Wildfire on French-Spanish border destroys 1,000 hectares
PARIS, April 17 (Reuters) – A wildfire destroyed nearly 1,000 hectares on the French-Spanish border on Sunday and early Monday, authorities said, as parts of southern Europe remain gripped by a drought that is raising fears of a repeat of last summer’s exceptional conflagrations.
The blaze, France’s first major wildfire this season, was brought under control early on Monday though not yet fully extinguished, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, adding one firefighter was slightly injured.
“We deplore the loss of nearly 1,000 hectares,” Darmanin said, warning France was headed for “an extremely difficult summer 2023, possibly as difficult as summer 2022.”
An unusually dry winter across parts of the south of the European continent has reduced moisture in the soil and raised fears of a repeat of 2022, when 785,000 hectares were destroyed in Europe – more than double the annual average for the past 16 years, according to European Commission (EC) statistics.
Some 500 firefighters were mobilised to fight the fire on Sunday evening, the regional prefecture said.
The fire spread around the French villages of Cerbere and Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean coast, with the blaze fanned by strong, swirling winds that prevented the use of Canadair planes, according to the prefecture.
[1/2] An aerial view shows smoke rising from a fire in the Cerbere region, France April 16, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media. Arturo Palavecino/via REUTERS
The fire crews had managed to prevent the fire from engulfing the villages, with just four houses damaged and no injuries among inhabitants, the prefecture said.
Some 300 inhabitants were evacuated in Cerbere, with most able to return to their homes by Sunday evening, it added.
The blaze later spread across the border into Spain, burning over 500 hectares and prompting the evacuation of about 50 people, the Catalan fire services said.
On the French side, a second, smaller fire later broke out a few km (miles) further up the coast at Argeles-sur-Mer, initially burning about 10 hectares before being brought under control, the Pyrenees-Orientales prefecture said.
Spain and southern France continued to see wildfires this past winter, with low rainfall maintaining parched conditions after last summer’s severe drought.
Some districts in southern France have already introduced water restrictions and the country’s geological institute has said that low groundwater reserves could herald an even worse drought this summer.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Clement Rossignol and Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Graham Keeley in Madrid, Editing by William Maclean
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Border, Belonging, and Circulations in the Pyrenees during the Modern Period
A Border Demarcated Long Ago?
Traditionally, the historiography for the French-Spanish border has considered it to be one of the world’s oldest, or in any case as one of the longest defined separating lines, seemingly stable since the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, which consecrated France’s annexation of Roussillon. This border has apparently shifted very little since then, with the exception of events such as the departmentalization of Catalonia and its addition to the France of 130 departments under the First Empire (1812-1814), a departmentalization that was never made official.
The accuracy of this general framework nevertheless obscures the slow process by which the borderline in the Pyrenees was delineated. The long nineteenth century was a decisive moment in this regard, and clearly illustrates the full complexity of the process. While a definitive line was established by the Caro-Ornano Commission in 1785, and confirmed by the Treaty of Basel in 1796 and later by the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the treaty of 1785 never truly came into effect, such that the two states decided to revisit the subject in the 1850s. The French Second Empire (1852-1870) and the Spanish monarchy of Isabella II (1833-1868) established a commission to demarcate the border, which over the course of a decade defined the borderline, provided for setting its boundaries, and established rules relating to its management. Three treaties from 1856 to 1866 arranged for the borderline running from west to east: Basque country and Navarre in 1856, Aragon in 1862, and Catalonia in 1866.
The treaty of 1856 is still in effect today, and has been supplemented by a handful of arrangements relating to cross-border cooperation between local and regional authorities as part of European construction (Treaty of Bayonne in 1995). This is therefore a remarkable example of interstate cooperation in the delineation and marking of the border, in an area where it had shifted very little since the early modern period. However, such a top-down approach to the border obscures the complexity of the situation on the ground. The French-Spanish border is still managed today by the International Pyrenees Commission, a permanent commission established in 1875 to settle the border problems that continued to arise nearly twenty years after the first treaty of Bayonne.
Uses of the Border
The border line has a number of distinctive features and noteworthy legal singularities: Pheasant Island in the Bidassoa River is a condominium that France and Spain govern in rotating periods of six months; on the border between Navarre and Lower Navarre, the Quinto Real is a Spanish territory whose administration is carried out by France; in Catalonia, the village of Llivia is a Spanish enclave on French territory, and is connected to Spain by a neutral road. These are only a few examples, to which one can add the principality of Andorra. More generally, while the demarcation of the border sparked few problems with respect to its central portion, which is marked by the elevation of the Pyrenees and hence a limitation of cross-border communication, the task was much more trying in the Basque, Bearnese, and Catalan piedmont.
The abundance of legal particularities is of course partly due to the antiquity of a borderline around which rules and exceptions grew starting in the Middle Ages: the existence of intense cross-border sociability, especially in the piedmont areas, in addition to the needs of an agricultural, forest, and pastoral model in a mountainous setting, quickly led to the establishment of cross-border treaties on the scale of valleys. The calling into question of these treaties, known as lies et passeries (pastoral agreements on the scale of a valley) , and sociabilities by states concerned about clearly demarcating their sovereignty prompted intense reactions among border populations throughout the nineteenth century. The nullity of the Caro-Ornano Treaty of 1785 was in large part due to the War of the Limits (1827-1856), which saw French and Spanish border dwellers face off over cross-border use and pasturage rights, and revealed to political elites the need to better account for the interests of these populations in drawing the border via the partial maintenance of these uses.
Border populations have garnered attention from historians over the last forty years, who have explored the effects of these cross-border sociabilities and the establishment of the border on the senses of belonging of these Pyrenees populations. The question is all the more pressing as the existence of these Basque and Catalan cross-border cultural communities on both sides of the Pyrenees mountain chain culminated in the late nineteenth century with the birth of two of Spain’s most important peripheral nationalisms. The debate in Spain focused on the reasons for this birth, and especially on the state’s ability to build a Spanish nation. In France, the dispute instead revolved around the effects of demarcations. In an important book about the Catalan space, Peter Sahlins showed that it did influence the formation of national identities, but in a sense also confirmed them, thereby opposing Michel Brunet’s argument regarding the external imposition of the nation on essentially cross-border populations.
