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Dining in Provence


PaulaJ
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I suspect the bouiliabaisse is better at Bacon. I qualify it because I have only recently had the "degustation" portion which has fewer fish. It was nonetheless delicious. Last summer my wife and I had a degustation portion of both it and the bourride. The terrine de foie gras was very good as well. Bacon isn't cheap, but not nightmareishly expensive (but this was before the drop in the dollar). I like it there. It's a classy place, although it is not a value for the money restaurant.

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Robert, I am in Nice and Menton in my heart at all times. But I do reside in New Jersey, taking an annual 3 weeks to all parts of France. We usually start with Nice, it is a wonderful place to arrive at, the airport is only 5 minutes from town (I can't think of another major airport like that) and proceed on.

Yes, the Bastide de Moustiers did offer us lunch, but our vacations are usually too hectic in the middle of the day to enjoy a serious lunch. When I can do a 6-8 week stint in France, perhaps I can do a great lunch some days. But in the past it has only been salad and wine lunches. Pic niques, as well. I was rather annoyed at this unusual and haughty policy-- I don't know if I could forgive them for that. This was in June 2002. They acted like a self-contained resort, not a restaurant in the french countryside, attached to a pleasant, if rather unmemorable 12 room inn.

Edited by menton1 (log)
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  • 4 months later...

We're off to the Northern bit of Provence shortly for a couple of weeks, we've been there before, so I suspect we've found a lot of the decent places to eat near where we are staying, but do any eGulletters have suggestions?

We are staying in Bedoin which is at the foot of Mount Ventoux. The nearest town is Carpentras; Avignon and Orange aren't too far, and obviously we'll make occasional forays further afield.

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I have been to La Beaugraviere, in Mondragon, twice, once in 2000 and once this past July. In my opinion the food has improved considerably and I would not be surprised if they were awarded a Michelin star at some point (although who can tell with Michelin). The wine list is incredible, particularly if you are a fan of Rhone wines (Robert Parker has written extensively about La Beaugraviere.) If you take the N7 north out of Orange, it is about 15-20km north. La Beaugraviere is to the right as you go through Mondragon. It has indoor and outdoor seating, but I would recommend the outdoor if the weather permits. It is very relaxing and the service is good and very unstuffy. La Beaugraviere is also known for truffles, but unfortunately it is not the season. :sad: Nevertheless, I had a rabbit stuffed with chanterelles that was excellent.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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Love that part of the country.

Our favourite in that area is an old-fashioned mas just outside Pernes-les-Fontaines, called Mas la Bonoty. Service can be a bit haphazard (but is getting better since the owners have employed real staff rather than trying to run the resto themselves) but the food is very good and quite adventurous - definitely Provencal but with new world influences. Outside eating at lunch and dinner if the weather's good enough. We were disappointed by the Michelin 1* in Pernes, Au Fil de Temps - overpriced and starchy (the service, food was just OK.)

In Avignon we'd a great meal in June at Hotel de l'Europe, and a lousy one at Compagnie des Comptoirs.

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Les Bories in Gordes, for wonderful Provencal dishes, a beautiful setting, and Gordes is possibly the most dramatic perched village in all of France...

In L'Isle sur La Sorgue, Prevoté is wonderful. Don't miss the Sunday Antiques market in town, and the Sorgue River has some fascinating green algae all through it that is quite unusual and beautiful.

These towns should be withinn 30 minutes of the Northern Vaucluse where you are staying...

Bonnes vacances!!

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Two restaurants and two (helpful, one hopes) suggestions.

Restaurants:

If you are wine touring in the Gigondas/Vacqueyras/Beume de Venice area (the three villages are within 8 km of one another) we had the loveliest meal of our recent stay in that area at a place called Les Florets, a couple of KM outside Gigindas - -you can follow the signs from the main road that takes you past the village. Meals are served on a shaded terrace overlooking a beauiful valley, the service is informal but crisp. and the food is extraordinary. I had the best fish dish I have ever eaten there, inprobably combining cod (?) fresh snails and vegetables into a sort of ragout where the flavors just expolded, but never overwhelmed the fish. A beautiful setting and a great, endless meal for less than 33 Euros (even cheaper sounding when you consider that tax and tip are included). In two weeks in France, that is the restaurant my wife and I talk (endlessly) about visiting again.

