10 tips for a trip to Paris

March 21, 2012 · 39 comments

in Inspiration, Money issues, Traveling

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Two weeks from now, I will be in Paris. YAY! YAY! YAY! The 10-day trip is a special gift to my daughter Gabi. Kind of a mother-daughter rite of passage.

Joining us will be her Aunt Judy, who is my best friend from childhood; we’ve known each other since we were 7th graders growing up in Chinatown.

Since we’ve never vacationed together as a threesome, this will be a special girlie vacation. The adventure began with making travel arrangements, which I loathe doing. But guess who was elected to handle things.

By going online, I managed to: book a gorgeous-looking rental apartment in the historic district of Le Marais; make dinner reservations in the Eiffel Tower, followed by a Seine River boat tour and order tickets for visiting The Palace of Versailles.

I have no idea if any of these plans will pan out. Oh well, it’s too late to worry about that now…

As for the rest of our trip, that’s wide open. To be honest, I just can’t drag myself to research or book another thing. Yeah, you’re right — I would make a lousy travel agent. But there’s a solution. To save us, I’m turning to you.

Please help crowd source!

Definition of “crowd source,” from macmillandictionary.com:

Trying to find a way of completing a task, a solution to a problem, etc. by asking a wide range of people or organisations if they can help, typically by using the Internet.

So far, my friends have been marvelous. Helen found the website that led me to the rental apartment. Diane, who told me about dining inside the Eiffel Tower, also handed me a list of restaurants that never appear in guide books.

Any tips for visiting Musee du Louvre and Musee D’Orsay? And what about shopping? How about some packing advice? We’re only taking carry-on luggage.  I was thinking of bringing an iPad and possibly a Kindle but leaving the laptop at  home. I wonder if we should pack a hair dryer…

Anyways, hoping to hear from you in the comments below. It would be great to get your 10 tips for a trip to Paris. xo

P.S. — The last time we had a family vacation was when my daughter and I visited India. That was two years ago. We were mostly in south India, with an incredible 36 hours in Mumbai. I can’t wait to travel with Gabi again. And if you’d like to read about Judy and me growing up in Chinatown and going to City College together, click HERE. 

To read the rest of my Paris posts, here are the links:

3 ways I’m becoming a smart traveller

How to eat in Paris for $38 a day

Come with me to Paris!


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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

HapaMama March 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Wow, how fun! However, I’m no help because the last (and only) time I went to Paris was 20 years ago. But… you’re only traveling with a carryon? For ten days? I’d suggest you bring at least one check-in suitcase so you can haul stuff back ;)


Ann March 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

If this a mother-daughter rite of passage – I want to be adopted. Do you want to stay in Paris for the whole 10 days? If not, consider taking Eurorail to see other parts of France for a day or two. You can even go to London and see a show. It sounds like a great adventure!


Isha March 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Oh how fun! My parents took me to Paris as my graduation present (post-NYU). I also went while I was abroad. Versailles was beautiful… one of those things you have to see once in your life, although I must say that I was disgusted by the opulence considering the poverty of the working class back then… but that’s off -point. Here are some other must-sees:

– Musée de l’Orangerie (located right behind the Louvre, you’ll get to see the eight wall-sized Water Lilies murals by Monet… they’re just amazing)
– Musée d’Orsay (a museum located in a former train station- also has a BEAUTIFUL cafe inside where you can get a yummy lunch)
– The Sacre Coeur (I didn’t go inside, but the walk up the hill give you some beautiful views, and you can walk through Monmarte, the artists village)
– Shopping on the Champs Elysees (I don’t think I actually bought anything, but it was fun seeing the purse-shaped LV store and the beautiful Swarovski store. You can get some yummy macarons here too)

hmm… that’s all I can remember for now but I’ll post again if I think of anything else!


betty ming liu March 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm

hapamama, yes, only carry-on luggage. we don’t want to deal with retriving baggage or having it get lost. so we need to pack really, really smart and light.

ann, can we really hop over to london for just a night? how does that work? i would love to try that!

isha, excellent suggestions all around. thanks and do come back with more ideas.

so glad you all dropped by to get things going. thank you, thank you. xo


Linda March 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Package less, I have been to Europe many times with only carry-on. you can always find laundry mate in big cities. Check with your rental, they may have a hair dry.


betty ming liu March 22, 2012 at 5:22 am

linda, glad carry-on is doable! i need to double check the rental for washer/dryer and hair dryer. having this reminder in the comments is helpful.


