Taking a trip to Boston. Any suggestions?

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Balance
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Taking a trip to Boston. Any suggestions?

Post by Balance » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:09 pm

Hello there folks. My fiance and I are taking a trip to Boston later on this week. We will be staying with some family. I wanted to get some advice on some good atrractions/historical landmarks to visit during our trip, as well as good restaurants. We will have access to a vehicle. We aren't looking on spending a lot of money but at the same time we don't want to miss out on some of the big "to-do's". Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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SHL
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Post by SHL » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:24 pm

Check out the Freedom Trail, a National Park walking tour of Boston's historic sites.

Dine at Durgin Park Restaurant in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace; good food and famously feisty waitresses.
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Post by itslate » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:30 pm

the duck tours are cool. they take you on a tour in a rehabbed amphibious vehicle. freedom trail tours are great for historical tourism. the new england aquarium is a good one (and legal sea foods just outside is a great restaurant imo).

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Post by gatorman » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:52 am

The tour of the USS Constitution is great, and free. We liked the lobster rolls at Legal Seafood and the clam chowder, although the restaurant is a bit on the expensive side. The North Church is worth seeing as is the graveyard up the street where one of the Mathers is buried (can't remember which one). Accross the street from the graveyard is the narrowest house in Boston. Boston Commons is also worth seeing.

If you are looking for good restaurants, try doing a search on Chowhounds, you'll find lots of ideas.

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Post by FedGuy » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:19 am

The responses to date have mentioned the main "must sees" in Boston. Depending on your interests, you might want to check out some of the local museums; Harvard has a few that are open to the public. I have a friend that used to live in Boston who recommends that people check out a Harvard museum that features "glass flowers" (which she recommended that people find by googling "glass flowers"), but obviously that's not everyone's cup of tea.

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Boston visit suggestions

Post by Volkdancer » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:30 am

In addition to what has already been suggested, you might consider taking the Commuter Rail out to Salem, Glouchester, and Rockport, or the alternate to Ipswich, going northeast, and northwest to Concord, perhaps a taxi to/from Walden Pond from Concord, where you could do walkabouts of these historic areas, and find many choices of good restaurants.

In Boston, Richardson's Trinity Church on Copley is a beautiful Romanesque/Byzantine Revival building from the late nineteenth century well worth seeing.

Legal Seafood anywhere in the area is a good, safe bet for seafood.

Plus the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Olmstead's Emerald Necklace, a string of parks with many walking options.

Enjoy, Boston is a wonderful, fascinating, and very civilized and liveable city.

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Post by djw » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:32 am

Many of the sights mentioned so far are in or near downtown and best done on foot or by public transit (subways, street cars, buses).

Since you have a car, consider driving to Concord, Mass. I parked near bridge where "shot heard 'round the world" was fired then spent the day walking around town, visiting several historic homes, graveyard, Walden Pond (incl. site of Thoreau's cabin where I was lucky to join a free tour in progress with a Thoreau re-enactor). See Lexington, Mass. battlefield too.

How about Plimouth Plantation (note spelling) and Plymouth Rock, south of Boston? The re-enactors at Plimouth do an excellent job carrying on with their "everyday lives" while visitors ask them questions about life in their time.

How about Salem, Mass. or Gloucester? We can all still learn important lessons about the witch trials mania that occurred there.

A bit further southwest of Boston, Sturbridge Village.
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Post by XtremeSki2001 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:52 am

SHL wrote:Check out the Freedom Trail, a National Park walking tour of Boston's historic sites.

Dine at Durgin Park Restaurant in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace; good food and famously feisty waitresses.
I'd add walking MIT/Harvard's Campus
Tour Fenway
Tours of Sam Adams and/or Harpoon Breweries

For restaurants:
Faneuil Hall is a lot of fun (think lunch)
Atlantic Seafood (amazing)
Pomodoro (great italian in the north end)
Mike's Pastries (north end - also great)

Boston is by far my favorite city and there's much more then this, but these are my MUST SEE/DO's
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Post by nimo956 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:54 am