If you go to the Market at Isle sur la Sorgue (almost a requirement, it seems), there is a little place called Bistro d'Industrie set right next to the river, on the edge of the market, just off the main entrance to the town from the north...(just follow the river upstream until you run out of market, and you'll be there). It features crisp, thin-crust pizzas made in a wood-burning brick oven. And, if the heat keeps up, you'll appreciate that they serve the coldest beer in all of France, on tap.

Suggestions

Again, if you are up in the Gigondas metro area, with time to kill around sunset, get a bottle of wine and some of the cheese and bread you can't help but accumulate in Provence, and look for Seguret, a small village cantilevered onto a hillside between Gigondas and Vaison la Romaine (a good stop for Roman ruins). Take the "route touristique." The tourists seem to leave early there and my family and I watched the sunset from a completely deserted overlook, with what seemed to be the entire Rhone Valley spread out beneath us. There is a restaurant there which claims to be of note, although I didn't try it, that has a balcony overlooking the valley, as well.

Don't get swept up in "marche madness." There are a lot of markets in Provence, seemingly all a mix of tourist and locals, all a mix of good stuff and trash, and all noisy, crowded and tiring. If I were to do it again -- that is, next time I go -- I would pick one or two and get there very early, and spend my other mornings at a cafe, drinking pastisse. :shock:

Have a great trip. You're going to a great place.

PS my favorite souvenires were bought at a plain old flea market on the north edge of Carpentras on a Sunday afternoon: six more-or-less antique place settings featuring the seemingly oversized forks and spoons you see in french country restaurants (and homes, I suppose) and a pastisse caraf with six matching glasses. So be sure to make time for aimless wandering, too.

Edit to improve, if not entirely fix, grammar.

Edited by Busboy (log)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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...if you are up in the Gigondas metro area...

Ha.

We were there last October (after the floods). Beautiful, beautiful area around the dentelles.

Had a wonderful meal at L'Oustalet in "downtown" Gigondas. It's run by a very nice German couple. I'd describe it as a "typical country osteria" -- what's that in french, an auberge? They have a great list of gigondas and other local wines -- the house wine is a Chateau du Trignon Gigondas, bottled special for them.

The Beaugraviere wine list is truly amazing. So is the decor. I found the food flawless but not exciting. Certainly worth the money though.

For expensive food, I have heard that Christian Etienne in Avignon, right next to the palais des papes, is excellent, but we didn't go.

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As a complement to the northern Provence thread ...

I will be in southern Provence and the Cote d'Azur with my husband and two children, who are only 3 and 6, but quite adventurous eaters.

Any suggestions for simple but genuine restaurants, shops and markets (we'll be camping most of the time :shock: ), particularly fine and vaguely calm places to visit, etc.

I've promised my daughter (and myself) that we'll go to Italy, so any ideas for less expensive restaurants just over the border would be most welcome too!

Chloe

north Portugal

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After taking a good look at maps, I realised that I should have restricted my request to the Côte d'Azur.

Our ultimate destination will be Monaco on the 29th (football oblige!) and I was thinking of stopping on the coast (after passing through Provence) east of Hyères and between Fréjus and Cannes - with visits inland - and then to Menton. I also want to see something of the "arrière-pays niçois".

Uff, I don't know if I am being too ambitious!

Chloë

north Portugal

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Last fall, I stayed for three days in Monaco and three in a small town nearby, called Beaulieu Sur Mer.

I was pleased to find that the whole stretch of coast between Nice (probably further) and Monaco is connected by trains that run often and inexpensively, which gives you a lot of flexibility of you want to sleep inexpensively but see downtown Monaco. There was a wonderful, mid-priced restaurant in B-S-M called L'Agave, right across from the train station. The owner had spent 30 years in Milwaukee, which has not harmed the food there, and she seemed very easy-going, though it mught be a little much for 3 and 6. BsM also has a market in the town square every morning. The town closes up tight about 10PM.

Monaco is a great place to wander around in, lots of staircases and old alleys, very clean and safe and open all night. The old city is so-so, but worth an afternoon. I never found a good mid-price place to eat there, so stuck to boulangeries and the traiteurs, which were great. My dad's eye didn't see a lot for kids to do there, it's more playground for adults, but very charming.

There are a thousand inexpensive places to get pizza and steak frites up and down the coast, if you or the kids starts feeling unadventureous, and if you like fish, you should eat well every day with very little effort - even the mediocre places put out a decent loupe de mere.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Uff, I don't know if I am being too ambitious!

Chloë

north Portugal

Don't be too ambitious...when in doubt, relax. That's why they invented Provence.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Don't be too ambitious...when in doubt, relax. That's why they invented Provence.