Gerry March 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

Although I haven’t been to France since 1986, my favorite sight then was Monet’s home in Giverny, a fairly quick bus ride from Paris. (Ask at hotel where to get the bus). Allow about 1/2 a day in all, for the trip, tour of the grounds, the house and his incredible studio. The house is full of beautiful Japanese prints, which were the rage in Monet’s time, and the paint scheme and home decorations are to die for. Hope it’s still open. Bring me photos if you go!


Skye March 22, 2012 at 8:30 am

What an inspiring blog to read this morning!
This, along with your recent ”win-win” post have been encouraging to me lately. So much.

I haven’t been to Europe since ’98, but I never went to Paris. I saw an interesting interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, years ago, describing her first time there. Her beloved father took her, as a teen, for a weekend date. He said he wanted to be the first man to take her there. How sweet a memory for her to have since his passing!

While I don’t have any travel savvy tips for you (sorry), I wish all you ladies a great time with fun, bonding and lasting memories.

I encourage you to indulge in Parisian fare (we want to see pics!), however, I will be a small nudge reminding you to maintain the principles of your lifestyle and diet. When people go on vacation, they tend to come back with extra luggage in the pounds dept. You should feel free to explore and enjoy, but don’t go overboard when you wouldn’t do it here. I believe in ”When in Rome…” but also believe who you are here is good enough across the globe. You arre on vacation from everyday life, not yourself. You are you, wonderful you, locally and globally. It’s a challenge, but I try to maintain how I normally eat whenever I am away, just switch the cuisine, keep the principle. I even find a church wherever I go, so I don’t ignore my spiritual life when I am having fun. Maybe create a space in the rental to do yoga or have some moments in the morning before you hit the town. God takes a vacation every week…lol, the Sabbath.

I know I should be using this post to give you insider tips, but those are the only things I am sure to do whenever I travel. Also, if you have any friends, relatives or former students in Paris or closeby in Europe, try meeting up. Locals are the best tour guides and can show you money saving tips.


Toby March 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

OMG! Paris! Where do I start?? In the words of Oscar Wilde, “when good Americans die, they go to Paris.” I hope that is true. I’ve spent a lot of time there and am convinced it is the most beautiful place on Earth. You were wise to book an apartment! You’ll save a fortune on not having to eat out for every meal. The food in French markets is of a much superior quality, over-all, to that found here in the U.S. and doing some of your own cooking will be a pleasure. Now, about tips – first I echo Isha’s tip about the Orangerie – DO NOT MISS IT! Certainly visit the d’Orsay and note the wonderful Art Nouveau rooms.
Be sure to see the Carnavalet, which is the museum of the City of Paris, is located in the Marais and is free. Next to the Louvre is the Musee des Arts Decoratif – too fabulous! SEE Chapel Royale!! Its is on the Ile de la cite’ in the middle of the Justice Complex and you have to go through airport type security to get in but it is well worth it. The medieval stained glass windows there are too beautiful for words. If you want a solid dose of history, visit the Basilica of St. Denis. It is on the Metro, though a bit of a long trip. All the Kings of France are buried there and the monuments are awesome. By the way, to use the Metro, ask the ticket agent for “un carnet” that’s 10 trips. Save your ticket!!! You need it when exiting the Metro. Whatever you do, do not fail to vist the famous Paris Flea Market. The vendors are all professionals and you probably won’t find real bargains but the place is absolutely fascinating and full of unusual things. Visit the famous old Paris Opera (Opera Garnier). Take the guided tour. The building is wonderful. When at the Louvre, be sure to see the state apartments of Napoleon III. They are simply the last word in fabulous ostentation. Bring COMFORTABLE walking shoes and don’t wear shorts. Adults in France simply do not wear shorts. Agree with the French that the fact there is a McDonald’s next to the Eiffle Tower is a travesty and no one but a barbarian would eat there.
Take the barge trip on the Seine at night. Start your day at Louvre EARLY and don’t plan to do anything else that day. The place is vast. As for eating out, you can’t get a bad meal in Paris, but if you come upon a cafe that looks like it caters to workmen and has thick soups and fresh bread, you will be rewarded. BTW, don’t try to order a croissant in Paris after about 11AM. They are fresh for breakfast and it seems to be against the law or something to serve one in less than right-from-the-oven condition. If you try to order one in the afternoon, the waiter will look at you as if you are an outlander. See the Hotel deVille (City Hall) It is just amazing. Visit Sacre Cour – another amazing building with an incredible view of the city. Be aware it was built as an expression of national remorse about the terrible massacres that ended the Paris Commune. Visit Pere La Chaisse cemetary. Look for Oscar Wilde’s grave and Jim Morrison’s. Be aware that the French don’t tip or tip very little. The gratuity is usually included in the bill. Spend time just walking around the city. There are unexpected delights everywhere. A good guide book for walking tours would help. Be sure to walk around Place des Vosges. It is so lovely!! I could go on and on. A lifetime is insufficient for Paris. Sorry for any misspellings of French place names in this post!!!


