Discovering the Delights of Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland

Discovering the Delights of Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland

Growing up we heard repeatedly on the world news about Northern Ireland — but not in a good way. The strife tearing Northern Ireland apart regularly made international headlines until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Recently Belfast and the Antrim Coast has been chosen to be among the top 10 regions to visit for 2018 by Lonely Planet. Spending a weekend in Belfast and taking a Northern Ireland roadtrip along the the Antrim Coast ensures that you don’t miss all of the best spots in this beautiful part of the world. From Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, this area has so much to see and do with activities ranging from history, culture to hiking and coastal walks.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast

What is County Antrim?

Most of Belfast, the capitol of Northern Ireland, is in County Antrim, one of the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland. Antrim, therefore, has the benefit of Northern Ireland’s main airport, Belfast International Airport. Transportation links are great making a weekend in Belfast from London and other European cities completely feasible.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

This majestic tree alley was used as the Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones

County Antrim is actually one of the 2 counties on the island of Ireland that has a Protestant majority. It’s also the most populated county in Northern Ireland with most people located in and around Belfast. It’s located on the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland.

Fun Fact – The northeastern tip of Torr Head in County Antrim is only 12 miles from the coast of Scotland!

Famous people from County Antrim have been writer C.S. Lewis, actor Liam Neeson and musician Van Morrison. Six American presidents had families originated that from County Antrim including Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

The Giants Causeway in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Lonely Planet has acknowledged that Northern Ireland has changed dramatically for the better in the last 20 years. County Antrom’s promoted as a tourist area by such a prestigious organisation is great news for a region reinventing itself. Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Southern USA and Lahaul and Spiti in India.

Tips for Visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast

Who better to ask for advice on visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations and travel tips for Northern Ireland from eleven fellow travel bloggers.

Northern Ireland Roadtrip 

Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, occupies much of the north shore of the Irish coast.  Visiting Northern Ireland is an opportunity to experience nature as well as the unfortunate historical period known as the Troubles.

Any visit to Northern Ireland starts in the capital:  Belfast.  This city is largely divided – representative of the deep divisions in society.  From 1968-1998, the conflict boiled over into intense violence (if not an outright civil war). 

These days, the violence is over, the rhetoric is calmer and the street murals have become internationally famous (particularly in the Shankill Road and Falls Road neighborhoods).  A new era has taken hold in Belfast and “The Peace” is firm.

Despite the sometimes heated rhetoric, Northern Ireland is a beautiful country (or, more accurately, it is a Constituent Country of the UK) and there is a bucolic calmness in the countryside. 

The best way to experience this natural beauty is a drive of the Causeway Coast on the Causeway Coastal Route.  This rough stretch of coastline delivers abandoned castles, smooth Irish whiskey distilleries and lots of unique locations which have become famous as film locations for the Game of Thrones. 

But the Causeway Coast is best known for the other-worldy geological features of the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Antrim Coast is extremely beautiful!

With so much to offer, it’s not surprising that Belfast and the Antrim Coast are one of the top travel destinations for 2018.

– Lance and Laura Longwell write at Travel Addicts and on social media at 

Northern-Ireland-Belfast-Troubles-murals-Bobby-Sands

A mural to Bobby Sands in Belfast (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)

A Weekend in Belfast

Belfast is a city which has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. No longer a place of struggle, it combines a historic city centre with a lively cultural scene that makes it a great short break visit. A weekend in Belfast is a short yet fun way to check out Northern Ireland.

Check out lively St. George’s Market (Fri/Sat/Sun only), with its many arts and crafts stalls and wide selection of food and drink. Pay a visit to Belfast City Hall, where the stained glass windows tell the story of the Troubles of the 20th Century in a powerful way. Entry to both is free.

Wander the streets just outside the city centre to see the many murals recording the struggles, or take a Black Cab tour, in which a local person, either Catholic or Protestant at random, will tell their tale from their own perspective in an intelligent and informative way.

Cross the river to a great view of Samson and Goliath, the two huge yellow cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company which are a symbol of the city. And, don’t miss the splendid Titanic Museum, where you can lose yourself for several hours in the history of the ill-fated ship. But, remember, it was fine when it left Belfast …

– by Jill Bowdery at Reading the Book and on social media at 

 

Belfast Northern Ireland

Belfast (Photo credit: Jill Bowdery)

Belfast Titanic Experience

The city of Belfast is also home some of interesting historical monuments like city hall, churches and castles. Walk through the ornate interiors fo the Belfast City Hall or marvel at the architecture of one of the beautiful churches or take a tour of the only Victorian era prison, Crumlin Road Gaol. Belfast has no dearth for architectural wonders.
Belfast also makes for a great base to explore the lush and picturesque countryside of Northern Ireland like the Antrim coast and the Giants Causeway and also explore the all-time favourite “Game of Thrones” shooting locations.
The Titanic Belfast Experience

The Titanic Belfast Experience (Photo credit: Rashmi and Chalukya)

Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route

A Giant’s Causeway Tour

I still have vivid memories of our time in Northern Ireland, back in 2011.

Londonderry and its city walls were something we could have checked out longer and better if we weren’t dying to go on a Giant’s Causeway tour and visit three gems located so close to each other by the sea.

Those were The Old Bushmills Distillery, Dunluce castle, and the pixellated Giant’s Causeway. All of them great on their own, we arrived at the last one a bit late after shooting the sunset at the castle. Knowing that half an hour wasn’t going to cut it, we headed back to the Causeway next day. It’s eventually possible to take a picture among the loads of tourists that populate the spot in the mornings without getting that much of a headache.

