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East Coast Done: Day 4

Mon. May 22, 2017:
Beaufort, SC

I woke up around 8am because I could not sleep any more. My back was hurting from the too-soft mattress (yes there is such a thing!). We head breakfast at the hotel, out on the front porch. The French toast was good but the ham on the side was way better. Nothing at breakfast was outstanding and the service was quite slow, we decided we would skip on it the next day, it was not worth it.

We went for a walk to Beaufort National Cemetery to see where Union Soldiers from the Civil War were buried. Seeing all the little headstones aligned and in rows it really hit home just how many soldiers died during the war.

We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront. All the birds were out in full force and singing and we saw another blue jay. The route we took was a much more scenic way to enter the town centre, with the waterfront and huge trees draped with Spanish moss on one side and big beautiful houses on the other side.

We drove to Shrimp Shack for lunch. The name did not lie, it was quite the shack. Brent was keen on getting the shrimp burger. We had no idea what to expect: shrimps on a bun, shrimps ground into a patty, a burger with shrimps on top? Turns out it was option B. I opted for the shrimp salad sandwich which was just shrimp mashed up with mayo and topped with lettuce. The bread was just Dempsters-style soft bread. Even still, as I sat there eating it all I could think was: migawd I have eaten so much bread today– and it’s barely non. At this point, I had eaten about 4 slices total.

The previous day we had passed a roadside shop that advertised grilled donuts and alcohol. Outside the shop I met the friendliest and scruffiest little muffin of a cat. It was black and skinny and clearly lived outdoors- his little ear had a nick in it. But for all his rough-looknigness, he was the most affectionate little munchkin, rubbing against me and meowing. It took all my self-will not to take that little scraggle-muffin home with me. The people working in the store were equally friendly. While Brent was picking out beers I got us some boiled peanuts, self-serve from a slow-cooker so you knew they were fresh. I did not know what to expect: they were boiled with their shells on and apparently you eat them whole? I waited until we were in the car before trying one. It was awful, I immediately spit it out. No part of it was good. It was rubbery, it tasted bad and the fibres from the shell were just awful and pokey. I even went back for another. This time I peeled it- but the peanut was rubbery and bland.

We tried to stop in at the Penn Centre historical museum but it was closed, as we expected given they listed their hours but it never hurts to check. We stopped at Wal-Mart to grab snacks and drinks. There were no good ciders so I opted for a bottle of wine instead. I also took the chance to stock up on Dunkin Donuts coffee and I could not believe I had forgotten (until I saw it on the shelf): Biscoff cookies!!! I ended grabbing the last two. By the register I found an Oreo Milka bar and some coffee peanut M&Ms. Snacks in hand, a diluted glass of sweet tea (mixed with half unsweetened) we headed back to the porch. I was getting used to this new lifestyle. I even finished my book and started another one, The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I had thought ahead and downloaded it to the iPad before we left for vacation. Eventually I switched over to cider (I still had one left). The coffee peanut M&Ms were ok but the caramel ones were way better.

After writing out my postcards I found a post office around the block from our hotel. The plan had originally been to walk down to the waterfront and get ice cream after but it started raining and thundering as soon as we set out and we did not want to get caught in it if it got worse. On the way back to our room I grabbed another sweet tea and a chocolate chip cookie (it had pecans in it!)- this hotel was awesome. We sat around watching TV, the season finale of Bob’s Burgers, and just waiting for pie time. It did not disappoint. As I was going downstairs for pie I realized we had missed cheese hour. I skipped on the key lime pie because we still had dinner reservations that night and I did not want to ruin my appetite. Brent had not even come down for any pie- until I came back to the room with a slice of pecan pie and a piece of lemon loaf.

At the Saltus River Grill we started out with fresh oysters, even though it was not oyster season. How could we resist a local oyster called Single Ladies?! We felt silly ordering just two oysters therefore we also got one each of the oyster from Nova Scotia. Four seemed less silly. For my main I had the crab cake. Soon after I had ordered the server came by a little bit concerned. She told me it’s not like a regular crab cake with the breading. It was just a patty of crab meat seared- I was more than ok with that given that they served us fresh bread at the table. I could do without bread crumbs. And it turned out to be the best crab cake I had ever eaten. I stole a bite of Brent’s steak with truffle butter but it paled in comparison to my crab cake. The drinks selection was great, I had a Bold Rock Cider. Alas we were way too full for dessert.