Circulations Between Politics and Secrecy
These important debates should not mask a reality, namely that the border dwellers on both sides of the Pyrenees were able to preserve cross-border sociabilities throughout the modern period, which entailed neither refusal of national integration nor the absence of tensions between the French and the Spanish. Of course the strengthening of states and their control over the border area disrupted the world of the border from the nineteenth onward, which led to massive emigration—primarily on the Basque side—and what Jean-François Soulet has called widespread dissidence. The border along the Pyrenees was characterized throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by considerable illegal circulation alongside legal exchange. Smuggling in particular was an enduring long-term phenomenon, as demonstrated by the research of anthropologist Alain Tarrius on transnational criminality around the Catalan border.
The political importance of these illegal circulations should be emphasized. From the French Revolution to the creation of the Schengen Area, and despite variations and evolutions, the French-Spanish border has been a space that is constantly crossed in both directions by a multitude of political stakeholders. During different moments of the nineteenth century, liberals, republicans, and Spanish Carlists found refuge from repression in France. Conversely, and even though these movements did not flow in a single direction, French political militants crossed the border to aid their Spanish coreligionists: liberals under the reign of Ferdinand VII (1814-1833) or during the Sexenio Democrático (1868-1874), and legitimists during the Carlist Wars (1833-1840 and 1872-1876). Combatants, secret agents, and political leaders on assignment for the cause rubbed shoulders on border roads with droves of exiles and refugees, who sometimes came from further away, with Hendaye being a known point of passage for Portuguese political refugees. The numerous secret political circulations that continued to characterize this space during the twentieth century indicated the permanence and intensity of French-Spanish political circulations along the border over the long-term.
Spanish-French border. What countries borders France? South of France. Orgex Pyrenees Wildlife Reservation Park
Mallorca is located in Spain, belongs to the Balearic Islands. The archipelago includes 4 islands: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza (popularly known as Ibiza), Formentera.
Location of Spain
Where is Spain located? The country has land borders
with 5 states: Gibraltar from the south side, Portugal from the southwest, France and Andorra from the north, Morocco. The unique location of the kingdom unites 3 continents:
The territory of the country is 504 sq. km, 90% of which is located on land, the rest is under water. The Kingdom ranks 4th in Europe in terms of area, 51st in the world. Spain is characterized by mountainous
and high location above sea level. It is divided into 17 autonomous regions and 2 cities:
- Balearic Islands;
- Madrid and others
Ceuta and Melilla – 2 independent Spanish cities. The kingdom consists of the Iberian Islands, which border the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands, which border the Atlantic Ocean, and the cities of the enclaves of northern Africa.
Iberian (Balearic) archipelago – parallel ranges, the length of which is 450 thousand meters. Popular resorts of the country: Ibiza, Costa Brava, Tenerife, Mallorca.
Description of Mallorca
Correct name – Mallorca
(from Spanish – Mallorca). It is famous for its stunning landscapes, good environmental conditions, white sandy beaches, clear clear water. The royal family prefers to rest here.
Mallorca: what is she like? Thanks to the bays on the island, it is calm and comfortable. It has everything you need for a great holiday: beautiful nature, warm sea, attractions and entertainment.
The north side is rocky, the east and northwest are mountainous. It is here that the largest bays stretch, in contrast to the central part, which is characterized by flat terrain.
Mallorca joined the Iberian archipelago in 1716.
The capital and largest city is Palma de Mallorca
. On the map, its name is abbreviated to “Palm”. The city is suitable for tourists who love not only to lie on the beach, but also to see the ancient sights.
Where is Mallorca located?
Mallorca: where is it located, which country? Mallorca is located in Pyrenean archipelago
. It is located next to the Valencian coast and belongs to Spain, it ranks first in terms of its area.
Mallorca is over 3500 sq. km. It is washed from the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea, from the west and north by the Atlantic Ocean. Mallorca is located at an equal distance from the Iberian Peninsula, southern France, northern Africa.
- 39.6 degrees north latitude;
- 2.9 degrees East.
The northwestern side of the harbor is known for its mountainous landscape. The highest mountain is Puig Major. Next to it stretches the Massanella hill.
The length of the coastline is 550 thousand meters. Most resort areas are located in the bays of Alcudia, Pollensa. Palma de Mallorca (Palma) is the main city and port of Mallorca.
The largest port in the Mediterranean is located in Palma.
The city is located in Palma harbor
Mallorca, its distance: width – 20 km, length – 25 km. It extends in the southern part of the island, in the north of a relatively large bay. 50% of the inhabitants live in this area.
How to get to Mallorca?
You can visit the heavenly place with the help of:
The larger islands have their own airports. There are direct flights from Europe here
. You can get from the capital of Russia through charter flights operated by S7 companies, Ural Airlines.
Flight time: 4.5 hours. Charters available only per season
. At other times there are no direct flights. A large number of planes to Mallorca fly with transfers. The airlines Iberia, Lufthansa, Aeroflot carry out flights with transfers in Munich, Berlin, Madrid.
You can arrive at the place:
- Fly by direct flight to Barcelona and from there by ferry.
- Doletev from Moscow to Paris, then by train. Mallorca is located at an altitude of 1500-2000 meters above sea level. Good communication Paris-Mallorca
by rail: out of four, 2 roads wrap around the bay from the northwest and southeast, and the rest cross the mountain range at the Aerbe section.
The plane lands at the largest Balearic airport Son San Juan
. Mallorca is located just 8 km from the airport. The end point can be reached by: taxi, bus, ferry.
With how many countries? This question is not as trivial as it seems. This country is large, approximately equal in area to Ukraine. And who are her neighbors? And where, in fact, is such a state as France? To say that in Western Europe would be true. But this answer is incomplete. After all, France still has the so-called overseas territories, which used to be nothing more than colonies. And if you take into account these countries and islands, then the number of neighbors will increase.
The answer to the question of who France borders on also depends on whether we take into account the sea cordons of this power or only the land ones. Indeed, in the first case, Great Britain is included in the number of neighbors. Paris and London are connected by an underground road and rail tunnel across the English Channel. And this already allows us to call France and its old rival Great Britain close neighbors. And with whom else does this country border? Read about it in our article.