Then, Belfast would be next. Continue reading about our Ireland adventures here.
– Inma Gregorio at A World To Travel You and on social media at
Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway (Photo credit: Inma Gregorio)

 

A Weekend in Belfast and More of the Antrim Coast

I’ve lived in Belfast for 5 months and if the weather didn’t agree with me, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to discover this part of the world!
If you want a real taste of Northern Ireland, a long weekend is preferable.  A weekend in Belfast is sufficient.
If you’re into political history, I recommend starting with a guided walking tour to learn about the “Troubles” and how it shaped the city.
Don’t hesitate to finish by popping into one or several pubs (check out The Garrick, it has trad music sessions) or one of the more high-end cocktail bars. The culinary scene is pretty surprising too, and very vegan-friendly.
You shouldn’t leave Belfast without visiting the Titanic Museum and strolling around University Quarter (Queens University is gorgeous).
If you have more time after your weekend in Belfast and would like to discover the rest of Northern Ireland, I would recommend one of the Game of Thones tours. You don’t even have to watch the show, but you’ll get to see gorgeous places, including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giants Causeway. Otherwise take a train in the city center and make your way to one of the beautiful beaches, you won’t regret it!
– by Alice Cardillo from takeyourbag.org and on social media at 
A ruined castle on the Antrim Coast Road, Northern Ireland (

A ruined castle on the Antrim Coast Road, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)

Belfast and A Northern Ireland Roadtrip

Just days after returning from Northern Ireland, Lonely Planet announced it as the best region to visit in 2018. I have to say – I totally understand why!
I was only in Belfast and Northern Ireland for a few days but I instantly fell in love and am already planning a trip back. Belfast is a fascinating and ever-changing city where you can visit the place where the Titanic was built along with the huge museum completely devoted to it and you can explore the Peace Wall and brush up on the devastating and troubling history that has plagued this city.
In Derry, you can walk the only fully intact city walls still standing in Ireland.
My favorite part though was driving the Causeway Coastal Route  and taking in one of the most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen along the Antrim Coast. Along the Antrim coast, you can see ruined castles, the only UNESCO site in Northern Ireland (Giant’s Causeway) and even find some secret spots along the way. I definitely recommend adding this region to your future travel plans!
– by Ashley Hubbard from A Southern Gypsy and on social media at  

The coast along the Causeway (Photo credit: Ashley Hubbard)

 A Northern Ireland Roadtrip

County Antrim and the Antrim Coast

County Antrim is not only home to one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful coast lines, but also boasts of sceneries that exceeds any expectations. The scenic view of the Antrim coast is a balance between the blueness of Atlantic Ocean and the lushness of the green surroundings, that almost every direction you turn, beauty is a guaranteed promise. 

Giant’s Causeway is one of the famous stops in County Antrim, known for its otherworldly rock formations from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. It felt like being in different worlds all at once– like a crossover between Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park, and an outer space movie. 

Speaking of Game of Thrones, County Antrim is known for holding different locations from the popular TV series including Ballintoy Village and The Dark Hedges.

Another gorgeous spot that shouldn’t be missed in the area is the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge near the town of Ballintoy. Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, the view, even without crossing the iconic bridge, is so stunning. The walk along the coast is nothing short of spectacular and no Northern Ireland expedition is complete without this experience.

– by Erica Villas at Girl Unspotted and on social media at 

fields in County Antrim

Fields in County Antrim (Photo credit: Erica Villas)

The Antrim Coast on a  Northern Ireland Roadtrip

If you visit Northern Ireland be sure and (local dialect ;)) take a day to drive the Coast Road in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The Causeway Costal Route has been touted as one of the best tourist scenic drives in the world! It’s easy to find; just hug the coast as you circumnavigate Northern Ireland.

The best part in my opinion is the stretch heading half an hour north from Belfast: the Antrim Coast Road. This begins at the Black Arch in Larne and continues for an hour up to Ballycastle.

From Ballycastle you are just another 20 minutes drive from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions: the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and the Old Bushmill’s Distillery (Ireland’s oldest working distillery).

Although tempting to get to these exciting attractions as quickly as possible, take the extra hour to enjoy this scenic route instead! It’s only two hours total driving time as compared to driving just one hour from Belfast directly over the inland route.  

– by Erin Hardie at  Downbubble Travels and on social media at  

Giants Causeway Know Before You Go – Coastal Route County Antrim (Photo credit: Erin Hardie

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The Best Things to Do in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region of France

The Best Things to Do in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region of France

Although ever-popular Provence gets all the attention, the neighbouring French region of Languedoc-Roussillon is where the smart money goes to avoid the crowds but still get the French countryside charm. We first discovered the Languedoc accidentally when my husband won a charity auction for a luxury stay at Maison Laurent near Carcassone. We loved it so much we have returned several times including with the kids. We weren’t surprised when Lonely Planet named it among the top 10 regions to visit in the world for 2018, along with Alaska in the USA, the Julian Alps in Slovenia and Bahia in Brasil. It was only a matter of time before everyone discovered the cheaper and less-touristy part of the South of France.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Languedoc region has a great mix of history, culture, nature and food and wine.

Like the rest of the South of France, summers in the Languedoc Rouissillon are extremely hot and the winters are mild and comfortable. It’s an easy weekend break from the rest of Europe because French airline manufacturer Airbus is headquartered near Toulouse airport. When our daughter spent a few months studying French in the area, we would visit her on the weekends. We got to know the area just enough to realise that if we were ever to live in France, we would want to live in this region.