I'm caught between wanting to do a certain amount while I'm there, to justify the rather long car journey (1700+ km), and wanting to relax :unsure:

There are a thousand inexpensive places to get pizza and steak frites up and down the coast, if you or the kids starts feeling unadventureous, and if you like fish, you should eat well every day with very little effort - even the mediocre places put out a decent loupe de mere.

Luckily the children don't particularly like pizza - haven't met the real stuff yet - and actively dislike hamburgers, etc. - much happier with fish. The 6-year old has been promised French-style snails and artichokes, amongst other things ...

Chloë

(whose kiddies had snails, raw salt cod and octopus for supper last night)

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As Chloe lives in Northern Portugal with her family and that's where her kids are being raised, we should not assume her kids have too great an interest in looking for pizza or fries. On the other hand, if they run into a certain truck with a wood fired oven that makes the rounds of markets in the Gascony/Bearn part of France, a chorizo and red pepper pizza would be as good an introduction as one could get outside of Italy. Maybe not authentic, but delicious. I suppose it depends on whether you travel north or south of the Pyrenees.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Thanks folks, there are some very interesting suggestions there. Plus I can now spend some time searching the related websites.

For expensive food, I have heard that Christian Etienne in Avignon, right next to the palais des papes, is excellent, but we didn't go.

Mmm, that tomato menu looks nice.

I have been to La Beaugraviere, in Mondragon, twice, once in 2000 and once this past July.

I haven't heard of this restaurant before, and we also haven't really gone in that direction very much. So far as I can tell from web searching there are masses of articles praising this place, but they don't have their own website. Are they too busy cooking? :raz:

we had the loveliest meal of our recent stay in that area at a place called Les Florets ... Meals are served on a shaded terrace overlooking a beauiful valley

Yes, we've been there and it was very nice. BTW, the best view from any restaurant that I've found is on the other side of the Dentelles at the Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave which is on a hilltop looking out at Mt Ventoux and the Vaucluse plateau.

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As Chloe lives in Northern Portugal with her family and that's where her kids are being raised, we should not assume her kids have too great an interest in looking for pizza or fries. On the other hand, if they run into a certain truck with a wood fired oven that makes the rounds of markets in the Gascony/Bearn part of France, a chorizo and red pepper pizza would be as good an introduction as one could get outside of Italy.

Saw lots of pizza trucks, but never one with a wood-burning oven. Wouldn't it be great if they had one of those that drove around your neighborhood, kind of like the Good Humor man?

When we were there we stumbled across wood-fired pizzarias in a lot of towns, usualy filled with French diners, so I counted them as "Fench food" and not "tourist food." Made me feel less guilty when I caved to my kids who, interestingly enough, will wolf down Ethiopian or Vietnamese food, but don't like French. Go figure.

PS: Chloe -- wish I had snails, salt cod and octopus for dinner last night.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I want to recommend a restaurant that I think everyone will enjoy:

La Zucca Magica

Quai Papacino (Old Port)

Nice

An acclaimed chef (Marco) from Rome picked up and left his native Italy to open this quirky, fun restaurant in Nice. Interesting decorations (pumpkins), no menu, they just bring 5-6 courses. Very reasonably priced. At the end, you might suddenly realize that everything was vegetarian, but you won't care, because it was so varied and so good. Don't miss this one! (Closed Monday)

Another fun, but more traditional kid-friendly place is Le Safari, on the Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice. Outdoor dining, and the waiters have a lot of personality.

I have never liked Monaco much, very difficult to park, very snooty, and, although there is a camera every half-block watching every move you make, I have never felt unsafe anywhere in the South of France.

Bonnes vacances!!

P.S. Hope you have been unaffected by the forest fires we hear about in Portugal...The Arriere-Pays has been hard hit as well, particularly in the lovely little town of Luceram....

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I have been to La Beaugraviere, in Mondragon, twice, once in 2000 and once this past July.

I haven't heard of this restaurant before, and we also haven't really gone in that direction very much. So far as I can tell from web searching there are masses of articles praising this place, but they don't have their own website. Are they too busy cooking? :raz:

I couldn't find a site either. I had to call directly (got the phone number from Michelin) this time and didn't find there was anyone who had a good command of English (although I don't speak French, I knew enough to muddle through making the reservation). If you don't speak French at all, I would recommend what we did the first time... ask your hotel to make the reservation. :biggrin:

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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I join in recommending Les Bories for lunch. ...wonderful

views, service & cuisine.

