Portugal: Adventure, Gastronomy, & History!

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Comporta is a village on the west coast of Portugal, about an hour’s drive from Lisbon. But, when people talk about Comporta, what they really mean is the region around it. Some people may like to compare the area of Comporta to Ibiza or St. Tropez or Trancoso. However this sleepy eco-reserve reminds me of Jose Ignacio in Uruguay (see my blog on the beauty of Uruguay!!) with its bleached wood, barefoot, unpretentious, yet totally chic vibe in an area where rice fields meet sand dunes!

SUBLIME COMPORTA –

Nestled on a stunning 17-acre estate, surrounded by undulating umbrella pines, cork trees, wild sand dunes, stunning rice fields and over 60 kilometers of pristine, white-sand beaches is Sublime Comporta, a magical, unspoiled place waiting to be discovered.

Only one hour from Lisbon, wildlife here is abundant, time seems to stand still and one has the possibility to experience all that is genuine and authentic. Rich in cultural heritage, with a welcoming local population, great foods and wines, Sublime Comporta offers a combination of tranquility and simplicity. The combination is both addictive and inspiring, reminding us of the magic of experiencing more with less.

The lobby Bar and reception area –

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The Pool – IMG_8981

Choose from a variety of Suites, Cabanas or Villas.

Bio-Pool Suites –IMG_8984IMG_8986

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The Multi-bedroom villas are perfect for families – IMG_8992IMG_8996IMG_8995IMG_8997IMG_8998

The cuisine at the resort, as well as at the many local restaurants and beach clubs is local and delicious – IMG_9001IMG_9003

Sublime is in the process of opening its own beach club but there are several excellent ones to visit in the meantime, including Sal Praia Do PegoIMG_9006

My visit in the wintertime shows off the stunning natural beaches, that maintain their natural eco-sensitive vibe even in the bustling summer months – IMG_9007

ALENTEJO –

Alentejo, the vast swathe of land that lies south-east of Lisbon is one of our favorite regions anywhere in the Iberian Peninsula. It stretches from the Atlantic coast across to the Spanish border and contains so much of what makes Portugal irresistible. Over the centuries, it has preserved its rich heritage, undoubtable charm and picturesque rural landscape. It is the essence of the traditional Portuguese countryside, where you are transported to cork-oak forests, wheat fields and olive groves. Alentejo is also home to a myriad of UNESCO world heritage sites, some of Europe’s most ragged coastlines and undiscovered wild beaches. Throughout the regions 5 national parks and countless nature reserves, there are clusters of hilltop castles and quaint country villages where a slow-moving way of life is embraced wholeheartedly.

This region is a wine lover’s paradise, Alentejo is quietly claiming its place alongside more famous European wine regions, with the proliferation of inventive young wine makers, pioneering technology, and world class vineyards. Some of Iberia’s most unique and sophisticated wines herald from here and a winery visit always exceeds expectations. 

SAO LOURENCO do BARROCAL

Welcome to the Sao Lourenco do Barrocal –

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In the same family for over 200 years, the estate has its heart at the “monte,” an ancient small farming village. The property has been brought carefully back to life as a remarkable hotel of understated luxury, surrounded by ancient oaks, olive groves and vineyards. Here, the feeling of being at home is intimately connected with the sense of belonging to the vastness of the land. In Alentejo, farm and landscape soon become your home.

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The map below shows where I am in relation to the rest of the country –

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The property is surrounded by olive groves, vineyards (both wines and olive oil are produced on property and are excellent) and ‘barrocais’ (wonderful stone formations) –

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Cycle the property and grounds – IMG_9031IMG_9021

On sunny days, outdoor lunches and drinks are a must –IMG_9049IMG_9025

The glorious food is produced on the farm or locally –

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The spa is a true oasis and a soak in the wine barrel hot tub is a must – 

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A local pottery maker will bring his wheel to the hotel, you can get your hands dirty and enjoy a fun traditional clay pottery workshop, learning the traditional techniques.

EVORA –

Convento do Espinheiro-

This 92-room hotel, including 5 suites, is an Iberian city resort perfect for families who want to walk around town and retreat to the on property pool. Along with the magnificent historical areas classified as National monuments: Church of Our Lady of Espinheiro and Chapel of Garcia de Resende, the hotel also provides a various range of facilities including a gastronomic restaurant named Divinus, an old cellar from the monks where you can savor Alentejo’s delicious specialties, a wine cellar located at the old cistern of the convent and a bar near the magnificent Manueline style cloisters.