In terms of territory, France is the largest state in Western Europe. Its area is 551.5 thousand square meters. km. France is usually divided into the “central part”, that which is located in the Old World, that is, in Western Europe, and “overseas territories”. The first includes a large one lying near the coast of the country in the Mediterranean Sea. But even without taking into account its and overseas territories, mainland “central” (or “old”) France still leads in terms of area among Western European states. Its territory on the continent is 545,630 square kilometers. A quick glance at the map gives us an idea that France is bordered by three countries: Germany and Italy to the east, and Spain to the southwest. But this opinion is wrong.
Watch out for midgets!
Next to the giant countries such as Germany and Spain (which are slightly inferior to France in terms of territory), quite small states also took shelter. This is primarily Switzerland. It, unlike France, is not a member of the European Union, it retains its own currency. But Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Agreement. In the northeast, in close proximity to France, is Belgium. This country is included in the EU, and in the Schengen agreement, and in the distribution zone of the euro currency. In the east, France borders on Germany. But one dwarf state squeezed between them – Luxembourg. Not far from the Franco-Italian border there is another tiny principality – Monaco. The Principality is an enclave, as it is surrounded on all sides by France. However, Monaco has its own private access to the sea. In the southwest, between France and Spain, another “dwarf” wedged. This is Andorra. The Principality is interesting because its co-rulers are equally (according to the medieval treaty of paréage) the Republic of France and the King of Spain. Andorra is not part of the Schengen area. Therefore, in order to come to this Iberian principality, which does not have airports, you theoretically need a multiple entry visa.
Who borders France on the European continent
Let’s summarize. So, land borders make France a neighbor of seven European countries. These are Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Monaco on the east side and Spain and Andorra on the southwest side. If we take into account the sea cordons, then the UK also falls into this list. It is separated from France by the English Channel, the smallest width of which (between Calais and Dover) is only thirty-two kilometers.
The longest border is with Spain. It runs through the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay of the Atlantic Ocean. The length of this border is 623 kilometers. Only 3 km shorter cordon with Belgium. This is followed by Switzerland (573), Italy (488), Germany (451 kilometers). The length of cordons with dwarf countries is small due to the miniaturization of the latter. Among the small but independent principalities, Luxembourg has the longest border with France – 73 kilometers. Andorra (60 km) and Monaco (only four and a half kilometers) close the list.
From the west, France is washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, the state has no close neighbors on the other side of the world. We have already found out with whom France borders in the north. Across the English Channel lies the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In the Mediterranean Sea, French Corsica is closely adjacent to Sardinia, which is located to the south of it. This island belongs to Italy. However, France also has land borders with this Apennine state. If we add up all the maritime cordons of the republic, we get a fairly solid figure – five and a half thousand kilometers.
France has long been a metropolis and owned colonies. Now these territories are called differently. Nevertheless, they significantly expand the list of those countries with which France borders. Some of these territories are departments, that is, their inhabitants are considered full French citizens. These are: Guadeloupe, Mayotte, Martinique Reunion and Guiana.
There are also overseas communities. As a rule, they are located on the islands. These are French Polynesia, and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna. Among the territories owned by the Republic is New Caledonia, an administrative-territorial entity with a special status.
Great Britain owns Saint Helena. But the place of exile of Napoleon and the valley in which the emperor is buried belongs to France. The Republic also staked out Adélie Land in Antarctica. But this is contrary to UN rules, and claims to this territory are considered unfounded.
States bordering France “overseas”
Based on the above, the list of neighbors of the European state has expanded. Even if we do not take into account the islands and Adélie Land, the extent of land borders increases significantly. The longest is the cordon with Brazil – 730 kilometers. Suriname, which is adjacent to the west, has a common border with it 510 km. The shortest cordon in the overseas territories is on the island of Saint Martin. Its length is ten and a half kilometers. But this border divides a tiny piece of land into two halves. The southern part – Sint Maarten – is part of the Netherlands Antilles.
Slightly more than 85% of the Iberian Peninsula is occupied by Spain. From this, even the most inexperienced tourist can conclude that she does not have so many neighbors. But the Spaniards themselves do not seem to be upset at all. The protection of their native shores has always been sacred to them. But, nevertheless, with how many countries Spain borders, every traveler should know.
What every tourist needs to know
It would be useful to understand where the Kingdom of Spain is located in general. This information is especially important for those who are going to visit this beautiful country:
- location – southwest Europe;
- total area – about 500 thousand square kilometers;
- The west of the country is washed by Atlantic waters, in the north by the Bay of Biscay, in the east by the Mediterranean Sea, in the south by the Strait of Gibraltar;
- The Kingdom also includes the Balearic and Canarian archipelagos, as well as the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Morocco). An interesting fact is that the Balearic Islands occupy 1% of the total area of the state, and the Canaries – 1.5%.
- currently unresolved is the issue of ownership of Gibraltar, which is disputed with the UK.
Spain itself is divided into 17 autonomies, which include 50 provinces.
Spain’s neighbor in the Pyrenees is Portugal. The border between the two powers stretched for 1214 km. For comparison: the Belarusian-Russian border takes about the same distance.
It is worth noting that for Portugal itself, Spain is the only neighbor that surrounds it from all sides. That is why historically it turned out that Portugal was forced to become a maritime state, because on the one hand it has Spain, and on the other, the Atlantic.
The inability to expand their territory on land and the endless encroachment of the Spaniards on this land caused several wars between the two countries.
France and Andorra
In the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula lay the Spanish-French border. Of all the countries with which Spain borders, this territory is perhaps the most picturesque. The two states are separated by a blue flag with yellow stars. Despite the proximity of the two neighbors, even with the naked eye you can see completely different landscapes on both sides of the flag. The border with the French state stretches for only 623 km.
Somewhere in the middle of this dividing line, a small power, Andorra, has quietly settled down. It is connected with Spain by only 63 kilometers. Andorra is known to tourists as a ski resort and duty-free area. Despite the fact that only 80 thousand people live in the principality, the annual flow of tourists here is equal to 10 million. Here it is worth paying attention to the fact that back in 1995, little Andorra abolished passport and visa control on its Spanish and French borders. But she did it in a one-sided manner. Therefore, approaching the checkpoint, do not be surprised if the Spanish border guards ask you for documents.
In the south, countries bordering Spain are represented only by Gibraltar, which is officially part of the UK. The length of the dividing line is only 1. 2 km. This small piece of land has always caused mutual claims of the two states. But a referendum held in 2002 showed that the majority of residents are satisfied with the protectorate of the British Isles.
