Articles Tagged with: senior travel france


Seniors Enjoy Dunkirk


Dunkirk, a commune in northern France, lies only 6.2 miles from the Belgian border. Why the name, seniors ask? The name of Dunkirk derives from West Flemish “dun(e)” and “kerke” (church)= Flemish: “Church of the Dunes”.

Until the middle of the 20th century the city was situated in the French Flemish area. Today the local Flemish dialect, a variety of the Dutch Language, can still be found but has been largely replaced by French. The town was besieged and sacked six times during the Middle Ages.

The third port of France and the first seaport of the North Sea, it is a haven, a tourist destination of unusual beauty with 600 acres of preserved sand dunes. Dunkirk has a ferry connection with Dover in England and is the liveliest of the three big English Channel ports, plus it’s a university town with fewer empty shops than central Calais and busy streets that out hustle modest Boulogne.

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It has an appealing, boat-filled inner harbor, the Bassin du Commerce, and an attractive beachfront suburb, Malo-les-Bains, from whose vast sandy beach the evacuation of Allied troops took place in 1940. Here you will find many interesting specs on Dunkirk.

Senior History Buffs Drawn to Dunkirk

Dunkirk is one of the few places in Europe that seamlessly combines a wealth of history with fabulous boutique shops, hypermarkets, delightful restaurants, a stunning golf course and miles of sweeping sandy beaches.

Dunkirk has a number of restored buildings that are worth visiting, including the 15th-century church of St-Éloi, the Flemish Hôtel de Ville and the medieval red-brick belfry, the town’s main feature. Dunkerque has not one, but two belfries classified as World Heritage Sites. The Port Museum has a rich collection of maritime history of the territory.

A little history: During World War II, more than 300,000 Allied troops who were cut off from retreat on land by the German breakthrough to the French Channel ports were evacuated (May 26–June 4, 1940) from Dunkirk. The retreat was carried out by all kinds of available British craft, some manned by civilian volunteers, and was protected by the Royal Air Force. It is considered one of the epic actions of naval history.

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 Seven hundred hectares of dunes,15 kilometers of beaches, and a recognized sailing resort make the Flanders coast an increasingly popular seaside resort for senior tourists who can find quality activities and entertainment all year round.

And food. Thanks to it’s proximity to the sea, the food in Dunkirk is an interesting fusion of Flemish cuisine and seafood. I’d recommend the Moules-frites with a bottle of local beer or some chilled white wine that make for a popular meal enjoyed by many locals. I’ll depart today with a “full wiki” on Dunkirk, with pertinent information for senior visitors. Enjoy the site as well as the city. jeb


Seniors Enjoy the City Of Pau

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Pau is a commune on the northern edge of the Pyrenees, capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques Département in Aquitaine, France. The French author Alphonse de Lamartine said: “Pau has the world’s most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea.”

A colleague of mine at the University spent a year as an exchange teacher in Pau. He loved every moment and has been back innumerable times for a visit. Pau received the distinctive four-flower designation, and features more square feet of greenery per capita than any other city in Europe. Senior visitors will find Pau to be a fairly small (85,000) and quiet city.

Its best features are some of its historic attractions such as the history-rich and impressive Chateau de Pau. This superb royal residence is above all the birthplace of Henry IV, King of France and Navarre.The building perpetuates the homage and legend of the first king of the Bourbon dynasty.

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It has been classified as a National Museum and provides senior visitors with nearly 800 years of history. Pau is mainly a spa and tourism center and stands on the edge of a plateau. The town’s boulevard des Pyrénées, more than 1 mile (1.6 km) long, is situated high above the valley and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the mountains.

Seniors Join British HolidayMakers

TripAdvisor finds 20 special attractions for senior travelers to insert into your itinerary during your visit.  An attractive casino is in town. And Pau is a short hour drive to the sea and the Spanish border. It is also literally surrounded by beautiful mountains.

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The Brits love it in the south of France and the city has been a popular spot for British holiday makers since the mid 19th century. An unmistakable air of Englishness hovers over this elegant town in the foothills of southwest France’s Pyrénées. Its population observes some English traditions, such as afternoon tea.