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Explore this well-preserved city starting from the Praça do Giraldo lined with attractive townhouses with intricate wrought-iron balconies. Make a stop at the Roman Temple of Évora with its large Corinthian columns that dates back to the reign of Roman Emperor, Augustus.

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Head on next to visit the Saint Francis Church with the “Capela dos Ossos”, a famous bone chapel built by 16th-century monks who wished to contemplate and communicate the message of the transitory nature of life. The Romans also built parts of the city walls. The Moors and medieval Portuguese made later additions to the walls.

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I loved our charismatic guide and local host Sofia who we joined in her authentic kitchen, for a fun cooking class.

Cooking and world heritage come together amazingly in a traditional family house, just outside of the 14th century walls of the lovely historic Évora, on the border of the ancient Jewish quarter. Your chef and host looks forward to sharing her cuisine and culture during this fun and memorable experience!

This is not a show cooking, but a hands-on experience where our clients learn about Portuguese cuisine, its influences and traditions.

 

Exploring the Highlights of Evora –

Portugal’s Chapel of Bones

A 16th century chapel decorated with bones, skulls, and entire bodies hanging from the walls.

The Chapel’s story is a familiar one. By the 16th century, there were as many as 43 cemeteries in and around Évora that were taking up valuable land. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people buried there, the monks decided to build the Chapel and relocate the bones.

With Alentejo producing some of Portugal’s best wine, every trip ought to include a tribute to Bacchus! Enjoy some of the best “God’s nectars,” visiting the winery and the cellars of João Pedro Ramos.

 

Today, Alentejo is renowned for red blends, which are as warm, generous and easy-going as its people (of whom it is said have three speeds – slow, very slow and stationary). These blends might well feature Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in addition to the non-local native varieties Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. Whites, a strength of Herdade do Esporão, are on the up now that the local grapes Antão Vaz and Roupeiro are being made in a fruitier style and blended with Arinto for freshness; Verdelho and Viognier show promise.

Since 1995 the number of producers exploded from 45 to 260, more than 60 of whom open their doors to visitors on the Alentejo Wine Route.

 

VILLA EXTRAMUROS –

This gorgeous small rural property, sharp in design, looks out over the countryside and nearby Arraiolos, crowned with its 14th- century hilltop castle. Animal skins and locally woven rugs soften the smooth stone floors. Bathrooms, in rose or white marble, have huge rain showers, covetable Aesop products and sprigs of rosemary, plucked from the garden, in little glass jars by the sinks. Downstairs, sunlight filters into the well-stocked library, there’s also an open courtyard, clean-lined and sharp-edged, with citrus trees, a modernist fountain and fat, squashy chairs to flop into during the heat of the afternoon. Or after a dip in the infinity pool, which lies still and blue amid the olive trees.

In the extensive meadow surrounding the property, set amidst olive trees, you’ll find a stunning swimming-pool and its deck, showers and loungers.

Most days the local shepherd will pass by the property with his sheep… this is rural Alentejo and it’s nature and traditions at its best, with a heavy slice of sophistication and comfort indoors.

Arraiolos tapestry rugs are made in the village baring the same name.

These beautiful, hard-wearing woolen carpets don’t come cheap but that’s because they’re all embroidered by hand.

Popular among the aristocracy in the 18th century, they served not only to protect and decorate floors but also to display wealth. Properly cared for, they last for ages, making them a sound purchase. This is the place to see them made and get top quality options or commission your own!

LISBON –

Lisbon sprawls along the banks of the Tagus River estuary. Its name comes from the Phoenician words meaning “enchanting port.” From the city’s hills, you can look toward the Atlantic, where the Portuguese inaugurated the Age of Discovery. The low- lying areas of the city were rebuilt after the destructive Great Earthquake of 1755. Recent decades have seen a similar renaissance in Lisbon’s cultural landscape. Since Portugal emerged from dictatorship and joined the EU, the capital has built infrastructure, hosted numerous international events and developed a thriving nightlife.

You might climb up to Graça’s hilltop viewpoint through the narrow streets of the village-like quarter of Alfama and again down by the Moorish quarter (Mouraria), into the colorful and multiethnic Martim Moniz. Or, visit the city’s fashionable uptown to have a taste of the bohemian and artistic atmosphere of Chiado and Bairro Alto. Here you can find rather original street musicians, art studios, high fashion stores and dozens of sunny cafes and restaurants.

