This blog is moving to http://www.travellingcoral.com/

I have finally gone self hosted. My new blog can be found here 

http://www.travellingcoral.com/

All new posts will be on the new site, and, as I have seemed to have succeeded to import all the old posts to their new home, you can read those too.

Thank you to all the people who have supported me on this journey to self hosting. These include Alyson Young, Chief Blogger at World Travel Family, Travel with Bender for their guide to self hosting, Steve from Conscious House who said something that made me believe in myself, and Lisa Cherry Beaumont for being an amazing Life Coach.

You know what to do. Head over to http://www.travellingcoral.com/ and follow, like, subscribe and share if you like what you read.

As with all moves, there is some tidying up to do, some pictures to hang, and maybe a lick of paint. I am however looking forward to filling up the new home for my blog with things that are both beautiful and useful.

 

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I thought I was getting over the farsickness

until I heard this.

Every time I hear it I yearn to be travelling again.

It was on the radio today when I was in the hairdresser. I had to fight back the tears as they would have wondered what on earth was wrong with me.

I first heard this on Australia Day 2012, on the way back to Perth after a day out to Margaret River. As we drove back into Perth the storm began. Thunder, lightening and rain, threatened to cancel the firework display. It rained in every city I visited in Australia. As we walked into the hostel, soaked to the skin, the guy on reception, who had told us a few days ago that there was no chance of rain in Perth this time of year, looked at me and my husband and said ‘Rainmakers’. We got caught up in 8 cyclones during our travels, and we are still not put off. We are no strangers to holiday disasters.

Margaret River Region

 

And now, whenver I hear Goyte singing ‘Someone That I Used to Know’, I travel right back to that day. And I know that I just have to be on the road again.

 

Nostalgia, Cake and a Poem in The Cotswolds

Charlie aka Forages and Finds invited me and my family for a day out in the Cotswolds.

While I was looking forward to seeing her, I was really looking forward to seeing these.

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All 8 of us plus Truffle the doglet piled in and the adventure began.

When I was learning to drive in 1977 the two cars I had the pleasure of driving were a Mini Cooper and a Morris Traveller. This was a real nostalgia trip for me.

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Memories of when I was 17 flooded back. The smell of the car, the noise of the engine, the bouncy seats, no seat belts in the back, when motoring was about having fun, not about commuting, traffic jams and boy racers. When 50p filled up the petrol tank and 17 year olds could afford to insure a car. No air con, just wide open windows and the wind through your hair.

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Then, like today, a large group of us would set off  to Clent or the Lickey Hills in a collection of Morris Travellers, Minis, Jeeps and Beach Buggies. It was the 70’s, we were into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Eagles. We had long hair, flared jeans and tie die t shirts. We didn’t have California but we did have Clent.

Back to 2014. Charlie and Dom drove us first to Whichford for lunch at The Straw Kitchen. We had a mooch around Whichford Pottery too. I can thoroughly recommend a visit here. The gardens are lovely, the ceramics on sale are beautifully crafted and the selection of quality gifts is very good.

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The main reason we were here was for the food in this quirky cafe.

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The tea here is English in the true sense of the word as it is grown on the Tregothan Estate in Cornwall.

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The ingredients are seasonal and locally sourced. The menu has an Eastern Mediterranean influence, think Yotam Ottolenghi, with a Cotswold twist. The food is very good.

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And then Charlie announced that we were off to Adelstrop for a walk and some foraging.

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Adelstrop. Just a couple of weeks ago I had read the poem I Remember Adelstrop at Make Friends with a Book, the shared reading group I go to. I had mentioned then that I would love to visit the village. And now I was.

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Later after a walk and some trespassing and foraging we stopped here.

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For cake, of course. There is always cake when you are with Charlie and co.

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And we listened as Dom read aloud ‘I remember Adelstrop’. The people on the next table also stopped to listen. Such is the power of shared reading and good poetry.

Go and make some tea, cut a slice of cake and listen to Richard Burton reading the poem by playing the film below.

