New 2023 PONANT and Smithsonian Journeys Expedition in Panama and Costa Rica

August 9th, 2022

NEW PONANT AND SMITHSONIAN JOURNEYS EXPEDITION IN PANAMA AND COSTA RICA, FEBRUARY 11-FEBRUARY 18, 2023

 

PONANT is collaborating with Smithsonian Journeys on a series of co-branded sailings for 2023. Each of the 21 itineraries will be led by two Smithsonian Journey Experts—whether an art historian, a solar astrophysicist, or an international relations expert—whose expertise and knowledge will shed new light on a destination and deepen travelers’ immersion in place.

 

Among the new sailings is an eight-day cruise aboard Le Bellot to Panama and Costa Rica. The immersive journey will combine a crossing of the Panama Canal, snorkeling and swimming on the beautiful Holandes Cayes, excursions in the Darién and Manuel Antonio National Parks, and encounters with local Indigenous communities—plus a specially arranged visit to the Punta Culebra Nature Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), an open-air museum dedicated to tropical science and conservation. Back on the ship, expect inspiring talks and informative events led by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts, including climate leader Steve Paton, who has spent his career monitoring the climate and oceans of the tropics.

 

After setting off from Colón, Panama’s colorful port city, Le Bellot will journey to the San Blas archipelago, made up of more than 300 islands and home to approximately 40,000 members of the Kuna community, one of the most powerful Indigenous groups in the Western Hemisphere. From there, you’ll cross the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal, the world’s most important waterway, before exploring the capital’s atmospheric Old Quarter, the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, and the Punta Culebra Nature Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). There, staff will share the latest research related to marine science and guests will observe rare species up close.

 

Next, you’ll sail to the Darién National Park, set in the wildest and most remote part of Panama. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a natural playground of sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangroves, and tropical forests, as well as the home of the Emberá Amerindian community. Guests will visit their tropical village, admiring beautiful local crafts and enjoying traditional songs and dances.

 

The last stretch of the trip takes place in Costa Rica, starting in the spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park, a tropical reserve known for its variety of wildlife like sloths, howler monkeys, and toucans. Then Le Bellot will make her way to Puerto Caldera, the point of disembarkation, a gateway to the magnificent Arenal Volcano.

 

Rates start at $6,030 per person.

 

ABOUT PONANT

PONANT’s “Explore to Inspire” mission is centered around exploration to better understand, learn, share and protect. For more than 30 years, PONANT has been committed to more responsible tourism and voyages of exploration which have meaning. The French-flagged fleet comprises 13 small capacity ships equipped with state of the art environmentally friendly equipment. With PONANT, exploration is refined, authentic and a source of inspiration. The company sails to the Arctic and the Antarctic as well as in the Atlantic and North Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Asia, Oceania and South Pacific, the Caribbean, North, Central and South America. For more information, visit  https://us.ponant.com or call 1-844-747-2873 or contact your travel advisor.

 

About the Smithsonian

Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has been committed to inspiring generations through knowledge and discovery. It is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, consisting of 21 museums, the National Zoological Park, education centers, research facilities, cultural centers, and libraries.  Two of the 21 museums – the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum – are in the early planning stages. The total number of objects, works of art, and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at nearly 155 million, of which nearly 146 million are scientific specimens at the National Museum of Natural History. www.smithsonian.org

 

About Smithsonian Journeys

Smithsonian Journeys is part of Smithsonian Enterprises, a division of the Smithsonian which oversees the institution’s commercial activities, including the Smithsonian Channel, which is available in over 55 million households globally; the retail operation, which includes 35 museum and airport stores, food concessions; an E-commerce business, Smithsonianstore.com, and Smithsonian magazine, which reaches more than 8 million monthly readers, consumer and education licensing, and books. Smithsonian Journeys is a global leader in cultural travel for diverse audiences, offering unique, expert-led trips on all seven continents. In addition to ocean cruises with PONANT, Smithsonian Journeys offers small-group land journeys, river cruises, active journeys, cultural stays, private jet trips, tailor-made journeys for the independent traveler, and student travel programs. For more information visit www.SmithsonianJourneys.org or call 1-855-330-1542.

