So much to see and perfect weather
We recently returned from our trip to Portugal, where we stayed in Lisbon and Carvoeiro in Algarve. I loved our stay in Portugal so much that I would return to explore Porto, the Douro Valley, and the Azores (and friends that were in Portugal at the same time as us fell in love with the rustic upscale boho-chic vibes of Comporta). During the 9 days that we were there, in July, the weather was perfect; sunny and in the mid 70’s to low 80’s with one day that was over 90 degrees but bearable.
The travel time, and the whole trip, was more than doable with a kid
The flight from New York City was relatively short; we had a stopover in Boston and then sat on the plane for less than seven hours before we landed in Lisbon. Everywhere we went, people were so friendly and the city is very accommodating to families with children. Almost everyone speaks English (and Spanish, French, and German for the most part), and we swooned while listening to people speaking in their melodic native tongue! We spent four full days in Lisbon, including one day trip to Sintra, and ticked off the majority of places to see and things to do on our list. And, while I am normally driven by food, I did not really plan our days around where we were going to eat because I figured that we would find delicious new things to try wherever we went. That said, I still had a list of restaurants as backup in case we didn’t naturally happen upon good food everywhere we went (Comment below if you would like that backup list and I will reply with the list.)
We were pleased with the reasonable prices of everything from museum admission (all under $20 USD) to a cup of espresso ($1 USD). All of our Uber rides were under $10 USD and an average multi-course dinner for three, with wine, was $65-$85 USD!
While we were there, I was surprised by how many DM’s I got on Instagram requesting our daily itineraries. Read on while I present a loose itinerary of what we did. You can get a sense of the proximity of everything in Lisbon from reading this because we walked A LOT. Unless an Uber ride is mentioned, we hoofed it throughout the city in Lisbon using Google maps and iphone maps. Once we got to Carvoeiro, we drove (and hiked). We planned to pack in a lot of sightseeing in Lisbon for the first leg of the trip and then end the trip with a more laid back beach schedule because I usually like to pad the end of our trips with some time for R and R.
Check out our Portugal highlight reels on Instagram!
Day 1 in Lisbon:
Wander around the streets and feast your eyes on the beautiful architecture in Chiado and the surrounding neighborhoods.
We landed around 7 am, which is 2 am EST, so we decided to keep it local after dropping off our luggage at our rented apartment on Rua Garrett in Chiado. Luckily "local" for us provided a bevy of options. We walked from our apartment over to Pastelaria Alcoa (which I started following on Instagram while planning this trip), and ate our first pasteis de nata. We found these pasteis to be neck and neck, albeit sweeter; with the pasteis from the famous Pasteis de Belem. We then walked towards Ascensor Da Bica in Bairro Alto, one of the famous funiculars (or street cars that ride up a slope and drop you off at the top) that are deemed as “must-dos” with children.
On the way, we walked through Praca Luis De Camoes and got sidetracked at some point by a beautiful side street, which led us to Miradouro Santa Catarina, which was actually on my list of things to see that day. Miradouros are beautiful terraced look out points, and this one was actually under construction during our time in Lisbon. We were fine with the construction because the entire area around it was so gorgeous; the buildings with colorful facades, the stunning Museu da Farmacia that sits across from the Miradouro, and all of the surrounding architecture.
After some more wandering, we took a ride on the Ascensor Da Bica, which was short and not necessarily a must. We paid the operator cash to ride up then walked back down via the steps along the track.
Around 11 am we walked over to the Time Out Market in Cais do Sodre, which is a food hall combined with a massive produce market. We stopped at the little playground across the street before heading inside. At that point, we were pretty delirious and settled on some fish croquettes, shrimp, and prawns. Our lunch was eaten in a sleep-deprived fog, so it’s hard to say if I would recommend going there for the food. The atmosphere was fun, so I would definitely return to enjoy a Charcuterie platter and a few beers or some Vinho Verde.
After lunch, we walked through Pink Street and made our way to Praca Do Comercio. After basking in the beauty of Praca Do Comercio in Baixa, which is a grand plaza that opens up to the Tagus River, we walked through Rua Augusta, a mosaic-filled pedestrian street, and past the Santa Justa Lift before landing back at the apartment for a three hour break.