Skye March 22, 2012 at 8:50 am

**I really hope I don’t sound like a party pooper, Betty. I just want you all to have a great trip w/o any aftermath. I only set the cautious tone because I’ve learned from not doing so many times before. Now, the only ”vacations” I’ve done in the past several months was breaking my son’s perfect attendance record to play hookey in Times Square a few weeks ago, when our cousins were here from Quebec. It is his absolute favorite place in the world. For a 10 year old, skipping school with no fever or doctor’s appt was a holiday. We never skipped school as kids (not even inclement weather), so he felt he was getting royal treatment and paving the w
Way for his future siblings or cousins.

Again, please take my advice as loving and find your own Times Square-esq spot in France. A place Gabi will want to go again and again and you and Aunt Judy will treasure that you shared with her.


Toby March 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

PS: If you take the Metro to the stop closest to Sacre Cour, when you exit, on the corner in the direction of Sacre Cour, there is a terrific outlet for clothes – really bargains. It has a short, one word name – something like Pitte or something – I forget – but my Paris friends tell me it is a place the French shop and is unknown to tourists. My son Noel bought me a white linen jacket there that I love. Prices are absurdly cheap!


Isha March 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm

ooh, after Toby’s comment, I just remembered French food… chocolate & plain croissants, onion soup, yumm… I always enjoyed breakfast and their cafes are the best! You can sit and order a coffee or a drink any time of day and just people watch!


Ola March 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm

for the carte orange hebdomadaire
for a short trip to London

Hi Betty

Many things in too little time.
I love Paris, I miss it a lot I lived there for 25 years, grew up there went to school, HS, University. I like the promiscuity of Paris and the big open spaces of California. Missing the culture, the way we are concerned about some issues, some politics, some places in the World… another state of mind. I married an American, when I visited California 10 years ago. I speak French everyday with my 8 year old son, while his dad speaks English to him… long story.
Anyway, so you are going to my Hometown….
April is still cold in Paris” En Avril, n’otes pas un fil, en May fais ce qui te plait” ( In April, don’t remove a thread off of your clothe, in May, do as you’re pleased).
France is famous for strikes, ne services, no metro… you would have to walk to places, it is bothersome, some people understand the economic issues, some won’t, we live with it… good to know that can happen.
First to move around in Paris: Public transportation is the way to go. I you fall on rush hours, just observe people. I am sending the link here so you can purchase a Carte Orange hebdomadaire ( a weekly pass , that goes from Monday to Sunday). It allows you to hop on bus, metro, RER (fast lines within Paris: RER A, B,C,D) with the same ticket. You can purchase a “carnet” of 10 tickets the week that is not complete ( to share with Gabi and Judy. It is cheaper than buying each ticket every time, although each ticket is usable only one time. Once you are out of the metro, in the street, you can’t use it again).
I am also putting a link to the Eurostar (fast train that goes under the Channel and takes you to London)… You will then shorten your time in Paris.
I took some Irish friends , who only stayed for 2 days on a bus tour of Paris ( I’ve always been against the tourist side of things, but the bus tour of Paris might give you a condensed view of things you might miss in a very short time). It would be a good idea to do this first and decide to go back to places you enjoyed the most.
You have to pick the Museum you would like to visit: I took my husband and son to the Louvre, to see part of it, know what section you’d like to visit, there is a way of purchasing ticket in advance, pick them up from a certain booth while at the museum site, without standing in line to buy your ticket (my friend took care of it the last time for us)
To get the feel of Paris and the accordeon… I would suggest you to go to Montmartre ( the Metro Station is : Anvers) , you can walk up the hill and in little streets and stairs that lead to la Place des Tertres, where all the artists and café terraces are ( it is a big touristic area, but just imagine the place without its busyness).