Walking back along the boardwalk it started raining again. I noticed a chalkboard sign inside a BBQ restaurant/bar. I could see that it said CRAFT BREWS, how could we pass that up? It was well worth the venture, the selection was great. I started out with a Windy Hill Gala Peach Cider. I had to have a second. I asked the guy if they do half-pints, he said he could do 11oz instead of 16oz. It was settled, we would stay for a second round- we had confirmed that the bar was not closing, they were just shutting down the kitchen. For my second I had a Snafu Tang, a sour beer made with oranges. It was so good! Brent teased me that mine was barely smaller than his, but I pointed out the circumference of our glasses. A guy walking by our table was talking smack about the Blue Jays and him and Brent got into a sidebar that I understood nothing of. It was nice to sit and relax, listening to 90s music while discussing potential songs for a first dance at our wedding. We were also waiting for the rain to stop but it was not letting up. When we closed our bill the guy asked us if we wanted any water to go. I am not sure if this was a joke about it raining or a comment on our inebriation.

By the time we got back outside it was raining even harder. Brent kept running ahead and hiding under awnings while I slowly made my way towards him. I had given up, it was raining hard and I knew I was going to get soaked. I joked that it was ok because I needed to wash my hair anyways. I had to shower quickly once we got back, Better Call Saul was on soon. For the first time in a long time we watched one of our shows on TV as it aired as opposed to online afterwards. The storm had gotten even worse, there was thunder and lightning. Outside there was a loud bird/frog/bug calling out regularly. I thought it was the fan being squeaky. Good thing I had not opened my wine, it had a cork in it meaning I’d have to drink it all in one day because I had no empty bottles to pour it into.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

East Coast Done: Day 3

Sun. May 21, 2017:
Charleston to Beaufort, SC

The warm cinnamon was just as I had dreamt and been expecting: awesome. We were in no rush to leave so I could eat my breakfast and watch TV, Say Yes To The Dress (SYTTD) just so happened to be on. We drove to Kaiwah Island resort to have lunch at the Ryder Cup Bar, overlooking the ocean and part of the PGA golf course. When we got to the resort we were given a map of the grounds. I could not for the life of me find the restaurant. We had to pull over and Brent took over looking at the map. It was not just me, the map was terrible and did not have the restaurant or the golf course it overlooked. I was vindicated. We had to use Brent’s work phone to navigate us there. It was definitely worth the hassle as the view was stunning. We sat on the terrace overlooking a practice green and behind it, the ocean. The cool ocean breeze was just a bonus.

I couldn’t resist ordering the jalapeno margarita, it was delicious and just the right amount of spicy. I ordered the crab-cake, expecting the usual. I was not expecting it to be between two buns with unnecessary lettuce and a tomato. I tossed them to the side of the plate and asked Brent if he wanted a side salad. We walked around on the veranda afterwards looking at the views. It had taken us almost 20 minutes to drive there from the gate entrance so we were going to enjoy it.

As we drove to Beaufort we saw our first armadillo- alas it was dead so it doesn’t really count. We passed a sign for the Carolina Cider Co. it got me all excited with their promise of peach cider. What they failed to mention was that it was non-alcoholic cider. Who does that?! And there was no sign of the promised pecan pie.

We checked in at the Rhett House Inn and once again, southern hospitality prevailed. Free sweet tea and cookies! And later they would be serving a cheese plate and free pecan pie in the evening! I was all for this new lifestyle. We walked to a nearby market to restock on drinks. We feared it would not be open because it was Sunday and we had been warned that on Sundays liquor stores are closed. Our hotel didn’t even serve alcohol, it was self-serve and based on honesty. For an early dinner we drove to the Gullah Grub Restaurant. It was like 4pm and we were the only people in there. The service was great, the owner’s young daughter was taking our orders and it was adorable because she was so careful in writing down exactly what we said, spelling it all out. I ordered two small dishes of their specialties: fried mac and cheese and the shrimp gumbo. I swear the mac and cheese had some egg baked into it to hold its shape. The cornbread was still warm from the oven. I had a bite of Brent’s BBQ ribs and they were amazing, they had sauce and rub and were so meaty and juicy. On the side I had “swamp water” which was a much better name for the Arnold Palmer i.e.: lemonade and iced tea.

