Cha Dim Sum

15 May
2012

It was the Silver Fox’s birthday yesterday – we’d already had a fantastically cheesy night out with mates in the Big Beer Company on Friday, so we were craving something light like dim sum and sushi. After finding out Cha Dim Sum in Strassen does both, we headed off there.

The restaurant is actually one of three eateries that share a site under the ‘Zheng‘ umbrella; Le Zai (located in a large, whitewashed cottage) and Ginko Sushi (located underneath Cha Dim Sum). Cha Dim Sum is in an ultramodern box-and-glass structure that can be spotted from route d’Arlon by its large red lanterns hung from trees. The terrace, outside the front door, it beautifully landscaped with water features and shrubbery throughout, but I imagine that its peaceful vibe would be overrun by the traffic noise from the busy road that runs beside it.

Coming in we were immediately welcomed, brought to our table and our order taken. Their sushi chef has the day off Mondays, so the Silver Fox settled for pho and I ordered the dim sum. Unfortunately the service was sporadic from then on; we had to order our drinks several times as they had forgotten. However, it was surprisingly busy for a Monday night and they may have been taken by surprise.

The decor is very minimalist, with glossy white floors, walls and furniture, and the floor-to-ceiling windows add to the lovely lightness and brightness throughout. The only nod to its Asian menu are the retro Chinese posters on the walls.

Our meals arrived promptly – to start we were both given a complimentary, darkly-marbeled egg boiled in tea, which was very enjoyable. My selection of dim sum was savoury and light, each one with a subtle but lingering finish. The Silver Fox’s pho was sadly not as successful. The broth was under seasoned and he ended up adding copious sriracha to liven it up. The lamb, vegetables and noodles were better, however the basil was the bog-standard kind instead of Thai.

Our bill came with two complimentary mandarins, which we thought was a nice touch. The total cost was reasonable, so we felt what we had selected was good value, but other dishes on the menu were more expensive so it does depend on what you order.

Cuisine: Asian
Website
Address: 275, route d’Arlon, L-8011 Strassen
Phone number: +352 2739 7477 87
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00 to 14:00 and to 19:00 to 22h00, Sat 12:00 to 14:00 and 19:00 to 22h30
Prices: Nine servings of Dim Sum €12.50, Pho €12.50, glass of organic white wine €4.00
Public transport: 222 bus (‘Europe’ stop) or 8 bus (‘Chappelle’ stop)
Delivery: No (but Ginko Sushi located underneath offers delivery)

Cafe Bei Der Giedel

7 May
2012

An old building in the middle of the forest…built above some abandoned mines and disused railtrack…cut off from facilities that civilisation takes for granted…no, it’s not the start of a horror film but the location of the unique and charming Cafe Bei Der Giedel restaurant.

The Silver Fox and I are lucky to have befriended a couple who live in Differdange, so when they offered us a night in the ‘Deep South‘ we jumped at it. Torrential rain had made way to sunshine as we slowly made our way through the forest, shrouding the fields and trees in a spooky mist. The restaurant is in large clearing; below, the well-preserved mine entrances are still exposed, and the rail track that once transported men and materials is still operational during festival season as part of the Fond de Gras museum. The effect is of time slowing to a near stop.

We were warmly welcomed by the owner even before we went inside, and were well looked after throughout the night. Entering the restaurant, you are immediately struck by the great age of the building. Our guides explained that the site was originally a mining tavern, and its low ceiling, thick bowed walls and antique furnishings immediately transport you back in time. Its listed status means that there is poor mobile and web reception, therefore credit cards are not accepted.

The menu is small but varied, offering light meals like tartines and salads, but we were advised to try their steaks (both beef and horse) that come with a choice of sauces. We took their advice and we were not disappointed – the meat was melt in the mouth, barely needing a knife to cut, the sauces rich and delicious. Easily one of the best steaks I have eaten in a long time. The sides of fat chips and salad were also tasty and plentiful. Definitely worth the €23 price. The restaurant also does a plat du jour, the cheapest option being a main course and coffee for €9.50 (but as the restaurant is not hooked up to the sanitation system, it is advised to skip certain sections of the terrace when the hot sun heats up the septic tank!)

