Archive for the Cadiz Province Category

El Puerto de Santa Maria – chilling at Playa de la Puntilla

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, El Puerto de Santa Maria, La Puntilla, Spain with tags , on November 5, 2017 by gannet39

As I mentioned earlier, a major attraction of El Puerto for tourists is its wonderful beaches. I only went to La Puntilla as it was the nearest one to my hostel but this webpage will give you more information about the others. My Google map is here.

La Puntilla is huge; you could fit thousands of people on it.

It’s not the most beautiful of beaches, it’s right next to the industrial Puerto Sherry, but you can see the bay bridge on the horizon and Cádiz over the other side of the bay.

I went over to the west side as it was nearer this place…

El Castillito (Intermediate B), 0 Paseo Marítimo de la Puntilla

The ‘Little Castle’ is a chiringuito, so no haute cuisine or social frills here, but for me it was everything I need from a beach bar (good cheap seafood and cold beer). The building is an old ‘polvorín’, a defensive construction that protected the town from sea attack by pirates.

After being frustrated by bad timing in Huelva, I finally got to try the local speciality of ‘Huevos de Choco’; boiled cuttlefish eggs dressed here with parsley and scallions. They were interesting but I didn’t like them enough to finish them (C). I think I need to try them again elsewhere.

I followed up with a tuna salad (B) but the main event was the ‘Dorado Frito’; a nicely cooked sea bream served with chips (B+).

Total cost with two beers, 25€.

And that was my weekend in wonderful El Puerto. Infinitely better than being in the truckers’ motel in Lora del Rio where my employer originally had me. Back to work on Monday though…

Eating at Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa Maria

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , on November 4, 2017 by gannet39

El Puerto is also home to Aponiente, the best restaurant in the south of Spain. Owner Ángel León studied at Arzak and for his efforts was named Spain’s best chef at the Royal Academy of Gastronomy’s awards in 2013.

Aponiente (Advanced A), Calle Francisco Cossi Ochoa, www.aponiente.com

His restaurant inhabits an old 19th-century tide mill in a once derelict industrial area just south of the train station. Google map here.

Built in 1815, the Caño Mill was located in the salt marshes of the river estuary to produce energy from the wave power generated by the four daily tides.

For 150 years it milled sea salt, in addition to grinding flour for bakeries to make biscuits and cakes. However, after the mechanisation of the flour industry and the salt crisis of the 1970s, the building was abandoned until León repurposed it in 2005.

Entering the restaurant, one of the first things you see are these large glass tubes containing phytoplankton, the new buzz ingredient in modern Spanish cuisine which León is popularising. The plankton are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, so health obsessives are all over it.

Next you come to the fish display where you can see what you are about to eat. The menu is heavily weighted towards seafood as befits León’s popular moniker as’ the chef of the sea’ (video here).

The portholes for windows make you feel like you are inside a ship.

Next you come to the open kitchen which seems very small in comparison to the wide expanse of the dining room after it. There are fifty staff for a maximum of thirty five diners (about twenty when I went for lunch), and while the high ratio is apparent, I think there must be a another main kitchen with more staff behind the scenes.

I had the eighteen course Menú ‘Mar en Calma’ (‘Calm Sea’ Menu) for 175€ with an added wine pairing for 70€. It’s the most I’ve ever spent in a restaurant but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was going to experience the best wines and ingredients in the region. There was also the Gran Menú ‘Mar de Fondo’ (‘Groundswell’ Menu) at 205€ and 90€ for wine but, while I hate to deny myself any experience, I couldn’t quite justify it on my wages.

Forgive me but I didn’t grade any of these wines and dishes as the staff were hovering around me constantly but suffice to say it was all fantastic (A/B+). Given the price tag is was nice to just relax and let the photos do the talking.

Upon being seated I was served a glass of Manzanilla ‘Maruja’ from Bodega Juan Pinero.

