Ste Croix-du-Verdon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Sunday 20th July 2014

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Lac de Ste Croix

Lac de Ste Croix

 

 

Wow, wow and again WOW! I knew it was going to be beautiful, but the sheer scale of the lavender fields around Valensole is simply breathtaking: mile after mile of endless lavender fields, all growing in neat rows of raised beds, undulating into the distance as far as the eye can see, beautifully set against the majestic backdrop of the Alps. It is simply absolutely spectacular and a true triumph of Mother Nature, not least because of all the beehives helping pollination along the way. Nice to see, as bees seem to be in decline these days.

 

The breathtaking lavender fields

The breathtaking lavender fields

 

Visitors enjoying the fields and scent of lavender

Visitors enjoying the fields and scent of lavender

 

We duly stopped at the first sight of these amazing fields to take some photos between the rows of lavender, like everyone else who had taken the trouble to journey this far, and bought some lavender products at the Terraroma Distillery, both for ourselves and presents for family and friends. Apart from the stunning landscape, the scent of the plant is simply intoxicating at this point and I’m really looking forward to replicating this sensation both in the motorhome and in the house, to which effect we have bought a fragrance diffuser and pillow mist.

 

The Terraroma Distillery and shop.

The Terraroma Distillery and shop.

 

 

 

 

We had no problem getting to Valensole from Aix-en-Provence following the D96 north east to Manosque and east from there on D907 and D6, but we found that they were holding la Fête de Lavande today of all days and instead of carrying on the D6 from Valensole to Riez, as we intended, we were diverted about 10 km norht to Poteau de Telle and then south again to Riez before we could finally join the D11 to Ste-Croix-du-Verdon and the lake. We didn’t mind too much, as it was still early and the scenery was so magnificent and we got to see twice as much of the lavender fields and the Verdon Regional Park.

 

More lavender on our detour with beautiful backdrop of The Verdon National Park

More lavender on our detour with beautiful backdrop of The Verdon Regional Park

 

We got there just after 12.30 pm and got a nice parking spot overlooking the lake and what a view it is! We have found another aire with a fantastic view! It has toilets and free water and it’s only 6 a night, collected by guard in the evening. We like it so much we are thinking about staying another night.

 

Enjoying the views at our lovely spot at Ste-Croix-du-Verdon motorhome aire.

Enjoying the views at our lovely spot at Ste-Croix-du-Verdon motorhome aire.

 

The said view of the lake

The said view of the lake

 

We went for a walk down to the lake and even Beano was happy to go for a swim, but I wasn’t wearing my swimming gear, as the Mistral had been blowing quite heavily when we left the van, but it had blown over by the time we got to the bottom. I would love to have a swim here though, as it is so heavenly.

 

Ste Croix-du-Verdon from the lake

Ste Croix-du-Verdon on the way to the lake

 

We also went for a beer and a Mojito at the Restaurant/Bar Le Comptoir, as I just couldn’t resist the temptation of sitting at such a stunning location and I was more than happy to pay 9 for my cocktail and 6 for a large Howgarrden with lemon. We both left very contented.  

 

Quaint spots at Ste Croix-du-Verdon

Quaint spots at Ste Croix-du-Verdon

 

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Adonis has just come back from another swim and I’m about to cook a Spanish potato omelette.

We are considering going to Côte d’Azur and then crossing over to Italy…

Camping Arc-en-Ciel, Aix-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, Saturday 19th July

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Beautiful Reception area at camping Arc-en-Ciel

Beautiful Reception area at camping Arc-en-Ciel

 

 

We are so glad we came here! We’ve totally fallen in love with this amazing town, so eclectic and cosmopolitan, yet so very French! We are only sorry that we could only manage 3 days at this wonderful campsite, as it’s fully booked for tomorrow and we have to leave our pitch. In fact, we were very lucky to get it in the first place and be able to stay for 3 days, as we hadn’t booked (we never do). When we arrived on Thursday morning, I was initially told they didn’t have room for us, but the very helpful and friendly hostess found us a perfect pitch by the river, No 36, with lots of shade from a pine tree and the surrounding tall bamboo. We even have our own water fountain with an old-fashioned stone basin and we couldn’t ask for more: absolutely charming.