 

Take only photos, leave only footprints…

And fill your house with souvenirs?

I have never been one for buying holiday souvenirs. Even before I consciously made the Not Buying It choice, I don’t think I have ever brought much back from my travels. After 8 visits to Turkey I finally got aTurkish evil eye to protect my house last year, as I thought it may be my last visit to Dalyan.Evil Eye

Yet many years ago it seems that holiday souvenirs were important things to bring back. In just the way we all used to send postcards. Postcards are a novelty in this digital age, yet I still picked up the odd one or two when travelling, and having inherited a large box of postcards dating back to the 1930’s through to the 1970’s from my mother, sending postcards was the done thing pre internet days.

As I said, now they are a novelty, yet many of my very digitally engaged twitter friends make a big deal of sending them, as part of the digital detox when on holiday. Indeed I think I made rash promises to send some. I didn’t. And there is the 60 Postcards project that went viral, for all the right reasons. Not that I will be buying the book of course.

Often these souvenirs we picked up as a gift to family and friends, like this perhaps for granny?Weston-Super-Mare

I did collect badges in the 60’s and 70’s. Mom sewed them on my beanie hat.Badges

It was our way of saying ‘look where I have been’ in the same way that uploading the photos to Facebook or our blog does now.

And as I am making choices of what to keep and what to sell or give away, deciding what is tat, treasure, vintage or retro, I remember we have these.Japan

My husbands grandfather went to Japan in the 1920s and brought these home as a reminder of his time teaching English there. They are 90 years old. Definitely treasure then.

And because I am decluttering, and Not Buying It I try not to bring any many souvenirs back from my travels now. Tea towels from New Zealand for friends and family for two reasons.

They were easy to carry in the packs, and New Zealand make the prettiest and maybe the oddest but best quality tea towels ever.

These from Australia are pretty good too. The plan was to make them into cushion covers, but everyone who knows me, knows I can’t sew.Australia

On my last trip I took something very precious to Santorini. I had no plans to bring anything back apart from happy memories and a sense of closure.Oia Santorini

Of course there is a but! Yet I feel I can justify these two items unlike all the other souvenirs we have scattered around the house, these are useful and are not going to add to the mound of clutter. What are they?Tea

I just had to get this tea as it was the best tea I have had for a long time and when I drink it I am back at Villa Nectarios.Breakfast

And this shower gel. I love Korres products, they had a BOGOF offer on them.

Korres Santorini Shower Gel

And it reminds me of Santorini every day.

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What do you have that remind you of places you have visited?

 

You say tomato I say Greek Salad please!

I love Greek food, probably more than any food I have ever had anywhere. Perhaps it is because my first visit to Greece was the first time I had ever really found out what a tomato should could taste like.Tomatoes at Rethymnon market

English tomatoes never taste the same, however we do have a habit of storing them in the fridge and I was told, in St Kilda at a farmers market, that is the quick way to killing the flavour. And I think we also over water them here, I have watched Greeks just splash some water on their plants in the morning and that is it. And this is what they grow.

Of course, you never forget your first moussaka, do you.Moussaka

Although the one I had in Heraklion, or the stuffed vegetables that Phil and I ordered with it, didn’t forget us for a couple of days.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The only bout of food poisoning we had and not too severe, thank goodness. I will avoid Pantheon in Heraklion in future.

With raw ingredients like this it is really hard not to produce good food.

We had a Greek Salad with almost every meal. It is obligatory really. I hate olives but Phil loves them so they get pushed to his side of the plate. Yet I will pour a gallon of olive oil over the tomatoes then use the bread to soak up any excess.DSCN0840

Then there is souvlaki.This was my first meal in Santorini at Fanari, in Fira.Souvlaki

And meat balls. Phil chose these in Heraklion at Kastella and at Fanari.

Flavoured with a herb we could never quite put a name to. We were told it was mint but think it was this. Do you know what it it?SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cant’t decide? Have a meze.Meze

This was the offer at Palazzo in Rethymnon. (It doesn’t get great reveiws here, yet we enjoyed our lunch).

