Photograph of the week: Bran Castle, Romania – A Luxury Travel Blog

For many Bran Castle may be synonymous with “vampires” or “horror stories” but in reality is more of a beautiful medieval castle than a haunted place.

How did its association with Dracula come by then? We might attribute at least part of the reason to its location. Bran Castle is set in Transylvania region, Romania, close to the city of Brasov. It is perched on a dramatic hilltop above a valley and it is surrounded by a deep green forest, which gives it an air of mystery.

According to Bram Stoker’s book, his character, the vampire prince Dracula, lived in “a castle located high above a valley perched on a rock with a flowing river below”. The similarity between the fictional description and the reality is astonishing.

The other part of the reason is the Romanian ruler, Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), who
supposedly was used by Bram Stoker as an inspiration for his book. Vlad the Impaler ruled the historical region of Wallachia in the 15 th century and he was known for his cruel methods of punishment, which drove his enemies away in fear. His favorite means of execution was the impalement and there are many stories in the local folklore related to this.

Besides his cruel nature, Vlad Tepes was the son of Vlad Dracul, a name very similar to
Dracula. In reality Dracul meant “the Dragon” in medieval Romanian and was a sobriquet received by his father after he became a member of the Order of the Dragon.

Many believe that the castle was inhabited by Vlad Tepes, but there are no historical records of this ever happening. Despite this, the bloodthirsty count's story is so popular and widespread that almost no one cares about the truth. The legend of Dracula is one, the story of Vlad Tepes is something else, but this "confusion" put the small town and its castle on the map of international tourism and has brought since then thousands of visitors to the area.

A visit inside the castle will reveal to you its true nature. Bran Castle started as a fortification, built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13 th century, after which, more than one hundred years later, at the end of the 14th century the actual castle was built by the Saxon community of Transylvania to protect the ongoing military invasion of the region and the trading route.

In the 20 th century the castle became a royal family residence after it was offered to Queen Mary of Romania as a reward for her help during World War I and the 1918 union of the country. It became one of the Queen’s favorite residences and she arranged it to become worthy of the royal family. It was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana and for a period of time belonged to the communists, but nowadays it is back in the possession of the Princess’ inheritors, who operate it as a museum and leave it open for the public.

The museum occupies four floors and hosts several objects of furniture, costumes, weapons, and personal items of the royal family, brought here mainly by the Habsburg family from their personal collection. The bedrooms and living area are tastefully decorated, although in no way opulent. The most interesting rooms to discover are the Music Salon and Queen Mary’s Bedroom.

Those looking for frightening experiences may also see an unusual display of torture tools in a room. It is a fascinating, but macabre part of history, so it is recommended that only people over the age of 18 enter the exhibition area. Of course, a tour would not be complete without a room dedicated to the legendary Dracula character.

The outside fortifications are impressive and they will take you back to medieval times. They include shooting ranges, narrow staircases and even a secret exit, which was once known only to soldiers. If the invaders managed to enter the fortress, the soldiers used this passage to climb to the top of the castle from where they threw stones and hot tar at the attackers to drive them away.

On the southern side of the hill we find a small village museum with traditional houses of the Rucar-Bran area, which highlights the local architecture and the old traditional occupations of the people: agriculture, animal husbandry, wool and wood processing.

Usually Bran Castle can be visited every day, although at this moment, due to the COVID situation it is closed to the public. As an interesting fact, sometimes it is listed on Airbnb for Halloween. Two people can get the opportunity to spend the night in the beautiful castle, sleeping in specially designed coffins.

Whether you are looking to uncover its mysteries or to capture its majestic looks, Bran Castle will make your visit worthwhile!

Thank you to Daniel Rosca from Romania Photo Tours for permission to share the photograph.

If you have a really special photograph you would like to share with A Luxury Travel Blog‘s readers, please contact us.

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Is this the 'greatest safari in the world'?