 

Beyond a Place of Worship: Three Extraordinary Hotel Chapels

August 2nd, 2022

Beyond serving as places of worship or religious celebration, these extraordinary hotel chapels are portals into local customs and architectural and artistic traditions. Many have been painstakingly restored to their original splendor, offering visitors a chance to travel back in time—to the Italian Renaissance, the Andean Baroque movement in Peru, and the Byzantine period in Greece.

Kalesma Mykonos

Located on the grounds of Kalesma Mykonos, the recently completed church of Agios Dimitrios is an exquisite ode to the island’s Byzantine past, brought to life by Greece’s top contemporary artists and design talents, including creative agency Saint of Athens. As many of the island’s aristocratic mansions contain worship areas with ornate religious imagery, the owners of Kalesma Mykonos wanted to pay tribute to this local tradition. Greek design firm K-Studio oversaw the church’s Cycladic architecture, while the interiors—a collaboration between Studio Bonarchi’s Vangelis Bonios and graphic designer/illustrator Gerasimos Chatzis—drew on a range of influences, including references to great Greek hagiographers, Hellenistic elements, and Byzantine heritage. A typeface was specifically created for the church’s interiors: a predominantly black Byzantine, tribal script with shining gold accents that depicts the Passions of Holy Week. An original soundtrack by musician Stefanos Giakoumakis borrows from the vibrations of the surroundings, fusing the sounds of water and air with choral and orchestral elements.

Monasterio, A Belmond Hotel, Cusco

Walking inside the San Antonio Abad Chapel at Monasterio, a Belmond Hotel, you can’t help but feel the city’s Baroque history wash over you. Built on what was once the Palace of Inca Amaru Qhala, the church—constructed in the aftermath of the 1650 earthquake—features soaring ceilings with large-scale oil paintings in elaborate frames and a resplendent gold altar. It’s an astonishingly beautiful backdrop for weddings and other religious ceremonies. Guests can also exchange their vows within the cloistered walls of Monasterio’s main courtyard, amid grand stone arches, scented gardens, and a 300-year-old cedar tree. It’s no wonder the hotel has been recognized as a historical landmark by Peru’s National Institute of Culture.

Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, Florence

Declared a National Monument in 1896, the Church of Villa San Michele all Doccia is a Renaissance-era masterpiece, complete with artworks that rival those at the country’s greatest cathedrals and galleries. Belmond faithfully restored the structure in 1988, washing the façade with distilled water and installing steel reinforcements to its weakest parts. The apse and the high altar are flanked with pietra serena columns, and there are four holy water stoups, two of which date to 1515, which is believed to be the year of the church’s original completion. Art aficionados can gaze up at Nicodemo Ferrucci’s Last Supper fresco, which has graced the walls since 1642 but was painstakingly restored in 1999, revealing details previously unseen, like the oil lamp above Christ’s halo. There is also a partially preserved 15ht-century fresco of the Ascension of Our Lord; a painting by Santi di Tito, who also completed works on the Vatican; and a stone coffin bearing the insignia of Pope Eugene IV. A colorful highlight is the 400-year-old wisteria, the only of its kind in Florence to bloom twice a year.

5 Favorite Indulgent Accommodations Around the Globe

August 2nd, 2022

A room with a view is always nice. But the world’s most indulgent accommodations go beyond sweeping vistas to offer sumptuous interiors, next-level service, and a dash of the unexpected—from a romantic open-air treehouse in Kruger National Park to a butler-serviced private riad in Marrakech complete with lavish rooftop terrace and home cinema. Take a peek inside:

Grand Riad at Royal Mansour

A four-bedroom oasis spread across three floors, this “medina within a medina” offers palatial-style design, private butler service, and a terracotta roof terrace inlaid with mosaics and offering sweeping views of the Atlas Mountain. Interiors are a vision of stucco lace, heavy drapery, Murano chandeliers, and a riotous mix of colorful wallpaper and precious stones. The ground floor opens onto a private garden with a retractable roof, while a cast iron elevator whisks you to the floors above, where each of the bedrooms has dressing rooms and private bathrooms. Other spaces include a dining room with billiards, a library for artful lounging, a neoclassical-style dining room, and the roof terrace with a plunge pool, Bedouin tent, and hammam.

Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi

A Robinson Crusoe fantasy come to life, the Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi is the world’s largest overwater villa, stretching across the Indian Ocean in multi-level tiers. Guests spend their days lounging by the infinity-edge pool and in the overwater catamaran nets; working out in the air-conditioned gym; pampering themselves with treatments at the private couples’ spa (complete with a steam room and indoor/outdoor treatment rooms); and sliding down the top-deck waterslide into turquoise waters. By night, enjoy movie screenings at the private cinema, and retire in the guestrooms (of which there are two en suite master bedrooms and a guest suite), which have doors that open to the breathtaking scenery. Other perks of the Private Reserve include a fully-equipped kitchen and the option to curate your own wine selection from the 400-label cellar.

Ian Fleming Villa at GoldenEye

Situated within the GoldenEye resort, this villa is tucked away in a private garden, where it’s hidden by tall trees and tropical foliage. It’s here that acclaimed British novelist Ian Fleming wrote all 14 James Bond books, inspired by the lush scenery and the three-bedroom villa he designed to his own specifications. A dedicated butler is on hand to make your every wish a reality, while a chef can whip up Jamaican specialties and martinis (shaken, never stirred) to be enjoyed in outdoor settings like a sunken garden or on the private beach, where there’s a grill built into the side of a rocky cliff. Each of the villa’s three bedrooms has its own tropical garden area with a clawfoot tub and a garden shower, setting the scene for relaxation en plein air. There are also two private stand-alone one-bedroom cottages on site for larger groups or families.

Producer Suite at The Chatwal New York

Guests of the Producer Suite will feel they’ve traveled back in time to New York’s heyday. Designed by French architect Thierry Despont, the expansive suite harks back to the city’s Art Deco past with its bold colors, geometric shapes, and a spiral staircase that spans two floors, leading to a panoramic roof terrace with views spanning over west 44th street and Manhattan’s skyline. Stretch out on a lounger enjoying the vistas of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and order room service for the ultimate New York power lunch. Butler services ensures you won’t have to lift a finger.

andBeyond Ngala Treehouse

It’s impossible not to feel a sense of child-like wonder as you sleep under the stars at the Ngala Treehouse, surrounded by the wilds of Kruger National Park. The four-floor treehouse offers the ultimate thrill—of being one with nature—while drifting off to the sights and sounds of the forest, far from the distraction of civilization. Enjoy sundowner drinks and a starlit dinner picnic on the upper deck, then retire to the elevated sleep-out platform for sleeping outdoors under a retractable screen (there’s also a covered and weatherproof space should you want to move indoors). And just because you’re off the grid doesn’t mean you have to go without the conveniences of a hot shower or a flushing toilet. Talk about the best of both worlds!

 

Where to Learn About Sustainability While Traveling – Our Top 9 Picks

July 27th, 2022

There’s infinite wisdom to be gained from the world of travel. One area where travel can be particularly impactful is sustainability. By integrating travelers into communities, instilling a deep reverence toward natural landscapes, and opening minds through fun, educational programming, travel has the capacity to effect lasting change long after a trip has ended. Here are nine hotels, tour operators, and destinations that are combining impact and inspiration in game-changing ways.

 

andBeyond

When it comes to conservation tourism, andBeyond is in a league of its own. Since its founding in 1991, the brand has secured some of the tourism industry’s conservation firsts: the reintroduction of cheetah to andBeyond Phinda, the groundbreaking translocation of 19 guar at India’s Bandhavgarh National Park, and the Rhinos Without Borders initiative that saw the relocation of 100+ rhinos from the highest poaching zones in South Africa. By staying at andBeyond’s 33 lodges and camps and opting for its tailor made tours and small group journeys, travelers are not only supporting these crucial initiatives across three continents, but also making history. Participate in the pioneering Pangolin conservation experience in a region where the species has been locally extinct for decades. Listen to legendary conservation leaders like Les Carlisle tell you about his decades of experience rewilding destinations around the world. Inspire a younger generation of conservationists by enrolling young visitors in the WILDchild Eco-Guide Challenge, which might include learning bushman skills like catch-and-release fishing, animal tracking, and identifying species of plants and animals.