While exploring the city, make a strategic stop or two to sample petiscos, the Portuguese version of tapas. Somewhere along the way, you’ll be introduced to the typical “tascas,” Portuguese word for local places that serve finger food like cheese, hams, cod fish pastries, sardines in olive oil, wines and beers. Savor and relish the icons of Portuguese food culture and enjoy it in the company of some fabulous individuals. Stories to be shared, in what promises to be a great introduction to Lisbon and the country.

 

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Don’t miss the classic Pasteis de Nata – (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Manteigaria is one of the best in the city – Secret recipes, teams of folks who do nothing but make the pastry dough or whip up the filling, ovens that blast at 800°F.

Wash one down with “um cafe” – (um cimbalino / uma bica) 

A shot of espresso (2-3 oz) is the most ubiquitous style of coffee you’ll find in Portugal taken in addict quantities – we’re talking 3-4 times a day!

The One” in Lisbon opened in February of 2019 and has quickly become a reference for top accommodation in the Portuguese capital.

The hotel is housed in an old 16th-century palace which has lain abandoned for most of the last 60 years. It’s been a remarkable feat to maintain the original architecture whilst imbuing it with all the necessary contemporary and high-tech installations. Its sophisticated interior breathes elegance and distinction. Of note are the original perfectly restored ceilings, the natural light inside and the extensive gardens. The hotel offers 83 rooms and suites, a gastronomic restaurant, an outdoor pool, a spa, 24-hour gym and a wonderful circular bar area. The guest rooms, are sleek, simple and designed to offer maximum comfort with top-quality textures and Portuguese touches. We recommend rooms starting in the Deluxe category.

As for the neighborhood it is charming and ideally located close to much of Lisbon’s main attractions.

Exceptionally spectacular Lunch – at Condes de Ericeira Restaurant, at the One Hotel Lisbon –

Fabulous dinner and drinks at JNcQUOI

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Of course all this eating is expertly earned with walking the hills of Lisbon –

By 7:30pm, more than 7 miles and 18,000 steps gladly walked: (Hard to achieve this in most world cities, but Lisbon’s hilly neighborhoods certainly help!)

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My favorite hotel in Lisbon, however, is by far the stylish and very well located – Bairro Alto – stylish, colorful, thoughtfully designed, warm service and so well located!

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From Lisbon, there are numerous top notch day trips including to the castle at Unescor world heritage- designated Sintra, to the beach side towns of Cascais and Guincho, to Cabo da Roca – the most Westerly point of mainland Europe.

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There are numerous seaside restaurants on the coast near Lisbon specializing in the freshest of seafood.

We enjoyed Montemar

The restaurant combines its privileged location on Guincho road, over the Atlantic, with fresh food straight from the ocean. From hake fillets with cockle rice to seafood cataplana, as well as the fantastic fried liver Portuguese style, all dishes are rich in flavor and freshness, served in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

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After a day of walking the coast, we enjoyed a  a private sailboat ride on a catamaran on the Tagus River. What a way to  capture Lisbon in its entire splendor, just as great explorers did for centuries. A friendly crew welcomes our clients aboard, if the wind is up, set off. It’s a wonderful feeling to get out on the water and enjoy the sea breeze and the spectacular vistas of Lisbon that usually only the sailors and merchants get to appreciate.

H4OVXeRpTI6YfU24tsvMjwGVd6IulIT02m36z%kXn%rAHow about really making the sail special with a top chef…

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and world renowned – FADO singers and guitarists –

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Fado requires an intimate atmosphere and a pact between singers, musicians and audience. That can be achieved in a concert hall, in a tavern or in a restaurant. The singer, usually accompanied by one or more guitarras (12-stringed Portuguese guitars) and a viola (Spanish guitar), closes his or her eyes and launches into a melody. Fado may also be sung a capella, in various styles.

Fado is a melancholic form of song that is rooted in the Portuguese soul and expresses that complex mixture of nostalgia and yearning that is known as saudade. It developed mainly in central and southern Portugal – in Coimbra and above all Lisboa. Fado is a song about fate (Fatum in Latin) that began to be sung in sailors bars and in less salubrious parts of town until it became what it is today – the most noteworthy expression of the Portuguese soul

PORTO –

Chosen by Forbes as the “city to visit” in 2017, the captivating and vibrant city of Porto is undoubtedly becoming one of Europe’ s most treasured locations. Across the river from Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia is renowned for its historic wine cellars and the city provides an exquisite insight into some of the worlds most appreciated Port wine and its unique maturing process. The old town of Porto classified as a World Heritage Site in 1996 is also a must, with its array of historical and religious monuments such as the Romanesque cathedral and church of Santa Clara.