We drove to Hunting Island with the hope of spending the rest of the day hiking and to see a lighthouse. Alas the park was closed due to damage from a hurricane last year. The only things that were open were the nature/visitor’s centre and part of the pier. We got to see some turtles and snakes in terrariums and the damaged pier overlooking the salt marsh. Brent was reading the info panel on the pier and it pointed out an osprey nest, we looked up and sure enough, there was an osprey sitting in a giant nest atop a pole. We walked over for a closer view and it started to soar. As we drove away we saw that there was another osprey still sitting on the nest. We also learned that we had not seen ibises earlier but egrets.

Back at the hotel we could see that a storm was brewing and we could hear thunder. But the second floor porch was covered and there was a nice breeze. We sat there reading, I wrote in my book while sipping sweet tea (that I had to mix with unsweetened because it is unbelievable how sweet the sweet tea down south is). We were basically counting down until it was time for pie. I could smell it baking earlier and I was super excited. We watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I downed a terrible Angry Orchard cider, as we awaited pie o’clock.

The pecan pie was amazing!!! There was also incredible key lime pie and after one bite of Brent’s awesome chocolate cake I could not resist cutting myself a tiny slice- they were all so good!!! We went for a short walk afterwards, the rain had stopped and the air was fresh. We walked over to St. Helena’s Cemetery, we saw a woodpecker and a blue jay. There was so much Spanish moss on the trees and it was all so pretty. When we got back to the hotel almost all the baked goods were gone, it’s a good thing we had gone early. We spent the rest of the evening watching Netflix, my poor sore feet needed a rest. The blisters were driving me nuts. In the morning I had grabbed an orange from the hotel and it was the perfect evening snack.

 

East Coast Done: Day 2

Sat. May 20, 2017:
Charleston, SC

I woke up at 7:30am because the headache I had in the middle of the night was still going. I had been mostly asleep when it first hit and I couldn’t make myself get up and take an Advil, I had assumed I could sleep it off. We stopped in for the breakfast buffet. I did not have high hopes and was pleasantly surprised to find warm cinnamon buns. The other options left much to be desired: the choice between low-fat yogurt and a too-big container of greek yogurt? As we walked back to the town I sipped my terrible hotel coffee, made all the worse by the hot weather. Bad hot coffee is that much worse when it is 30+ outside, and it was still morning!!

We started out our day at the Charleston Museum, the first and oldest American museum. We saw some Civil War stuff, giant rounds of ammunition and skeletons and taxidermied animals. At the museum we also confirmed that South Carolina water tastes swampy and smells of beets. It was not just the water in our hotel room. The museum was fairly small and we finished with enough time to go to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Along the way we passed through the town square where they were having a farmer’s market. I got a Charleston Tea Plantation tea mixed with lemonade and some teabags as souvenirs for my family.

What we did not anticipate was that the Chick-Fil-A was in a campus dorm building in the College of South Carolina campus. And it was closed for renovations to boot. No worries, we found another one a few blocks away! We got there only to discover that it was in the College student centre- which was closed on weekends during the summer season.

We decided to just stop somewhere on the way to the ferry, we still had plenty of time (even with the sunscreen application pitstop). We had seen a Chipotle earlier but before we got to it we found a Five Guy’s because burgers > burritos. The guy at Five Guys ended up giving me a free drink- no complaints here. The jalapenos were so good but towards the end it was getting too spicy and making me cry. It was the perfect amount of food.