Wellington and his troops were among the first Britons to fall for the mild climate, swiftly followed by countless others. At times senior visitors feel that they are in a Victorian seaside town, but with snow-capped mountains as an enchanting backdrop.

Attracted by its gentle climate and lovely setting, the British built various villas and stately homes. Some suggested that wintering in Pau could cure various ailments. You will keep busy with things to see and do in Pau and its climate is one good reason to check out the city.

So when you cruising around southwest France, spend some time in Pau. jeb


Seniors Find Bonnieux A Delight

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I have passed by Bonnieux several times having led tour groups to Provence but have never been into the village. It sits on a high hill and is one of the more visited small communities in Provence. The view from Bonnieux reaches out over plains, with vineyards, fields and cherry orchards. Further in the distance senior visitors can see additional medieval “hill villages.”  

It is small and senior travelers will enjoy strolling along the winding streets and the view over the plains. France has what are called “Les Plus Beaux Villages” and Bonnieux (pop. 1,300) rates among the finest.

On appelle ses habitants “les Bonnieulais” (that’s what the local folks are called). The region is called Luberon and I remember it well because my prof at Harvard had his summer home there.

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Bonnieux is a commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. In the plain below the village stands the notable Roman bridge the Pont Julien built in 3 BC. I remember a pause at the bridge when our bus stopped there so that folks in my travel group could take photos.

The bridge is in great shape considering it was the first Roman road to be built in France. One thing is for sure in Provence. You could shoot photos by the hundreds and never run out of great scenery. Bonnieux dates back to 1103 when it was called Castrum Bonils, ‘the house where many crickets sing’.

La Provence Draws Senior Visitors

There are a number of small shops with pottery, artisanal items, and one with beautiful hand-woven wool items. For  you senior hikers, the Luberon is criss-crossed with walking trails. Just out of the village to the east, you’ll find signs along the road to the Fôret de Cèdres, cedar forest.

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 Check out the “vieille église” (old church) after climbing 86 steps. Take a fast hike from bottom to top, winding up through the narrow streets passing in arched tunnels beneath the houses, and you’ll earn the spectacular view, shaded by tall pine trees and magnificent centuries-old cedars.

I’ve been all over France and have seen many strange museums like a museum for corkscrew, perfume, Paris sewer, carnivals, erotic and bones. Bonnieux has a bread museum, the Musée de la Boulangerie which seniors may find of interest.

In La Provence senior travelers will enjoy visiting Bonnieux, Lacoste, Lourmarin, Goult, Arles, Gordes, the Abbaye de Senaque, La Fontaine de Vaucluse, L’Isle-sur-la-Sergue, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Vaugines, Cucuron, and Domine Faverot, market day in Bonnieux, the famed antique market in L’Isle- la Sorgue, hectares of gorgeous lavender fields and the plethora of sunflower fields all across the Luberon.

I don’t know of anyone who has been to La Provence who is not drawn back by its magnetism and warmth. Enjoy your time in Bonnieux. I know you will. jeb


Will it be Ski or Spa in Cauterets?

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Senior travelers find the Cauterets in the Hautes-Pyrenees (Midi-Pyrenees region) in the south-west of France, high in the Pyrenees, only 20 miles from the famous pilgrimage site of Lourdes. 

Cauterets has a reputation for healing powers in the form of its thermal hot springs. For centuries, the town’s therapeutic waters and natural beauty have drawn senior visitors. 

Victor Hugo  described the valley and its streams as “more than mere scenery. They are a glimpse of nature at certain mysterious moments when everything seems to dream.”

Cauterets is a well-established ski and spa resort in the heart of the Pyrenees and in a National Park.  Facing the Vignemale, the highest mountain in the area, the resort has been described as the “Chamonix of the Pyrenees”. Senior skiiers have direct access to 35km of downhill skiing, with 25 individual pistes, served by 21 ski lifts.