 

Le Commandant Charcot

PONANT’s latest addition to its fleet is the world’s first luxury hybrid electric polar exploration ship that’s powered by electric battery and liquified natural gas, a non-toxic source that has the best safety records of all fuel types. With eight departures for the summer 2022 and 2023 Arctic season, Le Commandant Charcot offers guests the chance to venture to the farthest reaches of the globe, where they can participate in citizen science experiments, learn about the conservation initiatives, and tour remote landscapes with a team of naturalist-guides. For example, on a 16-day itinerary to the Geographic North Pole, the most northern point of the Earth’s axis of rotation, one activity is setting up a research station on an ice floe and deploying an Argos transmitter (a satellite-based system that collects and disseminates environmental data). Meanwhile, in Antarctica, on the 30-day journey Unexplored Antarctica Between Two Continents—an all-new and unrivaled half-circumnavigation between the far south of the American continent to New Zealand—guests will deepen their knowledge of the world’s most remote locales through expert-led lectures and excursions guided by naturalists, like observing isolated colonies of emperor penguins on coastal areas along the Bellingshausen Sea. When in battery mode, Le Commandant Charcot can sail for up to eight hours at a time without producing any emissions and with very low noise levels, so as to not disrupt aquatic life.

 

Paradero

Hands-on sustainable farming tutorials. Cooking classes with ingredients grown in the garden. A hike through the UNESCO-protected biosphere reserves along the Baja California Peninsula. At Paradero Todos Santos, an 80 percent landscape project and hospitality concept developed by Mexican entrepreneurs Pablo Carmona and Josh Kremer, education has never been so fun—or scenic. The property is spread across five acres in the unspoiled La Mesa farming community, an agricultural area comprising 160 acres of family-owned farms, and located at the doorstop of five distinct ecosystems, including the Sierra de La Laguna Mountain range, and a 200-year-old cordon cacti forest. Every activity at Paradero is designed to immerse guests in these spectacular landscapes and promote a deeper, more authentic connection to the land and the local community. Ultimately, these skills will generate greater self-awareness—encouraging guests to embody the values of Paradero long after a trip has ended.

 

Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town

Situated at the base of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain and spread across nine acres of lush gardens, Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel offers the rare experience of being amid nature in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. The reverence toward the natural world is reflected in the property’s range of unique activities and experiences, like the Fynbos Sunset Walk, a hike that begins just steps from the hotel and winds through one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth with over 9,000 plant species, nearly 70 percent are native to the Western Cape. Belmond guests also enjoy private access to shark scientist Justin Blake for a private ocean boating and snorkeling expedition to explore the underwater world that surrounds Cape Town’s coast.  During the half-day excursion, swim through the Cape kelp forests, recently listed as a new Seven Wonder of the World, and the octopus gardens of Oscar-award winning documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” offering to gain a greater understanding of the importance of sharks in maintaining the delicately balanced marine ecosystems. Back on boat, dine on a sustainable seafood-inspired picnic created by Mount Nelson’s Chef Rudi Liebenberg, featuring delicacies sourced from ABALOBI, a South African-based social enterprise supporting small-scale fishing communities globally.

 

UXUA Casa Hotel

Built by local artisans over a two-year period using traditional building methods and reclaimed materials (nothing is sourced beyond a five-mile radius of Trancoso), UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa is literally built on a sustainable foundation. The property’s influence goes beyond the hotel’s walls, though. At VIDA Lab, the on-site nutritional laboratory and medical kitchen, medical director Dr. Jullian Hamamoto transforms local plants and botanicals—from the on-site garden, the nearby Itaporoca beach, and the 50-acre UXUA ROÇA farm—into healing elixirs and beautifying therapies. Guests can go foraging with Dr. Jullian to learn about the significance of these ingredients, many of which are sacred to Brazil’s Indigeous Pataxó people. At the on-site atelier, guests can interact with local craftspeople and give input into products they’d like made, like kaftans and kimonos made by local weavers. Another notable activity is a capoeira lesson by a professor at the local Capoeira Sul Da Bahia school, which is dedicated to the preservation and study of the centuries-old martial art. One hundred percent of the proceeds for each lesson is donated to the school, and guests can also join in public class sessions with local youth.