We got to the ferry just in time and it was a short 30 minute ride over to Fort Sumter. We had been on a previous trip to Gettysburg and now we were getting to see where it all began. We were given an hour to wander around the fort and the island, with the option of listening to the ranger talk about the fort. He was so fake and overly energetic we had to get out of earshot. Later on as we looked down, a kid shouted at him to calm down.  In the museum section (aka hiding-from-the-sun-and-basking-in-the-cool-air-building) a kid was counting the stars on the Civil War US flag and he was so concerned, he was yelling for his mom because it only had 33 stars and as soon as she started paying attention to him he lost interest and moved on.

In the walls of the forts there were birds’ nests. There were also shells still lodged in the walls. We watched pelicans swoop into the water- all the while trying to avoid really annoying know-it-alls boring their companions with all their talking. For the ferry ride back we went to the lowest deck, we had had enough of the sun and needed shelter. Sipping my white wine and eating mini Charleston Chews, Brent sipping his beer, our peace was soon ruined by annoying nerds talking about the stupidest bro-things. I was too tired to care or to move. Thankfully the ferry ride back was short.

We took a roundabout way to walk back to the hotel following the shoreline. We gawked at some more gorgeous houses. The heat and sun started getting to me. I was tired and covered in sunscreen and the air was so thick and muggy. I was drenched in sweat. Along the way we saw a lizard and a pretty song bird, they distracted me from my tired state for all but a few seconds. We stopped at a Rite Aid on the medical campus to get some beers and Gatorades for the trip. I was so dehydrated I got a pomegranate-blueberry green iced tea to tide me over for the rest of the walk and an old fashioned cream soda for once I was back in the hotel.

Once we got back I made a beeline for the shower. I was covered in a terrible mix of sunscreen and sweat. The caramel M&Ms we had gotten at Walgreens hit the spot to hold me over until dinner. We drove to Bowen’s Island Restaurant for dinner. The place did not take reservations and we had to line-up. We were there 17 minutes after open and there were a good 25-30 people in front of us. Thankfully the line moved quickly as you placed your order and then sat a table waiting and there were plenty of tables. The choice was easy and we barely had to debate: seafood platter of fried fish, fried shrimps and crab-cake that came with fries and hushpuppies. We also ordered a side of fried oysters because that was what they were known for. The crab-cake was unbelievable, easily the best one I had ever had. Second place went to the fried oysters. The shrimp and fish were tied for a close third. We had no idea what hushpuppies were, turns out it was just fried balls of cornbread and they were surprisingly good (given my dislike of cornbread). Even at the restaurant the water tasted like beets.

The restaurant did not have any specialty drinks (they did have specialty beers though, so not fair) do I opted for a whisky sour, I saw that they had Maker’s Mark. After dinner we walked down to the dock to look out onto the water, the sun was just starting to dip to the horizon. I was mad that all I had was my phone camera, it was so pretty. We also stopped to look at an enormous pile of discarded oyster shells- literally hundreds of thousands of them.

We stopped at the McDonald’s next door to our hotel for dessert. I had tried to order the Twix McFlurry but the guy said he did not have enough topping left and it was being discontinued. To make up for it he put extra Oreo bits in mine.

During the day I had noticed people riding around on the streets in golf carts and initially I had found it unsettling but then I realized is it really that much different than riding a Vespa scooter? By the time we got back I was exhausted. My feet hurt so bad, I had a blood-filled unpopped blister on each heel. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV, which was periodically interrupted by barks from the dog next door. I went to sleep dreaming of a warm cinnamon bun for breakfast.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

East Coast Done: Day 1

Fri. May 19, 2017:
Toronto flight to Charleston, SC

I was thrilled that we got to the airport and through security really quickly and with no delays- I wanted to go to David’s Tea to get some tea for the week. What I did not anticipate was that David’s Tea was in a different section of the terminal and I could not get to it. As we waited for our flight to start boarding I ended up making a sizeable dent in my book, The Undoing Project, to the point that I thought I might finish it before we got to Charleston, SC.

