Shale's Trip To Italy July 2015

Discussion in 'Postcards from Planet Earth' started by Shale, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Shale

    Shale ~

    Background

    I met Michel at the nude beach in Miami-Dade on November 3, 2012. He approached me, said he liked my white beard and asked me to join him and his friends. We also had a moment of intimacy that evening in my apartment and 5 days later he spent my 68th birthday with me on Lincoln Road, SoBe, and bought me a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses for about $190. Apparently, Michel was into old guys and quite frankly, that worked for me.

    Shale & Michel Nov 8 2012 Lincoln Rd. Lunch
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    Michel is French Canadian (I love his mellifluous French accent), about 17 years younger than me and quite handsome. He actually lives in Italy, with some property in Canada and frequently visits friends here in South Florida. So over the past 3 years I have seen him whenever he comes to town and we have fun together, whether just visiting the city or being intimate.

    I was still working at a job that had lost all enjoyment and in January 2013, Michel asked when I was going to retire and come visit him in Italy. At the time I could not afford it, but by March of 2015, I could afford to quit working and did. I also took a cheap repositioning cruise to Barcelona and had thot of taking a train over to Milan and visiting Michel at that time. But he was rebuilding his house there then going to Montreal to work on his other house so that was not going to happen. However, he said by July he would be back in Milan and would pay my airfare to visit at that time.

    So, here I am, July 11, 2015, catching an Air Berlin flight out of Miami to Dusseldorf & then Alitalia to Milano.

    Leave Miami July 11
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    July 12, 2015

    The flight over the Atlantic went well, the plane was not too full so I had an empty seat to stretch out my legs on the 9-hours in the air. Dusseldorf Airport was a rather confusing mess to follow - arrows pointed in one direction where the corridor turned around corners or were hidden behind walls. But, did manage to find passport control and walk long corridors to my concourse to connect to Italy.

    One of the notable moments of my flight was seeing the alps from 30K feet. They are big so they show up. I even saw traces of the ground routes thru them, which I had taken in 1975 by train from Luxembourg to Milano but it was at night so I didn't see much then.

    Fly over the Alps July 12
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    I arrived at Milano Airport about10:30 a.m. and was a bit confused when following everyone down the corridor to find myself out in the main airport without passing thru passport control. I asked and was informed that this really is a United Europe. Once I did passport control in Dusseldorf, going to other European nations sort of becomes a domestic flight and does not require it. OK, the last time I traveled thru Europe was in 1975 - no Euros and a passport check at each border.

    So, where to wait for Michel to pick me up? I went out front and stood prominently. I joked with Michel in an e-mail that I would be the white-bearded guy wearing all blue - as if he needed a description. After a while I started getting concerned how I would locate him if he did not show up for some reason. All I had was a name, no fone number, no address - just a name. However, Michel called me from behind and I was much relieved and a little confused as to why he was pushing a luggage cart. Seems my meticulous and efficient friend was actually in Canada when he made arrangements for his flight and mine to arrive at the exact time in Milano. We were now both waiting for Roberto, Michel's neighbor and gardener to bring his car.

    When Roberto arrived and our luggage was stowed in the SUV, Michel drove us into Milano so he could pick up mail at his apartment there. We then went to the Villa in a little town called Meina on Lake Maggiore, a mountainous area compared to Milano which is on flat ground with canals almost like Venice.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 12, 2015
    A Long Day In Italy


    Today was really packed with activity as I took in all the new sights, mostly in Michel's Villa, which has as many paintings and sculptures as a museum. The Villa was the family estate of Gigi, Michel's Partner of 20 years before his passing and is located on a hill overlooking the town and lake below.

    Michel & Shale View of Lago Maggiore from Villa July 12
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    Further up the hill behind the house is a garden and orchard that we went thru where there are fig, apple, plumb, mulberry and pear trees and grapes, blue berries, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes in the garden. Oh Michel also has two Golden Retrievers that followed us to the garden.