Border with Morocco
And, finally, the Moroccan border, 16 km long, passes already on the territory of the African continent. But even here there are two small towns that are considered Spanish. Summing up, it can be noted that Spain has five neighbors in total, and the length of the border in total is 1917 km.
France has simply inexhaustible tourist opportunities. Depending on your preferences, you can go on a cheese binge, explore local winemaking traditions, pretend to be a member of the Tour de France race and ride a couple of passes on a bike or collect a personal collection of sunsets over medieval ruins. Everything is abundance.
My selection of the most charming places in the South of France that you should definitely visit if your plane landed in Toulouse consists of just a dozen of these points on the map of the region. But in fact there are many more! Replenish, open, impress, travel – and let the world smile at you!
Southern France. Cordes sur Ciel is a city in heaven.
The lion’s share of the region as a whole and in general is built around medieval cities, some of them are better preserved, some have suffered from time. Cordes-sur-Ciel is a unique place! Not only is it incomparably beautiful: traditional red roofs, small streets, stone houses … But these are not all surprises for those who travel around the South of France.
The city is located on a hill, and those who want to enter its gates will have a strong training for the legs and no less fun cardio: up, up and up again. The city lives up to its name! The fortress (yes, there are real walls) nestled at the very top. Not surprisingly, the view of the surrounding area from here is simply amazing.
In Korda you can find ancient temples, beautiful Gothic buildings and a small museum shop with real pastels, which used to be made from plants. You can sip coffee while overlooking the endless expanses and soft outlines of the hills.
South of France. Albi – greatness and history
The main sights of Albi, another medieval city, which is currently the second largest cultural and “student” center of the region, are the Henri Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, the episcopal palace with a beautiful view of the Tarn River and the huge church of St. Caecilia. This Gothic cathedral, built in 1282-1512, has gone through many reconstructions and today impresses with its massiveness and grandeur. All this part of the city is included in the list of monuments of the World Cultural Heritage.
By the way, the episcopal palace is distinguished not only by its beautifully trimmed garden and massive fortifications, but also by the seriousness of the construction: its inhabitants were so worried about their safety that one of the living bishops ordered to increase the thickness of the walls to 8 meters. So that the enemy guns do not break through 🙂
Two bridges were thrown across the Tarn in the central part of Albi. They are called the Old Bridge and the New Bridge. The one that is newer is taller.
Southern France. Carcassonne – walled city
The most beautiful fireworks on Bastille Day take place over this ancient walled city. And Carcassonne itself is one of the most visited attractions in the whole country. The castle has been beautifully reconstructed, it has many interesting halls with explanations, there are small museum rooms, and routes for walks and sightseeing are built on wide walls. Within the walls of the old city there is a beautiful Gothic church built in the same style as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Carcassonne is very well prepared to receive tourists, all explanatory inscriptions are duplicated in English, and tickets (you will have to pay about 8 euros for entering the fortress walls) are reusable. So you can go out, walk around the souvenir shops, and come back again.
Various historical festivals, games, shows and performances take place in Carcassonne. And in the summer, almost every weekend, some kind of separate program pleases visitors here.
Being in this city is not only informative, but also very pleasant: everything here is done for the joys of tourists, from many medieval knick-knacks, a museum of torture and other flavors to very good restaurants. So eat, try and walk – that’s it.
South of France. Pyrenees Wildlife Reservation in Orgex
If you want to feel like a pioneer, you should move closer to the mountainous regions of the Pyrenees. Here for nature lovers – a real paradise! I left the car in the adjacent parking lot, chose a route – and forward. You want for an hour, you want for three, and you want – for the whole day. And in my photo, a beautiful domestic cow harmoniously fits into the wild landscape of the Pyrenees.
From time to time information days are held in the park: then foresters, zoologists and ornithologists become lecturers and guides for adults and children. For example, you can see charming fat marmots that eat for eight months, then sleep for four months in winter. And about mountain streams, trees to the sky and the infinitely sweet smell of alpine meadows, there is nothing even to say! By the way, no one takes water with them on a hike here: the purest streams run over the stones at any time of the year.
What to see in France. Col de Port pass
Well, if you want to test yourself, then you should take a bike and try to overcome one of the passes, of which there are a myriad of in the Pyrenees. Many are well equipped: observation decks, restaurants, signs, and even a tourism center (col de port is almost always closed :).
The closer to the border with Spain, the sharper the ridges on the horizon, the more impregnable the task seems to climb them. However, the quality of the roadway allows you to easily move along these roads by any type of transport. Cyclists simply adore the local region – after all, not only do the roads pass through the most picturesque places, they are also glorified by the most famous cycling race in the world. A small but very picturesque pass is not formally included in the Tour de France route, but it is no worse than any other neighboring one. And small waterfalls and views will make the walk exciting. During my time on a bicycle, I only descended from this pass :). But people constantly storm it and win! And it’s amazing.
France. Lombriv cave – the widest in Europe
The Iberian region is replete with a wide variety of caves that are directly related to different prehistoric times. Lomvbrive is the widest cave in Europe. It is difficult to say how specialists take measurements, but visually this parameter is determined as follows: in some places a truck can easily pass under its arches.
Photography is not allowed in Lombriv. So this photo is from the internet. But during the two and a half hours that the tour will last, visitors will find such a variety of natural beauty that not a single memory card will be enough.
There are several levels in the cave, part of which is flooded with water. Those that are “land” are amazing in size. True, in some places you have to wade almost on all fours: in order to find yourself in an even larger space. A sort of mixture of contradictions in one bottle. Cool!
Southern France. Foix – the Middle Ages in action
Foix is the capital of the department of Ariège, which is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The city is famous for its majestic castle, which perfectly survived all the hardships and after the reconstruction looks like “candy”. It hosts various excursions (you can even get on a night one!), but, in my opinion, it is most convenient to admire Foix Castle from the outside. Fortunately, you won’t get bored on the streets of the city: it is customary here to drink coffee and dine on open terraces, and the local people also love festivals and fairs.
Foix castle has three different towers. It looks eclectic, but has its own historical roots and is associated with the change of times and the change of “owners” of the castle.