Meat lover? A mixed grill to share?

Mega Mixed grillThis one from Byzantino in Plaka Athens was lovely, we spent 3 hours people watching while wading through it. We really struggled to eat later that night. Indeed we didn’t, just water and a coke for supper.

Deep fried courgettes.

Deep fried courgettesIf you are Heraklion these from Kastella overlooking the beach are to die for.

Really what is not to like? And if you only fancy a light snack there are plenty of shops and street vendors selling pasties and cakes.Greek pastry shop

And when you can’t eat any more, this comes out, with Raki, on the house.

PancakesOh, I will make room for that!

And if you stay at Nectarios Villas at Easter, you may get some of these.

 
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Do you love Greek food?

What is you favourite food in the world?

Not quite island hopping in Greece

But almost.

Santorini was always going to be the main destination for our week in Greece. Despite there being no direct flights from Birmingham to Santorini or to Athens, I knew that as a nation of sailors there would always be a ferry to catch. I thought we may get to visit a couple of other island in The Cyclades, but that was not to be. Yet, the Blue Star Delos that sails at 7.30 am each day from Piraeus to Santorini stops at Paros, Naxos and Ios, so at least I got to see these.

Greek Time

Greek Time

To get to Santroini we first had to get to Piraeus on the overnight Amek Lines Kretti 2. It sounds like a long way round, and it was, but in the end the arrangements suited our needs to always be on the move. I last did this sailing in 1979 and we slept on deck on towels. This time we were assigned couchette seats on the top deck, and thought they would be adequate as they were bigger than seats on a plane, but that was not to be.

Everyone, including the police, watched tv, smoked and talked all night. Instead we dozed on uncomfortable chairs in the bar area, along with most of the other passengers. The experienced travellers knew the best seats and spread out early on so they got somewhere semi comfortable to sleep. We did however have very good value food from the cafe (with the company of the bearded Mykonos FC) and waiter service at the bar. If I did this again I would probably look at upgrading to better seats.

We had 24 hours in Piraeus and Athens and visited The Acroplis and had lunch in Plaka. I would highly recommend that you base yourself in Piraeus especially if you have, like we did, a 7.30 am sailing the next day. It is easy to get to Athens on the train, we got a 4 Euro all day transport ticket, and Piraeus had lots to offer in the way of coffee shops and bakeries, and cheap accommodation.

Our next ferry was the Blue Star Delos.

Despite an early start this was a lovely relaxing mini cruise to The Cyclades. If the weather is kind there is plenty of seating on deck. It also has kennels with an dog exercise deck, a cafe selling fast food and a bar area. We had traditional spinach pies for €2.40 each, tea for €1.20 and a latte for €3.70. It was crowded and you need to board early to get decent seats, although there is the option of upgrading to numbered seats in quieter areas.

The best bit for me was pulling into the ports of Paros, Naxos and Ios. Then finally Santorini. Mom told that the best way to approach Santorini is by sea. She was right.

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I wanted to get off at all of them. Hopefully next year I will. I love the mad frenzy of passenger embarking and disembarking, the chaos of getting vehicles on and off the ferries in such a short time.

As we visited each island the numbers dwindled on the boat. When we had left Piraeus the passengers were about 60% locals returning home for Easter and 40% tourists. Most were American or Chinese. By the time we got to Santorini about 75% of those disembarking were Chinese. Speaking to our hosts in Santorini, they told us that in spring most of their guests were from China and from Russia in the summer. Most other tourists we met were American or Australian.

I really cannot recall meeting or hearing any other British people other than at the airport, or on our flight, in the week we were there. Not at Knossos, the Acropolis or on Santorini.

Have the English abandoned Greece? Or have they lost their sense of adventure and only visit Greece on package holidays?

If so, that is a shame as they really do not know what you are missing out on. It has been a few years since I was last in Greece, and while I have loved everywhere else I have been to, Greece is still like coming home for me. And I will be back. Soon.

