All Posts by Marley Braun

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About the Author

I am a mom first, and a wandering (but not lost) soul second. After years of planning travel for friends, I became a Cruise Planners Travel Advisor. You can learn more about the services I can offer you by visiting me at Memories by Marley

Frontier Airlines Review: What to Expect on your Flight

By Marley Braun | Travel Tips

If you've seen the amazing deals from Frontier Airlines, you may be thinking: Is this legit?  Well, the answer is yes!  Even with a recent 5-hour delay, I would not hesitate to book another trip with Frontier Airlines.

"But it's too good to be true! What's the catch?!"

I'll admit, if you think the cheap prices are "too good to be true", you're right.  Even if you get a great deal on the tickets, your Frontier Airlines flight might end up costing you more than expected. Below is everything you need to know to keep your Frontier Airlines experience closer to $40 rather than $140.  If you go into it with the right expectations, you'll have a much more enjoyable trip!

What to Know Before Your Flight

Snacks and drinks are provided, but at a cost.

Other than a cup of lukewarm water, be aware that you'll need to pay for any refreshments on the plane. I always bring my own snacks and travel with my S’ip bottle. I take it through security empty, and then fill it up at one of the many water fountains on the way to my gate. That way, my water stays nice and cold the entire flight.

A checked bag can be cheaper than bringing a carry-on.  

If you purchase baggage at booking, a carry-on is $35 and a checked bag is only $30. When we fly on Frontier Airlines, my husband and I each carry a small personal item with our computers, one change of clothes and our medication. My husband’s favorite backpack to travel with is his professional weekender.  

Then, we check one shared 50-pound suitcase each way.  Keep in mind these prices are added on each way, so this one shared suitcase costs us an extra $60 total.  

Note that baggage prices go up quickly the longer you wait to purchase them.  You can check Frontier's bag pricing here. It can get up to $60 per bag if you wait until departure, so be cautious!

Beware, your plane might not be as roomy as you are used to.

  • The tray table always make me laugh because it is so small. You can set an iPad easily on it, but I am not so sure I would trust my laptop to stay put.
  • Are you an armrest type of person?  You won’t like the small excuse for an arm rest on Frontier.  
  • Like to recline?  Frontier seats do not recline so be prepared.
  • Enjoy cushy seats? You won’t find them.
  • The good news: Plenty of leg room! I am happy to report I have flown on Frontier multiple times and I have found every plane to have ample leg room.  I also find they have plenty of head room. I don’t feel claustrophobic on their planes at all. (And it's not just because I'm short, my husband agrees!)

Remember to pack your own entertainment & electronics.

There is no wifi or onboard entertainment, so make sure you download your movies ahead of time and bring your own headphones. I never fly without my noise cancelling earbuds.

There are also no USB charging ports on Frontier Airlines, so I like to bring my travel back-up battery charger just in case. 

Pre-Flight Packing Checklist

  • Snacks for the flight
  • A water bottle
  • A portable charger
  • Your own entertainment and headphones
  • One personal item packed with any essential medications, important documents, expensive electronics, chargers, or anything else you'd prefer to keep with you in case of a delayed flight. 
  • If you check a bag, remember to do it online at least 24 hours before to save some money!

Booking Tips on Frontier Airlines

  • Fly on “off” days of the week.  You can only get their very cheapest fares if you are willing to work around their schedule, not yours.  
  • Again, remember to purchase your baggage options at booking for the cheapest rates.
  • If you want to pick a seat ahead of time, it's considered an upgrade and will cost extra.  For shorter flights, I just roll the dice and get what I get. It’s usually a middle seat, but I can deal with that for 2 hours.  On longer flights, especially red eyes, I splurge and pay to pick my seat.
  • Sign up for their weekly emails.  They have some great specials, sometimes as low as $25 each way.

My Frontier Airlines Review

I actually wrote the majority of this article during my five-hour delay on Frontier.  

I heard so many people around me say they would never fly Frontier again, and that our delay was proof that flying a low-cost carrier wasn't worth it.  I disagree with them. I don’t think any of the major airlines would have handled our mechanical issue any differently. Would they have gotten us a new plane or a new crew quicker?  Possibly, but I was recently delayed 33 hours by Delta/Air France and they are certainly not a low cost carrier.