Like many other cities in the region, Foix was built “in crowded, but not offended”: there are practically no straight streets with direct intersections, and getting lost in the gorge of medieval houses is easy. But don’t worry! The entire central part of the city is covered on foot in an hour maximum.
France. Devil’s Bridge
If you deviate literally ten kilometers from the road to Foix, and turn off the highway closer to the mountains, you can find the remains of a stone bridge (of course, medieval!), which is called the Devil’s Bridge. In general, there are a lot of such bridges with a similarly unpleasant name all over the world, and everyone has their own motives for such a name. In the case of the bridge in the Ariège region of southern France, it is primarily about extremely turbulent currents and dangerous whirlpools. Rumor has it that, having fallen into this water, there are very few chances to get out.
The bridge has preserved the remains of either buildings or towers that towered over it, and constantly attracts tourists. But hanging over the railing and looking for a long time into the black water of a mountain river foaming from below is really creepy! B-r-r-r-r….
South of France. Market in Saint Gerona
Do you love bazaars the way French people do? Oh, if even for one minute you now rejoiced in your soul, then you should definitely go on Saturday morning to the market in the town of Saint-Geron, magnificent in abundance and color. The French are very fond of trade, and therefore they do everything related to market relations with great inspiration. In addition, fairs, exhibitions and various festivities are held in St. Gerona for any reason.
In addition, some of the houses and buildings are located so close to the water that sometimes it seems that with a good flood, the housewives will not have to wash the floors by hand for a long time.
Southern France. Tarascon-sur-Ariège – at the crossroads
Let’s finish the review with another charming city in every sense, which is located at the intersection point of almost all the routes that we talked about today. Tarascon is an amazing place with a lot of life, but all of it is concentrated in … a small scale. Here you can play paintball, go kayaking and canoeing, go to the mountains and to the cinema, listen to an open-air concert and dance salsa at a local festival. You can have a very tasty lunch and stay in a small hotel. And from Tarascon – a stone’s throw to the caves, and to Foix, and to the passes.
And it is in Tarascon that the only church in France is located, where under the frescoes (when they were removed for restoration) a unique paper canvas of the revolutionary flag was discovered. Apart from all this, Tarascon knows how to enchant its guests with a calm atmosphere and peace, which is so inherent in this region and which makes life in France very special.
Larisa Mischanchuk, PtaXa, journalist, author of poems, photographer and inspiring mother of two daughters, who decided on, material taken from Larisa’s website ptaxa.kiev.ua.
During our trip to Spain, we visited the “Spanish Venice” of Empuriabrava and, having reached the French border, crossed it to drink coffee with fresh croissants and return back.
1. I stumbled upon the canal-riddled map of the town of Empuriabrava quite by accident, when I was planning a trip from Spain to France, and I definitely decided to go there: where else in Spain you will see canals instead of streets and hundreds of snow-white yachts.
2. Unlike Venice, Empuriabrava is much more convenient for life, because you can not only swim up to each house, but also drive up. Only on a satellite image of google.maps can one assess the full scale of the undertaking:
3. The resort town for yachtsmen began to be built in the late 60s and 37 km of canals were dug for this. Now the city ranks first in the world in terms of the length of canals and has about 5,000 berths.
4. The location was not chosen by chance: the Gulf of Roses of the Mediterranean has always been famous for its strong winds. The “Tramontana” wind from the Pyrenees blows here almost constantly.
5. There are many rental properties in the city. The main population is only about 8,000 natives, and up to 80,000 people come here during the season.
6. Moreover, this is the most non-Spanish city in Spain. Most of the owners are yacht lovers from other European countries.
7. The main urban beach of Empuriabrava is marked with a blue flag and controlled by the Red Cross (the beach is considered very safe).
8. Near the beach there are hotels and large parking lots.
9. The border with France is only a few kilometers away, so the French can get here even on such a rarity.
10. The Pyrenees mountain range stretches along the border of France and Spain, so the road closest to the sea is a narrow serpentine between the Spanish city of Portbou and the French Cerbere.
13. “Point of water” – storage of water for extinguishing fires.
14. Emblem of the rescue service.
15. Isthmus of Coll dels Belitres. Here, on the border, the fortifications of the Nazi troops of 1940 were located: firing points and catacombs under them.
16. Access is free.
17. Commemorative monument dedicated to the passage of exiles to France during the Spanish Civil War. From January to February 1939, France opened the border, and about half a million people left Spain to escape the National Army. The return passage of refugees after the capture of France by the Nazi troops also took place here.
18. And this is France – the city of Cerberus (or Cerberus).
19. Serber is a large railway station. Here begins the railway tunnel under the Pyrenees, which leaves already in Catalonia, in Portbou. France and Spain have different railway gauges, so the Iberian gauge (used in Spain and Portugal) goes one way and the standard gauge goes the other way.
20. “A little more and Provence” (C)
21. Not far from the border, in France, is the Cap Rédéris marine reserve.
22. There are hiking trails and diving sites with a very rich underwater world.
23. Map of the reserve.
24. Banyuls-sur-Mer was the end point of our trip. French cuisine in the form of croissants, which we managed to buy from a waitress who understands nothing in any language of the world except French, against the backdrop of the bay and the sun setting over the Pyrenees – a worthy end of the day.
26. We were returning back along the high-speed toll road – it was much faster that way.
Journey to the south of France. Spain in Russian
When Spain is tired and you already want to go abroad and listen to some other unfamiliar language, then the neighboring south of France becomes an excellent alternative to the Catalan coasts.
We start early in the morning, exactly at half past seven we are already rushing along the A-7 highway. The eyes of the vacationer, unaccustomed to early awakenings, willfully close. But you have to look at the sweeping landscapes! We try to listen to the radio, discuss the upcoming breakfast, but after five minutes sleep steadily wins and it is quiet in the minibus until the very border. We open our eyes at the request of the guide and see how the border checkpoint bristled with the same sleepy and unshaven policemen like us. Unlike us, they do not like everything, they are suspicious, and in some ways even rude. They don’t give a damn about the common European space. Every day they break through Spain to the entire Schengen area up to half a ton of drugs. They didn’t seem to be found with us, so we successfully penetrate France in four minutes. To smooth out fleeting unrest, we immediately visit the large roadside complex “Catalan Village”. Spanish is no longer spoken here, but they sell excellent croissants with peach jam and not bad coffee. After breakfast, we climb the observation tower and contemplate the surroundings of the once Catalan lands. Over the past centuries, these lands have repeatedly roamed between Spain and France, finally entrenched in the latter. We don’t linger any longer.