 

Out pitch shaded by pine trees and tall bamboo

Out pitch shaded by pine trees and tall bamboo

 

Enjoying lunch in the shade surrounded by bamboo

Enjoying lunch in the shade surrounded by bamboo

 

The tall bamboo providing shade and privacy

The tall bamboo providing shade and privacy

 

Our very own water fountain with stone basin

Our very own water fountain with stone basin

 

The campsite is spotless, with roomy shower/toilet cubicles and ample space for washing clothes and dishes. There is also a large swimming pool and lovely views of Le Pont des 3 Saults, painted by Cézanne, and free WiFi! For 75 for the 3 nights, we are more than pleased.

 

The river running through campsite with Le Pont des 3 Sautls

The river running through campsite with Le Pont des 3 Sautls

 

River running past right by our pitch

River running past right by our pitch

 

The large and cooling swimming pool

The large and cooling swimming pool

 

 

The town of Aix-en-Provence is a little jewel full of life, colour and delicious aromas. It is a place where you can let yourself be taken by your senses and every corner hides a treasure. On our first day, we visited the Musée Granet, where they are holding an exhibition of Pearlman’s Collection, which includes works by Cézanne, Manet, de-la-Croix, Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani and others: a marvellous treat for Art lovers.

 

Busy Aix-en-Provence on a Friday morning, market day

Busy Aix-en-Provence on a Friday morning, market day

 

The rest of the time we have enjoyed strolling gently through these quaint streets and marvelling at the town’s fountains and architecture, not least its Cathedral Saint Sauveur, that dates from V to XVII century. We visited this morning and it’s truly fascinating, with its Roman mosaics, Medieval triptychs and Renaissance paintings: a wonder to behold!

 

The Cathedral Saint Sauveur

The Cathedral Saint Sauveur

 

A clock tower

A clock tower

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the large street markets selling everything you could possibly need and I am forever gob-smacked at the size of the fruit and vegetables here: a gigantic version of what we get back home and so aromatic and inviting. We came back loaded with nectarines, apricots, sanglier (wild boar sausage), herbs of Provence, cherries and assorted flavoured biscuits, such as aniseed, lemon, cinnamon and chocolate: truly delicious.

 

Enjoying a spot of shopping at the magnificent street market

Enjoying a spot of shopping at the magnificent street market

 

Giant cherries!

Giant cherries!

 

Look at the size of those spring onions!

Look at the size of those spring onions!

 

We’ve just come back from a meal out at Le Solferino restaurant on 3 Place d’Arménie, where we enjoyed lamb cutlets and salmon with a nice bottle of local Rosé, all very reasonably priced and most enjoyable, served by a very friendly and efficient waiter who spoke good English: a perfect way to end our visit to this adorable and welcoming city and I for one can’t wait to come back.

 

Strolling gently through town enjoying charming views

Strolling gently through town enjoying charming views

 

Quaint and chic

Quaint and chic

 

Fountain at Place d'Albertas

Fountain at Place d’Albertas

 

La Rotonde Fountain

La Rotonde Fountain

 

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Tomorrow, we are heading slightly north east – east of Manosque, to visit some lavender fields and hopefully buy some lavender products. I am really looking forward to that, as they look amazing in the pictures!

 

So very French!

So very French!

Clansayes, Drôme Dept. Wednesday 17th July 2014

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Clansayes motorhome aire

Clansayes motorhome aire

 

Well, there never was a game of petangue at La Héronnière campsite on Monday as planned. Adonis and I duly turned up at the ‘arena’ at 5pm as advised, but nobody else did. We waited for a bit, but not even the manager who had invited us showed up, so feeling a bit foolish, we went back to our pitch and relaxed for a bit before going for a swim at the pretty beach just outside the camping itself. It was quite hot by then – the hottest day so far on this holiday- and the swim was a welcome respite from the sun. The water felt warm where the sun was heating it, so I kept swimming backwards and forwards on the sunny stream watching the red kites flying overhead: very calming indeed. In the evening after dinner, we packed our tables and chairs and brought in the awning ready for an early start in the morning.