You get what you pay for, don’t you? Budgeting for island hopping in Greece

I have just tallied up the costs of the recent trip to Greece. It seems that the quote I used in previous blogs is very true.

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  ~Susan Heller

I did well with the clothes, I think. Did I take half as much as usual? Possibly not? Yet I cut back on all the other bits that others deem to be absolutely essential. I didn’t take a hair brush, for example or loads of toiletries and make up. Two pairs of shoes, trainers to wear while travelling and and sandals for the day time were all I needed. And I packed really efficiently.

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I also think I got a good deal with the flights, when the price dropped by £40 per person. What I couldn’t plan for was the cost of the ferries. I also had no idea how much food and accommodation would cost for the week. so yes, there were a lot of variables to contend with, which is where the second half of the quotation, resonates. We really did need twice as much money.

Here is the breakdown, costs for two adults. Flights and other UK costs are in Sterling and everything else in Greece is in Euros.

Travel

Flights  £   175.38
Taxes  £     62.58
Baggage  £     96.00
Ferries Heraklion to Piraeus (overnight deck class) €         58.00
Piraeus to Santorini  €         75.00
Santorini to Heraklion (Flying Cat)  €      112.00

Our orignal plan was to go to Santorini from Crete and maybe island hop. As the Flying Cats were not operational until the 17 April we changed our plans, which I wrote about here.Delos, or ferry form Piraeus to Santorini

As it was we had a bonus day in Athens and the costs of the ferries were about the same as if we had got a return Flying Cat to Santorini. They did however take up a huge chunk of our budget.the Flying Cat from Santorini to HeraklionWe opted for Bed and Breakfast at all our accommodation. I think that this was money well spent, although in Piraeus there were lots of cheap coffee shops and bakeries to get a breakfast, yet as our ferry was at 7.30 am we took advantage of the 6 Euro supplement at our cheap 30 Euro per night hotel for a breakfast from 6am including a shuttle to the ferry.

Accomodation

 Hotel  per night  B&B
Kastro  €     45.00  €     45.00
Kronos  €     60.00  €   120.00
Argo  €     42.00  €     42.00
Nectarios  €     52.00  €   104.00

 

The cost of the Kronos Hotel on the Friday and Saturday in Heraklion reflects that it was the weekend running up to Easter. This was the most expensive accomodation we stayed in. We were not going to consider the Youth Hostel in Heraklion as it had such dreadful reviews.

Anita Argo in Piraeus at 30 euro without breakfast was the cheapest and had the smallest bathroom and no view. We were offered an upgrade at 10 Euro but as we were only there one night, with an early start, we just wanted a clean room to sleep in.

Nectarios Villa was the star accommodation. We paid extra as we had an apartment, a double room was c 45 Euros with breakfast but they were all booked. We would not hesitate to stay here again. Santorini has a reputation for being expensive yet this accommodation was well priced. And so welcoming.

All the places we stayed in were clean, with hairdryers and good showers. The Greeks must be the friendliest people on the planet, all the staff in all the hotels were helpful and genuinely lovely people. Even the man at Argo who was pretty grumpy at 8 am when we wanted to check in early, after a poor nights sleep on the overnight ferry, was lovely a bit later in the day (perhaps he just needed caffeine).

Food

Many years ago Greece was somewhere you could get food very cheaply. Not so much now. As a guide a beer was between 3 and 5 Euro, a Greek salad between 4 and 5 Euro and a main course  about 8 Euro. Some places were cheaper others more expensive.

Portions were generous and we could have saved money by having a salad at lunch time. We didn’t of course. The food was too good to miss. The only bad meals we had were in the centre of Heraklion. Corner Cafe Club SandwichRubbish Club sandwiches with horrid fries right in the middle of a fashionable square where all the students hung out and food poisoning from a back street taverna. Pantheon, that looked like the place locals would hang out.