Along with the meat-feast, the restaurant’s specialities are raclette and fondue. I spotted several tables with raclettes served the traditional way: a large tranch of raclette cheese is hung in the middle of a cast iron frame and placed on the table. Hot grills underneath the frame melt both sides of the cheese gradually, which is then scraped off by the diners and eaten with potatoes, bread, charcuterie and salad.

Too full for desserts after their very generous portions and sides, we were sent on our way by the smiling and joking staff. After a short drive we were back to civilisation again, headed for the bright lights and blaring music of a local funfair, another clichéd horror film location…but also the best of both worlds, only five minutes drive from one another.

Cuisine: Luxembourgish / Swiss
Website
Address: Fond de Gras, L-4576 Niedercorn, Luxembourg/Esch
Phone number: +352 58 05 83
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11h00 to 24h00
Prices: Goats cheese salad: €12.50, Filet steak: €23.80
Public transport: car only, unless there is special transport put on for festivals held there
Delivery: No

Pacha

28 Apr
2012

When the Silver Fox and I moved to Luxembourg City from inner-city Dublin, we had criteria to help us pick the perfect area: walking distance to the city centre and our respective workplaces, good bus routes…and at least one decent local pub. During a week-long apartment search around the Belair/Merl area, we sought succour in Pacha several times, pleasantly surprised by the incredibly friendly welcome, English-speaking staff and occasional English and Irish indie song (they were playing a James album when we wandered in the first time, which amazed us).

We’ve been in the area for a while now and Pacha is still a home away from home for us. Even though we only visit once a month on average, the staff always welcome us very warmly and remember our usual drink. You can settle down in one of the booths by the window, where you can be guaranteed friendly and attentive table service. Drink prices are cheaper than the average prices in city centre pubs. There’s a big screen around the corner where they put on different sporting events, and a games room with a pool table, darts, video games and a pinball machine.

The music is mainly 80s and 90s, with a DJ on Friday nights with a very limited music collection – I should know, as I’ve been up to request so many songs in my terrible Luxembourgish that he always roars laughing when he spots me. Apparently when they opened around 30 years ago, a large percentage of their customers were English and Irish, which goes to explain why the staff speak good English and they’ll occasionally play a song from an obscure band (for example Aslan, a band hardly known outside of their native Ireland).

It’s definitely a local pub – inside the decor could do with an update, as the furniture doesn’t look like it’s changed since the 90s, the bar is badly lit, and the walls and fittings are dreary and need freshening up. It’s also very, very smoky, even when there are only a few customers. There’s absolutely nothing fashionable about it, but that’s why we love it. Sometimes you’re not looking for a wine bar or a club; you’re looking for a scoop or two in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and Pacha offers this in spades.

Address: 156 Avenue du 10 Septembre (on the corner of Rue D’Oradour), L-2550 Luxembourg-Belair
Phone: +352447998
Sports: one large screen, two small
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am to 1am, Saturday 5pm to 1am, closed Sundays
Prices: Bofferding mini (30ml): €2.40, pint (50ml) €3.80
Public transport: Bus nos 6 or 7, Place de France bus stop.

Big Beer Company

14 Apr
2012

When the Silver Fox’s primarily-male office wanted to go out as a group and let off some steam, the dream was a place that offered the trinity – great beer brewed on the premises, a rotisseried animal leg, and, of course, free shots. And then the Big Beer Company opened in the Rives de Clausen.

The first thing you notice is the vastness of the place; no surprise as it’s located in an old brewery, the guts of which they’ve lovingly restored, polished to a high shine and displayed throughout. Clever lighting gives it a nightclub feel as the evening wears on, with mainly standing tables at the bar on the ground floor, and a traditional beer hall set up on the restaurant mezzanine.

The food is Oktoberfest: pork knuckle, rotisserie chicken, charcuterie, and some Luxembourgish specialities like Judd mat Gaardebounen (pork collar with broad beans). Portions are vast, including sides like sautéed potatoes and bacon that just keep coming. And it’s all excellent: we’ve been many times, and the meat is consistently juicy and delicious. The service is friendly, on the ball and often good fun.