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THE YEATMAN –

Located in the heart of one of Europes most important wine capitals, The Yeatman is a prime destination for those wishing to explore the pleasures of Port, the great classic wine for which Porto is famous. An oasis of calm in the city, the hotel is set in 1.3 hectares of beautiful gardens and has 82 individually decorated rooms with breathtaking views over the city of Oporto, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Douro river. Its gourmet restaurant serves cuisine inspired by Portuguese traditions and fresh local ingredients accompanied by wines from the 25,000 bottle cellar which houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Portuguese wines. The wine theme extends to the Caudalie Vinotherapy Spa, while the croquet lawn gym and two pools provide an opportunity for gentle exercise and relaxation. At the library, choose from a great selection of books and relax while reading with a glass of Port in hand. The Gastronomic Restaurant at The Yeatman Hotel became the first restaurant in Porto to be awarded two Michelin Stars.

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The top two bedroom suite means sleeping in a wine cask in the master bedroom and having your own private pool.  Ideal for families, this two bedroom unit, is an exceptional value! Ask me about it! rbMFNWMgTJGEDUgOd0JTZwM1J3bDo7THWtlR5VBgCq2g9BmBqT14QmCtQLS6uu7CdQLrsR78JIRJ6PjUtAq0Cmdg

At Resort to Laura Madrid, I love to set up food touring for my clients as a way to discover a city as a local. In Porto, meet your fabulous local hosts and come to discover a city that revolves around food, Portugal’s very own gastronomical capital: Porto. The epicenter to the gastronomic culture of the North, Porto is a fusion of ingredients, tastes, and family recipes. this tour is the perfect introduction to the city, incorporating lunch into an insider’s and fun experience.

Your private guides will show you the beauty of local markets, the bewitchment of oriental-inspired specialty grocery stores, and finally, the most wonderful eateries in town. Meet the people behind the counter, then enjoy delightful cured meats, luscious cheeses, glorious meat-laden sandwiches, hearty stews, delicious conventual pastries, and much more. And when there’s food, there are drinks. Discover the fresh and vibrant vinho verde, the elegance of the Douro wines, the gripping local craft beers, and the stories and flavors behind the world-famous port wine.

Your guides will be, Maria and Bruno, Gourmand award-winning food writers and authors of the Porto Food Guide, who will personally ensure you have an amazing experience. This Porto food tour will delve into the roots and history of local cuisine and plunge into genuine and charismatic restaurants but is also enhanced with architectural, historic, and social insights. Plus, the occasional comical parenthesis.gF2E7iE9S7icfMUDF+RnDA

The centenary Market of Bolhão (MB) is the most emblematic market of the city of Porto and one of the most famous in Portugal. The market classified in 2006, as Property of Patrimonial Interest and in 2013, as a Monument of Public Interest. It has been in restoration and modernization works since May 2018 and had not yet open during my visit. Currently my clients will visit the temporary market, equally delicious but in now way the same ambiance as the historic market which will reopen in 2020!bN1wKpGVSPiB56Ayx%sJ4APainting of the plans for the restoration of the original market due to open in 2020 –hQ8A8OeCT6igvd9zCy2UQw

We ate delicious Porto specialities and tasted wonderful local wines – SQDf3Qp1TTqVaFqhsApILgQGjq3Dn%TTOJ1zVZ1am3xAI0xyE8HJRPWJvUEKFS5P7wyKEJ%z0DTNm2K8AeNMVUywl8XSHJ+CQnycJYHbdSmZLQcv41aG7QRcCBoT2KgetGkgv6n9udqZQw65YCpDbzcqSw

Porto is a marvelous city to explore and capture – It0tyZpTSkeZ3XrCd7AD%QHs4940KVRw6pqpTuhUMmpQ1TopXfs%TyuF%A%O7yls+Q

DOURO VALLEY –

SIX SENSES DOURO VALLEY – a destination in itself!!CQRC63oNTamqu9BLW8oUwwaF+zQSDCkhMLOqYM%bguqwSW+lKRoWvFuzLLhR2iQ

Six Senses Douro Valley presents a superbly renovated 19th-century manor house set high on a hill overlooking the vine- covered rolling hills of the Douro Valley and the river below. The estate covers 19 acres with 57 guestrooms, suites and villas. Three restaurants highlight regional produce with a dedicated wine cellar featuring local vintages. Six Senses Spa comprises 10 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools and a gym. It presents speciality and local therapies and multi-day programs. An outdoor yoga deck is ideal for individuals and groups. The sun-kissed valley is at the heart of the region that offers activities and excursions by foot, vehicle or water.