We stayed & dined at H. De Crillon le Brave. The diningroom

is somewhat live a cave, good menu & good service.

We did not luck out in Avignon itself, but in the old section

there is a Relais & Chateau property, Le Prieure.

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I'm headed for Avignon in a couple of weeks. Upon strong recommendation from a friend who just got back from there, I've made reservations at Christian Etienne restaurant in Avignon. A very reasonably priced, Michelin-starred restaurant. I'm definitely looking forward to that meal.

Alex

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We did not luck out in Avignon itself, but in the old section there is a Relais & Chateau property, Le Prieure.

When we were first introduced to the R&C group in the mid-1980's, by the concierge at the Sofitel, in Lyon, we stayed at Le Prieure. Lovely suite of rooms (our daughter was with us) with period decor and an excellent restaurant, at least back then. It was there that I had my first taste of an absolutely to die for foie gras poele -- and I was hooked for life! :biggrin:

The last time my husband and I were in Avignon 4 years ago, we stayed at the Hostellerie Les Frenes. The room we had was in the motel-style building behind the main house near the very attractive pool area. (The pool is gigantic!) Though big and luxurious, our room was furnished with little character, unlike the public spaces of the house (where we had breakfast), which is very charmingly decorated. (I presume the same is true for the guest rooms there.) Our French friends from Montpelier joined us there for dinner. We all had a tasting menu with surprisingly big portions. I particularly recall a huge slice of foie gras terrine. Everything was delicious. The weather was perfect, and we ate al fresco on the front terrace. :smile:

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Crillon le Brave has a beautiful terrace for dining, and also a "pub"with a rerrace and the swimming pool below on another terrace. one of our fav places, for view, food.

Florets is good,

In Isle-su-sorgue, Mas de cure Burse.

In Avignon, heily Luccalus.

C. neETien was very good also as mention above.

Chez Bu in Eygalieres,

In Les Baux, the Lóusteau de Baumaniére and La Ribota de Tavern,

And one of the best woman chefs, 2 actually, Mas de toureton in Les Imberts outside Les Baux, and in Isle, Mas cure Bourse

Fontville, Le Rigalido.

Off to the Colombe D'Or in St-paul-de-Vence in a week.

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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Sorry to come in on this so late, but...

If you have the time in Avignon, take a cooking class at one of Avignon’s finest restaurants, La Mirande. They offer half-day lessons at their magnificent location just behind the Palais des Papes. Known as Le Marmiton, the cooking school is situated in a renovated 16th century kitchen featuring a wood burning oven, antique crockery, a large butcher-block work table, and copper pots of all shapes and sizes. Local chefs are invited to teach a three-hour course, which revolves around the preparation of an elaborate Provencal meal. The course I followed last June by Chef Robert Brunel demonstrated basic cooking techniques involved in the preparation of a lunch menu including croutons topped with three varieties of local goat’s cheese, baby artichokes stuffed with bacon and mushrooms, red snapper with pistou, tapenade and aubergines, and hazelnut soufflé for dessert.

In the area, favourite restaurants include Le Grand Pré in Roaix, and Domaine de la Ponche in Vacqueras. Both are modern, casual, and offer good food at moderate prices. Le Grand Pré is a converted farmhouse owned and operated by Belgian chef Raoul Reichrath and his Mexican wife, Flora. Domaine de la Ponche is a 17th-century turreted château set in the vineyards of Vacqueyras. For lunch, try the Domaine de Cabasse in Séguret.

Here are a few addresses:

Hotel, Restaurant, Cooking School (Le Marmiton)

La Mirande

4, Place de la Mirande

8400 Avignon

Tel: 04 90 85 93 93

www.la-mirande.fr

Hotel/Restaurant

Domaine de Cabasse

84110 Séguret

Tel: 04 90 46 91 12

Hotel/Restaurant

Chateau de Rochegude (the only Relais & Chateau in the area)

26790, Rochegude

Tel: 04 75 97 21 10

www.chateauderochegude.com

Chambres d’hotes/Restaurant

Domaine de la Ponche

F-84190 Vacqueras

Tel: 04 90 65 85 21

www.hotel-laponche.com

(The web site includes a map)

Restaurant Le Grand Pré

Roaix

84110 Vaison la Romaine

Tel: 04 90 46 18 12

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for all the suggestions folks (even if some didn't arrive until after we'd left). We're back now, so in the next few days I'm going to try to write up my experiences of the places Judy and I visited.