When the freshly brewed beer (also available unfiltered) arrives in one-litre steins that you slosh together, the Oktoberfest spirit just takes over, aided by the cheesy music…and then you’re shovelling the food and beer in like there’s no tomorrow, everyone at your table is groaning and smiling at the soundtrack, and when you look around at the other tables everyone else is smiling and toasting each other with steins too. Then when your shirt buttons are about to ping off, they take you downstairs for a free shot. And just like that you’re ready to go again.

You can have a meal as a couple or family there too of course, and you’ll enjoy it like in any other restaurant, especially if you get there early. But the Big Beer Company really shines as an Oktoberfest-lite experience.

Cuisine: German/Luxembourgish
WebsiteBig Beer Company
Address: 12 Rives de Clausen, L-2165 Luxembourg (Clausen)
Phone number: +352 26 20 10 17
Opening hours: Mon-Sat from 17:00, Sun from 12:00
Prices: Salade Paysanne €12.50, pork knuckle €21.50, pork schnitzel €16.50, one-litre stein of beer €9
Public transport: bus nos 9, 19, night bus CN1: ‘Clausener Breck’ stop, or no 14 bus ‘Tour Jacob’ stop. There is also a free ‘navette’ bus Wed-Sat from 19:30 to 04:00 to the Glacis car park.
Delivery: No

Fonzie’s Diner

13 Apr
2012

On paper, it couldn’t be in a better area - Limpertsberg, home of a multitude of secondary schools, a university campus, and young families that seemingly wouldn’t get enough of a 50s-style diner with a cheap and varied burger n’ chips menu. However, I’ve heard whispers that Fonzie’s Diner has been a little slow to get off the ground. So, when recently in Limpertsberg after a harrowing grocery shop the day before Easter Sunday (the humanity!) the Silver Fox, the Fhionn and I decided to give it some love and eat there for lunch.

Located on a street corner with floor to ceiling windows, the decor is laid out like a canvas from the pavement: the black and white chequered floor, chrome tables, and turquoise-and-white leather chairs and booths. The menu is, errm, burgers (with a wide range of sauces to choose from), chips, chicken nuggets  and milkshakes.

Heading immediately for the booths, which still manage to incite the same level of excitement as I had for them as a kid, the Fhionn and I ordered a San Diego burger (cheese) with the ‘americaine‘ sauce, a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, while the Silver Fox ordered a Los Angeles burger (cheese & bacon) with the spicy ‘samourai‘ sauce. We took advantage of the €8.50 burger, small fries and drink deal, and then lounged in the booth like hard-nosed 50′s delinquents (but in actual fact because we were aching from sparing with crazy-eyed shoppers wielding trolleys like weapons.)

Service was not the friendliest, but it was efficient. Not before long we were tucking into our burgers, which we all agreed were very good; juicy and flavourful. The chips were a little thin for my taste but I was overruled by the others’ approval. In no time at all we were done and out the door, happy and sated, ready to fight another day at Cactus.

With burger prices ranging from €3-5 and fresh, quality ingredients, it’s hard to beat Fonzie’s good value. Its setup is more suited for a quick bite than a long evening, but sometimes, in a country that still takes pride in the two-hour restaurant meal, a quickie is all you’re after.

Cuisine: Fast food/diner
Websitehttp://fonziesdiner.weebly.com/
Address: 139 Avenue des Bois, L-1250 Luxembourg (Limpertsberg)
Phone number: +352 621 239 494
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 to 14:30 and 17:30 to 22:30, Sat-Sun 11:30 to 22:30
Prices: Plain burger €3, small chips €3, Coke €1.50 (no alcohol served)
Public transport: No 2 and No 4 buses, ‘Am Wassertuerm’ bus stop is just outside. Parking can be tricky as it is a residential area
Delivery: No, but they offer takeaway service

Alfa Bar

12 Apr
2012

My search for non-smoking bars in Luxembourg city started from the first morning that I woke up with hair and clothes choked with smoke. Not a pleasant discovery at the best of times but with a hangover it’s enough to give you the dry heaves. The quest only intensified when a friend became pregnant, and had to dart off as soon as the ashtrays appeared on a night out.

Unfortunately these bars remain a little thin on the ground, and (at time of posting) the much-hailed smoking ban is nowhere to be seen. So when a mate spotted that the Alfa bar was non-smoking, we and our pregnant friend decided to give it a gander.