The program included a visit to an oyster farm, but in the morning I somehow didn’t feel like shellfish and decided to drive straight to the town of Koylure. The place is famous for the bloodthirsty and strong-willed tyrant Vauban, who devoted most of his life to strengthening and protecting the city. The settlement of Koylure has been living since the time of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, the summer residence of the kings of Mallorca, luxurious for those times, was located here. Only later did Vauban and then the French turn it into a formidable sea fort. On their initiative, before the entire port of Amont was turned into a serious fortress, but in the twenty-first century militaristic installations gave way to bars, restaurants and tourist cafes. Now on the pier you will not be shot from a cast-iron cannon and you can safely drink beer and eat freshly caught fish while admiring the surf.
In Koylure, all the streets are saturated with the smell of the Templars. History linked an ancient order with this place. The Templars were not so lucky, and unlike the knights themselves, only their wine tradition has survived to this day. Since then, the locals have been justifiably proud of the cheerful drink from Roussillon. It’s not yet noon, but under the onslaught of the guide’s historical arguments, we can’t avoid a wine tasting in a nice little bar on the corner of a winding ancient street.
At the tip of the cape at the end of the embankment, the Church of Notre Dame de Zange has been rising since the 17th century. This is a gloomy medieval building with an oppressive Catholic atmosphere and a huge iconostasis made of gilded wood. One of the walls is attacked by age-old mold caused by sea dampness. No, even modern means do not help. Scoundrels of all stripes have obviously tried to break in at the door of the church more than once. Nearby is the tiny island of St. Vincent, connected to the mainland by a dam and a sand embankment. This is a true symbol of the formation of Christianity in this land. According to the chronicle, it is known that St. Vincent was one of the first who converted to Christianity in these parts. For which he was brutally destroyed along with the whole family directly on this place. Inside it is gloomy, a sour characteristic smell hovers, the man behind the counter has just got drunk and with half-closed eyes looks at a boring small TV set under the ceiling. Almost no attention is paid to us. Inappropriately they try to give cheap sour to drink to tourists. It is only by the smell from the glass that the unsuitability of the liquid for consumption becomes clear. Intuitively and on our own, we find more decent dusty bottles on the top shelf. At this moment, the expression on the owner’s face changes dramatically and with the words “It would have been said right away!” he gleefully drops his business and crawls into the bowels of his closet and brings the right drinks. Dry and semi-sweet fortified vintage wines deserve special attention from the Templars. Their cost reaches two hundred euros per bottle, but the quality is quite consistent with the price. We choose the golden mean and buy half a dozen vessels for the collection. The happy owner personally escorts us to the exit and waves a handkerchief in the wake. (banyuls.com)
As you stroll through the miniature alleys and the hospitable promenade, time passes quickly and lunch miraculously arrives. After researching the opinion of the old-timer Koylura, information appears about a certain local restaurant Neptune, which has one Michelin star. For about half an hour we circle the mountain serpentines above the city in search of a restaurant. All doubts about the seriousness of the institution are dispelled immediately when studying the menu. The classic chic of French cuisine, multiplied by a talented chef and seasoned with the freshest products. On top of that, it’s not too expensive either. Decent wine collection. Each new dish seemed better than the last. Everyone is delighted. Satisfied and tipsy, we leave the hospitable restaurant, admire the view of the city for a few minutes and move on.
The next point of our journey is the ancient city and the castle complex of Carcassonne. It takes about an hour and a half to get there from Koylure by car. This is the legendary center of Christian culture, which became the capital of the struggle of Catholicism against the Cathars and one of the main battle scenes of the Crusade of the Northern Barons in the 13th century AD. against heretics. The history of Carcassonne goes back to the Romans, and all self-respecting bandits, invaders, murderers and fanatics shed their blood on the grass under impregnable walls for more than a thousand years in a row.
We go inside the outer defensive wall through the arch-traps, which were deliberately built by experienced architects in a particularly cunning way, with the expectation of the most effective slaughter of the attacking manpower. On the face of the principle of an exhausting snail. All invaders, breaking through to the center of the complex, had to take turns at high risk of being shot, stabbed, scalded or crushed on several levels of defense until they reached the next gate or moat. Narrow passages are framed on all sides by winding high walls, which are topped in places with the remains of wooden platforms, which were previously quickly installed on the outside of the fortress in anticipation of the onset of large enemy forces. These massive log platforms provided splendid additional space for the militia, archers and spearmen, who made the life of the attackers a real hell with a rain of steel projectiles, thousands of huge stones and endless streams of boiling tar. More than one hundred aggressors lost their talents in these ruthless traps. At the entrance to the fortress city, for some reason, the local municipality installed a genuine antique carousel. This particular merry-go-round is over two hundred years old, meticulously restored, fully operational, and even rideable. But against the backdrop of the ominous Narbonne Gate, next to which bloody rivers flowed for centuries, it looks ridiculous, like a childish clown among a horde of goblin thugs. A kind of black French humor.
But it made sense for the attacking fighters to rush inside. In one of the specially fortified and guarded towers of the castle, the treasury was kept for many centuries. And also every bandit knew that hundreds of wealthy families live behind the high walls, in whose houses there is a lot to profit from in the event of the fall of the fortress. Therefore, there are countless stone patches on the walls of the castle. Sieges sometimes lasted for years, and the destroyed walls had to be restored in brief respite between raids, and any nonsense that came to hand was already used as material. Now we can see fragments of tiles, bricks, kitchen pots and even burnt boards sticking out of the walls in different places.
Today, Carcassonne is an amazing, tiny, medieval world that has survived into the twenty-first century in stunning preservation. Nothing has changed on the streets of the town, except perhaps the clothes of the inhabitants, the quality of food and drinks. With enviable diligence, all buildings were restored and found a new life as shops for tourists, coffee shops, restaurants and private mini-hotels. There is even a luxurious hotel, though the only one in Carcassonne and always without free rooms. If anyone wants to plunge into the era of knights and castles, it will be difficult to find a better place in the South of France. The ideal time to stay in Carcassonne is at least two days. A tourist with a camera will find here many ancient sights that require close study, and in taverns there is a large list of snacks for beer and wine, without tasting which it would be wrong to do. And we, having completed the photo essay, and having drunk beer with seafood, we go further along the coast. Nice is waiting for us.