 Seniors Relax in Spas

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Visitors can enjoy mountain biking, excursions, ice skating, swimming, tennis, bowling, mini golf, rafting, canyoning, fishing. Senior visitors can also enjoy the casino, cinema, theaters, guest house, national park house, library and media center.

This pleasant little town, population 1,200, owes its fame and elegant Neoclassical architecture to its waters, still in demand.

Senior visitors can get some mountain air and take a soothing dip at one of the town’s best-known spas, César Spa, after a day of hiking or skiing.

Admire the views of the surrounding peaks from the terrace of the spa’s pale yellow neoclassical building. Then stroll along the narrow streets of Cauterets while admiring the Belle Epoch–era buildings and their colorful wrought-iron balconies.
 Seniors Discover Bridge High Up
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The Lac de Gaube, nearby, is a major attraction as well as the Pont D’Espagne, a really neat bridge that spans a stream high up in the air. For my wife and me, we might first head to the Boulangerie Patisserie Chez Gilou for some French pastries.

There are 14 hotels in town so you can compare what you would like and the price you want to pay. The spa brings in a throng of visitors today, but it was back in the sixteenth century that rendered famous the baths of Cauterets. During the Renaissance, Antiquity was in vogue.

Associated with the Roman civilization, the Pyrenean Baths were in fashion, thus placing Cauterets among the top resorts in the Pyrenees. Many works were undertaken between 1984 and 1999 to modernize and consolidate the baths at Cauterets, as a resort for two handicaps: otorhinolaryngological (that’s a long one!) and rheumatologic.

I think that you will have great fun in Cauterets. jeb


Seniors Discover Valence

The word valence comes from Latin valentia, meaning “strength or capacity”  and history abounds. Valence is proud of it glorious past. Senior visitors will discover its old center, its cultural wealth and a special quality of life as you stroll in its narrow streets.

Valence goes way back to the Romans who named the town Valentia in 2BC and there has been a university in Valence since 1452. At the tender age of 16, Napoléon Bonaparte attended military school in this terraced city.

With a population of 65,000, Valence is surrounded by grape vines, olive groves and fields of lavender. It sits on the left bank of the Rhone River and is home to the largest river marina in France, so seniors, if you are a boating enthusiast, it is a great destination.

USA Today had an recent article on the “10 Most Expensive Restaurants” in the world. La Maison Pic in Valence was on that list as a legendary French restaurant that boasts three Michelin stars. More than a century old, today’s chef, Anne-Sophie Pic, is crafting the food and menus just as her father, Jacques Pic and her grandfather, André Pic did before her.

All three Pics achieved three Michelin stars during their tenure. For the most decadent experience at the restaurant, seniors can choose the Collection Pic menu, which costs roughly $445 per person.

Seniors, Welcome To Le Midi

Valence is said to be the portal to the Mediterranean and is the temperate zone demarcation area where the cold climes of France seem to melt away. In addition, the quality of light is different and the temperature higher as you travel south, bringing with it the scent of eucalyptus and pine. Valence is France’s largest producer of organic food, and is renowned for its fine cuisine and the wonderful Rhone wines.

Valence is a sleepy city overlooking the Rhone.  An hour from Lyon and Grenoble and in close proximity to vineyards producing Crozes Hermitages, St Joseph and St Peray wines, the city makes a great stop off for wine tours of the region.

The much-loved Kiosk De Peynet stands on the Champ de Mars and is one of the highlights of this small city – and a good place to start your visit. This ornate bandstand has beautiful views of the decorative gardens and fountains of Park Jouvet below.

The bandstand is an historic monument and has come to symbolize Valence, so look it up. The Cathedrale St-Appollinaire, consecrated in 1095 by Pope Urban II is another main attraction.

TripAdvisor has been to Valence and suggests that senior travelers visit La Maison des Têtes, a beautiful and very ornate 16th century building whose façade has been sculpted with heads – hence the name.  When you are in Provence, don’t skip Valence… You’ll be glad you spent some time in this charming city.  jeb


Senior Oenophiles Visit Entre-Deux-Mers

 This senior citizen traveled through Bordeaux with a group of highschoolers years ago and undoubtedly passed through this region, but did not know it was called Entre-Deux-Mers.