For shopping I suggest 3 places:
Les Galleries la Fayette
Le Printemps
Both Department stores are located at the RER station named Aubert
The Forum des Halles is a big shopping mall in the center of Paris, underground at the RER station of Les Halles . You’ll find all sort of stores and if you go outside of Les Halles, the little streets around are nice to visit and at a walking distance of the Centre George Pompidou (modern architecture, with all the pipes exposed).
Right now I am dreaming of a coffee, foamy, short and strong. We can drink that anytime in France, but my favorite breakfast in a café is” des tartines de pain beurrees” ( plain baguettes sliced lenghtwise and buttered, that you dip in the café au Lait or café crème big cup). Will you try that for me?.


betty ming liu March 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm

i had a grueling day working on a story and then just a little while ago, got back from covering a night meeting. what a THRILL to see your comments. you have no idea how relieved and delighted i am. i was afraid no one would write to me. and here you are…my vacation issues are solved. THANK YOU ALL.

isn’t crowdsourcing wonderful? :)

gerry, i went to giverny once. (been to paris twice in my youth.) forgot the name of it. yes, truly gorgeous. glad to get that reminder.

skye, i am not the least bit offended. in fact, thank you for saving me from myself. i recently lost a quite a few pounds. and you’re right, i want to hang onto the idea of taking care of myself and feeling good about who i am. you’re giving a great tip for the trip!

toby, a million merci’s. see, i really didn’t need a guide book. and we will have to find that clothing shop you’re talking about. what great restaurant tips for finding good food!

isha, you all are making me even more excited because i can feel from your comments just how much you love paris. your energy is contagious!

ola…..thank you for such useful links. i think i want to take up the suggestion you and ann have for going to london. but do i dare — really??! the eurostar — got it! also greatly appreciate your shopping/noshing suggestions. and yes, i will have your favorite breakfast. the carbs aren’t usually on my diet….but if i listen to skye and don’t act like a complete pig, a baguette or two can’t hurt. i can almost taste it. mmm.

btw, it’s official. i am a genius. so smart of me to get these tips from you. YAY! YAY! YAY! xoxoxoox


Dan March 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Respect the French culture. Learn what not to do and what to do. Somethings you do that are considered nice where you live, might not be so nice when you go — in this case: France!

Good luck and have fun. Last time I went on vacation was in Summer of 2007 back to my home-country Spain.


Toby March 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

And another thing – the Invalides, French military museum – center city right over the Alexander III bridge (which is something to see in itself. Other countries fill their military museums with guns and tanks and so on. The French, not surprisingly, fill theirs with the gorgeous uniforms of past eras. also, its the location of Napoleon’s Tomb – a tourist must. While there, take note of the tomb & statue of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, quondam King of Naples, who fled to New Jersey after the collapse of the empire (foresightedly taking the crown jewels with him) and built a lavish estate on the Delaware at Bordentown, entertaining lavishly everyone who was anyone in the early days of the republic.


