my Seven Wonders list for a very particular reason: I’m a huge England fan. I just love it. Obviously their accents, but I love their cities, too. England is hundreds of years older than America which means a lot of their architecture, cities, and buildings scream “history” at their visitors and residents. I love this (as a closet history buff).

5. BookExpo America

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Okay, so here’s why I’m throwing BookExpo America (BEA) on this list:
– IT’S HUGE. Literally the #1 pub hub (that’s what I like to call these conventions) around. ALA probably comes in second to BEA, which is one of the biggest conventions I’ve seen besides San Diego Comic Con. It is just made for book lovers, industry professionals, and authors. I know BEA has a lot of “craziness” that comes along with it, but as someone looking to come at it from a more professional side it’s the dream place.
– I won’t be able to go for some time! I live in Nevada which means all of BEA’s destinations are far. Whether it’s in NYC or Chicago it’s one hell of a trip for me. It’s also during my university’s finals week, which presents some scheduling issues. But I’m crossing my fingers for the possibility of a trip in the future!

Maybe BEA isn’t one of your Seven Wonders, but I can definitely say that as a bookworm this place is Heaven. Oh, look, there’s HarperCollins again. (@HarperCollins hire me)

6. Highclere Castle

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Bam! Let’s throw another random one at you! Highclere Castle, or, if you’re familiar with Brit dramas, Downton Abbey’s biggest set piece. Owned by the Countess of Carnavron (okay is that a cool name or what?), Highclere Castle is also where Downton Abbey is filmed! And isn’t it gorgeous? What I’d give to live in a place like that…

I put this one on my Seven Wonders list for a few reasons, but the first is that it’s a place of serious history. A lot of what happens in Downton Abbey really did happen in a lot of family homes like Highclere! Royalty and “hierarchy” aren’t as honored anymore in England, but counts and countesses are still looked up to as interesting figures. I’d just love to take a look inside and get to see every room and floor (though I doubt that’ll happen since someone, y’know, lives there).

7. The Colosseum in Rome

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Was I the only one SUPER PISSED when those two girls drew on the Colosseum walls and then took a selfie? No? Yes? Whatever. I WAS PISSED. Why? Because I love Ancient Rome. (I’m currently powering through SPQR by Mary Beard, which is a history of Ancient Rome and really cool if you’re looking for historical nonfiction!) I’m just fascinated with their mythology, their rulers, and the brutality of their military. Sorry, but the Romans are really freaking fascinating.

I’d love to just go to Rome itself, but I would spend hours walking around the Colosseum, learning as much about its history as I possibly could. Ancient historical monuments such as these are so important to our history, and I think it’s amazing that it is still standing after two thousand years. That’s amazing to me.

There are only three buildings on this list, but I feel that the Colosseum is #7 and is the one thing I’d love to see the most. You can visit bookstores a hundred times, or see Buckingham Palace every time you visit England, but I feel that the Colosseum holds a seriously true amount of history in it that will be a travesty to lose if it ever comes to that. I really hope I can see it in my lifetime!

Alright, that’s it for my Seven Wonders! I had such a fun time compiling all of these different places, each one of them more interesting to me than the last. They’re not in any particular order or rank, and at the end of the day if I could go see them all I’d have lived a really cool life, I think. Maybe to the “average” person bookstores don’t belong on a Seven Wonders list, but to me they’re amazing, wonderful things, and I want to see as many unique ones as I possibly can! (Others would also include Books of Wonder, Anderson’s Bookshop, and Waterstones.)

Thank you so much to Andi for having me, and I hope you enjoyed my Seven Wonders! Do you have any “Seven Wonders”? They can be anything that wows you! (I mean, I put a convention so…really, anything is possible at this point.)

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Thanks Sydney for guest posting!

You can find her here:
Goodreads | Twitter

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Andi’s AB”Sees” the World – Heidi

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One of my favorite things to do besides reading is visiting new places. Often the places I want to see are places I’ve read about. It only made sense to combine these two passions.

A former coworker and I have started doing just that. Nearly every summer we plan and take a vacation based on books or authors we’ve loved. Here are a few we’ve done:

Prince Edward Island:

heidi1Anne of Green Gables has long been a favorite story of mine. It was always a dream of mine to visit Prince Edward Island. In 2011, I was able to live out that dream. It was everything I hoped it’d be and more. It seemed that everywhere we turned there was something Anne or L.M. Montgomery related! heidi2From visiting Avonlea to seeing Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, this trip was magical.Seriously. PEI is one of my very favorite places I’ve ever visited.

Indiana:

heidiporterI don’t know about you but when I think “bookish destinations,” Indiana isn’t a place that comes to mind. However, my aunt got me hooked on Gene Stratton Porter books and I fell in love with her descriptions of the Limberlost, a wetland that once covered 13,000 acres of Indiana. The Limberlost was drained but I wanted to visit Gene’s homes and learn more about her.

heidifunkybonesOn the way we stopped in Indianapolis so I could visit Funky Bones from The Fault in Our Stars. We also stopped by the James Whitcomb Riley Home. He was a contemporary of Mark Twain. Also, he’s mentioned in All the Bright Places!

heidiJRFinally, on the way home we stopped in Illinois at Marion E. Wade Center Museum. This building is part of Wheaton College. Among other artifacts, it contains the wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’ childhood and the desk that J.R.R. Tolkien used to write and illustrate The Hobbit.