Overall, I would definitely still recommend flying on Frontier Airlines, as long as you know what you're getting yourself in to.

If you follow my guide and know what to expect ahead of time on Frontier, I would certainly recommend them for shorter flights.  Would I want to sit in their planes for a cross country trip? I don’t think so. I have flown on Frontier Airlines to Las Vegas twice, and I think the 4 ½ hour trip is about as long as my older body can handle.  For someone closer to Hayley’s age, I would say don’t think twice!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2019: What Not to Miss

By Marley Braun | Destinations

Looking for something fun to do this spring that will help chase away your winter blues?  Check out the 2019 Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival. 

From March 5 through June 3, guests at Epcot can enjoy the Flower and Garden Festival. The festival is included with the regular park admission price. It is an annual fun-filled spring festival for nearly every member of your family to enjoy. 

I had never attended the Flower and Garden festival, and found it to be a really enjoyable day all by myself! Check out my guide below on how to create your own day of Disney magic.  

Maps & Guides

Festival Passport

  • You can get the free "Festival Passport" guide when you enter the Epoct park. 
  • This guide lists where each topiary is, and where each garden destination is. (Including the new Bo Peep’s playtime training grounds and the Playful Garden in Showcase Plaza!)
  • In addition, you’ll find the free concert line-up with performances listed nightly for the duration of the festival.
  • It outlines the official event merchandise (the flower Mickey ears seemed to be a crowd favorite).
  • It details the tea garden tours.  Tip:  The Royal Tea Garden 20-minute tour is free, but there is a 45-minute paid tour as well.  I'd suggest reserving the paid tour ahead of time. The tour includes a sampling of tea and scones. 
  • Finally, the passport helps you find the most important stops: the food!

Scavenger Hunt

This map can be purchased at the Port of Entry at Epcot for $6.99 plus tax while supplies last.  Guest of all ages can enjoy this springtime scavenger hunt led by Spike, the honey bee. You will go in search of Spike’s best blooms as he pollinates flower beds across Epcot.  Return your completed map to the Port of Entry for a special souvenir! 

An additional Egg-Stravaganza hunt will be offered from April 5-21.

Side Note:  Cast members and Annual Passholders receive a discount on the maps.  

Best Photo Ops

As you travel through the park and around the World Showcase, you will find plenty of great photo-ops along the way with many of your favorite characters all decked out as colorful topiaries.  

Some of my favorites included Lighting McQueen and Tow Mater in Future World East and Beauty and the Beast in France. For the best scenery and topiary behind you, make sure you take a selfie with Lady and the Tramp in Italy.  

 Side Note:  Don’t forget to check out the topiaries when they are lit up at night as well. They are stunning!  

For the 'gram:  Sorry flowers, but the most beautiful creation at the festival is the 5-layer cotton candy flower created at the Chinese Pavilion. 

This fluffy rainbow flower costs between $10-$15 and it is as big as my head!  I am not going to spoil it with a picture here. You need to watch it be created to truly appreciate it.

The Food

In 2019, there are four new Outdoor Kitchen spaces all open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.:  Arbor, Flavor Full Kitchen, The Citrus Blossom, and Trowell and Trellis.  

The festival passport is also helpful in finding locations that serve kid-approved, vegetarian and gluten-free meals, as well as beer and cider flights!  

Along with your reliable favorites at Epcot, during the festival you can find seasonal specialties such as tuna tataki and the chocolate pudding terrarium. I especially enjoyed the Orange Sunshine Wine Slushy and kids will love the Orange Cream Slushy and its adorable souvenir cup at the Citrus Blossom!  

 Side Note:  Head straight over to the Arbor at the Odyssey Center if you are a beer and cider lover.  Great choices there!

Concerts

For 2019, concert performances are held nightly at 5:30pm, 6:45pm and 8:00pm at the American Gardens Theatre.  

Arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time to get a seat, or you can reserve a Garden Rocks Concert Series dining package at 407-WDW-DINE.  For this package, you can choose from 15 unique eateries around Epcot. That package includes an appetizer, a non-alcoholic beverage, an entrée, and a dessert or one full buffet or family style dining meal per person. The package also entitles you one guaranteed seat to the concert held that day.