betty ming liu March 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

toby, you are amazzzzing. i never would’ve thought about visiting a military museum. but having seen what michael jackson did with military-inspired fashion, i must go to invalides. tomb sounds good too. and love that jersey connection. :)


Skye March 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

My cousin is leaving for Paris next week! How timely!
It will be her second time there and she’s stopping at Barcelona. I think she will love this. And Betty, have one baguette for you…and one for me, please! :)


Chinamomx2 March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

April in Paris, it doesn’t get any better than that. I did visit Paris with my ex before we adopted. It was a wonderful trip and what I loved best, was walking around the streets, drinking coffee, eating croissants, seeing all those wonderful paintings and just inhaling all that Parisian atmosphere. We stayed at the Hotel St. Louie on the Isle St. Louie which is the Island behind Notre Dame. It’s a lovely little Paris neighborhood and if you have a half hour to spare, you get there by crossing a little foot bridge which is behind the cathedral. Twenty years ago, it was quite expensive to eat out and we found that Greek restaurants were the best bargains for dinner. Have a wonderful time!!!


betty ming liu March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm

okay, skye, thanks for giving me a reason to have more carbs!! i went to barcelona during my second trip to paris. those are two wonderful places to see together. hope your cuz has a good time!

chinamomx2, we will remember isle st. louie. it sounds so sweet. and the idea of french greek should definitely be worth trying. tx for the tip!

i’m also adding here a tip that one of my twitter people shared. @sistalocks had this to say: Betty, a small tip. DH & I went in ’05 (our son was conceived there ;). We loved this little cobblestone st: Rue Moutard + there was an organic bakery, a L’occitane store, a vegetable market & beautiful old buildings to look at. We went a few times.

if @sistalocks esp loved this street and had a trip that was so romantic that she and her husband made a baby, then i gotta go see this place. it would be like rubbing the belly on a buddha statue for good luck. not that i want a baby. but you know what i mean. ;)


Judy March 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

This is Judy. Merci beau coup for all your suggestions and recommendations. We’re going to have a great time, Betty! Out here in California, everyone swears by Rick Steve’s guide books to Europe. You can download walking tours, and museum tours for free on his website http://www.ricksteves.com. My iPhone is loaded and ready to go.


betty ming liu March 24, 2012 at 5:34 am

oh, goody. judy, you can handle all the tour stuff. i totally trust you on this (and on everything in my life). after all, you’re the one who told me ages ago about some little website called yelp.com. you said you never ate out without checking yelp first. and you were right. now i yelp my own restaurant reviews and use the site all the time!


E'Layne Koenigsberg March 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

Montmartre at sunset…you will see the tower light up and there are tons of people that gather every night for sunset overlooking Paris…find the “one street off the main” for coffee and pastry…it’s a fraction of the cost and where the locals hang out…Monet’s garden is outside of Paris but worth the effort…pack what you want and then half that….warmth is impt…layer with things that are not bulky (don’t leave you coat on the plane!!) Have so much fun!!!! Just got introduced to you through Artist Conspiracy…love the simplicity of you website…any room in a suitcase for me..lol…travel safe and come good home


Brian March 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I traveled full-time for about 6 years. i only went home for a weekend every other month. I would recommend you take an extra bag. I use a flight bag I got when i was in the navy. You always come back with more than you leave with. Try to be versatile with your clothes. If you take anything that can spill put it into a plastic bag. If it is breakable put it inside something solid like a pair of shoes or boots. Ski boots make things indistinguishable. I did a lot of treks when I traveled and usually stayed at either Homewood suites or other hotels with a kitchen. I have a little Burton Crux stove which weighs only 23 oz and is about the size of the silver dollar. With this and stuff from the kitchen in the hotel i can go picnicking.
last time I was in Europe I started in Scotland and ended up in Ashford, Kent. I baptized a family when I was a missionary there so .i stayed with an English Family, after climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland. If you want to go to England for a day you can take the Train. The chunnel (Channel Tunnel) will take you to London. (contact http://www.raileurope.com ) Hopefully someone speaks French in your group. Most of my trips I had a linguist with me from either DoD of a native. My ex-was Peruvian so that helped on my trips to Peru. We went shopping for electronics in Panama. That was crazy.
If you are into any sports you should plan for them before you leave and take any personal equipment you need. Another thing I recommend is finding out what things are a real deal there before you leave. For example in England the three recommended items are Wedgwood China, Antiques books, Tailored suits, and Brass rubbings. In France one thing I know of is perfume. You can tour perfume factories and even make your own perfume.
It is also a good idea to find out about bad areas and scams. One good place to check before you go anywhere is to check the state department’s sight. (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3842.htm) they have sheets for every country in the world. They also list travel warning and advisories.Believe it or not there have been travel warnings issued for France. The students were going to riot on a certain day. In Peru one scam is selling antiquities. Their either fake or real. If their real your in trouble because it is illegal to sell them and you will end up in jail. You don’t want to end up in jail in South America.
Have a good trip.