Where is the Languedoc-Rouissillon?

 The Languedoc Roussillon is located in the Southwest of France. The region extends from France to the Pyrenees (and borders with Spain and the Mediterranean).
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

A map of the Languedoc Roussillon region. Together with the Midi-Pyrenees next door, the area is now known as Occitanie.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region has been an important area since Roman times.
The Languedoc was its own important kingdom until it got annexed by the kingdom of France after the defeat of the Cathars in the 13th century. The Roussillon section was actually part of Catalonia until it was given to the French in the mid-17th century as part of a larger treaty between Spain and France.

The Cathars

Catharism is a form of Christianity that grew alongside Roman Catholicism during the early years of Christianity. It deviated from Catholicism in several important ways, such as for example, stating that men and women were equal.
In the tolerant and liberal Languedoc kingdom, Catharism flourished. Worse, Cathars called out the Catholics for being corrupt (which they were) and refused to pay the Catholic church any taxes.
The Roman Catholics couldn’t have that. Pope Innocent III declared them heretics and ordered a crusade against the Cathars. The French saw the opportunity for a land grab as well as bonus points to get into heaven. After two generations of fighting, the Cathars were decimated and the land annexed by France.
Next thing, the Catholics started the Inquisition in the Languedoc to root out any remaining vestiges of Cathar heresy. The once powerful language of Occitan was reduced to a regional patois, and the area went into economic decline.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The walled city of Carcassone was a Cathar stronghold.

Occitanie

In 2016, the Languedoc-Rouissillon was merged with the midi-Pyrenees region to form Occitanie, a massive region that is the largest in all of France. The people in this area had all spoken Occitan in the past (which is related to the Catalan language).

Getting To the Languedoc-Roussillon

There are several airports in the area including Carcassone, Perpignan and Montpellier. We have always flown into Toulouse though because it is a main regional airport with a choice of flights and airlines.

Things To Do in the Languedoc- Roussillon

What To Do in Carcassone

The historic center of Carcassone is a UNESCO world heritage site. The walled city retains its medieval charm with the world’s largest medieval castle and 54 towers. Carcassone is the second most visited tourist attraction in France (the top spot is the Eiffel Tower). You will find plenty to occupy you in the narrow streets of historic Carcassone.
Check out two ways to explore Carcassone – Take a 1.5 hour Guided Segway City Tour and/or Explore the Castle and Ramparts with fast entry tickets.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The medieval walls of the city of Carcassone

Canal du Midi

The UNESCO world heritage listed Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean over 264 kilometres (164 miles). The advent of the railroads made the canal obsolete and now it is primarily used for recreational purposes.

Other Places to Visit in Languedoc Roussillon

Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France and the regional capitol. Some of the Montpellier attractions include the Cathedral St. Pierre, Roman-era aqueducts, the Montpellier Zoo and the Musee Fabre (containing European Old Master paintings).
Nimes is famous for its well-preserved Roman archeological remains including the UNESCO world heritage listed Roman aqueduct, Le Pont du Gard.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Le Pont du Guard, a well-preserved Roman aqueduct, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Fun Fact – Denim gets its name because it’s fabric that comes from Nimes (serge de Nîmes).
Beziers was where the ill-fated Cathars (and any unfortunate Catholics with them) were slaughtered wholesale. Nowadays it is known for its wine and bullfighting.
Narbonne is a laid-back seaside town famous for its Gothic cathedral and its wine industry. During Roman times, it was the capital of Gaul and a crossroads between the rest of France, Spain and Italy.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Cathedral of Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur in Narbonne.

Perpignan is the last city in France before the Spanish border and so it has an interesting mix of cultures. Things to do in Perpignan include visiting the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, the Basilica Cathedral of St. Jean the Baptist and the Arab and Gypsy quarter.

Food and Drink

The Languedoc region produces 1/3 of all French wine – thats approximately 2 billion bottles a year. It is also fertile farmland with a number of excellent local products – oysters, anchovies, beef, lamb, cheeses and foie gras to name a few.
Why not take a Montpellier Food Tour with a local expert?  – Visit a local market, and sample products straight from the producers.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Vineyard near Montpellier

Nature

 You can find Europe’s biggest river delta at the Camargue which borders Provence. These 900 square kilometres (approximately 350 square miles) of wetlands are famous for their pink flamingoes, wild horses and bulls.
Take a Guided Tour! – You can take a full-day guided minibus tour to the Camargue to explore its wildlife as well as learn about how salt is harvested from the salt marshes.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Two white horses in the Camargue

When we went skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees resort of Bequeira-Beret, we flew into Toulouse and drove through the Languedob-Roussillon. There is, of course, skiing in the French Pyrenees too.
The Cévennes is a national park of almost 800,000 acres with its main entrance by the pretty little town of Florac. With mountains, gorges and plateaus, this area is a nature-lovers paradise of wild, unspoiled countryside.

Beaches

There are miles of beautiful sand beaches sprinkled with little towns edging the Mediterranean. The Espiguette is the Languedoc’s largest sand beach and backed by sand dunes. Cap D’Agde has Europe’s largest nudist beach. The beaches near Beziers are also excellent (Portiragnes and Serignan). La Franqui is popular with windsurfers. Argeles is said to be one of the best beaches in all of France – it’s wide, sandy and has stunning views of the Pyrenees.
Right before you hit the Spanish border, you have the Cote Vermeille, the undisputed star of which is the pretty little artsy town of Collioure. Note that the beaches here are pebbly.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Cote Vermeille or the Vermillion Coast is so-called because of its red rocky coastline.