We had a layover in Charlotte, NC. The internet said that the Chick-Fil-A was still under construction but as we approached we saw the lit-up sign… and immediately our hopes were dashed. The sign was complete but that was about it. Why did they light it up?! So mean. We ended up eating at the Burger King next door. I went with the hotdog, because really how badly can you screw up a hotdog? It was about the same quality as an IKEA hotdog, not good but edible. The chicken fries however, those were another rubbery story with terrible dipping sauce to boot. Zesty cheese sauce does not go well with terrible chicken fingers. I had noticed on the terminal map that there was a bar called Carolina Beer Co. and it just so happened to be near Pinkberry- it was meant to be. The lemon flavour was ok, but the strawberry was far and away better. The guy even gave me a free topping (granola, if you must know). The bar was super chill, no one cared that I sat there eating my half-delicious-half-disappointing dessert. There was a diversity celebration happening nearby with the cheesiest of dance music. While they were playing the Macarena a guy was running towards them, I like to think he didn’t want to miss out on dancing. In fact he was going to find his travel partner as their gate had been switched. My reason for his panicked run was far better.

On the way to our gate we stopped to buy a Cheerwine. Apparently this is a North Carolina thing that neither of us had tried when we each separately visited North Carolina.

The flight was so short that I never even spit my gum out. I was about to but then I realized I needed it. Still?– I  thought? Oh wait, we are beginning our descent. State 33!!! We also had a new record from getting off the plane to getting into our rental car. I could not believe how hot and humid it was. The girl at the car rental place said it was only going to get hotter in the summer. But South Carolina was absolutely gorgeous. There were palm trees everywhere and everything was so lush and green. It was a short drive to our hotel alas we had to listen to the radio because our car was so new it did not have an aux input for our iPod, just a USB input. We were staying at a Holiday Inn and I did not expect to be greeted with a free glass of wine. Everyone was also super friendly. Our trip was off to a great start. The wifi passcode did not work and I immediately started fretting, I needed to sync my FitBit steps, I was trying to win a challenge! The Cheerwine tasted like cherry Dr Pepper. The water in the hotel smelled like beets and tasted funny.

We walked to dinner at Magnolia’s. At first it was a pretty crummy walk. There was construction outside our hotel and we had to walk through parking lots and construction pits. It was also a bit sketchy at first. I did get to finally see a shotgun house. It was abandoned and I was mildly tempted to peek inside to see if I could see all the way through. It got nicer once we were on the medical school campus.

We passed a fake square-shaped lake and lots of big beautiful houses. There were so many lush green trees and they were just covered in Spanish moss. The houses had wrap-around porches and fans. We passed through a small park and a saw a white-bellied squirrel, and it was not fat. A red-tailed hawk swooped into an awning. There were a lot of gorgeous churches closer to downtown. There was a firewatch tower that reminded me of a game I had recently played on the Xbox. I never did manage to get a picture of it.

Even though we had a reservation we still had to wait before we were seated. No one really seemed to care and things just went at a slower pace. As we waited we watched people without reservations get turned away because there was no availability. Dinner at Magnolia’s was delicious. We made the mistake of each getting an appetizer because Brent wanted the fried green tomatoes and I wanted the crab bisque. Despite my hatred of tomatoes, I tried a bite and it was actually really good. For the mains, Brent had the scallops, shrimps and grits. It was ok, but I think I won with the bourbon fried catfish. The flavour had sunk in past the crispy outside and it was incredible. The black-eyed beans and corn salsa were just as good. The only problem was the portion, it was enormous and I could not finish it. We were way too full for dessert. I ended up having two cocktails at dinner, both were made with local liquers. The first one had spiced rum, cranberry juice and peach schnapps. It tasted like a Bath & Body Works Christmas candle- in a good way. The second was an Arnold Palmer (which I mispronounced as Almond) made with Firefly vodka and sweet tea- the clear winner.

The walk back was annoying because the streets were poorly lit. At one point it got scary, we passed under a construction awning that was not lit and super dark. The one upside to the poor street lights was that we could see a lot of stars. It was unbelievable how hot and humid it still was outside, it was nighttime!  When we got to the hotel it was still really warm in the room. I wondered why and went to check the thermostat. Turns out I had turned up the temperature before we went out. I was thinking of the temperature outside, not the temperature I wanted the room to be.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

Lackluster Dinner

Best Chinese restaurant had been re-voted, but thankfully it was still on Spadina (it’s so annoying when the new winner is really far away when it used to be so close). We went to Rol San without a reservation. There was no way it would be crammed on a Wednesday late afternoon. We did not make the mistake this time of ordering rice. Neither of us likes rice that much and we would rather eat something tastier. Even still we ended up getting too much food. However, the coconut shrimp and egg rolls were so blah that we did not even bother attempting to finish each dish. Those two stood in stark contrast to the sweet & sour chicken and the soy ginger beef which were both amazing.