 Side Note:  If there is a band you REALLY don’t want to miss, this is a splurge-worthy package.

If you loved Pixar’s movie Coco as much as I did, you can not miss the story brought to life daily at the Mexico Pavilion. The magnificent musicians of Mariachi Cobre are joined by folkloric dancers, along with a hand-crafted puppet of Coco to tell the story of family.  You will just love it!

Closing Thoughts

If you are looking for a fun and inspiring spring-time activity, I definitely recommend checking out Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.  

Since it was my first time attending, I would love to hear from those of you who have been before in the comment section below!

Why Use a Travel Agent? Here’s 6 Reasons They Beat the Internet.

By Marley Braun | Travel Tips

"Why would I use a Travel Agent when I could just book online myself?"

For the longest time, I spent hours planning trips for myself.  I loved every second of it, and I honestly thought a Travel Agent could not plan my trips as perfectly, or as economically as I could.  

When I finally decided to ask a travel agent for help, I realized how was awesome to have someone take my ideas, and build an itinerary around them.  Not only did I get a fantastic cruise through the Mediterranean, I came back with a job offer I couldn’t resist.  Now I'm a travel agent, and I get to do what I love every day."

So, I get asked a lot:  Why do people still use travel agents?
Here are my top 6 reasons.

Travel Agents are the experts, and they have the information at their fingertips.

Just because you can find it on the internet doesn’t mean it is easy to find.  There is a lot of information out there, and some of it is incorrect or is misleading. My job is to keep up with the latest information, and I have the backing and resources of American Express travel services.    

Travel Agents are educated specifically on travel, and have personal experience.

Going on a honeymoon? I have planned many and know the best locations.  

Need a cruise that grandma will also enjoy? I know who to use (and who NOT to use).

Going to island XYZ, and not sure if it is safe to drive around yourself?  I know the answer, or I can find you first hand knowledge from one of the thousands of Cruise Planners agents that have been there.    

Travel Agents have first-hand knowledge of the best deals available.

I have access to daily deals sent straight to my inbox.  I can get you international airfares at consolidator rates that are WAY better than anything you can find on the internet.  

Travel Agents will give you insider tips and advice.

My job is to travel. (Tough, I know).  By focusing on travel, I can give you honest advice.

I won’t tell you what you want to hear.  I will listen, and then give you best travel advice and tips to help you make the best decision for you.  

Let your travel agent do the work, and save you time.

I spend between 8 and 15 hours planning the perfect trips for my clients.  You're most valuable asset you own is your personal time. Spend it doing something other than getting lost on the internet.  My services are at no cost to you. I value your time.

Lastly, your travel agent is there for you.  They are your biggest advocate!!

This one is a biggie.  No one on the internet is looking out for you.

You’re delayed, stranded, or your hotel room is not as promised-- who are you going to reach out to?  I am here to be your travel advocate, and make your trip my number one priority. 

Our mother-daughter journey to Machu Picchu

By Marley Braun | Destinations

For Hayley’s sweet sixteen, I planned a mother-daughter trip to Machu Picchu, in Peru.  I wanted to get her something that she would never forget, and that would bring us closer together.  

Being the mother of a teenage daughter is definitely not a walk in the park. It's hard to get them away from their phones and their friends, or to spend quality time with you that doesn’t include screaming and eye rolling. I figured the bigger the adventure, the better!  

Peru had never been on my bucket list (and honestly, it scared me a little) but I found a great package deal.  I could not have asked for a better trip.

Our adventure started off in Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes.

We spent our first few days relaxing in Cusco and enjoying the town itself.  It has some wonderful local markets, and you can not beat the prices there.  We stocked up a full suitcase of souvenirs very quickly!  

Peru is known for its cacao trees, so how could we pass up a chocolate making class?

We had so much fun bonding there that we decided to sign up for the cooking class that evening. The teacher/chef took us on a tour of the local food market, and we got to come back with our new purchases and cook an authentic Peruvian dinner.  

I can not even begin to tell you how exhausted and hungry I was, but watching the grin on Hayley’s face as she cooked with me and other people from around the world was priceless to me. 