Then, and throughout the evening, the in-house baker came round with a basket containing a variety of wonderful, still-warm breads.

The next wine was a Fino en Rama (‘en rama’ means unfiltered; a current trend in Sherry production) which had been bottled specially for the restaurant by Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia.

A trio of starters arrived. As the ‘fishpig’ logo on the grease proof paper implied, the ‘Lomo en Caña’ was actually cured fish masquerading as pork loin, and they were remarkably similar.

With it, ‘Sobrasada de Pescado Azules’ (Blue Fish Sobrasada). Usually a Sobrasada is a raw, spreadable Balearic pork sausage, so not sure what the idea was here.

The ‘Patatas, Camarones y Limón’ (Potatoes, Shrimp and Lemon) was a take on the local dish ‘Tortillitas de Camarones’; a deep fried chickpea flour pancake containing tiny shrimp.

Here we have ‘Sardinas Asadas’ (Grilled Sardines), although I only count one sardine. Call me finicky but it’s false advertising to use a plural, not that I cared at the time.

Next the over-presented ‘Taco de Almendra y Salazones’ (Almond and Salted Fish Taco).

Lustau ‘Red Vermouth’ from Jerez.

With this, some fishy cakes. Clockwise they are a ‘Berlina de Choco’ (Cuttlefish Doughnut), a ‘Bollito de Calamares’ (Small Squid Bun) and a ‘Brazo de Gitano’ de Plancton (Plankton Roll). A ‘Gypsy Arm’ is the Spanish name for what we in the UK would call a Swiss roll.

Reverting back to the sherry theme; a Manzanilla en Rama called ‘Saca de Invierno’ by Bodegas Barbadillo.

Next came a Plankton dish which I think was additional to the menu as I don’t know what it was called. For me it was very interesting to taste the intense seaweedy flavour but it wasn’t great to look at!

Not sure what these things were sorry! Another off-menu experiment perhaps…

Then ‘Tres Formas de Comer una Caballa’ (Three Ways to Eat a Mackerel).

 

A glass of Champagne Brut Nature ‘Cuvée Solessence‘ from Jean-Marc Sélèque.

The ‘Royal de Erizos’ (‘Royal’ of Sea Urchins) was very pretty…

… but the ‘Sopa Fria de Aguaviva en Adobo’ (Cold Soup of Pickled Jellyfish) wasn’t particularly photogenic. I do like me a bit of crunchy jellyfish though.

The ‘Ostra Café de París‘ (oyster in a sauce of herbs, spices and butter) was presented in a barnacled bowl.

‘Cazón en Amarillo’ (Dogfish with Amarillo Chilli).

After this a glass of Fino ‘Perdido’ from Sanchez Romate. I want to buy a crate of this just for the beautiful label (£8 a bottle approx).

Descartes en Arcilla al Pan Frito (Fish in Clay with Fried Bread). León likes to use lesser known kinds of fish and I think the one in question here is Borriguete which has the great English name of Rubberlip Grunt.

Popieta de Morena en Grenobloise (Pieces of Moray Eel in the Style of Grenoble).

Amontillado ‘1830 Vors’ from El Maestro Sierra. A gem but very hard to get and retails at not less than £48 a bottle.

Pepino, Sandía, Hierbas (Cucumber, Watermelon, Herbs).


Vino de Licor ‘Tintilla de Rota’ from Bodegas El Gato. Rota is a town between Sanlúcar and El Puerto that is now home to an American military base. Many vinyards were destroyed during the construction of the base which is why the wines are quite rare. Tintilla has records longer than Rioja, over 500 years.

And with my coffee…

…Cereza y Chocolate (Cherry and Chocolate) served on an old anchor.

And finally a balloon of ‘Juan Sebastian Elcano’ a Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez from Gutierrez Colosia. Bottles sell for upwards of £70.

With the bill you get a copy of the menu to take home.