 

Medieval Boulieu-les-Annonay seen from motorhome aire

Medieval Boulieu-les-Annonay seen from motorhome aire

 

We left La Héronnière by 9.30am and did a quick shop at Auchan at Sennecy-le-Grand to see us through the next 4 or 5 days, then we carried on south on D906 and joined the A6 at Tournus (J27), past Macon and Lyon, where there was a major delay due to the sheer volume of traffic. We virtually crawled for about ½ hour and it was beginning to feel very hot after 11am, so it was a great relief to leave the city behind and drive along the river for a while. We finally arrived at the free motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay just after midday and thoroughly enjoyed a cold and refreshing beer before lunch.

 

Pitches separated by hedges at Boulieu-les-Annonay

Pitches separated by hedges at Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

The full site of the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay with free water facilities and services on left

The full site of the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay with free water facilities and services on left

 

We went for a stroll around this charming little medieval town, surrounded by a wall with 7 round towers still remaining and soaked up the lovely views of its surroundings. The air provides 6 pitches separated by hedges, but there is also more parking available and this morning there were 10 motorhomes which had obviously spent the night at this welcoming stop. There are 2 water taps free of charge and emptying facilities, but no electricity and we thought it was a perfect stopover on the way to the south.

 

One of the 7 towers in Boulieu-les-Annonay

One of the 7 towers in Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

A quaint old house in the village

A quaint old building to house the Mairie

 

Another attractive building in the village

Another attractive building and street in the village

 

The pleasing view from the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay

The pleasing view from the motorhome aire at Boulieu-les-Annonay

 

This morning, we followed the D82/86 to Tournon, where we joined the N7 south, past Valence and Montelimar to join the D133 east at Notre Dâme de Montcham and then D571 to this aire at Clansayes (N 44º 22.161′ E 004 47.807′).

I have to say that, even though it is a beautiful and peaceful place to stop, we felt a bit ripped off as the motorhome aires guide says it is €10 a night plus €4 for electricity and there is a swimming pool and showers. What it doesn’t say is that there is an extra €4 charge for the use of the pool and a further extra €4 for the showers. We also had to pay €1.50 for Beano, bringing the total to €15.50. I also ordered a baguette for tomorrow and I was charged €1.20 for it! The worst thing, however, was when we parked in the shady area under the trees and the manageress I had just paid all this money to came running after us saying we couldn’t park in there because that area had electricity hook-ups, which we hadn’t paid for and, although we explained we were not going to use the electricity, but we wanted the shade because of the hot weather, she made us move to the full-on sun area. I simply felt outraged at this and felt like asking for my money back and leave there and then, but it was nearly midday and we had been driving since before 9am and really needed a break, so we managed to find a spot with a small tree that provided some shade and put the awning out. I just feel her attitude was really mean-spirited and out of order, as there is only one more motorhome here in that shady area and room for at least 5 more. It is now gone 4pm and the only other van that arrived earlier decided not to stay: I wonder why??? It’s a real shame that the natural beauty of this tranquil spot has been ruined by the meanness of its owners; I mean, who refuses shade to anyone on an scorching summer day? It seems totally inhumane to me especially since we paid almost a campsite price. Whoever heard of paying a premium for shade? There is nothing like pleasing your customers and I certainly won’t be recommending this site to anyone and perhaps the Vicarious All The Aires France Guide book ought to update their information about this particular site.  Would be customers need to know!

 

Our pitch under a small tree at Clansayes misnamed motorhome 'aire'.  Not much shade here.

Our pitch under a small tree at Clansayes misnamed motorhome ‘aire’. Not much shade here.

 

Same from a different angle: Note the  full-on sun!

Same from a different angle: Note the full-on sun!

 

Tomorrow, we shall be arriving at Aix-en-Provence, where we are hoping to stay at the Arc-en-Ciel campsite with direct access to the river, which sounds great.