 

Napa Valley

Napa Valley is at the forefront of sustainability in wine—the region is home to 40 percent of all certified sustainable wineries in California. Established in 1976, the Land Trust of Napa County protects more than 55,000 acres, roughly 10 percent of Napa County, ensuring the preservation of the land. No other wine region in the world has something like it. Local vintners work with more than 20 industry and environmental stakeholder groups to promote responsible business development and environmental stewardship.  What this means for visitors? Plenty of wide-open vistas and sustainably made wine, for one. There’s also an extensive range of activities that promote deeper engagement with Napa’s landscapes. The Napa Valley Bike Trail, for example, is a walking/cycling trail system that will connect the entire region, offering 47 continuous miles of level, paved, dog-friendly trail. Another way to see the sights: motoring around the region with Green Dream Tours, a carbon-neutral business that whisks visitors to sustainable wineries in the region, like Starmont Wines in St. Helena, where they’ll learn about their sustainable processes and techniques.

 

Nayara Resorts

The five properties that make up Naya Resorts’ portfolio are each located in a spectacular corner of Latin American—from the green valley in the Atacama Desert; Easter Island, one of the most remote places on earth; and the three Costa Rican properties, which are spread over a mountainside facing the majestic Arenal Volcano. With these sublime natural locations comes ample opportunity to learn about these precious ecosystems and the wildlife therein. In Costa Rica, for example, where Nayara planted over 1,000 Cecropia trees—the sloth’s made food source—guests can visit the sloth sanctuary to watch and learn about these creatures and various conservation efforts. While in Atacama, guests can discover the Salar of Atacama with a naturalist guide, navigating its rock formations and watching flamingos fly across the open sky.

 

Gili Lankanfushi

​​Located in the Maldives’ North Malé Atoll, one of the world’s most spectacular and fragile natural environments, Gili Lankanfushi takes great strides to protect its rich marine diversity and safeguard its surroundings for generations to come. Later this year, the resort will unveil a new Marine Biology Center, with a cutting-edge research space and the expansion of the coral nursery. The resort’s primary marine research facility, the lab is where guests can learn from Gili’s team of marine biologists, participating in coral reef cleaning and collecting vital information that benefits organizations like the Marina Research Center. Guests can even help rehabilitate damaged coral by nursing coral on ropes (lines) and transplanting them onto degraded reef areas—an initiative that Gili launched way before it was popular in the Maldives.

 

La Samanna, A Belmond Hotel, St. Martin

While a beach vacation conjures up visions of sunbathing on velvety shores, guests of La Samanna, A Belmond Hotel can combine seaside bliss and sustainable education. The Escape to Tintamarre experience entails a boat ride to the uninhabited Tintamarre island, in the Saint Martin Nature Reserve, home to rare hawksbill turtles and stingrays. A local marine conservationist will educate guests about the rich marine fauna and local sustainability efforts. Or visitors can venture up the St. Martin’s tallest peaks with a local nature guide, pausing to soak up sweeping island views and admire colorful plants and animals.

 

 

Will Travel for Swimming Pools? Our Top 8 Picks:

July 27th, 2022

Nothing signals ‘vacation mode’ quite like lounging by a pool, listening to the sounds of trickling water as you take in the surrounding scenery. It doesn’t matter if you’re swimming laps on the 47th floor of a Tokyo skyscraper or taking in coastal views from an infinity pool on the Amalfi Coast—there’s something about being near water that immediately energizes the body and soothes the spirit. Here are 8 pools that make the biggest splash.