Boston is a great walking city. You could literally walk around almost the entire city in a day. I've would start out in the Back Bay/Copley area, walk down Newbury St., then through the Boston Common, where you can see the State House. From there, make your way to Louisburg Square/ Beacon Hill, walk along the Charles, then head over to State St./ the Waterfront. You can walk along the harbor, visit Fanueil Hall, and then make your way to the North End. Haymarket and Salem St. are essentially filled with nothing but Italian restaurants (one after the other). One of my favorites is Taranta on Haymarket. You can also check out Mike's Pastry for dessert. Harvard Square is also very nice to walk around, although you should probably take the Subway (called the T) to get there (it's on the Red Line).
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Post by etarini » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:05 am

Here's what we do with all our out-of-town guests (and we never tire of doing it) - some of these have already been recommended:

- Boston Duck Boat tour - you'll see a lot of the sights in downtown Boston, including the Trinity Church, and go for a brief ride in the Charles River to see MIT. All the Duck Boat captains are funny and very informative. You can take the tour starting either at the Museum of Science just across the river in Cambridge, or right near the Prudential Center. You should get tickets in advance online ( http://www.bostonducktours.com/ ) because they are sometimes sold out if you just walk up and try to buy them.

- walk most of the Freedom Trail, starting at the Boston Common and going to the Copp's Hill Cemetery in the North End (view of the U.S.S. Constitution) - you could go on to the Bunker Hill monument, but it adds a couple of miles to the walk and you'd have already seen it on the Duck Boat tour. Tip: when you get to the Faneuil Hall area on the Freedom Trail, look for six square glass towers to your left - there's a Holocaust Memorial (http://www.nehm.org/location/) that's worth seeing - reading the inscriptions will only take ten minutes and is very moving. The North End (Italian section) has Paul Revere's house, and dozens of restaurants - just pick one.

- go to the Prudential Skywalk, at the top of the Prudential building. It has spectacular panoramic views of the Boston area, an excellent complimentary audio headset that tells you what you're looking at as you make your way around the building, and it will really tie together all the places you'll have seen on the Duck Boat tour.

Eric

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Post by dpbsmith » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:10 am

The Glass Flowers at Harvard were once considered a significant tourist attraction. (They're part of a pleasant small museum that has a nice mineral collection). They were designed for instructional and study purposes because traditional herbarium specimens are flat and look unrealistic. They are incredible, they have insect damage and everything. Legend has it that the question most frequently asked by visitors is "Yes, I see those, but where are the glass flowers?" A true story is that a naturalist made a discovery about how a certain insect pollinates a certain flower, and published a paper about it--and was stunned to see that the Blaschkas had in fact observed and modeled the behavior in glass. Still when you come right down to it, it's just a biggish room full of display cases. But you can walk around Harvard and shop in Harvard Square.

If you like quirky things, I have a soft spot for the Mapparium in the Christian Science complex in Back Bay, walking distance from Back Bay hotels. Google it. I wouldn't make a special trip to see it but if you're in Back Bay anyway and are wondering "is this worth seeing," the answer is "yes."

If you're into monumental architecture, the Boston Public Library is one of the great secular temples of the world, and it's a good test of a liberal education to see how many of several hundreds of names on the walls you recognize. There are usually some small exhibits and stuff inside (and lots more names and statues), and some John Singer Sargent paintings. If you prefer non-secular temples, Trinity Church is just a block away. Decide for yourself if the architecture writers were correct in admiring the respectful John Hancock Tower complements and does not overpower Trinity Church. (They're nuts).

I haven't tried it yet but there's a brand new network of automated bicycle-rental stands throughout the city.

I concur that the Prudential Skywalk is nice.
djw wrote:How about Plimouth Plantation (note spelling) and Plymouth Rock, south of Boston? The re-enactors at Plimouth do an excellent job carrying on with their "everyday lives" while visitors ask them questions about life in their time.
Second that. Plimoth Plantation is special. I don't know whether it's a museum or improv theatre but it is fantastic. It's not just Myles Standish, you talk to ordinary people, hear the Separatists gripe about the Puritans, etc.
How about Salem, Mass. or Gloucester? We can all still learn important lessons about the witch trials mania that occurred there.
And if you're into "quirky," and you're near Gloucester the Newspaper House is worth a visit. Use your GPS if you have one, it's in a random residential neighborhood, there isn't lots of signage.