    Shale with Duna & Drive Meina July 12
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    In the town below us is a quite old church (maybe centuries but who notices here) that chimes the bells on the hour. And, of course there is that beautiful lake and mountains in the background.

    Meina from Michel's Villa
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    Michel and I took a brief nap for a couple of hours then went out for dinner at an outdoor restaurant by the lake. Food was good - the mosquitoes were not. Everyone was being eaten by them that night.

    We came back and were asleep by 11:30 PM but by 4 AM my eyes popped open in the dark and I could not get back to sleep despite being quite tired. JET LAG!! My body thot it was 10 AM. So, I got up, wrote in my journal and downloaded pix.

    Shale Writing in Journal July 13 4 AM Jet Lag

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  3. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 13, 2015
    Michel's New BMW


    Today Michel & I went to pick up his new BMW. It was quite exciting doing the shakedown drive back along the expressway and on the winding mountain roads. This car accelerates and corners well.

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    And, Michel was really enjoying it. He drove around to many of his friends to show it off and I got to meet a lot of new ppl in Meina.

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    While this car is diesel, you should know that petrol here is $6 a gallon. (As near as I can figure - Filled up the SUV with 73 Liters for 100 Euros)

    Michel New BMW Gas Station July 13 (Ya Know He is Happy)
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    Handed my cam off to one of Michel's friends who snapped this pic.

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    I am really enjoying my Italian visit.
     
  4. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 14, 2015
    Milano

    Today Michel had business to attend to in Milano and we went to his apartment, which also has wonderful artwork on the walls and sculptures on the tables. I met his friend Attilio, who was also a business partner with Gigi and maintained their studio in the same building. We went out to lunch in the neighborhood and I discovered that the little cars park on the sidewalks even driving on them to get to the spot.

    Milano Sidewalk Parking July 14
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    Michel got bikes from the storage shed in the patio and we did a bike tour of the city. First stop at the bank, where we had to wait until it opened at 2 - and would be closing half an hour later. I grabbed a passing guy on the sidewalk to get our pic and could tell he was holding the cam at an angle, but it worked out OK.

    Shale & Michel with Bikes July 14
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    We then went to the center square in the town where one very old mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built in 1865.

    Milano Shale at Galleria Vittorio July 14
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    Also on the square was the Duomo di Milano a magnificent cathedral that only took from 1386 to 1965 to complete.

    Milano Duomo Cathedral July 14
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  5. Shale

    Shale ~

    From the square we rode to the 15th Century, Sforza Castle. When you see the history of Europe you realize how new the New World is. This castle is about the same age as that first discovery. It really hits home since my city, Miami Beach is celebrating it's 100th Anniversary this year.

    Milano Sforza Castle July 14
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    Not that everything in Milano is old. As we were driving out of the city, I saw a condominium that had a vertical forest up the sides. A new concept in Hi-Rise urban buildings.

    Milano Tree Condo July 14
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    We had dinner at another ristarante on the lake (no mosquitoes this time) and I heard the trains going by on their terraced tracks up the hill and realized that I had passed this way in 1975 on my way to Milano. Small world.

    Tomorrow, we go to the mountains.
     
  6. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 15, 2015
    Cervinia

    Today we go to the mountains. I may have referred to where Michel lives in Meina as being in the mountains but I have been corrected that those are just hills. Where we are is mind boggling, up in the clouds, snow in July, glacier adorned MOUNTAINS.

    Michel has a condo in Cervinia (Cherveenia) a ski vacation city (Yes, Michel skis and snowboards). But, being summer there is a golf tournament going on. I knew Michel played golf while in SoFlo but didn’t know he competed. I am learning so much about my mysterious lover.

    Cervinia View from Michel's Condo July 15
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    Michel's condo is quite large with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and two patios for sunning. BTW, the sun can really tan you quickly in this altitude. This condo, like the villa in Meina and the condo in Milano was another gallery of fine art drawings, paintings and sculptures, mostly of male subjects thru-out history.