Camping des Lacs La Héronnière, Lacs de Laives, Saône-et-Loire, Monday 14th July 2014

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Bar and pool area t La Heronniere campsite

Bar and pool area t La Heronniere campsite

 

 

It’s been a very quiet Bastille Day here at this lovely and peaceful campsite just south of Châlon-sur-Saône. We have pitch No 13 towards the back of the site, which gets very little traffic of new comers and leavers. We seem to be the only British van here, with mainly Dutch and French, but most people seem to be on their way somewhere else and only stop for a night, especially the caravans and they mainly stay near the entrance.

 

The beautiful lake outside campsite

The beautiful lake outside campsite

 

 

We were running away from the rain of the Somme on our way to Aix-en-Provence and were only intending to rest here for a couple of days, but we enjoyed the tranquillity so much we extended our stay for another 2 days as there is no rush. There is a lake just on the other side of the fence and Adonis found a good swim barely 5 metres from it and, although the weather hasn’t been as hot in this area as in previous years, it has stayed warm and dry for most of the time and we’ve been able to have every meal outside. It rained almost solidly from Tuesday to Friday, but the sun has come out with a vengeance at last and it’s 27 ºC inside the van and quite hot outside, so we’ll be able to have a swim in the pool and lake.

 

The pool at La Heronniere

The pool at La Heronniere

 

The beautiful lake and beach just outside the campsite

The welcoming lake and beach just outside the campsite

 

 

We’ve been invited to a game of Petanque at 5pm, so I’m looking forward to it later on.

On our way down from Mareuil-sur-Ay, we stopped at the motorhome aire in the little town of Les Riceys in the Aube Department. The aire is right by the sports grounds and school, but again, it was very quiet there even with the children still in school, maybe because of the rain. The aire is free and there is a bourne for water and electricity which works with a jeton to be obtained from the Mairie. There was nothing much to do there but walk in the small town, which is quite pretty, with attractive flower displays everywhere, especially on the bridge and Mairie, and there are also a few Champagne outlets.

 

The attractive Mairie and bridge at Les Riceys

The attractive Mairie and bridge at Les Riceys

 

 

On Friday morning we carried on towards Dijon on D971 and made a little detour just past Chanceaux to go and see the source of the River Seine at les Vergerots. It seems almost incredible that something so small can become so mighty and we really liked the cave where the river is born with the sculpture and first bridge over the small trickle of water which is the Seine at this point. I was very glad that we had taken the time to visit and marvel at this special place, almost like a shrine where some wonderful miracle has occurred, and we had our mid-morning coffee and cake here too just to enjoy it that little bit longer, although it was drizzling and a bit cold, being 500 metres above sea level.

 

The source of the River Seine

The source of the River Seine

 

The first few metres of the River Seine

The first few metres of the River Seine

 

The first bridge over the River Seine

The first bridge over the River Seine

 

 

Tomorrow we are heading for the Medieval village of Boulieu-le-Annonay in the Rhône- Alpes region.

Mareuil-sur-Ay, Marne Department, Wednesday 9th July 2014

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Parking under the trees by canal in charming Mareuil-sur-Ay aire.

Parking under the trees by canal in charming Mareuil-sur-Ay aire.

 

We are parked by the charming tree-lined canal that runs alongside the river Marne, just south of Reims, but unfortunately it has been raining all day, quite heavily at times, and I don’t really feel like going for a long walk like I normally would. I took Beano out for a quick trot when we arrived here just before 2 pm and Adonis took him for a longer one after our siesta. It’s a real shame as it’s really beautiful and I would have loved to enjoy it in the sun, eating out, etc like we did this time last year. Truth be told, we’ve only had one day of sunshine and hot weather on Sunday at the Vivier des Carpes campsite, so we are getting really desperate for some sun and warmth and, therefore, we have changed our original plan of going to Brittany for week or so in favour of heading south east, where the weather is bound to be better. We might go to Brittany on our way back in mid- August, but for now we are very much playing it by ear.