Tips for Visiting the Languedoc-Roussillon

Although we have explored Carcassone, undertaken a pilgrimage to Lourdes, visited the beaches in the summer, this region of France is vast with plenty of things to do.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Isn’t this perfect for an evening stroll after indulging in a fantastic dinner and wine?

Who better to ask for advice on visiting the Languedoc-Roussillon than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations and travel tips for this region of France from five fellow travel bloggers.
The medieval walled city of Carcassone

The medieval walled city of Carcassone Image credit: Thomas Dowson

– by Corinne Vail from ReflectionsEnroute and on social media at
Montady in the Languedoc-Rousillon

The Town of Montady (Photo credit: Corinne Vail)

The Languedoc-Rouissillon

Collioure in the French Vermeille

Much less touristy than the neighbouring region of Provence, the Languedoc-Rouissilon region of France has an incredibly rich historical heritage.  The towns and villages are filled with Roman architecture – who can forget about the amphitheatre in Nimes – beautiful cathedrals and precious castles, like the world-famous Carcassone.
It’s also a place where cultures meet. Perpignan for example is the capital of French Catalonia, and although people speak in French, you can also see many signs of the Catalan identity.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in this region is the charming village of Collioure, situated in the French Vermeille, very close tot he Spanish-French border. It’s one of the most romantic villages in the Languedoc-Rouissilon region with cozy cobbled streets, artisan shops, local seafood restaurants and magical atmosphere.
Many French and Catalan artists – Picasso or Henri Matisse for instance – chose to live here for some time and found the atmosphere very inspiring. The two main landmarks of this picture perfect village to visit are the Notre-Dame-Des-Angles Church and the Chateau Royale de Collioure, a fortress that was held by several different royal families throughout history.
– by Gabor Kovacs from Surfing the Planet and on social media at
collioure in the Languedoc Rouissilon

The village of Collioure in the Languedoc-Rouissilon (Photo credit: Gabor Kovacs)

Minerve 

Walking through the narrow streets of Minerve is like stepping into the pages of a children’s storybook but today’s beauty disguises a gruesome past.

The quiet village, around 50 kilometres from Carcassone, came under attack during the Albigensian Crusade in 1210 when a number of Cathars (non-Catholics) from Beziers took refuge in Minerve. After a six week siege, the village was forced to surrender and 140 Cathars were burnt at the stake.

To learn more about the bloody events of the past, a visit to the Hurepel Museum is a must. Here, the story of the siege is told in sixteen clay dioramas made by local artisans.

Today Minerve is classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages and it’s easy to see why. Perched on a rocky peninsula at the meeting of two rivers and alongside deep gorges, Minerve’s setting is picturesque.

A tall, narrow tower and a small section of wall is all that’s left of the medieval fortifications, whilst the 12th century church and the impressive double-arched bridge that spans the River Cesse are the other major sites in the village.

But for me, the real attraction of Minerve are the cobbled streets lined with centuries-old stone buildings some now serving as shops, boutiques and cafes.

Sitting on a shady terrace sipping a drink and admiring the views you can’t help but be thankful you’re visiting today and not back in 1210.

– by Carolyn Schonafinger who  writes at Holidays To Europe and on  

The Town of Minerve near Carcassone

The town of Minerve in the Languedoc Roussillon (Photo credit: Carolyn Schonafinger)

 

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The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps of Slovenia

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps of Slovenia

I have to confess I thought I had never heard of the Julian Alps when Lonely Planet named it one of the top 10 regions to visit in 2018. The Julian Alps are the official name of the Alps when they stretch from Italy across Slovenia. The Julian Alps of Slovenia are named after Julius Ceasar who built a town at the foot of the mountains. The most famous place now in the Slovenian Alps is Lake Bled, the most popular resort in Slovenia. You may have seen photos of the charming little church set in the middle of a lake surrounded by mountains. There is, however, so much more to the Julian Alps than Lake Bled!

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia | Mount Triglav | Walking in Slovenia | Lake Bled accommodation #Slovenia #hiking #adventuretravel

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia

Best Things To Do in the Slovenian Alps

So what are the best things to do in the Slovenian Alps? Any and all forms of hanging out in nature such as hiking, skiing, biking, skydiving, canyoning and white water rafting.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled obviously is a must-see even if it is super popular with tourists. It is as beautiful as you would expect. You take a boat out to the island on the flat-bottom boats and then climb 99 steps to see the church. On the shores, you can visit beautiful Bled castle perched high on a cliff overlooking the lake.

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia | Mount Triglav | Walking in Slovenia | Lake Bled accommodation #Slovenia #hiking #adventuretravel

Sunset view of Lake Bled and the Julian Alps

During the Austro-Hungarian Empire days in the early 20th century, Lake Bled was an important health spa. Some of the Lake Bled accommodation still have pools that are fed by thermal springs, such as the 5-star Grand Hotel Toplice, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

Hotel Vila Bled, is another high-end Lake Bled accommodation option. This hotel is the converted former residence of Marshall Tito back when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia. When Tito wasn’t busy repressing his people, he would entertain a whole host of world leaders at this vila, among them Russia’s Kruschev, Egypt’s Nasser and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung. The hotel’s decor likewise harkens back to hits heyday in the 1950’s.