Wildly luxurious! The £102K safari billed ‘the world’s greatest’ where guests fly to plush African lodges in an Emirates A319 PRIVATE JET, which has 10 bedroom suites and a shower spa

  • The Roar Africa Emirates Executive Private Jet Safari’s itinerary includes Africa’s Holy Grail experiences
  • It will take in Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, Kenya’s Great Migration, and mountain gorillas in Rwanda
  • The trip, which takes place in August 2021 and is being offered to just 10 people, begins in Dubai

It’s being billed as ‘the greatest safari in the world’ – though some might conclude that it’s the greatest holiday in the world. Full stop.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not cheap. You’ll need to find $125,000 (£102,000) to book a place on the ‘Roar Africa Emirates Executive Private Jet Safari’, but for that whopping sum, you’ll go ‘beyond first class’, flown on a bespoke Emirates A319 – complete with 10 private suites and a ‘shower spa’ – to four jaw-dropping African camps and lodges.

And the 12-day itinerary includes Africa’s ‘Holy Grail’ experiences – taking in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World), the Okavango Delta in Botswana (the largest inland delta in the world), Kenya’s Great Migration, and the world’s last wild mountain gorillas in the forests of Rwanda.

‘The greatest safari in the world’ will see guests flown around Africa on an Emirates A319 private jet (pictured)

The Emirates A319 (pictured) will be the sole means of international transport throughout the entire journey

The jet, said Emirates, was ‘created for guests who want to go beyond first class and reflects the glamour of a bygone era, when air travel was both exclusive and an integral aspect of luxury travel experiences’

The trip, which takes place in August 2021 and is being offered to just 10 people, begins with a night at the five-star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.

The Emirates A319 the guests board the next day for Africa will be the sole means of international transport throughout the entire journey.

They will feel like royalty – if they aren’t already.

The Emirates private A319 has a ‘powder room, an expansive lounge which functions as a communal gathering space or restaurant, and a cabin crew committed to providing the highest levels of personal service’. And five-star bathrooms

The Emirates A319 has 10 private suites, pictured. On the safari flight the guests will enjoy screenings of documentaries about Africa from notables such as historian David Attenborough

The 12-day itinerary includes Africa’s ‘Holy Grail’ experiences – taking in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World), the Okavango Delta in Botswana (the largest inland delta in the world), Kenya’s Great Migration, and the world’s last wild mountain gorillas in the forests of Rwanda. Pictured are the suites on the Emirates A319

The jet, said Emirates, was ‘created for guests who want to go beyond first class and reflects the glamour of a bygone era, when air travel was both exclusive and an integral aspect of luxury travel experiences’.

As well as private suites and a private shower spa, there’s also a ‘powder room, an expansive lounge which functions as a communal gathering space or restaurant, and a cabin crew committed to providing the highest levels of personal service’.

Guests will also enjoy screenings of documentaries about Africa from notables such as historian David Attenborough, conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and environmentalist and filmmaker Craig Foster.

All the destinations for the trip – which is being run jointly with ultra-luxe travel firm Roar Africa – have been hand-picked ‘because of their shared vision and commitment to creating a better future, combined with the charm and hospitality of their local communities and residents’.

They’re also extremely luxuriously.

The first destination, on August 18, 2021, is Mpala Jena Camp, located in the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe, a few miles upstream from Victoria Falls.

The first destination, on August 18, 2021, is Mpala Jena Camp (pictured), located in the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe

All the rooms at Mpala Jena Camp, pictured, boast private plunge pools with views of the Zambezi River

Its website says: ‘The camp’s guest tents are under flowing canvas, with open (yet netted) views of the river and Moroccan influences throughout the décor, a reference to the early Arab explorer’s adventures up the Zambezi in search of gold in the 16th century. Decking in front of the tent leads to a private plunge pool with views of the flowing waters of the Zambezi River.’

The second lodge, which the guests will arrive at on August 20, is Duba Plains Okavango Delta in Botswana, which ‘evokes the classic African safari style of the 1920’s’ with ‘rooms raised on recycled railway sleeper decking and with stunning views of the surrounding floodplain’.

On August 23 the guests will arrive at the incredible Mara Plains Camp in the Kenyan Maasai Mara. MailOnline Travel can vouch for this one. The author of this story stayed there in 2016, describing it as ‘a camp that specialises in making its guests feel like they’re kings and queens of the savannah’, that ‘takes glamping into uncharted territory with luxuriousness and service I didn’t know could exist in tents’.