It was deserted when every where else was packed and we really should have known better.

Kastella,  on the sea front we ate at twice, was very, very good and we regret not just sticking with it.

Food €   252.10

Drink  €   139.10

We averaged 36 Euros a day on food and we ate very well for that. We only had beer or soft drinks, wine would have cost more.

The absolute bargains of this trip however were visits to Knossos at 6 Euros and The Acropolis at 12 Euros. How can you miss these?

Have you been to Greece? Where would you recommend we visit next?

 

When preparing to travel Part 3 (things I didn’t use)

I packed the lightest I could on the recent week trip to Greece. I used almost every item I took, except these. Things packed not usedDetails on how I packed and what I took were in these previous posts.

I didn’t use the swimsuit, sarong or shorts.

The extra t shirt was not needed either.

The Kindle, not used.  I had a paperback and that was all I needed. Annoyingly I left it at Birmingham Airport on the way home and I hadn’t finished it.

The Cag in a Bag, as it rained on our last day in Santorini, if I had not packed it away would have been quite useful. By the time the rain got really heavy we were back at the villa, so we only got damp, not wet.Ten minutes later the sun was out.

All beds were new and sheets clean so sleeping sack not needed.

Good quality towels were provide even in the cheapest 30 Euros a night room, travel towel not needed.

Would I pack all of these again? Yes. They were light and took up very little room and could have come in useful.

I am glad I had room for an extra, warm top. I wore one and packed a second. The evenings and mornings were chilly and the last day it rained and was quite cool.

I really could have taken less toiletries as all bar one room (the cheapest) provided shampoo and shower gel. All the rooms had towels and a hair dryer. This was not the Greece I was used to. They had decent showers and hot water too.

Greece has moved on from the days of showers over the toilet, thin towels and old mattresses on a concrete base. We paid from 42 to 60 Euros for a double room with breakfast, and that price did not always reflect the quality of the rooms. We didn’t check out hostels and having just seen this review of the Hostel in HerakIion I am pleased we didn’t.

I will be sharing details of where we stayed and the costs of our week in Greece in my next post.

 

Santorini, a final resting place for Mom

There is only one reason I went to Santorini. Mom had asked for her ashes to be left there. She first went there in the 80’s with her sister in law. Every summer Mom and Brenda went island hopping in Greece. She fell in love with Santorini. And so did I.

Oia

Oia Santorini

Windmill Santorini

Windmill Santorini

After just over a year since she passed away, I finally decided it was time to take Mom ‘home’. Just before she died she told me she wasn’t sure that she wanted ‘it’ to be Santorini. I think she was worried that it had changed from what she had remembered. And she had since travelled to so many other places she loved. Dalyan, Turkey being one.mom dalyan by the river

After she died, I was not sure where she really wanted to be, her partner and I thought Dalyan and my daughter suggested we took her to all the places she had travelled to. A lovely idea yet limited by money, I was not sure I could fit in Thailand, Egypt, Greece, Malta, Menorca,Turkey, Hong Kong, and goodness knows where else she had visited.

Approaching Santorini by sea

Approaching Santorini by sea

I had three overseas holidays last year and took a little bit of Mom to two of those destinations and one in the UK. I may have broken a Turkish law but I knew she loved it here.Dalyan

And I found the perfect place in Malta too.  I chose Marsaxlokk as it is a colourful village that hosts a lively Sunday market, and no one loved a good market better than my mom. Only after I had scattered her ashes I realised that the curtains hanging in a little house overlooking the spot where I left her are identical to the ones my mother had in her home.

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Mom had also been an actress and one of her very last proper outings was to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see The Tempest. I thought she may enjoy being here, in the shadow of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

As time went on, I knew I really needed closure and in my heart I knew I had to take her to Santorini.Oia Santorini

We could only get flights to Crete at this time of the year, yet I was pretty sure that we would be able to get to Santorini from there, by boat. As it was it turned out that the fast ferries were not running until 17 April and we flew home in the early hours of 18 April. At that point I was thinking I would only get a day trip to Santorini and have to spend the rest of the week on Crete.