Actually between two rivers, La Dordogne and La Garonne,  Entre-Deux-Mers produce a very good dry white wine. My favorite is called Saint-Emilion. The wines produced in this area are some of the world’s finest on 7,400 acres of choice terrain.

Bordeaux’s boat-bejewelled quays, lined with neo-classical 18th-century buildings, are so beautiful that UNESCO has classified the city as a World Heritage Site, and by now you know how much I appreciate all those sites. As the capital of the Gironde departement and of the historic province of Aquitaine, the city of Bordeaux is both the commercial and cultural center of southwest France.

The “terroir” is unique with silt, compact sands and its clayey-limestone. It’s where 15 million bottles are produced yearly. The primary grapes are Savignon, Sémillion and Muscadelle. Seniors, maybe you already knew that?

The wine is aged between 1 to 3 years and has a rich aroma of grapefruit, litchi and peach. And if senior visitors choose a quality cheese to eat while sampling, it just has to be roquefort.

And chateaux… 7,000 of them.  If you have had a Bordeaux on your table you know that the label most often reads “Chateau de….”

And love of wine… Oenophilia is a love of wine and in the strictest sense, it describes a disciplined devotion to wine, accompanying strict traditions of consumption.

Senior Oenophiles Understand Viticulture

Entre-deux-Mers occupies a substantial slice of the Bordeaux region, stretching from the city of Bordeaux in the west almost all the way to the farmland outside Bergerac in the east. The landscape is mostly fertile and green, rolling gently between 33 and 330 ft (10–100m) above sea level.

However, vineyards have replaced some of the green landscape, with large patches of land being rapidly turned over to viticulture, that is the production of wine.

Wherever seniors taste Bordeaux’s wine, you’re in for a treat, so take in some sampling. The region has no less than 57 wine appellations. Not surprisingly, the wines of the region are often used as a base for regional food specialties.

Although countryside Médoc eateries are few, the city of Bordeaux is jammed with restaurants, especially around Place du Parlement; and many cafes, notably in the Quartier St-Pierre; and bars (Place de la Victoire and Cours de la Somme).

Understanding viticulture means understanding the importance of climate, harvesting, location, the Vine and Vineyard management. I’ll depart today with some pertinent information on Bordeaux by TripAdvisor with great hotels and where you can browse 133 attractions. Enjoy your tasting and tours. jeb


Seniors Enjoy Dijon’s Mustard and Wine

Dijon, a city in eastern France, began as a Roman settlement called Divio and is located on the road from Paris to Lyon. With a population of just over 150,000, it’s big enough and small enough for senior travelers to take in on one full day visit.

I’ve been there a couple of times and found it to be an exciting place. Right in the heart of Burgundy, the surface of the vines is about 29,500 hectares for a production of about 200 million bottles sold.

As the ancient capital of the Burgundy province, Dijon is an architecturally rich city offering senior travelers far more than mustard. In its restored medieval core, you’ll discover one of France’s oldest museums, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, as well as the elegant Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, that I remember best of all. Dijon has one of the best preserved medieval centers in France.

Dijon Mustard Yes, But the White Wines Reign

I recall many fields of yellow mustard as well as vineyards as far as the eye could see. It’s a great area for seniors travelers to spend one, two or three days for a great vacation. Lonely Planet notes that Dijon is one of France’s most appealing cities and I agree.

Filled with elegant medieval and Renaissance buildings, the lively historic center is a great place for strolling. Maybe take the self guided walk in the city, called Parcours de la chouette (the way of the owl, shown by easy to follow owl arrows and numbered owl plates in the ground).

I learned on one of my Food and Wine Tours of France as a Tour Group Leader with Elderhostel that La Bourgogne is better known for it’s white wines. 384 separate villages produce a white wine with the label ‘Bourgogne.’  I always figured it was the reds.