 

Park Hyatt Tokyo

The ultimate antidote to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s streets? A refreshing dip in the pool of Park Hyatt Tokyo. With skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows, the pool gives the impression of swimming high above the Japanese capital, with 47th-floor views of the skyline and the snow-capped Mount Fuji in the distance.  Stretch out on a lounger around the 65-foot pool and order a drink and light bites. It’s worth hanging around until nighttime, admiring the lights of the city while soaking in the warm waters.

 

Nayara Tented Camp

At Costa Rica’s Nayara Tented Camp, guests have their pick of seven pools, all fed by hot springs and looking out to lush jungle scenery and the majestic Arenal Volcano. Each pool ranges in temperature, allowing guests to cool down on hotter days and warm up when the sun goes down. Thirsty? Ask the bartender to hand whip up a Guaro Sour or an iced Costa Rican coffee.

Don’t miss a nighttime swim, with twinkling stars overhead and the nocturnal sounds of the rainforest filling the warm air.

 

UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa

Not all pools are created equal. Take the pool at UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa in Trancoso, Brazil. Lined with 45,000 green aventurine quartz crystals—a native Bahian stone that’s said to have healing qualities— the shimmering pool resembles a natural lagoon that’s shaded by lush greenery and fragrant flowers. Add to the pool’s therapeutic effects by supplementing your swim with a Bahian hot stone massage at the spa.

 

Le Commandant Charcot

The world’s first luxury icebreaker ship is designed to travel through the globe’s iciest, most remote locations like the Antarctic Polar Circle. But don’t be fooled by its ruggedness—the ship has no shortage of luxe amenities, like a heated indoor swimming pool with a large glass roof and a sunroom looking out to the frozen scenery. Extra-intrepid guests can venture outdoors to the heated Blue Lagoon swimming pool, which wraps around the stern of the ship. The waters are heated from 80 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit using recycled energy from the ship. Snag a spot around the giant outdoor fire pit (as a plus, the armchairs are also heated) and order a selection of sweet and savory bites from 11 AM – 6 PM.

Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, Ravello

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is spoiled for breathtaking scenery, but there’s no perch more picturesque than the heated infinity pool at Caruso, A Belmond Hotel. Seemingly suspended between the sea and the sky, the pool is situated at the hotel’s highest point, an astonishing 1,000 feet above sea level. Swim up to the pool’s edge and take in panoramic views of steep cliffs that plunge into the Tyrrhenian Sea. After toweling off, ask the pool concierge to bring you a Kindle with a selection of reading material, or an iPod pre-loaded with the guest’s choice of music.

 

Palacio Nazarenas, A Belmond Hotel, Cusco

As a former Incan temple turned conquistador’s mansion, Palacio Nazarenas, A Belmond Hotel, is one of Cusco’s most singular stays. It’s also home to the city’s first and only outdoor heated pool, located beyond Inca walls in a cloistered terrace. Swim laps while marveling at the building’s Spanish colonial architecture, then order a Pisco Sour from the poolside Senzo Bar. Don’t miss salsa lessons on the pool deck on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings and live electronic Andean music on Friday night.

 

Indian Springs Calistoga, Napa Valley

Did you know California’s premier wine country is home to one of the Golden State’s largest natural hot springs? At Calistoga’s Indian Springs, travelers come from far and wide to soak in warm waters that have provided therapeutic relief for thousands of years. Napa’s original inhabitants, the members of the Wappo tribe, built sweat lodges over the area’s bubbling thermal geysers; in the 1860s, notable Californian Sam Brannan created the original spa, volcanic mud baths, and water plunge (now an Olympic-sized mineral pool heated to 92-102 degrees Fahrenheit). After your swim, explore the 17 acres of hills and ponds, lined with olive and pool trees and rose and lavender bushes.

 

La Reserve Paris

A Parisian sojourn isn’t always conducive to wellness (croissants, anyone?). But at La Réserve Paris, guests can easily keep up with their wellness routines at the oasis-like spa, complete with a 16-meter indoor pool, a hammam, a fitness area, and three treatment rooms for facials and body treatments. Open 24/7 for hotel guests, it is easy to squeeze in a couple laps at the pool before carrying on your day. The pool area can also be bought out for the ultimate in privacy and relaxation.

 

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