Feeling refreshed after some rest, we walked to Convento Do Carmo, which contains the ruins of the gothic church that befell in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake as well as the Archaeological Carmo Museum. The ruins were stunning and the museum was fascinating.
We left the museum and walked to Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara in Principe Real. The view was quite breathtaking from the Miradouro, and we also took a glance at the other famous funicular, Ascensor Da Gloria, on the way. We then walked around Principe Real and passed many lively restaurants and bars.
Park Bar, in Bairro Alto, was recommended to us by a few people including my hip foodie cousin. Hence our walk over to Bairro Alto from Principe Real (we actually wandered down a side street that basically spit us out right onto the main drag in Bairro Alto). However, the origin of the name “Park” is derived from its unassuming location: the top of a parking garage. So we walked past it a coupled of times before realizing why all these people were standing around the elevator of this parking garage. It was a cool bar; perhaps a bit young for us. Dinner was at Cervejaria Trinidade, which is housed in a former monastery that serves a variety of seafood and the servers walk around in monk robes (touristy and kitschy but my chicken was simple and came with amazing sauce and G loved her seafood stew), followed by lovely five minute stroll back to our home base.
Points of Interest:
Day Two in Lisbon
Jeronimos Monastery, a World UNESCO site, Riverfont Belem, LX Factory, Jardim Da Estrela
We tried the pao de deus (a brioche- like bun topped with coconut custard) for breakfast then took a 7 Euro Uber ride to the Jeronimos Monastery. I got tickets online from Get Your Guide, which was not necessary because there was not much of a line to get tickets when we got there, and Get Your Guide is extremely rigid about modifying the times and dates of your tickets. We picked the tickets up at Arqueologia Museum, which is another beautiful work of architecture. The park/garden directly across the street (and the center of Praca do Imperio) is beautiful and we enjoyed a stroll to the fountain before entering Jeronimos.
We really enjoyed the the cloisters at Jeronimos, and we loved exploring the various rooms and chambers that branched off from the cloisters. The church, which is free to enter and to the right of the entrance to the Cloisters, evoked a lump in my throat for its beauty and symbolism. To G’s chagrin, the Jeronimos library was closed.
After our visit to Jeronimos, we walked about five minutes to the famous Pasteis de Belem to pick up some famous pasteis (this is the home of the “best pasteis de nata”; to which we concur). We then walked through the town and across the pedestrian bridge to Maat: Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, where we sat on the steps and ate our pasteis. The roof terrace at the Maat was fun to romp through.
We contemplated renting two Lime electric scooters (load the app when you have wifi so that you can rent the scooters on demand wherever docking stations are available) to glide along the river, but then decided to continue on foot to Belem Tower. There were a few riverside restaurants along the way, but we only stopped for ice cream (don’t judge; filling our stomachs with pastries and ice cream on a 90 degree day on vacation is a fabulous thing). Belem Tower, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site is quite a sight to take in (we also passed the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument on our way to Belem Tower), but we did not wait in the line for tickets to go inside, in the interest of keeping up the momentum.
At that point, G was hot and tired, and we needed some respite from the heat, so we Ubered to the Cordoaria Nacional and took in the Banksy exhibit, which we noticed on our ride to Jeronimos. The exhibit was amazing: intimate and entertaining for all three of us.
During our Uber to LX Factory, G fell asleep and went down for the count. I wanted to check out Rio Maravilha once we arrived at LX Factory, which was perfect because there were plenty of couches to dump a sleeping toddler. We parked her on a velvet green rococo setee and ordered a bottle of Vinho Verde and oysters. An hour later, G woke up and we went up to check out the great view on the terrace.
The other highlight at LX Factory, which is an outdoor mall filled with lifestyle shops, restaurants, and colorful murals, was the bookstore Ler Devagar. The kids selection was
great and we picked up a copy of “Where’s Waldo” in Portuguese.
For dinner, we ubered to Mercado de Campo De Orique. A lot of the vendors in this market and food hall were closed when we got there around 6 pm, but nonetheless, we had a delicious tapas feast and bought the juiciest ripe plums from the fruit vendor.