You know if there is an Austro-Hungarian influence in the area, they are bound to have good cakes! The Bled Cream Cake is no exception with more than 12 million pieces of cream cake sold to date.

Triglav National Park

Triglav National Park is the area around Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia. It has many different options of hiking trails that will let you explore the beautiful scenery at your own pace. Walking in Slovenia is geared towards all levels of ability so everyone of all ages can participate.

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia | Mount Triglav | Walking in Slovenia | Lake Bled accommodation #Slovenia #hiking #adventuretravel

Walking in Slovenia through Canyon Vintgar in Triglav National Park

Road Trip Through Little Villages

If a walking holiday in the Alps does not sound like your cup of tea, hire a car and head further into the Slovenian mountains. Less touristy than Lake Bled is the charming Lake Bohinj, the picturesque Soca Valley with the Soca River and charming little towns such as Radovljica and Bovec.

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia | Mount Triglav | Walking in Slovenia | Lake Bled accommodation #Slovenia #hiking #adventuretravel

A church in Bohinj, Slovenia

For a hairpin-turn drive through the mountains, check out the Vrsic Mountain Pass which is considered one of the most scenic and exciting drives in the area. Not enough adrenaline for you? Consider the Mangart Pass is the highest road in Slovenia. Both of these roads appear on the Dangerous Roads website. You do you.

Winter Sports

In the winter, Bovec is the nearest town from three Slovenian ski resorts. Kanin-Sella Nevea, a joint Italian-Slovenian ski resort, is Slovenia’s highest ski resort.  You also have resorts at Tarvisio and Kranjska Gora.

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia | Mount Triglav | Walking in Slovenia | Lake Bled accommodation #Slovenia #hiking #adventuretravel

The Best Things To Do in the Julian Alps Slovenia

Tips For Visiting The Julian Alps, Slovenia

Who better to ask for advice on what to do the Julian Alps than people who have visited there, especially if they are travel bloggers?  Below are the recommendation of four travel bloggers on what they liked about the Slovenian Alps.

Lake Bled

Slovenia is often understated as travel destination. However, this little gem is home to natural beauty, varying from the mountain ranges of the Julian Alps over gorges to vast lakes, such as the highlight of the region: Lake Bled.

For centuries, Lake Bled with its island, which is actually the only one in the entire country, has been known as a paradise location. It’s full of beauty, wealthy of legend and hosts a special power that will help every visitor to restore the own well being. The island in the middle of the lake can be visited through traditional boats, called “pletna”.

Also, the lake is surrounded by not only mountains, but also by a castle that functions as an open-air museum. Within the whole area of the castle different artists showcase their traditional art: whether it is the printing of paper, the decoration of wine bottles or honey making – every visitor can try these cultural inherits him- or herself.

Besides a visit to the Lake bled, one should head further for the hills by the surrounding Julian Alps. Go hiking, enjoy whitewater rivers and stunning high-mountain scenery, take a walk in the beautiful deep forests or, in winter time, go skiing.

A great place to stay, however, is in Slovenia’s bustling capital Ljubljana, just a short drive away. Hence, you can easily stay in the city and visit Lake Bled and the Julian Alps on a daytrip.

Have you ever stayed in a former prison? Well, you can in Ljubljana. The Hostel Celica has several dorms, double and single rooms that are located in actual prison cells.

– by Clemens Sehi who writes at the Traveller’s Archive  and on social media at 

Lake Bled, the castle and a tradtional Pletna boat

Lake Bled, the castle and a traditional Pletna boat (Image credit: Clemens Sehi)

The Slovenian Alps Around Lake Bled

Kranjska Gora

Most people choose Lake Bled as their spot to visit in Slovenia, but there is so much more to Slovenia than just Bled. We stayed in a town called Kranjska Gora, around the corner from Bled just on the outside of Triglav National Park.

Our Airbnb had a balcony with an incredible view of the mountains, the Julian Alps being a part of  that. From our spot in Kranjska Gora, we were able to drive to a town called Ratece to do a hike up Tromeja, which takes you the top of mountain in the midst of the Julian Alps where you find yourself in Slovenia, Italy and Austria, all at once.

Another day was spent driving around Triglav National Park to a town called Bovec, where we were able to skydive with views over the Julian Alps.

There is so much more to do in the area, between hiking, white water rafting, and I am sure in the winter the skiing would be phenomenal, I wouldn’t be surprised if this area becomes more of a hotspot than Lake Bled has been.

– by Sara Blair at The Life of a Solivagant and on social media at
Kranjska Gora in the Julian Alps, Slovenia

Kranjska Gora in the Julian Alps, Slovenia (Photo credit: Sara Alexis)

Triglav, Slovenia

Triglav, Slovenia’s only national park, is named for Mount Triglav, the highest peak in the Julian Alps. Located in northwest Slovenia, the park offers stunning views of the surrounding mountain range. Hiking is the most popular outdoor activity in Slovenia, and locals and visitors alike can experience the rich scenery of the Alps via Triglav’s many hiking trails.

Walking in Slovenia ranges from easy day hikes through mountain meadows to strenuous multi-day hikes up various summits. With walking holidays in the Alps, travellers of all ages and abilities can take in the beauty of the park. Mountain biking and alpine skiing are also popular park activities.