Massachusetts/Connecticut:

heidimarkOur main reason for going here was The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. My co-worker was an 8th grade literature and language teacher. She taught The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for many years. She’d visited Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri, but wanted to see this house as well. Of course we also hit up the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center since it’s next door.

heidimakeI was most excited about the Louisa May Alcott Orchard House. I love Little Women and her other novels. It was so interesting to learn more about her and her family. When back in Boston we did a lot of history related activities but of course we also stopped by Boston’s Public Garden to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue.

Spring Green, Wisconsin:

heidihouseLast year we stayed a little closer to home! There’s a lovely little town called Spring Green about an hour from my house. They have the American Players Theater, a wonderful outdoor theater I love to visit. Last summer the performed Pride and Prejudice so obviously we had to go. We also hit up The House on the Rock which is mentioned in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I cannot even begin to describe The House on the Rock. It’s an oddity that I’m thrilled is so close to home. No matter how many times I go there always seems to be something I didn’t see the time before.

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Thanks Heidi for guest posting!

Heidi blogs at YA Bibliophile. You can also find her on twitter (she’s somewhat addicted) and Instagram (she’s trying to get better at using it!)

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Andi’s AB”Sees” the World – Stefani

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Bookish places in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is my heart’s home – it’s the place that I long to be every single day, the place that I never stop thinking of, the place I am homesick for every day and I’m not even from there. The moment I stepped off the plane the first time I visited, I felt at home. I felt like I belonged. I’ve been three times total and lived there, collectively, for 15 months, and I love this city with every cell in my body.

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One of the best parts of Edinburgh (and Scotland), to me, is how literary it is. Edinburgh was actually the very first UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) City of Literature – a designation given to cities around the world known for fostering a diverse, beautiful literary scene (and many more criteria, but that’s the main thing). I completely fell in love with Scotland’s literary history, and I am going to share some of my favorite literary-esque places in Edinburgh (I could do several more about literary places around Scotland, so I’ll just stick to Edinburgh for this one).

The Scott Monument

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The Scott Monument – the monument to honor Sir Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, and The Heart of Midlothian – is the largest monument to a writer in the world. It was designed in a Victorian Gothic theme and was built using a stone that quickly begins to look old and antique when it’s rained on. It’s so freaking cool looking, and every time I was in Edinburgh, I took a picture of it. I probably have hundreds of pictures of this monument. You can actually climb to the top of the monument (there are super small staircases within those columns) and the views from the top are amazing.

Elephant House

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The Elephant House is called “The Birthplace of Harry Potter” – it’s the café where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the first book and parts of the others. You can actually sit near the window and see the beautiful castle through it. The bathroom is COVERED in Harry Potter-themed graffiti (check out this article about it) and I even got to leave my own little message the day before I moved home. Can you guess what I wrote? 😉 ALSO, if you’re looking for good coffee and delicious shortbread, the Elephant House has you covered.

Oxford Bar

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The Oxford Bar is the favored bar of one of my favorite Scottish book characters – John Rebus, the inspector featured in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series – and the pub is so great. It’s this tiny little pub a few streets back from Princes Street (one of the main streets in Edinburgh), and it’s quiet and perfect. For me, it’s so cool being able to actually go sit somewhere where one of your favorite characters is frequently found. Perfect to go have a pint.

The Writer’s Museum

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(Image from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writers%27_Museum)

The Writer’s Museum is housed in this super cool, tall building (Lady Stair’s House) in the Lawnmarket area of Edinburgh right off the Royal Mile. It showcases mementos, belongings, books, and all kinds of cool stuff from Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott. It’s basically like walking back in time and it’s one of the coolest, nerdy, literary museums I’ve ever been to.

National Library of Scotland

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(Excuse the crappy picture; this was taken 6 years ago and I was a little too excited to be in Scotland to worry about taking pretty pictures)

The coolest library I’ve ever been to, and I feel so lucky to have been able to research here and actually use the amazing, old, wonderful resources housed here. You actually have to get approved to research there – meaning you have a legit reason to want to use this library. The second time I was in Scotland (as a mentor for the students studying abroad from my school at the time), I was researching my honors thesis on Ian Rankin and the city of Edinburgh as a character in his books, so I was able to use the National Library to use all the resources they had on Ian and Edinburgh. It was an incredible experience.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Okay, this is a bonus one because it isn’t necessarily a place, though it does happen in Charlotte’s Square every year. It is the largest book festival in the world and is absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I actually worked there as a Front of House Assistant in 2013, and I loved every single minute. Over the course of 3 weeks, the festival sees about a quarter of a million people, has a BUNCH of events every day, and hosts authors from all around the world. It’s where I met Neil Gaiman, Matt Haig, Margaret Atwood, and so many other amazing authors. If you’re in Edinburgh in August, you need to go.

If you EVER get the chance to go to Edinburgh, GO GO GO GO GO. I cannot say it enough. This city is my favorite place in the whole world (and I’ve been to six countries and about ¾ of the United States so I’ve seen a lot of places). I could seriously list 100 places in Edinburgh and hundreds in Scotland to visit, so it was pretty hard to limit it to just 5, but these are all a good place to start. 🙂

Thanks for having me, Andi!

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Thanks Stefani for guest posting!

You can find her here:
Blog | Twitter | Instagram

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