And for your information, the Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region’s white Grand Cru wines are in the Côte de Beaune. Even a Riesling lover like me will readily concede that the greatest white wines in the world are white Burgundies.

Seniors Will Like a “Kir”

Dijon is well known for cassis, a sweet black current liqueur that is a bright reddish-purple in color. I really like cassis and a traditional Dijonnaise cocktail is called a “Kir”, a blend of cassis and a local white wine (traditionally “Aligoté”) – you can also order it made with champagne for a tasty and festive “Kir Royale”. So what the heck, shoot the works  and have the Royale! A Kir makes for a great apéritif in late afternoon.

Seniors, jump the high speed TGV train from Paris to Dijon. It’s worth the trip just for the escargot in melted garlic butter, coq au vin, boeuf bourgignon and parslied ham, all washed down with a fine Burgundy, of course.

Enjoy your stay in Dijon. jeb


Seniors Find Biarritz Ritzy

Biarritz, a luxurious seaside town on the Bay of Biscay, sits on the Atlantic coast in southwestern France. Biarritz is popular with senior tourists and surfers.  This stylish coastal town took off as a resort in the mid-19th century when Napoléon III and his Spanish-born wife, Eugénie, visited regularly.

Biarritz has long made its fortune from the sea beginning as a whaling settlement in the twelfth century. In the 18th century doctors recommended that the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for alleged cures. Biarritz’ raison d’être is its fashionable beaches which are lined end to end with sunbathing bodies on hot summer days.

Biarritz is said to be a world class surfing site and anytime anything is said to be ‘world class’, yours truly wants to see it and take in it. The city  has a permanent population of less than 30,000, but when you find yourself in downtown Biarritz, one gets the impression of a much larger city.

Attractions in Biarritz Catch Senior Visitors

While there is more for senior visitors to see and do beside these 13 recommended “musts”, for you “noctambules”, you’ll find that the nightlife is very active. The Virgin on the Rocks is within sight to all who frequent the beach area. Knowing my wife, she would head off first with or without me to the Planère Musée du Chocolat, and I would not mind being dragged along either.

There seem to be dozens of sites that are called “The Pearl…” and Biarritz is called the Pearl of the Atlantic. Its mild climate and the beauty of its coastline, its curved inlets, punctuated by rocky outcrops, and the great events that it hosts, make Biarritz a destination of enchantment for senior tourists at any time of year.

For you senior clubbers, there are several neat places to go clubbing. The high standards of  Biarritz and wide range of accommodations make this resort community an attractive proposition for senior visitors, which is why they keep returning year after year.

Thermes Marins squirts people with high pressure hoses, pummells them and massages them, and then smears them in mud and seaweed. More and more swear by thalassotherapy both as an antidote to 21st-century problems such as stress, obesity and insomnia and as a cure for physical ailments.

Today Miremont attracts perfectly coiffured hairdos (and that’s just on the poodles) but the somewhat less chic are also welcome to partake of a fine selection of teas, cakes and views over the bay. Biarritz owes its continued popularity not only to its beaches and surfing spots, but also to its golf courses and health spas, not to mention the many festivals and cultural events that are held  throughout the year.

Frommer’s and Fodors are always top notch reference travel aids.  Enjoy your every moment in Ritzy Biarritz. jeb




Is it Brittany or la Côte d’Azur?

My wife loves the Brittany coast in France while I prefer the Riviera (Côte d’Azur). That’s okay, we have managed to take in both a few times. She likes the Brittany beaches, they are less crowded than those in Nice or Cannes. I must admit that Brittany is a cool place, in more ways than one. It is always quite cool and the wind blows daily all along the Atlantic Coast. La Bretagne as it’s called in French always has plenty for senior travelers to see and do and is full of historical villages.

Breton Culture Overflows

The many small villages are made up of narrow streets and most all the buildings are grey granite stone and a black slate roof. Brittany is a land rich in tradition, culture and history that features more than 4,000 chateaux, manors and medieval homes. Brittany is an ideal destination for lovers of fine cuisine and seafood, and for anyone fascinated by legends and history like my wife and me.