    There were three other men and one teen son sharing the condo this trip, competing in the golf tournament with Michel. So, we all had good dinner conversation (2 guys spoke some English & Michel interpreted the rest) but mostly I toured the town while they were all out playing golf.

    Michel's Condo in Cervinia Top Floor July 16
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    Besides one of the guests being a chef, preparing a great ratatouille, we also ate at a local ristorante one evening. What is noticed by Americans in Europe is that the 15-year-old boy with us was served wine at the restaurant with no questions about his age. How did the U.S. become such priggish nation?

    As we drove toward Cervinia there was one very prominent peak that reminded me of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. That is because Cervino is the Italian side of the same mountain and this July is the 150th anniversary when both sides were first scaled.

    Cervino View from Condo July 15
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    Cervinia Shale on Condo View July 15
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    IDK if it was the change in altitude from my home at sea level to 6.5K Feet (2K meters) or the change in perspective like looking across the valley and seeing ppl the size of ants as if one were looking down from an airplane, but I was a bit spaced out in the mountains. And, the least exertion left me breathless. It was another great experience.
     
  7. Shale

    Shale ~

    Michel pointed out to me on the drive to the mountains, the stone shingles on the hous roofs. When we got to Cervinia I got some pix of these local Alpine shingles, which are on the older houses and new.

    Cervinia Roof Stone Shingles July 16
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    On one of my walks up a road shooting wild flowers, I came across this really pretty Alpine style house.

    Cervinia Alpine House July 16
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    The mountain weather was nicely cool this July but I was comfortable wearing shorts and T-shirt while out walking. Michel kept robes in the bathroom and I think I wore one once just to not shock all the str8 males sharing the apartment. (Michel and I lived nude most of the time at the villa - until Pia the housekeeper came in.)

    Michel in Robe Cervinia July 17
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    The weather was mostly sunny with occasional clouds for our visit but on the 17th it rained. Actually had a thunderstorm, which is really dynamic in the mountains. Thunder is so much louder sharper reverberating off of the stone faces of the surrounding mountains.

    We wanted a souvenir pic and finally the clouds broke on the day we left so Michel and I could get a pic with Cervino in the background.

    Cervinia Michel & Shale Selfie July 18
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  8. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 18, 2015
    Saturday on the Lake


    When we got back to the villa, I logged on for the first time since July 14th. There was no Wifi connection at Cervinia so I was "off the grid" as they now say. Michel asked me if it was really necessary, he could somehow connect me thru his iPhone but I said it was not necessary for 3 days.

    There were two e-mails in my inbox from yesterday:
    [SIZE=11pt]------------------------------[/SIZE]
    From: RL
    Date: Jul 17, 2015 9:36 AM
    Have not seen a post from you in 3 almost 4 days, i guess you are having a great time, enjoy and I love you. Stay safe.
    RL
    [SIZE=11pt]------------------------------[/SIZE]
    From: A F
    Date: Jul 17, 2015 3:06 PM
    Hi, how are you?
    Is everything ok? I am so used to receive daily update and nothing from Tuesday. Hopefully you just so busy that you don’t have time for emails.
    Take care,
    A F
    [SIZE=11pt]------------------------------[/SIZE]
    Strange to consider that when I made this trip in 1975, there was no Internet, there were no cell fones, just landline fones that were too costly and difficult to make international calls. I think when I got to India I sent some letters thru the mail but for over a month we were "off the grid" and no one considered that so extreme. But, I sent out an immediate e-mail to my BCC Group that I had not fallen off the edge of the earth, just seen the top of it for a bit.

    Michel's Boat on Lago Maggiore July 18
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    After we got unpacked from our trip to the mountains, Michel took us out on his boat on Lago Maggiore. It was a sunny day with mostly calm water, cool but not cold. We laid on the aft deck and got some sun. (OK, we were nude most of the time - I just put the briefs on for this foto)

    Shale Sun on Deck Lago Maggiore July 18
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    As with a lot of countries (Like the Bahamas) I have learned that the nautical flag is not the same as the national flag. This is the one for Italy.