  • Knowing some Spanish when you go there is very helpful.  
  • Make coca tea your new best friend.  Cusco is over 11,000 feet above sea level, and can be quite jarring to your body if you aren't used to the high elevation.  Take it slow the first few days and drink a lot of coca tea.

Next on our sightseeing list was the many Incan Ruins.

....Although Hayley was always watching out for any chance to be distracted and completely enthralled by a llama.

There are no shortage of Incan ruins (or llamas for that matter) on the way to Machu Picchu.  We visited Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Qenko, and Sacsayhuamán.

I can not begin to tell you how many pictures she made me take of her with the llamas.  Hayley feeding the llama.  Hayley petting the llama.  Hayley sitting next to the llama. When you have a teenage daughter, you become their personal selfie-stick.

When I wasn’t acting as a human selfie-stick, I roamed around the two towns taking pictures of the locals and checking out the local markets.  Everything there was so colorful to me and I wanted to capture it all.

That night, we were dropped off at our hotel that was literally IN the train station.  No worries about missing the train the next morning!  We were led to our room that had a padlock on it as our door lock.  The adventure part of our trip had begun!  We could not stop giggling or talking about what to do with the padlock.  We had yet to have hot water in a shower on our trip, so that caused more giggling before heading to bed.

I think we would both say our favorite spot on the way to Machu Picchu was the Sacred Valley.

The citadel there is now in ruins, but you can climb high above the valley floor and look down at the patch-worked patterned fields that are surrounded by vast terraces and stonework.  

Oddly enough, my favorite part was walking through doorways that my head almost touched.  I am only 5’2 and in Peru I felt like a runway model, which was nice for a change!

I chose the Vistadome train to get us to Machu Picchu, and it did not disappoint.

 It had large panoramic windows all around it and it was perfect to see the countryside of Peru.  On the way back to Cusco, the train provided live entertainment in the form of a fashion show, which got us giggling again.  

On top of that, the train ride was a perfect place for Hayley to practice her Spanish.  The Argentinians next to us spent at least an hour teaching her phrases.  As I marveled at how much Spanish she had learned in only two semesters, I realized she was clearly enjoying telling amusing stories about me.  I could understand "madre" thanks to 4 semesters of high school Spanish, and the universal language of laughter.

The train dropped us off a few steps from our hotel (hot water finally!), which was at the bottom of Machu Picchu in the town of Aquas Calientes.  

You take a bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu and in all my life, I have never been on a crazier bus ride.  To say it is terrifying, yet thrilling at the same time, would be an understatement. These buses fly up this winding, very steep, one-way road and it looks like they are playing a bizarre game of chicken with a busload of people.  It is not for the faint of heart!

The ruins when you finally reach Machu Picchu are spectacular!  

I can think of no other word to describe them. It is one of those places you really have to see to fully appreciate it.  We walked from one end of them to another with only a few breaks to pet the wild llamas. 

How they got all of those stones up that mountain left me dumbfounded (yes, that is truly how my brain works).  How my legs carried me all the way up to the Sun Gate at the end of that day I will never know, but it was worth it!

Only 400 people each day are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu.

Huayna Picchu is the peak that overlooks Machu Picchu.  You start hiking before sunrise, and then you are able to sit at the top of Huayna Picchu and watch the sun come up.  

The climb is difficult and narrow in spots, but it's worth it!  You MUST reserve these tickets ahead of time, and they WILL sell out.

The view over the ruins when we reached Machu Picchu, with the peak of Huayna Picchu in the background.

I had trained for a few weeks at the gym getting my legs and heart ready for the climb, but it was hard! I’m not going to lie.

At the very end of the climb, you descend into a very narrow cave (this is when I asked myself WTF am I doing, I am claustrophobic), only to emerge at the very top to the most serene atmosphere I have ever witnessed.  

High above the clouds, Hayley and I just sat in silence waiting for the sun to rise.  

THIS was mother-daughter bonding at its best. No arguments. No eye rolling. No cell phones buzzing.  Just immense appreciation and love.  We had conquered the mountain and it rewarded us paid in full.