Pokljuka Plateau is the starting point of many popular treks, but also a destination in itself. Directly by accessible by car from nearby Bohinj or Bled (I highly recommend Bled’s Penzion Mayer for both lodging and dining), a short walk to the plateau’s Uskovnica alpine meadow reveals old shepherd’s huts and a tiny church set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

For those with only a couple of hours, a walk around this old village to take in the spectacular views of the Julian Alps is the way to go. For those seeking more adventure, bring your tent and start your summit to the Mount Triglav peak right here.

– by Mary Beth Charles who writes at MBSees and on social media at 

Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel in the Uskovnica Alpine Meadow, Pokljuka Plateau, Triglav National Park

Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel in the Uskovnica Alpine Meadow, Pokljuka Plateau, Triglav National Park (Photo credit: Mary Beth Charles)

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Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

As an American expat raising half-British children in England, I was curious about the list of Britain’s ultimate happy places on vacation when I saw it. After all, was I doing a good enough job making sure they felt British? I was pretty sure I was doing a good job on making them feel American but ideally I want them to appreciate all their cultural heritages. I have to agree with some of these choices for the best-loved British getaways in the UK. As for the places I haven’t visited, I will have to check them out (for thoroughness in research of course!).

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

What the British love most about vacations in Britain

The 30 Best Things To Do in Britain

Our score for the best things to do in Britain came in 10 out of 30 and that was stretching the very specific listing somewhat.

For example, we didn’t have a Cornish pasty in St Ives but we did have one in Padstow which is still Cornwall. In my books, that counts as a win! By the way, you have to have a Cornish pasty in Cornwall because the pastys they sell elsewhere in Britain are simply not as good.

We have also walked our dog on the Norfolk beaches, if not specifically Holkham Bay. We have watched the surfers in North Devon and Cornwall although my kids refused to surf themselves. Not even in a wetsuit were they going into that cold Atlantic water. Their American genetic half says surfing is a warm water activity best suited for California and Hawaii.

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

Surfers in North Devon. Note the full wetsuit.

Taking an open top bus tour in London is a great way to see the city. I was lucky enough to have my experience in an old-fashioned Victorian omnibus.

Two things we have done exactly as specified are climbing Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and looking for dinosaur fossils on the Jurassic Coast.

Many of these must-do items were in Devon and Cornwall which my kid love. We’ve spent lots of time there also because that’s where my husband grew up and still has some family. We have also spent lots of time in parts of England and Wales which are easy weekend driving distance of London.

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

Beautiful Lynmouth in Exmoor National Park in Devon

The Most Popular Getaways in the UK

We have, however, explored 2 out of the 4 most popular holiday destinations in Britain. A cool 50% score on getaways in the UK! Yay, us!

What have I learned from checking out the most popular holiday destinations in Britain? I really need to travel to the north of Britain more. The south of the U.K. is just such an easy short break for us as a family.

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

We love taking our dog on holiday which is pretty easy if we stay in the UK

Now that my son is really getting into hiking and camping, I’m sure we will visit the Lake District soon. I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands years ago but have never taken the children.

If Onlys For A British Summer

We would do more road trips in the United Kingdom, if only I was guaranteed of sunshine. I agree with the people who say that there is no place like Britain if you could guarantee the weather.

A British summer’s day is glorious! There is hardly any humidity, no pesky bugs and no pervasive smell of mosquito repellent. The daylight hours stretch from early morning until late into the evening.

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

A beautiful day in London

Unfortunately though you don’t know what time of the year that British sumer will happen or how long it will last. Having lived in Britain for too many years to count, I have seen British summer happen as early as April and as late in September.

In 2017, we had great weather in June and it rained way too much in August. In early October, it felt like spring again with everyone ditching their coats. It’s like Mother Nature just spins a giant British Summer Wheel every year and it lands where it lands.

I’m not sure I agree with the costings on how much a holiday abroad costs versus holidays in the UK. Sure, you can avoid the cost of air plane tickets. If you take a flight on low cost airlines though, a plane ticket abroad can work out as cheap as the cost of fuel for driving. And, you get guaranteed sunshine especially in places like the South of France or Spain.

The real savings though would be on accommodation, especially in London, if you avoided the hotels. In London, you have serviced apartments available through companies like SACO. I’m all for living like a local but I’ve had mixed experiences on AirBnB so I prefer using companies that have strict quality control measures in place.  In the British countryside we have rented houses (or borrowed friends’ second homes) and that has saved us a lot of money. 

Must Do Activities on a British Vacation

We have done 9/10 must do activities on a British. A cool 90%! Now, that a score that the sleeping Tiger Mom in me feels more comfortable relating.

We have enjoyed the pleasures of a good pub lunch, eating a cream tea and relaxing on a deck chair.

Do You Agree These Are the Best-Loved British Getaways in the UK?

A proper Devon cream tea with fresh clotted cream.

The only thing we haven’t done is go paddling. Sorry that water is too cold even on a nice hot day for me to take the risk of getting wet. The kids can do that one alone.

If you’ve been to Britain, how many of these quintessentially British things have you experienced? 

I was happy to provide SACO my opinions on this research and this post is in a collaboration with them. All opinions, of course, remain my own.

What makes the British happy on holiday

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

There’s nothing like a spot of color on an old building to liven up an urban scene, especially when that country is prone to fits of rain like in Ireland. In Cork, the street art springs up on you in bits and pieces, a delightful surprise as you turn a corner or an electrical box catches your eye. Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and has a large student population. County Cork is also nicknamed The Rebels and has a history of nonconformity. All of these traits combine to make a fertile ground for some very cool, intelligent and witty street art.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Street art in Cork in Ireland expresses Corkonians’ strong identity.