With its mahogany fittings, curved marble-topped bar and suited-and-booted barman, the bar attempts harks back to an older age; if they replaced the tatty carpet, the illusion would be more successful. Even so I wished I had dressed a little smarter, decked out as I was in an oversized hoodie that screamed GAP! (Don’t judge me, it was raining.) Making ourselves comfortable after a long workday, we soon got our second wind when we realised that 5:30pm to 7:30pm every day is happy hour at the bar – and we were smack in the middle of it. Not bad at all when a glass of Rivaner is only €2.50 normally. Prost!

Service was attentive and extremely friendly. The atmosphere was typically hotel bar: polite, quiet and transient, with no music. Which suited us fine as it was a gab-fest of a night rather than a dance-around-our-handbags one. A large flat-screen tv in the corner was tuned into an American sports channel, and posters around the bar informed us of regular Champions League showings.

There’s a restaurant tucked around a corner at the back of the room, but food is also served at the bar. Unfortunately the food prices were not as welcoming, with salads starting at 15 euros.

When we left, bouyed by our small drinks tab and very attentive service, we promised to come back soon; even if only for a pre-dinner drink.

Website
Address: 16, Place de la gare, L-1616 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 49 00 111
Sports: One large flatscreen
Opening hours: Open until 1am every day
Prices: Glass of Rivaner €2.50
Public transport: Any bus or train that stops at Luxembourg Gare

Crossfire

15 Dec
2010

Non-smoking readers used to smoking bans may not realise they’ve become accustomed to waking without coughing up a lung and having to sterilise their smoggy hair and clothes. Having happened to me far too many times since returning to this otherwise freshly laundered land, I was very excited to learn of a non-smoking bar called Crossfire.

Located on Rue Dicks, one of the more unfortunate but also memorable street names in Lux, Crossfire is a small Scandinavian bar whose wooden ceiling beams and benches, and blue/red colour scheme conjures up a cosy Nordic feel. They serve Scandinavian food at lunchtime and in the evenings until nine o’clock. Despite its small size there are large screens throughout showing European football and other sports.

We stood at the bar for a few minutes but it wasn’t staffed – there was a man deep in conversation in the stock room whose wobbly stance and loud gesticulation made us despair we’d ever be served – but five minutes after we settled on a bench we were visited by a very friendly bar woman. They didn’t stock the wine I usually drink however their suggested alternative was very nice. All our orders were taken at our table and often before we caught her eye which we appreciated.

It had all the hallmarks of a great pub and an enjoyable night; a small but perfectly formed pub, friendly and attentive staff, reasonable prices and, don’t forget, no haze of smokeno streaming eyes and no choked conversation. However, the music was just too awful to ignore. It lurched from Eurovision entries, to barbershop tunes, to a medley of The Beach Boys cover songs, to (I assume) Swedish techno, and back to more ear-maiming Eurovision.  The sheer absurdity and cacophony of the playlist suggested that it was put together by tipsy stock room man. We tried to drown it out by frantically prattling about anything that entered our heads, but the volume was too loud; eventually all we could do was sit and stare at the tv, our minds ransacked by the din. We eventually left to seek out better pastures.

I’m determined to go back again in case the music was an aberration, but until then the night is a perfect example of why the atmosphere in a pub is as important as the quality of its drink and food. If more bars in Luxembourg took the time to select better playlists, instead of putting eight CDs on random or sticking on the radio, it might give them an edge when the smoking ban is eventually brought in here.

Website: www.crossfire.lu
Address: 15, rue Dicks, 1417 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 49 84 31
Sports: Four screens. Check website for fixtures and events
Opening hours: Open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday, otherwise varies day to day, check the website for detailed hours
Prices: Diekirch 50cl €3.70, Diekirch 30cl €2.20, glass of white wine €3.50
Buses: Any that stop on the Avenue de la Liberté

Moving To Luxembourg

26 Nov
2010

I supposed you’ve heard the old adage that moving house is up there with divorce and bereavement in the high stress stakes. Having just moved house myself twice in one month, I can declare that not only did my body produce enough adrenaline to power a small town but that I also became a bit of a moving expert. Here’s a few moving to Luxembourg pointers that I picked up along the way.