The Igreja do Santo Condestavel right outside of the market was stunning and G ran around the front courtyard when we stepped outside. We then walked to Jardim Da Estrela and stopped along the way at Mini Preco supermarket for bottled water. Jardim Da Estrela was super charming and the air smelled of delicious cheeseburgers wafting out from the park cafe. The playground, the little pond, and the climbing net were highlights for us.
Points of Interest:
Day three in Lisbon
Livin’ that fairytale life in Sintra
We took the train from Rossio Station around 10 am to Sintra. We walked to the station and got the tickets there (the train was just about to depart as we ran from the ticket counter). The train was full and the ride was 45 minutes and lovely and scenic (if you like graffiti and farms).
We took the 434 bus (bring cash to pay the fare to the driver) to Pena Palace and then back down to the Historic Town Square, where we had lunch at Café de Paris. The ham and cheese crepes and the grilled sea bass were really delicious.
Regarding Pena Palace; you may hear stories about how people waited for hours to go inside the palace. While we were there, the line looked insane. I pre-purchased our tickets for the park and grounds only here, and we enjoyed walking around the palace terraces and exploring the gardens and forest around the palace. That was enough for us, but if you really must go inside, be prepared to wait at least an hour during peak seasons. For us, walking around the terraces and discovering all of the stunning architectural details was more than enough.
After lunch, we hired an Uber to go to Quinta Da Regaleira. This place was absolutely magical. The Initiation Well is one of the centerpieces; a multi-story well that spirals downwards where ceremonies were performed, now serves as a path that you can walk down to a cave that leads to a little pond and waterfall. Multiple gardens, lookout points, castles and a stunning lavender field are the icing on the cake after the well experience.
We Ubered back to the Sintra train station and took the train back to Rossio Station. From Rossio Station we walked to (the highly touted) Cervejaria Ramiro, and passed by “Chinatown” (where we spotted Ai Wei Wei and his squad!). The wait for a table at Ramiro was insane around 7 pm, so go as early as possible; or for lunch, if you want the Ramiro experience. We did not wait.
We wound up back in Chiado in a lovely square decked with a variety of restaurants (tapas, seafood, burgers, local fare, Asian food, etc). We settled on Tapas and Friends because we scored with the tapas place the night before). This is the first of three restaurants where the waiter told us to order less, but this waiter literally insisted that we take three or four items off our order, even after I told him we are hungry Americans. I wound up paring down to seven tapas, and honestly, it was not too much food at all. The food was ok. I wouldn’t necessarily go back, but it hit the spot at the moment. Curious G and Daddy went back to the hotel and I stayed out to meet up with friends who had just arrived. I had the chance to walk around our area at night and see that there was a lovely courtyard across the street from us with a few farm to table-esque restaurants. I also did a spin in the mall across the street from us, where there is a Starbucks.
Sidebar: I had a slightly hard time adjusting to the café culture that includes actually sitting down to enjoy coffee. I longed for a gigantic iced caffeinated beverage as we were zipping around town because that is the American in me. It’s the New York mom in me, a.k.a. the crazed person pushing a stroller down the sidewalk with my forearms while sucking down a Venti iced almond milk matcha latte and texting while still paying attention to where I’m going. Expect either no iced coffee options, if you desire one, or just hot coffee with a splash of milk and a few ice cubes to bring it down to room temp in a paper take away cup. (I am not complaining; I’m just pointing out that this was Basic Janet rearing its ugly head; and it’s harder for me to comply with “When in Rome” as I get older).
Points of Interest:
Day four in Lisbon
Fancy Lunch along the “Madison Avenue” of town and the charm of Alfama
On our last full day in Lisbon, I let G sleep in (at that point, I had to basically bring in a three ring circus and a light show to wake her up every morning in Lisbon) and went across the street to Alcoa to load up on pastries for brekkie. We had a slow indulgent morning and then headed out to meet friends for lunch. On the way, we stopped in the O Mundo Fantastico da Sardinha Portugeusa store in Rossio Square for gifts for my parents, then walked through Avenida Liberdade (the “Madison Avenue” of Lisbon) and shopped a little. We met friends for lunch at JNCQUOI, which is a hybrid of a restaurant, retail space, and bar/lounge. It was somewhat akin to eating at Fred’s in Barney’s New York.