    Michel with Nautical Flag Lago Maggiore July 18
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    There is a castle on the lake that we could see from the boat but I got a pic of it the next day as we went to Arona to catch the train to EXPO 2015 in Milano.

    Castle on Lago Maggiore from Arona July 19
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  9. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 19, 2015
    Sunday at EXPO 2015


    Today we spent at the Milano EXPO 2015. It focused on food around the world - production, distribution and abundance/scarcity. There were lots of international exhibits, some quite creative & spectacular.

    We went by train, which put us right at the fair.

    Arona Train Station Going to EXPO 2015 July 19
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    Shale on Train Going to EXPO 2015 July 19
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    There was security at this event just like in an airport and they saw something suspicious in my backpack X-ray (my cam wires) and the guard was very polite asking me to open all my backpack compartments so he could do a visual.

    Since the theme of the fair was food and ecology, the signature sculpture was this stylized tree that Michel used as a backdrop for a selfie.

    Michel & Shale Selfie EXPO 2015 Milano July 19
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    One thing I noticed in Italy (renowned for fashion design) is how nice the uniformed police from all departments looked. And, there were a lot of different police departments working the EXPO. These two guys were military police and were exceptionally dressed and quite accommodating of an American Tourist wanting to get a pic with them.

    Shale with Police EXPO 2015 Milano July 19
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    It was a good day and we were a bit tired when we got back to the villa.
     
  10. Shale

    Shale ~

    July 20, 2015
    Milano

    Michel had to pick up some things in Milano and while waiting for the place to open we walked around the city. Michel mentioned that a lot of Milano was lost to bombing during the war. We tend to forget that there was a terrible war here 70 years ago.

    Milano has all sorts of electric vehicles, both old traditional like the streetcar in this pic, which looks about like the ones in New Orleans. But there are longer trains and electric busses. Europe seems so much more fuel conscious than we in the States.

    Milano Streetcar July 20
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    While walking we came across this snail sculpture. There were several in the neighborhood of various colors (just by chance I posed with a blue one).

    Shale with Blue Snail Milano July 20
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    In 2010 these same snails in pink were all over Miami Beach. IDK if they originated in Milano or some other place.

    Miami Beach Shale with Pink Snail Dec 2010
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    Unlike the surrounding countryside, Milano is quite flat and has a canal system, much like South Florida or New Orleans. Except, these canals are also used with tour boats.

    Milano Canal July 20
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    This is a reminder of how the Roman Empire was all over Italia in ancient times and these vestiges still linger.

    Milano Roman Columns July 20
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  11. Shale

    Shale ~

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Today is my last day in Italy. My plane leaves late in the day so Michel and I went into Milano for the last time. He had some business to attend and we would spend the day together sight-seeing by city bus, on foot and on bicycles.

    This is one of the many gates to the old city that Michel took me to. The reason I am in this shot was because some woman was sitting on the steps behind me messing up the symmetry of the pic. After she saw what we were doing she left and I got a shot of the arch by itself.

    Shale at Ornate Arc Gate Milano July 21
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    Michel took me to some obscure but fascinating old building downtown. We were in the hi-fashion section of town (Michel needed to get some sunglasses). This building with what appears to be ancient sculptures of male figures also had an interesting sculpture under the eave.

    Bldg with Male Statues Milano July 21
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    This sculpture high on the building is hardly noticed (Michel directed my attention to it). Quite a painful grafic of a satyr's demise.

    Unfortunate Satyr Milano July 21
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    As we walked along the downtown area, Michel said we were going to lunch. I mentioned all the young ppl sitting on the curbs and on doorstoops eating and Michel said they were there from the place we were having lunch. It is a shop where we got some deep fried bread with filling, mine being cheese. They were very good and everyone just ate them on the street, leaning against the walls where there were angled seats to rest your butt while eating standing up. Seems to be an established tradition for downtown workers & students.