Moving to Luxembourg

Once you’ve made the decision to move to the Grand Duchy, you’ll want to set that removal machine in motion as soon as possible to keep your stress levels down.

First, do some de-cluttering; decide which items you’ll bring with you and which you’ll bin or donate. Be ruthless and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and packing/unpacking time. Then work out what items you will need straight away (which will go in your suitcase) and which items that you can do without for a few weeks (which will be shipped with the removal company).

You’ll be required to register at your local commune (county council) within three days of your arrival in Luxembourg, so make sure to pack your identification documentsmarriage certificateswork contracts etc in your suitcase and not in your removal boxes! Visit our registration guide for a list of what you will need. If you’re short of any paperwork now is the time to get replacements, as once you move it’ll be more complicated.

Ask around for removal company recommendations, especially ones with international removal experience. If you’re using a relocation service they will have a list of recommended removal companies. Once you have a shortlist, request that each company to do an onsite survey so you can get an accurate quote. With most international deliveries you have two options: direct delivery, where you can name your preferred delivery date (most expensive) and part load delivery, where your items are stored until delivered on the company’s schedule. They may also offer a packing service, which may not cost much more but the time and stress saved is considerable. The cheapest quote is not always the best, so enquire about the cost of their removal insurance, their experience with international deliveries and if they have delivered to Luxembourg before.

Once you’ve picked a removal company, your next step is to make a list of your belongings and their value for insurance purposes. If you are doing your own packing mark what items are in which box.

You may need to arrange a parking area cordoned off outside your new place that is big enough for the delivery truck , especially if you are moving to a city centre location. Many apartment blocks in Luxembourg either have very small or no lifts so external lifts may be need to be installed. To arrange both contact your local commune or the Service de la Circulation department of Luxembourg city.

If you have already found accommodation in Luxembourg double-check with your landlord that the utilities will be connected when you arrive. See our renting guide for more information.

Moving within Luxembourg

I can’t tell you that moving within the country is easier than moving to it, but there is one big plus – most employees in Luxembourg are entitled to two days paid holiday when they move! Unfortunately with the sheer amount of paperwork involved you may not have much downtime but hey, it’s a nice gesture.

If you are renting you will have to give notice to your landlord, usually three months (check your contract) and by registered letter. Arrange a meeting with the landlord and/or the estate agent to have your meter read, the property inspected in your presence and the keys exchanged.

Cancel your utilities in your current accommodation and arrange for electricity, gas, water (and if relevant a telephone landline and internet connection) to be connected and transferred into your name in your new place. This can take weeks to arrange so contact the different companies as soon as you decide to move. For a list of utility companies see here.

You can find removal companies in the Yellow Pages under déménagements. Find out whether you will need to reserve a parking area outside of the apartment or an external lift; if so let the removal company know and ask them to include it in their quote. Make a list of your belongings and their value for insurance purposes.

Before you move, contact your insurance company and ask them to update your cover to suit your new accommodation. Home insurance is obligatory in Luxembourg and if you are a tenant you may not receive your keys before you display proof of insurance.

You will need to de-register in your old commune and re-register in your new one – see our registration guide on how to go about this. Make sure to pick up some registration certificates as you may need them when changing your address, and ask them how to update your tax card.

Within a month of moving you will need to attend one of the SNCT centres with your grey card (carte grise) and a certificate of residence; in return you will receive updated paperwork for your car.

Last but not least, make sure to take some time to explore and enjoy your new place and neighbourhood, you deserve it!

Happy Thanksgiving! As I’m typing this, not only are 300 million Americans frantically chopping, mixing and chugging bourbon (or if you’re like me avoiding the actual work and going straight to the chugging) but the 7 million living abroad are doing the same while feeling lonely for home. For the expats here the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg (AWCL) helps them make Thanksgiving like the ones they had back in the US.

The AWCL is a great support and resource to English-speaking expats of all nationalities; their fortnightly welcome mornings have not only talked many culture-shocked down from taking the next flight home but are also a good laugh. Their clubhouse is staffed by their friendly and welcoming volunteers and is stuffed with American and English groceriesDVDs and books. The club is very active and well organised, arranging social and charitable events including French conversationbook clubsmum and kids mornings, monthly brunch meetings, and charitable events. I’ve been reliably informed that their hiking Fridays are not for the faint hearted and a great way of exploring Luxembourg’s gorgeous countryside.