The second lodge, which the guests will arrive at on August 20, is Duba Plains Okavango Delta (pictured) in Botswana

Ultra-luxury lodge: Duba Plains ‘evokes the classic African safari style of the 1920’s’

The rooms at Duba Plains are raised on recycled railway sleeper decking and have ‘stunning views of the surrounding floodplain’


August 17, 2021 – Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

August 18, 19 – Mpala Jena Camp, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

August 20, 21, 22 – Duba Plains Okavango Delta 

August 23, 24, 25 – Mara Plains Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya

August 26, 27, 28 – Singita Kwitonda, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda 

The fourth stopover, on August 26, is at Singita Kwitonda in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

It has an ‘unparalleled position [that] puts life-changing gorilla-trekking experiences within easy reach’, along with eight luxurious suites with private heated plunge pools.

Plus ‘large timber-framed windows that welcome the breathtaking scenery and volcano views inside’.

On August 23 the Roar Africa Emirates guests will arrive at the incredible Mara Plains Camp (pictured) in Kenya

The fourth stopover, on August 26, is at Singita Kwitonda (pictured) in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park 

Singita Kwitonda has an ‘unparalleled position [that] puts life-changing gorilla-trekking experiences within easy reach’. And nice bath tubs

Deborah Calmeyer, founder and CEO of Roar Africa

The expert chaperones accompanying the group, meanwhile, include Deborah Calmeyer, founder and CEO of Roar Africa, Humphrey Gumbo, Roar Africa’s specialist safari guide with nearly 20 years of professional guiding experience in multiple African countries – and Dr. Ian McCallum, ‘renowned poet, conservationist and psychiatrist who is one of the most eloquent ambassadors for wilderness and wild animals’.

Guests will also ‘enjoy interacting with other seasoned professionals in their respective fields with extensive knowledge of their African homeland’.

Included among the ‘notable participants who will impart fascinating facts and keen insights into the regions visited’ is Zoologist Dr. Lucy King, who will ‘speak to her personal conservation journey with elephants, bees, and villages’.

Ms Calmeyer explained that the bucket list experience is designed to deepen knowledge of the natural world.

She said: ‘It has never been more important than now to curate experiences that facilitate an understanding of how the natural world works. We have curated this strategic itinerary by working from a place of deep insight and acute understanding of Africa’s many strengths and complexities. We have painstakingly selected profound destinations and intimate wildlife discoveries to reveal what must be done to ensure that Africa’s people, nature and animals survive and thrive. 

‘And knowing that time is a non-renewable resource, guests will appreciate the absolute exclusivity and unparalleled ease of travel.

‘This authentic experience not only sets a new paradigm in ultra-luxe adventure and sustainable travel, but is a robust catalyst for change by facilitating active participation and insightful dialogue between informed, conscious travellers and local communities. Our goal is to change the philosophy and worldview of leaders, and I truly believe this is the greatest and most impactful safari experience on earth… it will make your wildest dreams come true.’

The trip will be ‘carbon neutral with high-quality offsets’ and Roar Africa will be donating 100 per cent of the trip’s proceeds to The Great Plains Foundation, which ‘will go directly towards conservation education programs for young people who live in and around the areas visited’.

The Roar Africa Emirates Executive Private Jet African Safari will also be offered August 28 to September 7, 2022, and in 2023 (dates to be determined). 

For more information about the Roar Africa Emirates Executive Private Jet Safari visit and

Coming soon – film producer Frank Mannion’s engaging account of a five-day Out of Africa tour with Roar Africa.

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Jet2 extends the cancellation of all flights and holidays until July 1

Jet2 extends the cancellation period of all flights and holidays to July 1 in light of ‘ongoing travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic’

  • Travel firm previously said flights and holidays would recommence on June 17 
  • But it pushed back the date, saying health and safety was its ‘absolute priority’
  • Jet2 says all affected holidaymakers will be contacted to discuss options  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Jet2 has extended the cancellation period of all of its flights and holidays until July 1.