This was unarguably an amazing meal but was it worth the money? The answer to that is how much you get paid I guess. On my wages 250€ is a bit too hard to justify (two days of work) but I’m glad I did it if only to see how the other half live. Once in a lifetime is enough for me though.

El Puerto de Santa Maria – eating out in the Centro

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , , , , on November 3, 2017 by gannet39

El Puerto has lots of great places to eat. I’ve put the ones I’ve been to in the three days I was here, and a few more recommended by various guides, on this Google map. I’ve given Aponiente (the best place in town) its own post.

El Rincón del Jamón (Intermediate B+), 19 Avenida Micaela Aramburu de Mora

In Spain I generally find that the best breakfast joint is where all the pensioners go and El Rincón is that place in El Puerto. My hostel didn’t serve breakfasts so I came to this busy bar every day for the ‘Completo’; un café con leche, un jugo de naranja y una tostada con aciete y pulpa de tomate (a coffee with milk, an orange juice and a piece of toasted French stick with olive oil and tomato pulp).

El Faro del Puerto (Advanced A), 0 Avenida Fuenterrabía, www.elfarodelpuerto.com

After Aponiente, ‘The Lighthouse’ is the best place in town, certainly for seafood. I’m a big fan of their outpost in Cadiz (blog post here) so I was eager to try the original in Puerto. It’s located in an old casa señorial (manor house); a beautiful old building with several rooms and a nice terrace outside, which makes it seem a bit posher than the Cadiz branch. The location is on the edge of the centre but still walkable.

Sadly I forgot to charge my battery so I have no pictures of the food but I remember I began by comparing the ‘Ostiones de Cádiz’ (2€ each) and the ‘Ostras Especiales Nº3 de Daniel Sorlut’ ostrasorlut.com from France (3.60€ each) with the French oysters winning. The local ones were still pretty good though.

After this I had the ‘Tartar de Atún Rojo de Almadraba‘, diced raw Bluefin tuna caught using traditional methods (17€ for a 1/2 ración). It was sublime which it should be as it’s probably some of the best Bluefin available.

I followed up with Sashimi de Pez Limon, assorted raw fish, for which they even provided me with soya sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger and chopsticks to complete the aesthetic, just as they had in Cadiz. Any seafood restaurant in Spain that caters for Japanese diners has to be good.

With the addition of a bottle of decent Barbazul Blanco, I remember the bill being fairly hefty but that’s because the seafood really is top quality and the service is excellent. I’ll definitely be back again next time I’m in town.

Mesón del Asador (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Misericordia, www.mesondelasador.com

After all that fish I needed a change so I came to this grill house for lunch on my last day and had the Parrillada Mixta which was pretty good (B+). I liked the fact that they bring you your own little grill to the table so you can cook the meat how you like it. I’m a big fan of proactive dining.

La Ponderosa (Intermediate A) 6 Avenida de la Constitución

On the Saturday night I had a big night out with my buddy John who lives in nearby San Fernando. As is traditional for Spanish clubbers, the night finishes with a breakfast of Chocolate con Churros; long star-shaped fritters that are dipped in a cup of hot, thick choclate. Popular wisdom has it that this the best churreria in town and I’m unable to disagree.

Heladería y Yogurtería Artesanal Da Massimo (Intermediate B+), 22 Calle Luna, www.heladeriaartesanaldamassimo.com

Walking around in the hot sun being a tourist definitely requires an ice cream, and this Italian-owned ice cream shop in the city centre seems to be the best one.

I had the Helado de Tejas, an ice cream made with crunchy ‘tiles’ of candied almonds, which I understand is unique to El Puerto.

The next restaurant gets its own page…

El Puerto de Santa Maria – walking around the Centro

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by gannet39

The first thing I want to say is I love El Puerto! It has everything I want in a town; good restaurants, traditional wines, nice beaches and lots of things to see and do. What’s more, it’s just over the bay from Cadiz which is another favourite place of mine.