I was not prepared to give up and with the help of a brilliant travel agent, Paleologos, in Heraklion, planned an itinerary that got us to Santorini on the 15 April via Piraeus. We would be leaving Santorini on the first fast ferry on the 17 April at 6pm, with plenty of time to get our flight at 1am on the 18th. Cutting it fine, and the Sea Cats don’t run if the weather is windy. Ah well I had taken out insurance and enhanced it to cover unexpected events, given our history of holiday almost disasters. If the weather made us stay longer in Greece, so be it.

It also meant that we would get an unexpected bonus of visiting The Acropolis in Athens.The Acropolis

Mom had made her first journey in Greece from Piraeus in 1980 when she travelled solo, flying to Athens and then getting a ferry to Rhodes. She loved Piraeus and the bustle of getting on and off ferries, so I was pretty sure she had had some influence on these plans. She was going to get her last bit of island hopping in before settling on Santorini.Santorini

A twitter friend recommended accommodation in Santorini. What a find! Affordable, comfortable and the owners, Katerina and Nectarios treated us like family rather than guests. And Katerina is a fantastic baker. We didn’t want to leave.Katerina

Santorini has an reputation for being expensive, and yes there are some places that are eye wateringly pricey, yet it is still possible to visit and enjoy Santorini on a modest budget.

We were based in Fira, the capital, but I had an inkling that it was Oia that Mom had stayed in, so we took the bus there with Mom in the back pack.

Oia is stunning. I had seen countless photographs and was worried that it would not live up to my expectations. It exceeded them. And I knew this is where Mom was meant to be.

We got away from the crowds and searched for the perfect place. And found it.

Mom wasn’t religious yet I thought being in front of a tiny church was appropriate.Church in Santorini

And this field of daisies just seemed to be the right place.Daisy field

This is the view.The final resting place

And I chose the right place, as after I had left her in her final resting place, although off the main drag where tourists gathered, everyone who passed the field stopped to admire them and the view. So she will get plenty of visitors. She would like that.Daisies

Take twice as much money…. as plans often change

Our first night in Greece and hit gold with the hotel, booked via Booking.com. Exhausted after a four hour flight, landing at midnight, we really thought we would need a comfortable night as at the time we had no idea what our forward travel plans would be. We were pleasantly surprised to be put in to an only just finished fully refurbished room at Kastro Hotel.

Until we could see what ferries were running to Santorini we could not book ahead any further, and sadly we could only get one night here, when our plans to go to the Cyclades straight away were thwarted by the fact that there are no ferries there until the 17 April. We fly home at 1am on the 18th.

As the primary reason for this trip to Greece is to fulfil the wishes of my mom, which was to have her ashes scattered in Santorini, we knew we had to come up with a plan.

So far, everything about this trip had gone so well. The cost of the flights dropped by £80. We were first through passport control at Crete which has never happened ever. There were no queues at Birmingham airport check in or security. We had left before all the hold ups in traffic around the airport. My hand luggage was not searched and swabbed as it has been done on the last three times departing from a UKairport. And we score this hotel.20140411-195935.jpg

I knew there had to be a solution, as there was no way that the islands would be complete cut off from, and here is the lightbulb moment, from the mainland. Of course, Piraeus.

Long story, cut short, we are going to Santorini, via Athens. Which has had a huge impact on our budget. The upside, is we get to Athens and visit The Parthenon.

This trip is really turning into my 1979 holiday, re visited. More expensive of course, but totally worth it.

We have had to move hotel, not so lush but overlooking the sea and 10 minutes from the ferry terminal. We sail overnight on 13 April, to Piraeus, tourist class, just like I did in 1979. I have booked  one night in an hotel costing €30 and then we sail to Santorini on 14th, returning on the very first fast ferry to Heraklion on 17th at 8pm. I only hope it all goes to plan, as we have a plane to catch 5 hours later.

 

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