The tour operator, which is Britain’s second-biggest holiday company, had previously said that its flights and holidays would recommence on June 17.

But today, the firm said that in view of the ongoing travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it was pushing this date back by two weeks, adding that ‘the health and safety of our customers is our absolute priority’.

Jet2 has extended the cancellation period of all of its flights and holidays until July 1 

A spokesperson for Jet2 said: ‘Like all other airlines and tour operators, the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted us.

‘With aircraft grounded, our focus has been on looking after customers whose flights and holidays have been affected, and we are very proud to have been recognised as the best airline and best tour operator in the UK for how we have been treating customers in response to the pandemic, according to a major investigative survey by

‘Our teams have been working around the clock to look after customers and independent travel agents, and we can assure everyone affected by today’s announcement that they will receive the same level of service.

‘Customers who were due to travel before July 1 do not need to contact us. We are continuing to proactively contact customers to discuss their options, one of which is rebooking their holiday to a later date.

‘We know just how important holidays are to our customers, and how much they give customers something to look forward to, particularly after a difficult time such as this. If a customer has a booking that is due to depart on or after July 1, the booking is subject to our normal terms and conditions.

‘We have said throughout that the sun will shine again and when it does, we will be there to take customers away on their well-deserved holidays.

‘As well as taking them away for their much-needed holidays, customers can be assured that we will be implementing measures, in consultation with the relevant authorities, to ensure the safety and well-being of everybody on board. We will announce further details on this in due course.’

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to warn Britons against all non-essential travel abroad 

Yesterday, it was revealed that British travellers are backing the idea of travel ‘corridors’ and ‘bubbles’, with searches for holidays to Italy and France rocketing this week.

Ministers are mulling coronavirus ‘air bridges’ to allow travellers to move between countries without the need for quarantine once the outbreak is under control. And Italy, Spain and Greece have all made headlines with announcements around the re-introduction of tourism.

Skyscanner revealed that in response, searches from the UK for holidays in July in Italy are up 103 per cent this week compared to last week and for trips to France by 128 per cent. Overall searches for international travel in July have increased by 37 per cent in the past two weeks.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals in the UK would be introduced from next month.

But he disclosed that there are ‘active discussions’ going on over what countries could be exempted from the regime in future, referring to the idea of ‘air bridges’ – usually used to refer to military flights over enemy territory.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to warn Britons against all non-essential travel abroad. 

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Road trips won't be the same this summer. Here's what you should plan for

Summer road trips will feel very different this year, with fewer cars on the road as the country begins to reopen slowly following restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

a view of a city street filled with lots of traffic: Cash tolls will return on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway on Tuesday May 19th at 6:30 AM. Cash tolls were suspended on March 24th as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19 and all tolls were collected either by E-ZPass or by the temporary toll-by-mail process. Toll collectors will be wearing gloves, face masks, and plastic face shields and drivers who intend to pay with cash are encouraged to wear face masks as they travel through the toll lanes.

Ahead of Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer travel season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home as much as possible.

The CDC advises people to not travel if they’re sick, are in a higher-risk group for the coronavirus or live with someone who is. Higher-risk groups include people 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions.

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But many Americans are considering road trips as a minimal-contact vacation option as opposed to the close quarters of traveling by plane. Those who do make summer travel driving plans may encounter checkpoints at state lines, quarantine orders, closed welcome centers and rest areas, and fewer open hotels and restaurants.

Social distancing guidelines remain in place, and travelers may be required to wear a face mask when they stop for gas, groceries or other supplies.

“I don’t think this is going to be like any other kind of summer,” said Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. “Everything is going to be very different.”

The good news? Travelers will benefit from the lowest gas prices in 17 years, according to AAA. The national average is $1.87, about a dollar lower than a year ago. AAA says to expect prices to rise above $2 over the summer as states reopen and demand increases.

Summer road trippers will need to do more planning and preparation than they might otherwise. Hotel reservations should be made in advance, directly with the hotel. Motorists should plan on eating take-out food or bringing their own. They should check ahead to see which welcome centers and rest stops may be closed.