My Top 5 Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu

  • Fly into Cusco a few days early.  No offense to Lima, but I loved Cusco hands down. It's a great place to get acclimated to the altitude change, and you'll get a better sense of the Peruvians and their home. 
  • Even if you don’t think the altitude is bothering you, most hotels will offer the coca tea  24/7.  Drink it, and while you’re at it, use it to wash down some yummy Peruvian food.  Hint:  If something just says “meat”, ask if it is beef. You may be surprised (or delighted) to find that it is guinea pig, a delicacy in Peru. 
  • Unless you know Spanish really well and are comfortable traveling on your own, consider using a FIT (flexible independent travel) package for Peru. I really liked it because I was able to customize everything, but also had a set itinerary. With a FIT, we had people who spoke English to get us from place to place, and tickets for trains and attractions ahead of time.
  • Spend the extra money and ride on the Vistadome train It is worth it.  This is one time that you don’t want to bury your head in a book.  
  • Plan to hike Huayna Picchu, and get your ticket WAY ahead of time.  Spend a minimum of two days there. You will thank me later!

Remember:  Our recommendations are based on our 2012 trip, so make sure to do your research.  Send us a message - we'd be happy to help!

Flight Cancelled? Here’s what to do next.

By Marley Braun | Travel Tips


I don’t know about you, but every time I fly, I NEVER assume my flight is actually going to take off on time until I feel the plane taxiing down the runway.  

Not sitting on the runaway, but TAXIING down it!  We hope for on-time, we hold our breathe for delayed, and we curse under our breathe when we hear the words cancelled. 

So, here are 5 important things to remember next time your flight gets cancelled:

First, take a deep breathe...

Being nice goes a long way. I have seen people cry and scream in line at the airport, and it does not make a difference.  These airline agents are not the cause of your cancelled flight and there is only so much they can do.  Remember, kindness goes a long way.

Then, get on the phone.

Have your airline on speed dial (unless you are prepared to throw yourself at the ticket counter ahead of the hundreds of others whose flight was also cancelled). 


I'll personally dial the airlines number and stay on hold, while I am also standing in line at the ticket counter. It doesn’t hurt to cover all of your bases! 


The agents at the airport will try and book you on their next departure.  The agent on the phone can help you rebook as well, and can help you find an alternate flight.  In some cases, you can rebook on the airline’s app, so make sure you have that downloaded ahead of time just in case. 

Remember, it never hurts to ask!

If you remember my kindness rule, you might find an agent willing to put you on alternative airline carrier.  They are not required to do this but if you ask nicely, you never know what might happen.  What do you have to lose?  


 

Always know your passenger rights.

If your flight is cancelled due to bad weather, the airlines are not required to do anything for you other than help you rebook your flight.


If the cancelled flight is due to the airline having an issue such as a mechanical failure, you are entitled to compensation if the replacement flight delays your arrival time by more than two hours.   The European Union requires compensation if flights are delayed more than three hours.  If you are booked in first or premium class and then rebooked into coach, you are entitled to a partial refund. 


 

Lastly, save all boarding passes and receipts.

If you have travel insurance, you will need these to prove what expenses you incurred due to your cancelled flight.  I also include these as attachments when I write the airline’s customer service department once I get home.  


ALWAYS send an email letting them know what they did right and what they did wrong. It may get you nowhere or you may receive something.  You won’t know until you kindly ask!

Why Travel to Croatia: A Guide for Game of Thrones Fans

By Marley Braun | Destinations

Visiting King's Landing 

Years ago when I started watching Game of Thrones on HBO (cue the theme music in my head right now), I remember thinking are these locations real and if so, I have to go there!  

I was delighted to learn the locations ARE real and that Croatia would be the next country added to my bucket list.

Actually, getting to Croatia took me almost as long as it took George RR Martin to write A Dance with Dragons, but I finally made it there last year.  Did it disappoint?  Absolutely not. Do I totally want to go back?  Hell yes. 

Besides being THE King’s Landing, home of the Seven Kingdoms, Dubrovnik itself is stunning.  It sits on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by a massive stone wall that has stayed intact since the 16th century.  Thanks to Game of Thrones (cue the theme music again), Dubrovnik has become quite the tourist attraction and it has become so overcrowded with GOT fans like me that the last few seasons HBO has had to move shooting locations to somewhere quieter.  