The Six Senses Hotel offers an array of activities, perfect for a relaxed and leisurely day. Enjoy a yoga class, lessons with a wine somelier, play pool in their chic bar area, stroll their gardens and vineyard, or just sit back, relax and take in their views.

The hotel is known for their spa and offer a whole range of treatments. Aside from manicures, pedicures, make-your-own scrub classes, why not see what’s on offer in their spa zone? Enjoy their heated indoor pool with water jets, an outdoor pool and refreshment bar plus a gym with the latest exercise equipment and professional guidance.

A room with a view –

 

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Stunning Family Suites – KpeKUbcsShmqOEHx4Wnaigm7wNfklxTgaltrArIxfEZA

Daily wine and olive oil tastings are available – XU8aG+5bRHiQSOOtOHNrqQfoYW6hqNQLSswBsz3h5fCA

For groups of friends or families looking for some action, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourselves – rain or shine!+iUATTViPY3Nzrax9qgRhp5ANw7TqyADGzbRkc7yAli1+Xg70SVKkSq1A0qY8zg

A beautiful 180 degree view of the grounds at Six Senses –

Head to the Alchemy Bar at Six Senses Spa to discover potions of herbs, salt, fruits and a range of exotic ingredients that you can blend up to make aromatic scrubs and masks. Take a 60-minute hands-on workshop to learn how to make your own cosmetics using fresh, seasonal and 100 percent organic ingredients from their garden.

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The resort cuisine is fresh, healthful and creative

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Resort to Laura Madrid clients should plan for a day full of surprises with our two favorite guides in the region… Bruno and Paulo…ENFYWLZTS3+CCrlulVLZ5g
It will include some light hiking, a historic train ride, a boat tour on the river and of course a fabulous lunch paired with some fantastic wines of the Douro.

Consider having us arrange vintage cars for your touring –b7d012c3-c0c0-4330-9d57-349e3c84c5c7

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And then try the 4×4 tour through the impossibly narrow ancient roads – this is an exhilarating journey, not for the faint of heart!!tUz4FkXSSu6Lf7u%UY36uwIMG_9386

Check out our ride!!!! –

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We made it and well worth the ride to the top, a view, some port wine paired with pastels de nada, with these cuties! Such fun! 1kI2xwjKS8G4LrBYOjT9ZQ

The beautiful tiles tell the story of the Duoro valley – vFq6y2eLRB+IvzXJ47yNrA0iZxqEszRyOLSOw6Mf+TBA

QUINTA NOVA

What a wonderful boutique hotel and winery!

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An impressive wine production – jXbMeuFuQNOUi2PInSsxEgL+VChn9hT8eLBO6ekHNKlA

But the highlight, was the restaurant which was an exceptional treat – what a lunch paired with their outstanding wines! OD%pk%FTQAiiEB6Kuj6brQfe3vKoRfQTeuKtqUHWpToA6fSDNQ23T2ewNcm%tEI9Zg

I was invited to try my hand at opening the port in the traditional way – (I was a bit nervous I would mess it up!) –

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The day keeps on re-inventing itself, now we enjoyed a private yacht on the Douro –FWlULuzCS2KE+3i07gbb9A

Of course with Port cocktails – refreshing with soda water and lime – p%OBz5zVSE2+ru98OUU65Q

Our handsome captain and host with the most –h9Qvmzu3RpakLB2jnMrFVQ

What a glorious river and a beautiful time to enjoy it is in late Fall – 756UNjoxSSKyhpu8hPKJeg4EZQAL+SRMGHPZh3TLUkRw

Our final winery visit was to Quinta da Pachecax7DCBPYxTwC2ohTqevXCPAeCdEf1EZQCeIhQbeUXdQfQ4QWHNWgwQMq0QmCd4aQvbw

Which also has a hotel – 2hyI0PoARZuP7kBDKLvOBA

Including the famous Wine Barrell bedrooms – g7u0nIgQTVCJa0Ct8ACRYgkOTZBxp0R1u8Sk7aWhaBlw8UQEMT%qL1sxnrCXruA

Portugal is dreamy, It ceases to impress, is off the charts in popularity, yet remains to be discovered. It is also still one of the best values in Europe.

My trip was phenomenal and I get the same feedback from my clients. What makes ALL Resort to Laura Madrid trips spectacular are my partners on the ground.  Love these two PROS – Nigel and Mariana!! They are an extension of me when you are in the Iberian Peninsula. You are in great hands, and truly among friends!

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