Mad About Cork

There’s even an organised group called Mad About Cork who promote the city through street art and guerrilla gardening. They even encourage visitors passing through Cork to join them in their graffiti projects! Having tried my hand at street art in Shoreditch in London, I hope their volunteers are more talented than I was at expressing myself with a spray can and a wall.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

An abandoned city plot has been turned into a guerrilla sensory garden for children with disabilities.

Started in 2016, Mad About Cork have organised meetings and volunteers to beautify their city. It sounds not so much rebel-like but more positively civic-minded to me!

Street Art in Cork City

Keep in mind, that Cork only has a population of 125,000 so it is much smaller than other cities that I have visited with extensive street art such as Valencia in Spain (population 800,000), Los Angeles (population 4 million) and Sao Paulo in Brazil (population 12 million). The quality of the artistic expression on the city streets of Cork are all the more impression for its diminutive size.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

These cheerful Crayola coloured steps remind me of the Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro.

Travelling around the West Coast of Ireland on a bite-size Irish road trip, I loved the candy-coloured buildings in the little villages I passed through. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between that sort of color-strewn village buildings and Cork City’s murals.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Pretty buildings in Kinsale, Ireland

Here are some of my favourite pieces of street art in Cork City.

We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.

– Winston Churchill

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

During the Siege of Cork in 1690, the city was collateral damage when 2 British Kings (James II for the Catholics and William III for the Protestants) duked it out.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

A portrait of an Easter Uprising Rebel as a young man.

With deep affection and recollection, I think of those Shandon Bells

– Francis Sylvester Mahoney

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

The famous symbol of City Cork are the Shandon Bells at St. Anne’s Church.

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

The English Market in Cork is actually older than the Boqueria in Barcelona!

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

The Firkin used to be important in Cork’s Butter trade but is now an arts venue.

When words fail, music speaks.

– Shakespeare

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

A language which we do not know is a fortress sealed.

– Marcel Proust

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

I’m sure this has something to do with time! But I don’t know Gaelic!

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Not just Gaelic, Corkonians speak French too!

Mad About Street Art in Cork City in Ireland

Corkonian slang explained.

The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon

The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon

Although my husband grew up in Devon, he did not know the North Devon coast very well. I had heard the surfing culture was strong and of course there was the lure of Exmoor national park. In terms of luxury hotels in North Devon, we were immediately drawn to the Saunton Sands Hotel for its location by the sea, proximity to gorgeous Saunton Sands beach and family-friendly reputation. All of these things were as advertised! We had a fabulous weekend break in the UK and the weather even cooperated for the most part.

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Surfing lessons at Saunton Beach for children

Saunton Sands Hotel is a four-star Devon hotel by the sea. The hotel is part of the family-owned chain of Brend Hotels which own 11 hotels in Devon and Cornwall.

Saunton Sands Beach

Saunton Sands Beach is a glorious swathe of white sand beach with waves perfect for playing, surfing and boogie boarding. The beach has as small cafe which serves food as well as a small store with souvenirs and necessities you may have forgotten. There are sand-friendly wheelchairs available for the use of less-abled visitors.

We saw surfers at Saunton Sands beach from the early morning until after sunset. These surfers were hardcore! You can arrange lessons with the schools on the beach through Saunton Sands Hotel. We saw many hotel guests with their surfing gear ready for a day at the beach.

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A sign showing the path from the hotel to the beach

You should note that Saunton Sands beach is a dog-friendly Devon beach all-year round. Very popular with dog owners, my kids were in their element with all the adorable dogs playing in the sand and water. I found the dogs well-behaved.  The Saunton Sands Hotel though does not allow dogs to stay.

The Saunton Sands Hotel Review

Saunton Sands Hotel is that rare hotel that does everything right – not only were the rooms great, the hotel has an excellent location and load of amenities. It’s a renovated Art Deco hotel in Devon which really looked like it could have come straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

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The beautiful Art Deco hotel was built in the 1930’s.

The Hotel Room

We had an adjoining family room which had a layout that we appreciated. There was a queen bed leading to a hallway with a bathroom and another bedroom with twin beds. Both bedrooms had doors. The hallway had a generous closet so that we could have the clothes near the bathroom.

Many other family rooms in hotels we have stayed at prefer a duplex family room layout. Usually the adults’ room is upstairs and doorless. The kids sleep in the studio part downstairs which is usually where the bathroom is located. If you want to check in on the kids at night or use the toilet, you have to sneak downstairs quietly.

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Although the hotel building is art deco, the decor itself is fairly neutral with only the occasional art deco touch.

The rooms themselves are a good size with the usual seating area and tea and coffee facilities. There is a small refrigerator if you wanted to store anything. My kids loved the bluetooth speaker for their music.

I loved that there were flat screen televisions in both rooms so that I didn’t have to watch what they were watching. I could even close the bedroom door so that I didn’t have to hear them arguing on what they were going to watch!

We found the beds very comfortable.  I’m a stickler for mattresses and even I was impressed. There were bathrobes provided for the adults but not the kids (such a hard life!).

Saunton Sands Hotel Amenities

We really enjoyed that the hotel had so many amenities. With so much to do to keep them entertained, my kids didn’t even bother with their iPads for the whole weekend. I actually managed to catch up with some reading on my kindle with the great (free) wifi.