    Popular Lunch Place Milano July 21
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  12. Shale

    Shale ~

    After Michel's business appointment, we went back to his condo and got the bikes and further explored the city where he showed me this beautiful old building with the ornate ceramic tiles on the walls. IDK its age and the artwork looks to be older than Art Nouveau but who knows. It was some beautiful, very European style of building decoration.

    Milano Tiled Art on Bldg 1 Wide View July 21
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    Milano Tiled Art on Bldg 1 Detail July 21
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    Milano Tiled Art on Bldg 2 Wide View July 21
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    Milano Tiled Art on Bldg 2 Detail July 21
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  13. Shale

    Shale ~

    We rode the bikes into a large park where we came across this unusual public drinking fountain that trickled water constantly until you block the spigot then the water comes out of the top.

    Milano Park Drinking Fountain July 21
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    Milano Park Michel at Drinking Fountain July 21
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    There was also a Natural History Museum by the park with a life size Spinosaurus on the lawn

    Milano Park Spinosaurus July 21
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  14. Shale

    Shale ~

    I had mentioned to Michel how in my trip here in 1975, the only thing I saw was the Milano Train station. I had stepped outside this enormous station at night to see that the city was quite large and we would likely not find a cheap hostel nearby so we caught another train going south in a couple of hours. Sort of fitting then that our last stop on the bike tour today would be the Milano Centrale Railroad Station - a full circle of my return trip to this city.

    The station, built in 1931 in the Heroic architecture of the Great World Depression so common in the U.S. still impresses me by its sheer size. And, unlike all the grand old rail stations in the U.S. this one is still quite active with 24 tracks in use.

    Centrale RR Stn Milano July 21
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    Centrale RR Stn Milano July 21
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    This is a familiar symbol of the Roman Empire but had to go online to look up what it means. IDK why a symbol of Rome (still used on Roman public works) would be in Milano - but nationalism of the day likely influenced it, the fascists wanting to make a new Roman Empire of Italy. It is also in a floor mosaic in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele which was built in 1865.

    [SIZE=12pt]SPQR[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=12pt]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=12pt]SPQR is an acronym of a Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus "The Senate and People of Rome"; referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official emblem of the modern-day comune (municipality) of Rome. It appears on coins, at the end of documents made public by inscription in stone or metal, in dedications of monuments and public works, and was emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legions. Today SPQR is still the municipal symbol of the city of Rome.[/SIZE]

    Centrale RR Stn Milano July 21
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    After the railway station we got ice cream at Gelateria Concordia (2 scoops being quite large) then back to the apartment for me to change clothes and go to the airport.

    At the airport, I finally connected to an airport Wifi and managed to send a message to my e-mail group to whom I had been communicating most of this trip. This was a first for me, sending out a message in real time from a Wifi connection in a distant country.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Shale Stone <shalestone@earthlink.net>
    To: (BCC Group)
    Subject: Leaving Italy :(
    Date: Jul 21, 2015 2:27 PM

    Tuesday July 21, 2015
    Milano Airport

    Today I leave Italy. Michel and I spent the day touring Milano by city bus, walking and biking. As usual it was a pleasure spending time with him.

    It has been an exciting 9 days and today at his apartment getting ready to leave, I thanked Michel for giving me the best holiday of my life. I have had more fun experiences in the past 9 days than I thot could be crammed into such a short time – and shared with a friend whom I have developed quite an affection for over the past 3 years.

    Michel, my Prince will likely be partying before I touch down in Miami tomorrow afternoon and I will likely return to my day-to-day routines but this time spent with him was a most wonderful experience for which I am most grateful and will remember forever.

    Arrivederci
    My Prince

    And Ciao to the rest of you
     
    1 person likes this.
  15. Wizardofodd

    Wizardofodd Senior Member

    I love Shale's travel threads! Nice job, Shale. Awesome pics!
     
    1 person likes this.
  16. Mallyboppa

    Mallyboppa Nails Mc Fugger

    Sounds like you had a brilliant time ;)
     
    1 person likes this.

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