Out of the eGullet suggestions, we made it to Bistro l'Industrie, les Florets, Prevote, and Christian Etienne. The last two or three of these I'll write up in separate threads, but I'll try to give a summary of some of the other places here.

We were staying at Domain de Bélézy in Bedoin on the southern slope of Mount Ventoux. Its a 4 star campsite with some accomodation units, but I guess its unlikely that many eGulletters will stay there, so I'll just say that the onsite restaurant is pretty reasonable: Various menus, the main one being €19 for 4 courses with dishes such as Gateau of chicken livers + shrimp tails with a shrimp sauce followed by Gourmandise de Volailles avec Morilles. Very short wine list (all Cotes de Ventoux) with the best being Domain de Fondreche and Chateau Pesquie, although the house cuvee wasn't bad either.

Bélézy have a scheme whereby many local restaurants, if booked by them, will give a free aperitif. I've no idea if this scheme is unique to them, or common to other places in the area.

Mas de Safran

In Bedoin itself, we went to the Mas de Safran, a yellow building just out of the centre of the village. As might be expected from the name of the establishment, saffron features fairly heavily in the dishes.

We had (Judy's choices listed first where appropriate):

Kir (complimentary)

Ballotine of Chicken with Tomato & Basil reduction

Ravioli of mussels in a saffron sauce

Filet mignon of pork, Tarragon Veloute

Supreme de Merlu

Cheese

Basket of chocolate mousse, raspberries

Warm Tarte Tatin, Cinnamon Ice Cream

Wine: Flassan, Ferme St. Pierre

The ravioli were very nice, they were an interesting triangular shape with long tails which were a bit chewy, and there was a good saffron flavour to the sauce. Judy said her pork was very nicely cooked and the sauce was good. My fish (I think Merlu is Hake?) came as 3 fillets each balanced on a shaped yellow potato, the sauce I think was basil although I forgot to note that down.

The cheesboard was small enough not to get lost choosing (I had some nice chevre in oil amongst others), and the puddings were good also. Total bill was €60 (€23 for the basic menu).

We ate in the courtyard (I'm not sure if they even have an inside), but its entirely enclosed so this was just about the only place we ate in the whole two weeks without any view.

Le Mas des Vignes

The other nearby small restaurant we tried was Le Mas des Vignes. This restaurant is part way along the road up Ventoux at about 560m altitude looking south and west. The view rivals the one from the terrace at Crillon le Brave: at Crillon you are looking east, so (with the right timing) you can watch the full moon rising over the Vaucluse plateau, at Mas des Vignes you get the sunset over the Dentelles, but you also get low sun in your eyes which detracts slightly from the view (take sunglasses if you go).

Aperitif de maison (champagne+peach)

Sliced meats, salad with pinenuts

Terrine de foie gras with fruit chutney

Duck breast, Epautré risotto

Rack of Sisteron lamb with a herb crust

Chocolate Molleuex with almond Ice cream

Lavender macaroons, thyme ice cream, rosemary syrup

Wine: 0.5l Domaine de Fondreche, Cuvee Fayard 2002

The food was very nice, except that Judy felt her duck was a bit on the dry side. The service started off fine, but after they had served desert they abandoned us. Completely. We were on one of two tables for two on an extension of the terrace so not on the direct line from any other tables, and I suspect they had too few staff on for the number of people they got in that evening. The other table beside us were also abandoned, in their case after being served their main course, and eventually got out a crossword. After an hour of failing to get any attention we went and stood at the desk inside until we got the bill. We don't generally go for coffee in the evening, but they didn't even offer us any during that hour. The bill was €92.50, paid cash as they don't take credit cards.

Chateau Pesquie

Ok, so this one isn't a restaurant, but we spent a very nice morning at nearby Chateau Pesquie working our way through their selection of wines. This isn't your average Cotes de Ventoux: they do some very decent wines. We were the only people there when we went along about 10.30 on a Wednesday morning and must have been the first people that day because the guy in the cave opened a fresh bottle for each wine we tasted. We worked our way through two rosé, viognier (we skipped the other whites), and 4 reds, with decent samples of each and bread. If your in the region its definitely worth giving them a visit. Our car boot space not being infinite we limited ourselves to 18 bottles from Ch. Pesquie, 18 Rasteau and 6 from the local cave cooperative (in other words we've got a range to drink now, soon, and later).

I'll pause here to let you all digest that lot before continuing. :rolleyes:

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