After lunch, we walked to Ribeira Das Naus, which is the area along the river adjacent to Praca Do Comercio, and picked up some lemonade from the Quiosque (kiosk), bought Curious G a dress from one of the street vendors, then strolled along the riverfront to Alfama. (P.S. the Quiosque is a fabulous place to have lunch al fresco on a beautiful day)
We stopped at the playground (which I cannot find the name of for the life of me) and climbing structure that sits in the park that looks up towards the Alfama neighborhood, then walked uphill to the two famous Miradouros.
Miradouro das Portos do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia were splendid not only for their views, but also for their bougainvillea-decked surroundings. The walk to get there was very hilly and completely charming. We decided to skip the Castelo de Jorge since it was about to close and ubered to A Valenciana to have piri piri chicken. The chicken was DELICIOUS and the spicy piri piri sauce had a unique, almost menthol flavor to it, which sounds gross but went well with the chicken.
After dinner we Ubered back to the apartment then headed out for Curious G’s “late night out”, when she got to stay up later because it was our last night in Lisbon. We walked around our neighborhood and browsed the shops, listened to a symphony in the square, had froyo from one of the ubiquitous green Weel yogurt trucks, watched breakdancers in front of Café A Brasilieira, and soaked in the energy from the people on the streets.
Points of Interest:
Where we stayed:
Amazing location, extremely reasonable rates, comfortable, modern, well-appointed, and clean.
Above all, we loved the location. We walked everywhere, with a few exceptions, while we were in Lisbon. It is in the center of a very lively hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment. We also walked to Bairro Alto, Baixa, Cais do Sodre, Alfama, and Principe Real, and Avenida de Liberdade from our home base. We found the management to be very responsive and easy to communicate with via email, and the rates were unbeatable.
We skipped these places, but may have gone it if we had more time because they were well-reviewed:
Day 1 in Algarve:
Stunnning Views, a secluded beach, hiking along the cliffs and the cutest beach bar
Before we drove from Lisbon to Algarve, we walked to Hotel Mundial in the morning to pick up our rental car. We reserved a Renault from Avis online a couple of weeks prior, and the pick-up was a quick and seamless transaction.
The drive to Carvoeiro was a little over two hours. The Vasco da Gama Bridge was a beautiful sight to take in, as was the rest of the scenery along the way.
When we arrived at Tivoli Carvoeiro, our room wasn’t ready yet, so we ate lunch by the pool and enjoyed the stunning view. After checking in, we took a dip in the pool, peeked into the free kids club, then hiked down to Praia (praia = Beach) Do Vale Covo. Part of the stairway that leads to the beach has corroded, making it somewhat “treacherous” to get to this beautiful beach, but it was worth the risk and we were extremely careful. The beach was so beautiful as the sun was setting. Watching G frolic around, pretending to be a “shell hunter”, made my heart sing.
From the beach, we hiked back up, then walked along the cliffs to Boneca Bar, which is a lovely little outdoor restaurant, set against rock formations at Algor Seco. You can drive to Boneca Bar and park at the top of a steep set of stairs to eat here, but our hike there was pretty amazing. I highly recommend this place for the atmosphere, and you should make a reservation to guarantee a table. The food was delicious; the fried squid rings were piping hot, fresh, and crisp. The grilled sea bass was equally fresh (and inspired us to basically have dourade and sea bass almost every night in Algarve), and the mussels were just beyond.
The ten minute hike back to the hotel was just as stunning, and complimented by a full moon. Before hitting the hay, we made a stop at the rooftop bar at our hotel, the Sky Bar, for a quick boogie.
Points of Interest:
Day 2 in Algarve:
Kayaking to Benagil Cave and chilling out in Praia Da Marinha
We hit the pool after breakfast, where Curious G made a little buddy from London. They played in the kiddie pool and went in and out of the kids club. After lunch at the pool, we drove 10 minutes to Benagil Beach, where I had reserved a kayak from Taruga Tours a few weeks prior. We opted for the kayak versus the boat cave tour because, quite frankly, I didn’t think I could sit through the two hour tour. I heard from a friend who took the tour earlier this summer that it was informative and the ride back was exhilarating (read: a tad bit too fast).