In Salem, my wife and I just love the Peabody-Essex Museum, http://www.pem.org , I don't know how to describe it other than to say it is really nice. It's a substantial museum, you can spend quite a bit of time there. You need to make advance appointments to tour Ying Yu Tang, a 200-year-old complete Chinese house transported from China.

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Post by camden » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:45 am

Lots of good suggestions above; would like to add the JFK Presidential Llibrary. All of these libraries are feasts for those interested in history.

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Post by Balance » Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:35 am

Wow thanks for all the great suggestions. I am going to type out and print al your suggestions and try to do a lot of them during our trip there. Thanks so much for the awesome info!

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Post by foooozle » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:04 pm

Restaurants:

If you can manage it, I'd stay away from the restaurants in the more touristy trap areas of town (Quincy Market, etc.).

Flour (three locations, the original in the South End, one at Fort Point and the other in Central Square). A bakery that provides awesome breakfast and lunch options. The food quality here is consistently high, and they are the makers of the best chocolate chip cookie I've (still) ever had.

Another quirky option for lunch is the Clover Food Lab, which used to be just a food truck but they now have a restaurant location in Harvard Square.

Deep Ellum (in Allston). Hard to get to unless you have a car, or are willing to take the bus (from Harvard Square, Central Square or Kenmore Square). Allston is the 20-something scruffy hipstery part of Boston, but this is a very nice restaurant/bar place. I still haven't found the proper equivalent in NYC yet.

Helmand (Cambridge near Lechmere or a further walk from Kendall). An Afghani restaurant run by Hamid Karzai's sister. It has been 7-8 years since I've been here, but it was very good then and I think it is still likely to be good today.

Walking:

Taking a walk all the way down Newbury Street (the high-end shopping district), through Boston Common and up the Freedom Trail through the North End is a great walking tour of the city.

Central and Harvard Square in Cambridge are other interesting areas to walk around too.

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Post by wilked » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:27 pm

I grew up and live in Boston. I am guessing you are in late 20s / early 30s (from fiancee...just a guess). Assuming the above (same age as me), here is what I agree with of the recommendations:

-Freedom Trail is a *great* way to see the city. Just be aware it will take 6 hours or maybe more to cover it, and involves a lot of walking.
-Duck Tours are also a *great* way to see the city from a seated position. You will get a ton of information in a short amount of time. They are a little expensive but I recommend them.
-Must see neighborhoods: North End, Beacon Hill, Harvard Square, Back Bay (in that order).
-Do not drive around town, take the T.
-Fanueil Hall is a tourist trap in my opinion. Locals do not go here generally.
-USS Constitution, the Glass Flowers Exhibit (at the Natural History Museum in Harvard), and the Mapparium are three things you can only see in Boston. Each is excellent.
-Trinity Church is beautiful, I highly recommend seeing it. Get the tour (free with admission).
-Tour of Fenway is a must for any sports fan.
-Check out Acorn Street in Beacon Hill, America's most photographed street.
-If you go see anything out of town, realize that it will eat an entire day. Rather than see Plimoth Plantation or Salem, in my opinion if you have limited time I would skip these and concentrate on Boston area. If you have more than 5 days than I would consider them though. Of the ones mentioned I think Salem is the nicest.
-Definitely use the Hubway bike sharing program while here! Just be careful and look at the rates, good prices so long as you don't use them more than 2 hours (check the website for details)

Restaurants:
-Neptune Oyster in North End for a Lobster Roll. $25 for a lobster roll will seem steep until it is delivered. Well worth it.
-Jacque Imo's in North End. One of the rarest creatures in North End: an affordable restaurant with good food. Lines can be long though (no reservations).
-If you want great Italian without waiting at a great price, go to Grotto in Beacon Hill. Small romantic place, you can get a $34 fixed price 3 course meal.
-Ten Tables is my favorite restaurant. They have two locations (Jamaica Plain and Harvard). Excellent food.
-There are 4 Cambridge spots which are superb, Craigie on Main, EVOO, TW Food, and Oleana. You cannot go wrong with any of these.
-For local seafood, try Atlantic Seafood. Awesome place.