Our fortune cookies gave me false hope. Mine said “Good news is on its way” and Brent’s said “A confidential tip will clue you in to a great financial deal.” Of course, I thought why not play the numbers from the fortune in the lottery. I lost.

 

Bier Here!

Otto’s in Kensington had been awesome and we found out that they had opened a beer hall AND it had been voted best new restaurant 2016 we were psyched! We were less psyched when we could not get reservations. We figured we would go and try to get a table and if not we could find a back-up elsewhere. On a Saturday evening we managed to get a table, although we had to share it but that was not even noticeable. The beer selection was not as extensive as I had hoped for, I wound up drinking Ontario craft ciders instead. We ordered a giant ham hock, a schnitzel and pretzels with cheese. The pretzels were better when dipped in the grainy mustard that came with the ham, the cheese was a bit weird. I was unsure about the ham hock, it was way more expensive than everything else and I was expecting that it was going to the equivalent of a full dinner rather than a sharing appetizer. Turns out it was so expensive because it is a giant leg of ham bone and and all. The bone took up a lot of space and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. Once we figured out how to get the meat off the bone. It was an odd endeavour, we just kept hacking at it with knives trying to pierce the tough skin. But oh man, once we broke the skin and carved off pieces it was so delicious.

On the walk home we stopped at the Snakes & Lattes on College, voted best late night cafe. When we got there we saw a few empty tables but the guy told us it would be a wait and that there was nothing available. He took my name and number for the waitlist… and that was it. We kind of looked at each other, do we bum around and wait, do we bail? Do we go somewhere nearby and wait? Oh wait… there are stools by the bar. We could just have a few drinks while waiting for our table.

Since it was voted best late night cafe, I ordered a hot chocolate with Bailey’s for my second drink (for the first I had to try the winter themed cocktail) and a cake pop. We tried out Patchwork which was a neat little game. We followed it up with a game of Seven Wonders Duel. Brent won both times. Two games was about the max we could do. We had started out drinking at Otto’s Bierhalle around 5pm, by now it was 10pm and we were both very sleepy.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What A Knockout!

White Lily Diner had been voted best new brunch 2016. I was just happy that something near us had been posted. As it turns out, going out for best-of’s once a week can quickly clear out the surrounding area. We were going out more often than the lists were being generated. We risked it and did not get there for open. Luckily we snagged two stools by the bar. No sooner had we been seated, the last few seats got snatched up. By the time we left there were 3-4 groups waiting.

I did not have superbly high expectations. Best brunch, but only of the last year not best brunch period. Man was I wrong. I was so wrong. This place was amazing. I cannot even begin. It is a must-eat-at in Toronto. We split a plate of two donuts: vanilla custard and sour cherry. Something so simple, vanilla custard and yet it was outstanding. It had real vanilla, you could even see the specks. I ordered the pancakes and I could not resist a side of thick cut bacon. I assumed Brent would help me finish it off. I am not a fan of bacon, but the thick cut sounded intriguing. I just wanted a filling side with my pancakes. I was blown away. I seriously considered asking where they source the bacon from. I wanted a lifetime supply. I ate past the point of being full, the bacon and pancakes were that good and the portion sizes that generous. Every time I put my fork down in defeat I would find myself lifting it to my mouth, for one last little bite. My stomach felt like it was going to explode. But the bacon was just so damn good. And they kept offering to refill my coffee, as any true diner would.

We were finished just before 11am, so close to being able to order alcohol! How could we resist a pour-your-own-mimosa?! Plus I still kept nibbling at the bacon, we could easily draw out our meal. It was funny because as the server was clearing our plates she was looking at her watch, she had heard us talking and knew we were waiting for that magical hour to strike. The food was incredible and the service amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat for the thick-cut bacon and donuts.

 
 
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