The kayak ride was fun and quickly led us to the famous Benagil Cave. We explored the cave for about 20 minutes before heading back to our kayak. It was pretty crowded, and we wanted to get our beach time in. I will also say that the back of the cave, lined with cairns, is the coolest part; and nobody was hanging out in that area. While we were kayaking, we left our stuff in a Taruga Tours boat parked on the beach with our towels covering everything. It wasn’t the safest place so if you are more mindful of your belongings, leave them in your car. We had purchased waterproof phone carriers from Ale Hop in Lisbon, so we brought our phones with us to the cave.
After buying some stone fruit from a vendor in the parking lot, we drove five minutes to Praia Da Marinha. We picked up some ice cream on the way then headed down the long winding path to the beach. This beach was also pretty crowded but quite gorgeous. The rock formations that line the beach provide natural shade, eliminating the need for an umbrella. Being a sun worshipper, I parked our towels right along the shoreline under the blazing sun.
When it was dinner time we drove back to Benagil to dine at O Pescador, where we sat on some couches on the front porch and enjoyed seafood and pasta.
After driving back to the hotel, we walked to a market in town (the town of Carvoeiro is just a couple of blocks from Tivoli Carvoeiro and easily accessible on foot) and bought snacks and an inflatable float for the next day’s beach adventure.
Points of Interest:
Day 3 in Algarve
More beach hopping in Lagos and Ferragudo
After breakfast, we drove to Lagos and spent the day at Praia Dona Ana. This is another beautiful beach with stunning rock formations. It was busy, but not overly crowded. The water was frigid, yet that did not stop G from floating into oblivion on her new float. I took advantage of the 15 Euro beach chair that I purchased at the entrance of the beach (most of the beaches in Lagos and Carvoeiro have vendors that sell beachwares and ice cream at the entrance) and delved into my book, The Farm by Joanne Ramos, which was such a perfect beach read! The hotel concierge emailed me at some point to confirm our reservation at Rei das Praias at 6 pm, and we wanted time to walk around town in Lagos so we left the beach around 3 pm.
*It’s a good idea to make dinner reservations during high season in Algarve. That said, this is the only reservation we made during the whole trip because I had faith that we would find good food everywhere we went (and we pretty much did).
Lagos was cute, but I would not go out of my way to visit the town. The carousel across from the marina was the highlight of our visit. I also bought Curious G a cute little purse from one of the shops. It was a good place to grab a quick lunch, walk around, and then drive 40 minutes back towards Carvoeiro to our dinner destination.
Rei Das Praias is located right on Praia dos Caneiros in Ferragudo. We considered returning to Praia dos Caneiros the following day because it looked so empty (at least at 6 pm, it looked empty) and the sand looked so powdery compared to the grainy sand and rocky beaches we had visited thus far. In addition to the shaded cushioned beach loungers on the beach provided by Rei das Praias, there were also peddle boats, complete with water slides attached; for rent. The view from our dinner table was magnificent, and again, we had a delicious dinner of seafood and pasta.
After dinner, we decided to check out Carvoeiro. Carvoeiro is a quaint little beach town with shops, and boatloads of restaurants. It is very family-oriented. After walking through most of the streets we walked to the town square, which is right next to the beach. Every night, a DJ takes stage there (there’s literally a stage) and leads the crowd in various dances and other fun activities. We did a round of Macarena, YMCA, and the Electric Slide, then walked to the beach. Right at the entrance, there was a bouncy house obstacle course contraption, and a bungee trampoline set up. Curious G ran through the bouncy house before we headed back to the hotel. There are a few restaurants in Carvoeiro that are worth trying, and it is really a fun place to take the kids at night. If you would like more Carvoeiro restaurant recs, comment below and I will answer you!
Points of Interest:
Day 4 in Algarve
Eat, Chill. Repeat
We spent ALL DAY at the hotel pool. We decided against driving to Praias dos Caneiros, because my achy neck and back would not permit another minute in our rental car. Curious G made some more friends at the pool, then spent a good amount of time in the kids club with her little buddies. They made mocktails with the bartender at the end of the day, which was kind of hilarious. Seeing a gang of kids walking around the pool with their slushy concoctions in a glass was quite joyful.