It gets very busy in the summer but mainly with Spanish rather than international tourists which is a good sign in my book. It sure as hell beats spending the weekend in a truckers’ motel which is what my work itinerary had me doing (see my previous post on Lora del Rio).

I only stayed for two nights so this is not a comprehensive guide by any means, just a brief snapshot of what I got up to. I need to go back and get to know it more. Everywhere I know, and many more places I didn’t get time to check out, are on this Google map.

I’ve written four posts on Puerto:

Walking Around (this one)
Eating & Drinking
Eating at Aponiente
Puntilla Beach

El Puerto is a sherry town, which is another reason I like it so much. The town is home to Bodegas Osborne www.bodegas-osborne.com Spain’s second oldest company was founded by the Englishman Thomas Osborne Mann in 1772 (Catalan winemaker Codorniu, established in 1551, is the oldest). The company logo is the famous silhouette of the black bull which has also now become a symbol of Spain.

The Osborne bodega is beautiful, and open to the public.

Guided tours of the bodega in English start at 10am every day. Various tours and tastings are offered and range in price from 8€ for no tour and self-guided wine tasting, to 55€ for a guided tour, VORS wine tasting and samples of Cinco Jotas hams (an associated company?). I just popped in for a look as I was short of time.

By the way, old sherries are described by the Latin acronyms VOS and VORS. VOS stands for Vinum Optimum Signatum (the unofficial English equivalent is Very Old Sherry) and is used for wines over 20 years of age. VORS stands for Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum (or Very Old Rare Sherry) and indicates wines over 30 years old.

There are several other bodegas in town, Terry being the next largest. Some of them have shops where you can buy in bulk such as Despacho de Vinos de Grant bodegasgrant.com which sells the ‘La Garrocha’ label amongst others.

The town’s castle, Castillo de San Marcos, is owned by Bodegas Caballero. Tours and wine tastings in English are available from 11.30am each day.

The old fish market, El Resbaladero, is another nice building.

I stayed at the Hostal Costa Luz www.hostalcostaluz.com, near the Plaza de Toros, for about £30 a night without breakfast. The room was spacious, modern, quiet and walkable from the centre.

Eating in El Puerto coming next!

A brief sojourn in Gibraltar

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Gibraltar, Spain with tags , , on March 29, 2017 by gannet39

In February 2015 I went to Gibraltar straight from carnival in Cadiz, having only had an hour of shut eye on the coach and still feeling worse for wear. I was much too early for my flight (coaches were infrequent on carnival Sunday) and I had several hours to kill.

From the coach station you have to walk across the border and then the airport runway which is a spooky experience.

I checked my suitcase into the airport’s left luggage room and went for a look around. It was quite weird being somewhere that looked like England but with blue skies and palm trees everywhere.

First stop was for a life-saving full English breakfast at The Lord Nelson in Casemates Square. It wasn’t great (C+) but it was just what I needed after a night of partying.

I’d been told that the taxi drivers will act as tour guides and show you around the rock but it was a Sunday and I wasn’t really in the mood for, or capable of, human interaction so I decided to go for a walk by myself instead.

I walked through what is known as ‘The Town’ which was all very little England. I quite liked the Art Deco fire station but that was about it in terms of architecture for me.

Along Reclamation Road there were a series of fortified bastions which are now unused, although some of the old guns have been left for the tourists to see.

Lord Nelson features heavily as you’d imagine. Cape Trafalgar, scene of his most famous victory, is halfway between Cadiz and Gibraltar, near Barbate.

Across the bay is Algeciras, a port city built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar. I’d been a couple of years before but wasn’t too impressed (post here). The bay was full of cargo ships so business must be good for both ports.

The rock towered above me during the whole walk. I imagined it to be hollowed out and full of tunnels that had been built for defensive purposes. It even had a waterfall coming out of it although where the water came from I have no idea.

Eventually I got to Punta de Europa, the southern tip of the rock. It was a hazy day but you could just make out the coast of Africa across the straits.