betty ming liu March 25, 2012 at 9:17 am

well, the travel shopping has begun. i probably should’ve checked with judy first to see if she likes ricksteve’s online travel store. too late now! gabi and i just dropped $250 for packing and toiletry bags, umbrellas, adaptors, etc. will let you know if they hold up during the trip. http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=catalog&parent_id=7

e’layne, welcome! as you know, i adore alyson stanfield. the conspiracy is the one thing of hers that i haven’t taken yet. but hope to soon. thank you for your tips here. montmartre and more are on the list!

brian, thank you for these super-useful links on the chunnel and state dept. good to have them handy here. this is great!


Diana Lee March 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I am just JEALOUS! Have a great time, enjoy every bit of the 10 days, drink up the Bordeaux, and give all the French guys a kiss for me (can 3 ladies have some romance in Paris?).


Vickie Hallmark March 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Nice blog! I just found you through the Artist Conspiracy, which I joined this week.

Your timing for Paris should be divine. When I visited three years ago, I blogged my top ten sights.


betty ming liu March 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Vickie! Such a pleasure to meet you. And thanks for sharing your link. We have many of the same spots on our list. We’ll refer to your blog while we’re there!


betty ming liu March 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm

only the french guys? haha!


Brian March 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Oh Betty,
You may just want to save you clothes shopping for Paris. That is another thing that is better there as Paris is the fashion capitol of the world. Other buys are Wines and cheeses. The French have hundreds of different kinds of cheese and wine.
I always travel light and try to pick stuff that works for anything. They say scarves are good for women on trips .
Have fun!


betty ming liu March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

yes, brian, we will shop — you can count on it. scarves are easy to pack so that might be a good option. a friend of mine has asked me to bring her back lace ankle socks. so the shopping begins. thanks!


betty ming liu April 3, 2012 at 5:46 am

My friend Mary just emailed me two suggestions:

“Definitely take the Chunnel to London; so easy! And look around for a night time concert at Notre Dame; just beautiful!”


betty ming liu April 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Here’s more from my friend Barbara:
PS—If you haven’t read it and have the time, Hemmingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Great Paris stuff. La Closerie des Lilas restaurant is beautiful and has great snails, excuse me, escargot!. http://www.closeriedeslilas.fr/ , Au Deux Magots, nearby. Le Drug Store.


betty ming liu April 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Just want you all to know that we took up Ola’s suggestion and went to Forum des Halles, a great late afternoon of fairly reasonably priced shopping at the underground mall. My daughter bought a bunch of things. Thanks, Ola!


Prasad Joshi February 17, 2014 at 6:12 am

Hi. . Your article is really a great source of information about Paris trip. I am currently planning a Paris tour for around 4 days and also have created an itinerary for the trip. As it is my first trip so I am not quite sure about my trip plan. Please have a look at the link below and give me some of the suggestions.
I am from India and I am so nervous about ethics and rules in Paris. Your article is really useful for me. Thanks for providing valuable information.


betty ming liu February 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Prasad, I don’t think you should worry! Your itinerary looks fine. Maybe you should be prepared for it to change. When you’re there, you might see something interesting while wandering around. Have a great trip!


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