We are driving in at night. Nice welcomes guests in contrast. On the one hand, city palaces, hotels and casinos sparkle with multi-colored illumination, and from the side of the embankment, the raging sea roars from the impenetrable darkness with roaring boulders of gray waves. We check into the hotel and try to have dinner. It is not even midnight yet, but all the restaurants in Nice are already closed. The streets are empty, and you can only go to a couple of casinos, where there is also nothing to eat. Little by little, native Barcelona begins to be remembered. There would be no problem with dinner. But suddenly we find a coastal eatery, where the lights are still not extinguished and we have not had time to turn over the chairs. We go in and, in a hurry, order the first salads, wine and meat that come across. Given that the last time we had a normal dinner more than a day ago, the appetite is brutal. But the quality of the food leaves much to be desired. A large and colorful piece of foil from a wrapper was found in the scrambled eggs with cheese, gouge out the eye of wine, lettuce leaves with collective farm sand, and on the plates there were traces from the meal of past customers. But surprisingly, the institution is doing well. Within half an hour, while we were trying to fish out the edible component from the dishes with unwashed forks, a dozen tables around were filled with new customers. What was our emotion when, listening, we realized that all the visitors without exception are our compatriots! Probably the consequences of a socialist malnutrition.
Considering that we drove to Nice for almost six hours, of which, snoring peacefully, we did not lose a single minute, now we did not feel like sleeping. After trying to look into a nightclub, where eight young men over fifty were twitching sadly in the company of swarthy women with magnificent forms, there was no choice left. Let’s go to one of the nearby casinos. In general, separately about casinos – they are different in Nice, not the same as in Spain. Weird people work here who don’t care if you win a lot of cash from them or squander your money in a frenzy. They are equally friendly, internally balanced and do not burn out with the desire to rob the client to the skin as quickly as possible, as in Barcelona or Madrid. At the poker table, in general, the change was actually handled by hands and they were also allowed to buy more cards! Like in the movies. Maybe this time we were simply lucky, maybe it’s just easier to win in Nice than in Spain, but we left in just an hour and with a good plus.
We got up at eight in the morning and went to Monaco for breakfast. On the way, we drank coffee in a roadside bistro and accidentally visited a museum and a perfume factory founded in 1747 by Jean de Galimard. The tour did not take much time, the museum had one name, but even two small halls and no more than fifty exhibits created a complete picture of obtaining natural cosmetics from herbs, flowers and roots. I especially liked the old distillers, from which it was impossible to move away, they were so shiny and fragrant. It turns out semi-mystical belief that the smell can be extracted from almost everything in fact close enough to the truth. We bought amazing essential oils of lavender, rose, vanilla and mandarin in the store located at the factory. Such a weighty bottle costs no more than ten euros, and one micro droplet is enough to then be tormented to wash your hands of them for a couple of days. In fact, nothing better than traditional methods in perfumery seems to have been invented yet. And in expensive stores they sell not perfumes, but pitiful imitations, in which there are no more than 5 percent of real fragrances! So I thought!
Monaco met with partly cloudy weather. By the way, in these Pyrenees the weather is absolutely not normal. That dazzling sun, then a minute later it starts to rain, I don’t understand from where, then some kind of prickly hooligan wind comes up and takes away your favorite cap. The low clouds of deep, heavy hues in most of our landscape photographs are not a bit different from the real thing. But the breakfasts here are not so tasty. In general, in France, the level of deliciousness of the usual average food is significantly lower than in Spain. There are no special reasons, most likely it is a matter of lifestyle. The French, in comparison with the Spaniards, work much more, eat noticeably less and faster, and the speed of working events here is higher and will not allow too much attention to be paid to food. Officially, lunch in Nice lasts only an hour, for this reason we were not able to eat properly for two days, except for a visit to the world-famous Louis XV (Le Louis XV). But about this separately and in detail. Louis XV is located in the heart of Monaco on the central square in the hotel lobby. Considering our extensive experience in luxury dining and the grandiose fame of the institution, it seemed especially interesting to visit there. We were received at the entrance by two lovely girls, which is restrained, but cordially pleased with the availability of free tables. One of them immediately escorted me to the dining room. The decoration of the hall from the first second causes affection and sentimental sighs. Tall ceilings, all in gold molding and academically executed genre painting, incredible-sized bouquets of fresh flowers, gracefully and accurately scattered around the hall in fundamental vases, silverware sparkling on snow-white tablecloths, elegantly and silently sterile plate. This is what we did well, in the top ten!
Studying the menu took at least a quarter of an hour, and it was generally scary to pick up a wine list, because it was not inferior in size to a complete geographical atlas of the world. After hungry throwing between delicacy names, everyone unanimously made a democratic decision – to order a common tasting menu. It turned out to be nine dishes. Flavors varied from green salad with wild herbs to marinated fish platter, from shrimp almost stirring on a plate to duck liver, and from tender lamb on its own bone to marbled veal smoked on alder branches just before serving. Then there were desserts, which, like everything else, scattered in the mouth with bright flashes of impeccable tastes, gradually replacing each other. The meter and his assistants for the entire time of our meal, measured and with an arrangement that lasted at least three hours, vigilantly controlled with their vigilant eyes, both the change of delicacies and the tray of wines corresponding to the dishes. No matter how hard we tried, but not once during the entire dinner we were not able to find a single mistake, both in the culinary issue and in service. After an hour of virtuoso behavior of the staff, we began to involuntarily glance at the neighboring tables, where stately elderly couples from all parts of Europe ate, but even there the hand of the garcon never trembled and did not forget about anything. Gorgeous, amazing training and masterful cuisine beyond any praise. Leaving Louis XV, you understand that you will definitely come here several more times. By the way, the cost of such a holiday does not knock down. A high-class dinner will cost no more than 130 euros per person, excluding alcohol, which, in comparison with world prices on the principle of price / quality, can be safely called a royal gift.