There are tons of old stones in Brittany, in many forms, and they are heavily covered with lichens from past medieval times. The most famous are at Carnac. The link above has a picture of a Carnac stone with a link under it that provides pictures and fascinating information.

Seniors Awed by the Atlantic Coastline

Brittany boasts a staggering 1,700 miles of coastline, one of the principal draws for senior tourists. Fishing is big as is farming. Senior visitors will find many artichoke farms. The flag of Brittany flies everywhere with its black ermine tails and black and white stripes.

The  official site for Brittany Tourism suggests many things to see and to do and will help senior visitors get to know the region well. The most popular destinations include Quimper, Dinan, Vannes (spent a full week there with students), Brest and Rennes (the capital). Moi, I love them all, especially Quimper.

Frequently you will find older women wearing the traditional towering celtic headdress; lighthouses dot the coastline; many older folks speak Breton, a Celtic language of Welsh and Cornish ancestry. You might just hear bagpipes and see creperies on most every main street in the towns.

Here’s a gallery of photos that features some of the most visited sites. Senior citizens, you can’t go wrong in Brittany. Rent a car and just take off down any road as long as you are heading west. That’s where you will find the real behind-the-scenes culture. Stop in and eat where the locals eat and see what they are eating. Order the same and don’t forget to drink the apple cider.

Order “une galette”, a savory crepe, usually made of buckwheat and “un bol de cidre pressé”, generally served in traditional ceramic bowls. Brittany is a win, win destination.  Enjoy it all. jeb




Toulouse, “La Ville Rose”

Toulouse is best known for producing the Airbus but there is much more in the city that attracts senior visitors from all over the world. With a population of just over one million there is much for seniors to see and do in Toulouse. Lying along the banks of the Garonne River it is a beautiful setting… 150 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and 300 from the Atlantic Ocean.

A city with typical architecture of southern France, Toulouse has two historic sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal Du Midi (shared with other cities) and the Basilica of St. Sernin. The massive town hall of Toulouse closely resembles Buckingham Palace. With over 2,000 years of history, modern-day Toulouse is France’s fourth largest city.

 The Stade Toulousain, Toulouse’s rugby team, is a symbol of the city, and it holds an impressive record. Check out some of the 75 suggested activities for things to see and do in Toulouse. Toulouse is one of the most alternative French cities – maybe due to its huge student population (120,000).

Toulouse has become a center of aviation and spaceflight in the past 20 years. More than 35,000 of the inner city’s 400,000 citizens work in the civil aviation or space industries; Airbus/EADS is the largest employer in the region.  Seniors visitors might enjoy a tour of the Airbus production plant. The city has remained relatively unchanged despite the economic boom.

Seniors Historians, Bicyclers and Gourmands

The city, on the Garonne river, is on the site of an ancient Roman settlement; even today many of the smaller streets follow their Roman counterparts and many of the red brick buildings are a pseudo-Roman style. These buildings are what gives Toulouse its nickname ‘La Ville Rose’ (the pink city – named after the pink bricks used in constructing the homes).

So bikers, rent a bicycle from any one of the 253 VeloToulouse bike stations for 1.20 Euros a day. Wikitravel will not only get you there, but makes suggestions on how to take in the sites. Toulouse is a big city, but the historical center (downtown) is quite small, so you’ll find that you can walk to most destinations in the inner city quite comfortably.

For you senior gourmet (or gourmands) the gastronomy here is outstanding with dishes such as foie gras, cassoulet, duck breast, Toulouse sausage and a host of fine wines from the region (Fronton, Gaillac, Armagnac) and Roquefort cheese.  Are you familiar with cassoulet? It’s delicious. As the French say – “Miam Miam!” Have you tasted Armagnac? It’s a distillate from wine usually made from a blend of grapes, and it’s spirits are pretty “hefty.”

I don’t generally plug one person’s thoughts on a city, but Tiffany Kim’s travel blog provides some great insights on Toulouse that I think senior travelers will find interesting and informative.

Enjoy your time exploring the city of Toulouse. jeb

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