 

Walking Beano by the canal in the rain

Walking Beano by the canal in the rain

 

The lovely canal walk

The lovely canal walk

 

We visited the Caverne du Dragon on the Chemin des Dames, which was the scene of bloody fightings in 1914, 1917 and 1918. The Caverne itself was an ancient quarry turned into an underground barracks during WW1 and it shows many galleries used by soldiers, both French and German, even sharing it at some point! We followed the guided in French as we didn’t want to wait until 12 for the English one, but we managed OK and got the gist of things. It felt cold under there – 17 metres underground – in July, so I hate to think what it must have been like in the winter all those years ago. It was certainly interesting and well worth the 6entry fee.

 

Caverne du Dragon

Caverne du Dragon

 

The view of what would have been the battlefield behind entrance to cave

The view of what would have been the battlefield behind entrance to cave

 

In memory of the fallen in the Caverne du Dragon

In memory of the fallen in the Caverne du Dragon

Some gruesome remnants of WW1

Some gruesome remnants of WW1

 

A sad reminder of the true cost of war

A sad reminder of the true cost of war

 

The soldiers' cooking area inside the cave

The soldiers’ cooking area inside the cave

 

There are numerous Champagne outlets here and we were hoping to visit some and buy a couple of bottles, but perhaps not today. I hope it’s a bit drier tomorrow so that we can enjoy a walk into town and along the canal.

 

Bruyères-et-Montberault, Aisne Department, Tuesday 8th July 2014

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The charming motorhome aire at Bruyères et Montberault

                                           The charming motorhome aire at Bruyères et Montberault

We left the UK on Saturday and managed to get a slightly earlier train, so instead of staying at City Europe’s car park as planned(which I didn’t fancy at all) we got our big shop out of the way at Auchan in Calais thanks to the TomTom. We did notice that everyone looked a bit ‘odd’, perhaps it’s the Ch’tis, about whom we have a film to watch yet. We then left towards the aire at Gravelines, where we stayed last year. We found a good spot amongst a whole line of British vans. Unfortunately, these started leaving for ferries at 4 am, which disturbed Adonis’s sleeping, but not mine!

 

A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

                                                       A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

 

 

A lovely sunrise at Viviers aux Carpes campsite

                                                    A lovely sunrise at Vivier aux Carpes campsite

Despite his bad back and lack of sleep, Adonis managed to walk Beano while I was clearing after breakfast and we then took mainly national and D roads past Lens towards Le Vivier aux Carps, a campsite in Seracourt-le-Grand. This is a nice site and we spent 2 nights there, although the ‘lake’ is more of a pond and it was packed with other British vans. Adonis didn’t catch anything, but as his back was hurting, he didn’t put all that much effort into it.

 

Camping le Vivier aux Carpes

                                                                  Fishing at Camping le Vivier aux Carpes

 

We left there at 10 am this morning to visit The Chemin des Dames, whose sides have been beautifully planted with corn flowers, and the Dragon Cave and after a bit of fiddling around on roads, we got to the Caverne-du-Dragon only to discover it is shut on Tuesday mornings. How typical is that? I just couldn’t believe it!!! We then tried to stop the night at a couple of lakes nearby, but they seemed to have been taken over by leisure/park type business and they didn’t allow dogs and we had no choice but to keep on looking. We also tried the motorhome aire at Chavignon, which was too close to the motorway and cost 6€, so we parked by a canal and had lunch, being disturbed by lorries on the weighbridge. Still, the view was good.

 

Corn flowers lining the road along Le Chemin des Dames

                                         Corn flowers lining the road along Le Chemin des Dames

From there we headed for our 4th night, the free aire at Bruyères-et-Montberault, and very good it is too!  It has four pitches separated by very well kept hedges and the little lane that runs through the park and there is also free water from a nearby fountain.  The town itself is very quiet and tranquil and we enjoyed an afternoon walk around it with Beano.  We’d definitely come here again if or when we return to these parts.

The weather is warm but cloudy. Tomorrow, we’ll try the Cave of Dragons again and then to a France Passion site in Champagne.