Most of their events are during the day as many “trailing” spouses from outside of the EU cannot receive work permits; a lot of social life in Luxembourg is centred around the office so the AWCL is a welcome social outlet for many non-working women and full time mothers. But they also have evening and weekend meetups such as fortnightly TGIF drinks in various city bars (partners and friends welcome), trips to neighbouring towns and restaurant evenings.

The AWCL also publish the Living in Luxembourg guide which covers absolutely everything from getting settled, transport, accommodation, shopping and essential services. I’d recommend the book to anyone planning to move to Luxembourg to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Membership to the AWCL is currently €50 which includes access to their clubhouse, activities, meetings and a subscription to their very informative and friendly newsletter. The support and friendship that the club provides is well worth the fee in my opinion. Visit the AWCL website or call them on +352 44 84 77 to find out more.

And if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, may you have a great day with friends and family!

Newcomers to Luxembourg not only struggle to understand the sheer variety of languages spoken here, but also the seemingly random way that they are used: your German might get you a ticket on a bus but a blank look in a clothes shop, while English might get you an account in a bank but absolutely nowhere with setting up your Internet connection. Maybe you got top marks at school for French or German but are flummoxed by unfamiliar accents or machine gun delivery. Never fear – here’s an introduction to the whys and hows of making yourself understood in the Grand Duchy.

Luxembourgish, French and German are the official and most used languages in Luxembourg. Luxembourgish is a Germanic language and is mainly spoken by the native population, while German tends to be their second language and widely used in local schools. There are also many Germans who live across the border but work in Luxembourg. French is the official written language of the country and is spoken by the large numbers of French and Belgian cross-border workers. English and Portuguese are also common as many companies have selected English as their working language, while the Portuguese are the largest minority group in Luxembourg.

Luxembourgish

Luxembourgish tends to be spoken by civil servants such as post office clerks, bus drivers and staff in government departments. You’ll also hear it in local bakeries, newsagents and butcher shops. It’s possible to get by with German, French and even English as Luxembourgers are usually proficient in many languages, but its always handy to have a few Luxembourgish phrases on hand. Your effort might help untangle some of the red tape and speed up any requests. The written form was only officially standardised in 1975 and isn’t used as much as French and German.

Here are some Luxembourgish teaching websites to get started:
Omniglot
BBC Quick Fix
Letzlearn (video lessons)

French and German

In the cities you’ll need some French in most restaurants, clothes shops and supermarkets. This is mainly because a high proportion of service and retail employees are from border towns in French and Belgium, or from elsewhere and speak French as their second language. If you can read French you’ll have a welcome advantage as many contracts, legal documents and forms are written in French.

Outside of the cities German is more commonly spoken especially in the towns near the German border. Most of the national media like the Wort newspaper and the radio stations are in German, however there is the weekly English news magazine News 352.

Get Prepared

It obviously depends on where you’ll be living but you could do worse than to learn some French and German before you move over. Get a translation dictionary or two as they’ll be handy if you get stuck. Once you’re here you can take one of the many language classes available or your employer may offer free classes to their staff.

Tips on Making Yourself Understood

You’re bound to have a few panicky moments when your plumber can only speak French or your German is just getting you stonewall stares. Just take a deep breath, swallow your pride and act out what you want – might not be the most dignified way of making yourself understood but chances are the person you’re dealing with will have been in the same position themselves.

You may be delighted to encounter an official in your commune who speaks English but doesn’t seem to understand your requests. Believe it or not, in Luxembourg it is possible to ask the wrong question – just try rephrasing your question or explaining why you are asking for xyz.

Perhaps you’re having a problem with your mobile phone but no-one in their call centre speaks English. Instead, try emailing them or visiting one of their stores and you might get lucky. Otherwise get the translation dictionary out or use Google Translate to get some French or German vocabulary together. Chances are someone will have enough English to fill in the blanks.

Practice your German and/or your French absolutely gratis by reading the free newspapers l’essentiel and Point24.

In short: think ahead, don’t forget your smile and your sense of humour, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and keep trying!

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