After a very relaxing day at the pool, C.G. was wiped out and decided to take a stroller nap, which gave the adults a chance to have drinks and some lite bites at the hotel's Sky Bar. When she awoke, she was in full-on crankmeister mode. We then strolled into town where she demanded pizza, so we walked right into Villa Medici, which the hotel concierge had recommended. We were lucky that we were standing right there when C.G. started whining because it 100% thwarted a meltdown. The pizza and pastas were delicious, and after a week and half without pizza (which is a long stretch for us New Yorkers) we were very satisfied. We continued on into town after dinner and strolled around and browsed some shops before retiring for the night.
Where we Stayed:
Tivoli Carvoeiro is in a great location. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, and it is also so close to so many attractions. We loved that we could walk to town, and the hike from the hotel to Boneca Bar was memorable. There was a hiking trail on the other side of Praia Vale Do Covo that we did not even get to explore. This hotel is very convenient for families with kids because of the free kids club, which is open until 6 pm. (I actually did not even know that there was a kids club when we booked this hotel, so imagine my surprise when I found out!). There’s also a playground on the lawn on the side of the hotel, which Curious G never had the chance to try out. The breakfast buffet is free, and pretty extensive. There is also a lobby bar with a terrace, in addition to the Sky Bar on the roof. The restaurant by the pool was perfect for lunch, and we had drinks and snacks by the pool from the pool bar daily.
The room was lovely and I already miss the large rain shower and the terrace with stunning views of the ocean and cliffs. While valet parking was available, we pinched our pennies and parked our own car in the lot. We were pleased that we actually had that option as we (mainly I) have zero patience when it comes to waiting for the valet.
Where We Ate, and I recommend all of these places:
Mare Bistro (at Tivoli Carvoeiro)
Random Dessert Tip: Buy the prepackaged ice creams in Carvoeiro. They are so good. I really enjoyed the mango and passionfruit cones from Cornetto and the Magnum bars (cookies and cream!). I had gelato in Carvoeiro (don’t remember the name, but I believe it’s a chain of places that serve gelato from a display with tons of smashed candy bars sprinkled on top) that was actually so bad that I had to give it to Curious G LOL. She couldn’t even finish it. And that’s not because she had already eaten a Magnum bar before I passed her my lousy gelato.
AND, eat a lot of stone fruits. We could not get enough of the cherries, plums, and peaches!!!
Things that I packed that were vital:
These are one and done summer travel shoes: these slides went with everything I packed and I could walk miles and miles in them everyday. I ordered a pair for this trip, and I am wearing them regularly now that we are back in NYC. I have them in champagne (light gold), but there are other color options including black and olive.
I have flat feet, and require arch support to prevent back pain. These are so easy to stick onto any type of shoe for instant arch support. I used the clear ones on my slides and every step literally felt like a foot massage. They feel extra firm at first, but soften up after you walk around in them.
We use this vest in lieu of a car seat when we are travelling, as well as for taxi rides in the city. It is a vest that ensures that a shoulder belt will stay in the right place during car rides. It’s lightweight and packable, and seems more secure than a booster seat (*this is my opinion, and I am in no way a car safety expert).
This is a lifesaver in the summer time. I love that I can protect my face without having to smear sunblock all over it throughout the day. This powder is so easy to use and feels great. In humid weather, it even provides a bit of shine control.
*I do not recommend this in drier climate because when I used it in Colorado last year, it looked cakey. It never looks cakey in New York, and didn't cake when I used it daily in Portugal.
This sunblock smells so good that I bought the conditioner to scent my hair as well. It feels practically weightless, and provides great protection. I use it on both my face and body at the beach. I also apply it to Curious G, in addition to the sunscreen below:
In my opinion, this is the best sunblock for kids (adults can use it too, and I sometimes do). It is a reef-safe mineral sunblock that comes in a bottle that changes color to indicate strong UVA ray exposure. I have been using this on Curious G since she was a baby, after a friend with older kids had recommended it. It provides great protection.
I have a collection of hoop earrings that I have worn for over a decade, but I like to bring these on trips because they are not real gold and are relatively easily replaceable. They compliment a broad spectrum of looks and styles.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
This was my beach read of the trip. It was a page-turner. I smell a movie.
This bag is super convenient, lightweight, and easy to carry. It is neutral enough to go with everything and holds a ton of stuff. Wear it as a shoulder bag, cross body, or hold the little handles. The zipper closure ensures that my belongings will stay where they belong.
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