But the casino in Monaco is discouraging. From the once chic gambling establishment they turned into a tourist yard. They take money for the entrance, there are crowds of Chinese, Turks, Germans inside, all without money and with disposable cameras, and they go inside like a herd just to stare stupidly. Some, having broken through and stunned by the atmosphere, still risk sacrificing their hard-earned twenty euros, being in the sincere hope of getting rich, and immediately and forever. As a result, a sweaty, panting crowd, because of which it is simply impossible to approach the tables with roulette and cards, and the hall with slot machines works on the principle of no winning lottery. The machines are so calibrated that no matter how many coins fall into them, nothing will fall in response. Compared to Nice, the casino in Monaco is an outright shameless scam and robbery, designed for a brainless layman who came here for the first and last time in his life as a pensioner victim.
But I was pleased with the museum of cars or, more correctly, the personal collection of cars of the prince. It is exhibited in the city center in a spacious pavilion and is available for a visit for a few euros to anyone. Inside, it will be easy for fans of the motor and the wheel to get stuck for a couple of hours. Vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to self-propelled carts and incredibly rare copies of author’s cars produced in a single copy. We spent much more time there than expected. Each car on display is like a living one. Slowly, I want to look into his salon, touch the ancient upholstery worn to a shine, and in response to the touch, he begins his stories about the past. Apparently, the level of energy and public attention of the events accompanying these cars was so high that they have retained part of that excitement to this day. You start to peer and see the mirages of the past in the frilly headlights, curves of the body and nickel-plated trim. Received a lot of positive impressions from the visit. We circled a little more in the center, watched the changing of the guard on the square near the palace, learned from the guide about some historical skirmishes and insidious fuss around the throne. Nothing new or out of the ordinary – solid betrayals, murders, forgeries, coups, night massacres, incest, child murder and other delights of European palace life.
On the embankment, they found a logically unattached, but working and full-fledged Japanese park. Walking along it took half an hour, and it should be noted that it significantly improved the general mood. The photographs clearly show the thoroughness with which its creators sought to bring their offspring closer to authentic analogues in Japan. They certainly succeeded. The main thing is that both tourists and locals like it, people go there, sit by the water and with smart faces catch the fleeting essence of our difficult life. We drive back to Nice and walk around the architectural sights. There are many of them in Nice, they are pleasant, they do not have bulging eyes and disposable cameras. We definitely recommend visiting the hill with the ruins of the fortress and the observation deck at the top. From there you have a view of the whole city and surrounding lands, and there are also several cozy cafes for respite. In the city center, you can stroll through the morning market, where they sell everything you can, from flowers and vegetables to soap and tobacco. The sellers are quite friendly and polite, but again, not intrusive and self-sufficient. In Nice, all trade is conducted with tact and arrangement. No one shows a zealous desire to give you their goods, just like the sellers themselves do not like to bargain. Shops ranging from prestigious vintage boutiques to small private shops are not significantly different from any other major European city. There are several commercial avenues where a tourist can quickly find the right sign and buy goods no worse than in Paris or Rome. In terms of pricing policy, nothing special was noted. Prices are like prices, everything is even, without huge discounts or speculations, the staff in the stores is nice, polite, runs with pleasure to look for the right size and generally actively moves on demand.
You can dine in Nice on any corner, but you will get poisoned. The level of food for an afternoon snack leaves much to be desired. The search for a decent offer is overwhelming. All restaurants are cheap, they feed there on the principle of “eat to survive.” Large terraces with wicker furniture, packed with tourists and local office workers, speak for themselves. There is a mess on the plates, everything is burnt, floating in oil, sloppy and not pleasantly smelling. But people eat it in a hurry, quickly drink it down and run away on their own business. With great difficulty we found a good restaurant La petite Maison, but while we were looking for it, the kitchen was already closed there in cold blood. As a result, they miraculously squeezed into a neighboring institution and on their knees persuaded us to give us what they themselves could. They dined without appetite, the food was terrible, there was longing in the eyes and the soul was torn in Louis XV. As for emigrants and people of a non-European race, things are difficult in Nice. There are a lot of people with a different skin color and different religions from European ones. These people in their bulk vegetate at the poverty line and do not consider the coast as a place to relax. They are here in the process of daily survival and search for means of subsistence, with the only difference being that in their historical homeland all this would be forty times more difficult. There are many Negroes who are ready to sell glasses and handkerchiefs around the clock on the pavement, there are many Arabs who do not show an ounce of joy when walking along the embankment after a fourteen-hour day in the kitchen of tourist restaurants. The only escape from the general oppressive impression caused by this part of the population of the south of France is their definite geographical local fixation in the cities. They have their own areas of residence, albeit vast, but at a sufficient distance from the center. By the way, it is not recommended for a white vacationer to appear there either during the day or in the evening. You won’t find anything funny there.
In half an hour we are already walking through the old city. We visited a noble house, in which the prudent heirs of noble persons set up a museum on two floors, and on the third they live modestly. The impression is ambiguous, twilight, antique furniture, a lot of withered paintings with unfortunate characters, the rooms smell of smoldering. We leave faster. For a while we wander aimlessly through the beautiful streets and look at the people. People, by the way, are just people – we liked them the most in Nice, Monaco and Cannes. Everyone has joyful open faces, both children and adults and the elderly – all dressed with taste, but not pretentiously, philosophical, friendly, relaxed smiles on their lips. At first glance, it becomes clear that they live well, there are no dangerous enemies in the district, in the morning there are no unsolvable problems or many years of oppressive financial difficulties. Already in Cannes, I suddenly caught myself doing a strange thing. I noticed that for a good couple of hours I have been doing spy shooting of pedestrians walking along the embankment. When viewing the pictures, I found that the inhabitants of Nice and Cannes love to eat ice cream most of all. If they find it, they immediately lick it, suck it, bite it and just swallow it, well, it looks like that, at least, judging by the many street photos. The southern French are happy people with ice cream, and everyone is like children!
The return to Barcelona was quick. We drove at night and slept most of the way. The overall impression of the trip was excellent. We unloaded already in the first hour of the night and, having heard our native Spanish, smiled in unison. And the first thing we did after getting rid of the suitcases was to look into the dear tapas bar on the corner. The bartender with a grin followed our hungry eyes, fussily running around the showcases rich in pickles. How nice it is to be at home in Spain!
All pictures of
- Catalan village and Coylure
- Nice, Montecarlo, Cannes
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