However, Dubrovnik is more than ready to be a “must see” destination in itself.

Dubrovnik

On the day I was there, there was a mass of people trying to get into the city through Pile Gate.  I instantly felt like Arya trying to maneuver through the streets of Kings Landing in season one trying not to get trampled to death or spotted by Joffrey.  

I highly recommend the Game of Thrones tour through Viator.  It was absolutely fantastic!

My 5 Favorite Moments of the Tour

Tyrion Lannister’s secret passageway in/out of King’s Landing

The water here is stunning and the day I was there people were in the water and clearly not afraid of wildfire.   

The Red Keep

As you climb above the steep steps to Fort Lovrijenrc opposite the walled city of Dubrovnik and above Tyrion’s secret passage, you enter the Red Keep. Above the entrance is a very fitting saying carved in the stone, “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” (“Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold of the world”).  

From here you get a breathtaking view of Dubrovnik and Minceta Tower, which served as the House of the Undying where Daenerys went to look for her stolen dragons.  You can’t help looking out into the distance searching for Stannis Baratheon’s ill-fated fleet.  

Pile Gate

The entrance to King’s Landing is the gate to the city.  Instead of peasants and commoners you will encounter artists and performers.  

The Steps of Great Sep of Baelor

I couldn’t help myself from walking up and down the stairs saying shame, shame!


The Iron Throne

Even though this was just a replica, we couldn’t help taking turns sitting in it.  How cool is that?  It is located in a small shop, up a lot of steps but it was totally worth the picture.  

HBO Stories

Not only did we go to some cool sites in King’s Landing, but we learned some really cool insider information about the HBO production.  Whether they are true or not, I really don’t care. They were highly amusing to hear.  

Click & Expand for HBO insider secrets we heard on the tour!

"Tyler Lannister Slept Here"

Too Many Tourists

Paid Vacation for Better Filming?!

Many More Places To Explore...

If you are a true Game of Thrones fan, you can not leave Croatia without going to Trsteno Arboretum (or Highgarden as GOT fans would recognize it).  The arboretum dates back to the 15th century.  It is a worthy place for the Tyrell family to call home.  R.I.P. Margaery and Lady Olenna.  

Below captures the scene in season three when I decided I had to find out if that place was real or not.  It was and it was right there waiting for me in Croatia!

Image by neufal54 on Pixabay

Final Thoughts & Tips

With HBO’s Game of Thrones coming to an end in 2019, I am preparing myself to say goodbye to so many great characters but I will not be saying goodbye to Croatia.  

I am already planning to go back in 2020 with friends, who are not GOT fans, but who I plan to convert!  If I could ever get Hayley to sit still long enough to get through an episode of Game of Thrones, I am sure she would realize Croatia needs to be added to her bucket list.  

Whether you go on your own, as a couple, with friends or with family, here are my top 5 tips for visiting Croatia:

  • Know your currency: You will want to exchange money for Croatian kuna or plan to use an ATM once you arrive. I have met many people that didn't realize Croatia does not accept euros.  Know before you go!  The kuna currently equals 1 for every .15 cents in U.S. dollars so that is A LOT of kuna!  Croatia is a great value. 
  • You don't have to be a Game of Thrones fan to enjoy Croatia.  I have traveled all over the world and Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.   If you are closer to my age than Hayley's, you may not even know where Croatia is.  When I was in school, we called it Yugoslavia.  Know before you go!
  • If you aren't sure you want to spend an entire week of vacation there, look into the many cruises that now include Dubrovnik and Split as ports of call.  You can get a great primer for what Croatia is like and then you can plan a longer visit for the future.  
  • If you are a Game of Thrones fan, just know that the sites won't look exactly like they do on TV.  There are a lot of CGI effects that the show uses to "enhance" the already beautiful buildings.  For example, don't expect to see the Great Sep of Baelor at the top of the "shame, shame" steps.  There is an old church there, not a behemoth cathedral. 
  • "You know nothing Jon Snow" (or any other traveler who is used to the well run trains in Europe).  Croatia does not have a great train system but it does have a great bus system.  Getbybus is a great site to use to figure out how to get from town to town.  
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