Stuff to Do at Night:
-Improv Asylum in North End is a lot of fun.
-Top of the Hub is great for a drink or two.
-Visit Charlestown at night, go to Warren's Tavern (oldest pub, or something like that).
-Lucky's in South Boston is an awesome spot for live music Thurs / Fri. Never a cover (and no sign out front so write the address down). Also, Sunday night is the best night to go, Sinatra Sunday.
-Hit the Cantab in Central Square (Cambridge) Thursday night for the Chicken Slacks. You won't be disappointed.
-For some blues or jazz, check Wally's out, great New-Orleans-like place.

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Post by JupiterJones » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:30 pm

As a former Bostonian, I think most of the "must-dos" have been covered. Allow me to second:
  • The Freedom Trail
    The Skywalk
    Harvard Square
    Fenway Park
    The Mapparium (and the rest of the Christian Science Center)
    Dinner in the North End
    The Museum of Fine Arts (but don't forget the Gardner Museum nearby!)
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Mr Grumpy
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Taking a trip to Boston. Any suggestions?

Post by Mr Grumpy » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:09 pm

To me Boston provides a wonderful and interesting walk. I won't add to all the good suggestions on what to do or where to eat, but if I had a day (or more) I would walk from the North End and end up at Kenmore Square. I would second not driving in Boston; either park your car or take public transit into the city. Personally I would start on Hanover Street in the North End and just browse the shops and restaurants (they post window menus so there are no surprises). Walk west across the big dig, through Quincy Market, then go up Beacon Hill to the right of the statehouse. Through the Hill and down to Boston Common, through Boston Gardens and then go up Newbury Street , Boylston Street,or Commonwealth Ave(r Winston Churchill called Commonwealth Ave one of the great avenues of the world - a bit of an overstatement, but not a bad stroll).
If you are interested, buy tickets to tour the basilica of baseball, Fenway Park. There are numerous "T" stops if you get tired.
I would also recommend the "Duck Tours" as I know some locals have taken it and found it highly entertaining. Good Luck

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Post by FedGuy » Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:36 pm

It's been several years since I've been to Boston, but if you were a "Cheers" fan you might get a kick out of visiting (or at least walking by) the Bull and Finch Pub, which Wikipedia tells me has since been named "Cheers Beacon Hill." The exterior was used as the establishing shot for the bar on Cheers, though the interior looks nothing like the bar on TV.

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Post by djw » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:03 pm

Two more suggestions:

If approaching Boston by car from Worcester via Route 2, park in the garage at the Alewife station and take mass transit from there. This is at the westernmost end of the red line which will take you into the center of downtown on a very pleasant subway ride much faster than trying to drive there (and the parking here is way easier than searching for parking downtown).

Another great way to arrive in Boston is via Amtrak with lots of trains to choose from every day. South Station is downtown, right on the Red Line.

I can't believe I forgot to mention the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. It's one of a kind and not to be missed. It's also next door to the Museum of Fine Art and adjoins "The Fens" where you can take a very pleasant walk (think NYC's Central Park). You can walk from here all the way to Fenway Park baseball stadium if you wish. The Green Line has several stops in the neighborhood if you run out of energy.

http://www.gardnermuseum.org/
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Post by bottlecap » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:52 pm

I second the Neptune's Oyster lobster roll. Had one in January and think of it often.

JT

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Post by Van » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:54 pm

Get a good detailed map of the city and take your GPS. It's a very difficult city to drive around in for the unfamiliar visitor.

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Post by norookie » Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:06 pm

:peace
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Post by FedGuy » Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:41 pm

Yes, to echo most of the previous posters: do not drive in Boston. Don't even drive near Boston. On top of the difficulties you face driving in most large American cities, drivers in the Boston area are justifiably famous for their crazy driving. It's so bad that, when I was in college, one of my game theory textbooks actually had a whole section on why Boston drivers are so insane (the basic answer is that, if everyone else is driving recklessly, anyone who doesn't drive recklessly is never going to get anywhere on time--since all the crazies will cut him off and go around him--while not being any safer, since driving safely doesn't really help increase your survival chances when everyone else on the road is driving like a lunatic. So you might as well be crazy yourself so you can at least get to places on time).