Obviously this is a good place to put a big gun if you want to control access to the Mediterranean.

The name Gibraltar is dervied from the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “Mountain of Tariq”. This is the spot where the Moors first landed to begin their invasion of the Iberian peninsula. The Mosque of the Two Holy Custodians marks this significant place.

My original plan was to try to circle the rock on foot but it soon became apparent that this was not possible as the roads were narrow, twisting and without pavements. I did persevere but eventually the road disappeared into a tunnel and I had no choice but to retrace my steps.

And that was my brief experience of Gibraltar, a very historic but also very strange place. I left plenty to see and do next time I visit, hopefully I’ll be in better condition to appreciate it!

Photos uploaded November 2015.

Campo de Gibraltar – La Línea de la Concepción

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, La Línea de la Concepción, Spain with tags , on March 28, 2017 by gannet39

If you think Algeciras is unlovely just wait till you experience La Línea. It’s a pretty grim working class town set up to control access to Gibraltar (the ‘linea’ is the border between the two) but many of the inhabitants make their living working in the British dependency in service industries such as online gambling.

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It’s on an isthmus with the Rock at the tip so there is water on both sides. See my separate post on Gibraltar. Google map here.

On the east side there’s a long beach called the Playa de la Atunara with grey sand and several cheap marisquerias in a line next to each other along the waterfront road.

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The teacher I worked with at the local high school liked this one the most:

Marisqueria La Perla del Sur (High Elementary B), 129 Avenida Menendez Pelayo, effectively on the Paseo del Mediterráneo, www.laperladelsur.es

I began with a half ration of Huevas Alinadas, aka marinaded hake roe I think, which was okay (B) but not something I’d order again.

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As it was Friday I treated myself to the boiled Mariscada Simple, one of a few masriscadas on offer, which looked pretty reasonable at €26. It involved gambas tigre (tiger prawns), langostionos (langostines), cangrejo (crab), mejillones (mussels) and caracoles de mar (sea snails). Not the best quality but fine (B).

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The waiter warned me it was big but I wasn’t quite prepared for it being huge! It took me well over an hour to finish!! I had to give up eventually because my arms and fingers were so tired.

With a beer and a half bottle of Tierra Blanca the bill came to €40.

It was Friday and a group of ten construction workers in boots and hi-vis where outside having after work beers. They were in high spirits and while one danced and sang a Flamenco song the others were enthusiastically clapping to the rhythm and shouting ‘Ole!’. It was a strange sight for someone like myself who’s not used to Flamenco culture. Great to see it in action like this.

This place is on the bay side of the isthmus facing the marina.

aQa (Intermediate B-), Calle Andrés Viñas (no number), off Avenida Principe de Asturias, www.restaurantaqa.com

This is a bright modern place that is probably the most attractive restaurant in an otherwise dingy town. It’s probably more fun at night when it becomes a lounge bar.

Rather than hang around in Gibraltar airport I came here on a fleeting visit in August 2016 because you can sit outside on the terrace witha beer and look at the marina and the bay. It’s ten minutes’ walk from the bus station and twenty minutes’ walk to the airport, including passport control.

I had the aQa burger and two medium beers for €11. The burger and potato fries were edible but not anything I’d want to repeat (C+). Get a salad I’d say. Service was unwelcoming and unsmiling so I didn’t tip.

So, a good place to kill time but order wisely.

Campo de Gibraltar – something fishy in Palmones

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Palmones, Spain with tags , on March 27, 2017 by gannet39

Palmones is a small village between Algeciras and La Linea that’s known for its seafood restaurants and it seems a lot of people from neighbouring towns come here for a meal at the weekends. Google map here.

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As it was only €10 in a taxi from the Hotel AC in Algeciras (€15 coming back!) I thought I’d give it a try on a Thursday night. I turned out to be the only customer in both the places I went to so perhaps it’s better to go at the weekend for more atmosphere but maybe book ahead as I’m told the restaurants can get very busy.