The pools

Beach hotels in Devon with a pool are a luxury, especially hotels with both an indoor and an outdoor pool. The indoor pool is a Godsend especially when its raining outside and the kids need to let off steam.  One end of the indoor pool has a separated shallow kiddie pool which is perfect for babies and toddlers.

Along one end of the pool, there is a small sauna and a ping pong table.  We spent a few hours lazing by the pool mixed in with some competitive ping pong.

The Saunton Sands Hotel Spa

Despite my love of spas, I did not have a chance to use the Saunton Sands Hotel Spa. There was so much to do at the hotel and the area, I decided I would rather hang out with the family then indulge in some spa time. Yes, I am a saint. And you know those activities have to be fun!

Other Amenities

Saunton Sands Hotel has a small gym and and a room with a large snooker table. My husband loves snooker and he’s been teaching our kids to play. My daughter has taken to it with the enthusiasm of a true pool shark.

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The making of a snooker shark (even though she needs a stool to reach the table)

Next to the large lawned area overlooking the beach, there is a small playground and a putting green.

Although it look really cute, Saunton Sands hotel has a children’s creche which my kids did not use. The hotel offers 2 hours free supervised care for children for under 8’s.

The path down to the beach also goes from the front of the hotel. It is wheelchair friendly (and Saunton Sands beach has sand-accessible wheelchairs for disabled guests).

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Easy access to the beach is a big plus point.

Saunton Sands Weddings

The hotel is a popular wedding venue and we ogled a charming Saunton Sands wedding on the Saturday. The wedding party went down to the beach for photos and the reception was in the ballroom adjacent to the hotel lounge.

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My daughter is at that age where she loves all things wedding for their glam romantic factor.

Unlike other hotels we’ve stayed in where there was a wedding, we were not disturbed by the wedding celebration. The music did not filter up to the rooms and the lounge/bar areas were not overtaken by wedding guests. In addition, the hotel kitchen seemed perfectly capable of running the food at the wedding reception without inconveniencing or delaying dinner guests.

Saunton Sands Food and Drink

The restaurants and bar are along the beachfront side of the hotel. We did see people enjoying drinks on the terrace but it really was too chilly for a meal outside.

The Bar

After (barely) winning their snooker match, my husband treated my daughter to a Shirley Temple at the bar area. There are comfy couches where you can sit and hang out. The non-alcoholic drinks were a big hit with my kids. We liked having lounge areas where we could sit which wasn’t in the hotel room.

Saunton Sands Restaurant

The restaurant serves a large buffet style breakfast with both cold and hot options. It has the traditional English breakfast options as well as yogurts, fruits and heart-healthier options.

In the evening, the restaurant menu for dinner has a good selection of surf and turf which caters to the tastes of the multi-generational guests. You have old British favourites like fish and chips as well as freshly caught fish and seafood and a selection of steaks. I thought the Lundy lobster bisque with freshly caught lobster on toast was divine.

The fine dining aspect is nice without being snooty. The ingredients are locally sourced and the food excellent.

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The lobster bisque made with local Lundy lobster was my favourite dish.

If you have younger children, the Saunton Sands restaurant does a children’s dinner in the late afternoon until 6:30.  Our children ate dinner with us and chose off the regular Saunton Sands restaurant menu options. My son had fish and chips and my daughter ate macaroni and cheese.

Why The Saunton Sands Hotel Devon?

For family-friendly weekend breaks in the UK all year round, or a longer holiday in North Devon, the Saunton Sands Hotel is a fabulous  hotel which will provide an enjoyable escape for everyone in the family, no matter the age.  A couple of things to note:

  • This hotel is great for the less-abled members of your family. Not only is the hotel accessible for the less mobile, so is Saunton Sands beach. I would definitely add Saunton Sands hotel to my list of luxury hotels with disabled facilities in Europe (even if you argue that Britain isn’t part of Europe despite its geographical location). This hotel is a wonderful example of the great British seaside holiday of yore.
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Isn’t the view of the bay glorious? photo credit: Saunton Sands Hotel

  • Saunton Sands is a really good base for a multi-generational holiday in terms of North Devon accommodation. I spoke to one family group that was celebrating the grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. There are so many activities in the area that everyone will find something to enjoy. Next door to the Saunton Sands Hotel, for example, is the Saunton Sands public golf course. Teenagers and sporty types will enjoy the great surfing at Saunton beach. Children will love playing at the beach.
The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon | Saunton Sands accommodation | Saunton Sands Devon | luxury hotels North Devon |  Devon Hotels by the Sea

Colorful beach huts at Saunton Sands Beach

  • Saunton Sands Hotel is located near many of the fun things to do in North Devon.  The Gnome Reserve (which my children loved) was a 45 minute drive from the hotel. In nearby Appledore, on the other side of the bay,  there was a book festival on the weekend we visited. Another great beach by Appledore is Westward Ho! which has a sheltered bay good for beginner surfers. For sheer cutesy charm, the cobble stone streets of the nearby town of Clovelly are hard to beat. Nearby Ilfracombe has boutiques, art galleries and a giant statue in the harbor by British artist, Damien Hirst.
The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon | Saunton Sands accommodation | Saunton Sands Devon | luxury hotels North Devon |  Devon Hotels by the Sea

Westward Ho! has an even bigger sand beach than Saunton Beach.

Want a second opinion on the Saunton Sands Hotel Devon? The reviews for Saunton Sands Hotel on TripAdvisor are great as well.

My stay was courtesy of the Saunton Sands Hotel. All words and opinions are my own. This site also generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

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