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Post by SalStewart » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:22 am

As suggested above, the Freedom Walk is a wonderful way to experience the history of Boston. We did the entire walk over 5 days using maps and information provided by the non-profit Freedom Trail Foundation.
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Post by Christine_NM » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:49 am

FedGuy wrote:Yes, to echo most of the previous posters: do not drive in Boston. Don't even drive near Boston. On top of the difficulties you face driving in most large American cities, drivers in the Boston area are justifiably famous for their crazy driving. It's so bad that, when I was in college, one of my game theory textbooks actually had a whole section on why Boston drivers are so insane (the basic answer is that, if everyone else is driving recklessly, anyone who doesn't drive recklessly is never going to get anywhere on time--since all the crazies will cut him off and go around him--while not being any safer, since driving safely doesn't really help increase your survival chances when everyone else on the road is driving like a lunatic. So you might as well be crazy yourself so you can at least get to places on time).
Yes, don't drive. I lived on Charles St. and drove out of town on weekends on the Southeast Expressway -- which may not exist anymore, but the drivers do. I remember once a car forced me to stop to let it cut in front of me by driving into my front bumper.

But if you are walking or using public transit your experience will be different. Do watch when crossing the street.

It's still my favorite city.
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Post by camper » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:21 am

If the Sox finish off the choke job and don't make the playoffs, you might want to delay your trip. The self-loathing will be near all-time highs.

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Post by madsinger » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:48 am

camper wrote:If the Sox finish off the choke job and don't make the playoffs, you might want to delay your trip. The self-loathing will be near all-time highs.
<snark>

Yes...let's have some pity on the Boston sport's fan....The long suffering Patriots fan has not seen their team win the Super Bowl since...2005! Red Sox since 2007, Celtics in 2009...and the Bruins haven't even won a regular season game since they last took the Stanley Cup!

</snark>

(but...wow...this has been one BAD month for the Sox!)

-Brad.

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Post by DartThrower » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:13 pm

FedGuy wrote:It's been several years since I've been to Boston, but if you were a "Cheers" fan you might get a kick out of visiting (or at least walking by) the Bull and Finch Pub, which Wikipedia tells me has since been named "Cheers Beacon Hill." The exterior was used as the establishing shot for the bar on Cheers, though the interior looks nothing like the bar on TV.

I was just at Cheers for the first time in my life two weeks ago. Apparently, as you say, they used the exterior for the establishing shot, but then they used the upstairs bar as the set. The upstairs is more spacious and is layed out rectangularly making it much easier to film I suppose.

We were actually in Boston on our way home from a Maine vacation and had several hours to kill before our flight.

Our original intent was to go to the site of the Tea Party and then catch our flight home. As someone may already have mentioned, the museum for the tea party site was a ship that had recently been hit by lightning and burned. The ship will not be repaired completely until 2012.

We walked from the Tea Party site all the way through the historic district until finally ending up at Cheers. It was about 2 miles each way, but we took many detours and enjoyed as much as time would allow. The temp was about 65 degrees and it was sunny and dry. You couldn't ask for more!

By the way, the people were extremely nice to us. Compliments to you Bostonians.

Hope you have a great time. I can't wait to go back.
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Post by leod » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:49 pm

take the City Pass

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Post by gcturp » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:57 pm

Check out citypass (http://www.citypass.com/boston), don't rent a car and get a subway pass, don't wear a Yankee hat/attire, don't wear a Rays hat/attire, go to: the museum of science, the jfk library, and the sam adams brewery (all accessible by public transportation). Boston is a great 'city' vacation (only NY and Chicago rival).

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Post by SalStewart » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:41 pm

don't wear a Yankee hat/attire, don't wear a Rays hat/attire,
Now this is sage, practical advice!

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Post by zaboomafoozarg » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:35 pm

Regina Pizzeria, yum.

Also the USS Constitution, pretty sweet walking on a boat that was built in the 1700's.

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Post by Archie Sinclair » Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:33 am

zaboomafoozarg wrote:Regina Pizzeria, yum.
That is a great pizzeria. They have a location in Quincy Market, which is a nice area to walk around.

Nearby is the Boston Custom House, which has an observation deck that gives a great view of the city. It's currently a hotel/timeshare, but they do free public tours.

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