Both the following places were recommended by two different teachers in Algeciras and La Linea but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with them. The jury is still out though and I’m willing to give the town a second chance if I’m in the area again.

El Copo (Advanced B+), 2 Almadraba, www.elcopo.es

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‘The Cup’ is the most famous restaurant in Palmones and probably the oldest by the look of it. Guia Repsol have awarded them one sun so they should be pretty good. The décor is generally on a nautical theme with lots of fishing nets with glass weights. In the bar there’s some bullfighting memorabilia. There’s hardly any space left on the walls.

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There are some murky looking crab and lobster tanks dotted around and some questionable water features. Not quite sure what this is supposed to be.

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A soundtrack of dodgy disco and Latin classics is played on tinny speakers which is quite painful when you have no one to converse with.

This restaurant is clearly the whimsical work of a strong personality who was once the man to know according to the pictures on the wall. Nowadays though I get the feeling he is resting on his laurels and has let things slide. I did actually meet Senor Manuel Moreno briefly at the end; a chap the size of Pavarotti who has clearly done some good eating in his time.

The waiters that night were two old boys who were very hard to understand and although not downright unpleasant, obviously hadn’t had many dealings with foreigners and weren’t particularly welcoming.

The old guy who served me couldn’t answer any of the questions I had about the menu and the explanations he ferried back from the kitchen were even harder to comprehend than the written original. Usually I scrape through with my dodgy Spanish grammar and fairly extensive knowledge of food vocabulary, but not here.

And so, on to the food. There is an impressive range of seafood and fish on offer but much of the menu is aimed at groups or couples. The tasting menu (€48 in 2016) and rice dishes are all for a minimum of two people so were unavailable to me as a lone diner.

I decided to try some local classics beginning with the Pate de Atun or Pate Mantecada as it’s sometimes called, that is, large slabs of tuna smothered in lard to preserve it. My half portion was pretty hefty but I polished it off without a problem (B). The presentation was pretty poor though; a slice of orange with a small dollop of fish roe (the waiter didn’t know which fish) and a stalk of parsley stuck in the lard as an afterthought.

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After this a half portion of Almejas de Carril al Jerez (Galician clams steamed in sherry) which were too salty even for this salt addict (B-).

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Then another half portion of Tortitas de Algas del Mar con Camarones (seaweed pancakes with shrimp) which seem to be inspired by Tortellitas de Camarones; a frittura of tiny shrimp in a batter. In the latter you can actually see the shrimp but here they liquidise the lot before frying them which seems a shame. They were oversalted again but not by as much this time (B-).20160414_210002

To drink I had the Jarra Especial de la Casa, a fizzy local wine made from Palomino grapes and served in terracotta which moved from an A to a B+ as it got tired.

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I was tired of the place myself now and decided to finish eating somewhere else. However I went into the tapas bar (where I should have eaten in the first place) and was quite impressed by the number of rare and ageing bottles of spirits on the back bar, including a couple of brandies I’d not come across before. When I asked about the prices the waiter had to go and ask.

Mr Moreno appeared and insisted that I have a complementary glass of the house brandy. This turned out to be a heady mix of Spanish Cardenal Mendoza and French Napoleon brandies which went down very well (A).

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I’d give this place a second chance if I was with a group or maybe come for a quick drink and bite as part of a tapeo.

Restaurante Willy (Intermediate C), 79 Avenida Andalucia

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After La Copa I came here for a tapa just to check them out. The ubiquitous Tataki (on every menu in every fish restaurant I’ve been to in the area) caught my eye so I decided to try their version of this Japanese classic.

I regretted it as soon as I saw it. The ‘wasabe’ was a scary luminous green that hurt my eyes and it was served with some dry mini-toasts which I left untouched (C-).

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So a disappointing trip to Palmones. I would go again to give it another try though.

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