 

 

Pirates of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, Sunday 15th June 2014

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Pirates fighting on Bognor Regis seafront

Pirates fighting on Bognor Regis seafront

Today, our lovely town held a summer carnival based on a Pirate theme and we were all for a wonderful surprise when Jack Sparrow himself landed (or more like it, was hoisted) from his modern day Black Pearl – read speed boat – to the delight of all, big and small.  

Spirit FM on stage

Spirit FM on stage

 

The event started at 11.45 am, courtesy of Spirit FM West Sussex, outside the Regis Centre and Alexandra Theatre, and we were kindly advised to look out at sea for the momentous event. We obediently followed and were rewarded with the arrival of the most famous (should that be infamous?) pirate in the history of film making.

Pirates waiting for their captain, Jack Sparrow

Pirates waiting for their captain, Jack Sparrow

 

Where is the Captain?

Where is the Captain?

 

The Captain arriving on Bognor Regis Beach in a modern age Black Pearl

The Captain arriving on Bognor Regis Beach in a modern age Black Pearl

 

A little help from the pirates

A little help from the pirates

 

On dry land at last ready to lead his team of cut-throats

On dry land at last ready to lead his team of cut-throats

 

Jack Sparrow (or rather his official double) had the tall task of leading a mob of cut-throats and a very excited crowd of locals and visitors on the parade along the promenade to the pier.  He proved to be a great fun-loving character with a marvellous people’s touch and he made sure he took time to pose and have a laugh with all those who called him and even those who didn’t.  I must admit I could not resist the temptation (why should I, anyway?) and had something better than a ‘selfie’, as I went for a proper cuddle! I was later punished for my daring behaviour and was abducted by another and equally charming pirate. Glad to say I lived to tell the tale!  I felt flattered when later on Jack approached me and said to me: “You’re crazy, you are!”  Well, it takes one to know one!  Love him!

Jack Sparrow leading the parade along the promenade

Jack Sparrow leading the parade along the promenade

 

Posing for the crowd

Posing for the crowd

 

The Samba Band

The Samba Band

 

The crowd!

The crowd!

 

A mean pirate!

A mean pirate!

 

Some wonderful outfits from the locals

Some wonderful outfits from the locals

Jack Sparrow being a good sport posing for me

Jack Sparrow being a good sport posing especially for me!

Having a cuddle with The Captain

Having a cuddle with The Captain

 

Being abducted for my insolence!

Being abducted for my insolence!

 

Some innocent bystanders

Some innocent bystanders

 

There were loads of events on the schedule, including the Nyodema Drummers (fighting poverty through music) and a dancing group from the local Laburnum School, as well as spontaneous pirate fights all over the seafront and a Zumba dance session which required audience participation and yet another fun event I was unable to resist and, of course, joined in.

The Nyodema Drummers

The Nyodema Drummers

 

The Nyodema Drummers

The Nyodema Drummers

 

Dancer with the Nyodema Drummers

Dancer with the Nyodema Drummers

 

Dance group from the Laburnum School

Dance group from the Laburnum School

 

Dance group from the Laburnum School

Dance group from the Laburnum School

 

 

Captain Sparrow mingling with the crowd

Captain Sparrow mingling with the crowd

 

 

More young dancers

More young dancers

 

Having proper seafront fun

Having proper seafront fun

 

There was also a sea rescues demonstration show from the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

RNLI sea rescue show

 

The carnival ended with a presentation of prizes to the best pirate outfits presented by Jack Sparrow himself at 4 pm. A fabulous and fitting way to finish a fun-filled day. And a good time was had by all!  Can’t wait for next year!

Prize giving and closing of events

Prize giving and closing of events

But the pirates still fought on!

Will these pirates ever have enough?

Will these pirates ever have enough?

 

I am also very proud to say that the whole event was filmed by my son’s film and video company’s crew Storms Edge Productions: http://www.stormsedgeproductions.co.uk/

Storms Edge Production team member

Storms Edge Production team member hard at work

 

My son with Storms Edge Production hard at work on the stage

My son with Storms Edge Production hard at work on the stage

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