AAA has an interactive map that shows state-by-state restrictions that may affect road trippers. However, information is changing quickly, spokesman Jim Stratton said, so travelers should check multiple sources to see what they should expect at their destination and along the way.

The National Governors Association also has a state-by-state interactive map that shows coronavirus-related state restrictions and conditions travelers should know.

Checkpoints and quarantines

Rhode Island and Florida require drivers entering the state to check in. 

Roadside checkpoints on interstates are set up to check for potential coronavirus cases. Drivers are diverted from the interstate to a rest area or weigh station, where they fill out a form provided by state police. Commercial trucks are allowed to bypass the screening.

Since March, Florida has required drivers from Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to quarantine for 14 days, or the duration of their stay in the state, whichever is shorter. The restriction does not apply to airline employees, military personnel, commercial drivers or health care workers.

Travelers to Rhode Island must quarantine on arrival unless traveling for business. All cars with out-of-state plates are required to stop.

Texas ended roadside checkpoints at the Louisiana border in late April.

While most states may not have border checkpoints, some still require a 14-day quarantine for visitors.

Border crossings

The U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders have been closed to nonessential travel since late March and will remain closed until June 22, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.

Welcome centers and rest areas

Some welcome centers and rest areas are closed, and travelers should check each state’s transportation department website for the most up-to-date information.

Masks and social distancing

Several states require people to wear face coverings in public: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island. Many others recommend it.  

Social distancing guidelines remain in effect across the country, discouraging large gatherings and encouraging people to stay six feet apart.

Cashless tolls

State and regional tolling authorities across the country have closed their cash toll collection. If you don’t have a transponder such as E-ZPass, expect to be billed by mail. That includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the New York Thruway, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Ohio Turnpike toll collectors still take cash, but have been provided with nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The Indiana Toll Road has advised drivers paying with cash to expect delays at toll plazas due to reduced staffing.

The Florida Turnpike has stopped taking cash tolls. Those who do not have a SunPass account will receive an invoice by mail. The Florida Department of Transportation is temporarily waiving the $2.50 invoice administrative fee.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has switched to all-electronic tolling at its bridges and tunnels. Delaware’s toll roads and bridges have also gone cashless.

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Inside the Airbnb villa used as Marcus's house in White Lines

Through the keyhole of the villa used as Marcus’s Ibizan house in hit Netflix series White Lines – which is available to rent on Airbnb for £1,100 a night

  • The real-life villa is called Villa Can Pirata and is actually located in Cala d’Or in Majorca 
  • The listing says: ‘Fantastic seafront luxury villa with pool, direct access to the pier and to the swimming area’ 
  • Netflix describes White Lines as a ‘thrilling series from the creator of Money Heist’ 

You’ve seen the hit show – now rent the villa (once the lockdown lifts).

It turns out that the seaside abode used as the Ibizan home of Marcus in trending Netflix series White Lines is available to rent on Airbnb – for around £1,100 a night.

And here we take you through the keyhole – and around the pool – of this most enticing of abodes.

The seaside abode used as the Ibizan home of Marcus in trending Netflix series White Lines is available to rent on Airbnb – for around £1,100 a night. The picture above is from the Airbnb listing

On-screen version: The villa as seen in White Lines, which has taken Netflix by storm

The real-life villa is actually called Villa Can Pirata and is located in Cala d’Or in Majorca.

It can accommodate 10 guests and boasts four bathrooms.

The listing says: ‘Fantastic seafront luxury villa with pool, direct access to the pier and to the swimming area.

‘It features one bedroom in the main house, three more bedrooms in the guest area, private terraces, a porch with lounge and dining area, and wonderful views of the sea.’

The real-life villa is called Villa Can Pirata and is located in Cala d’Or in Majorca

The listing says: ‘Fantastic seafront luxury villa with pool, direct access to the pier and to the swimming area’

Villa Can Pirata can accommodate 10 guests and boasts four bathrooms

Good restaurants and bars are nearby, the listing adds.

The reviews that have been posted for it so far have been very positive.

‘Elisabeth’ said: ‘Beautiful views and scenery and very charming house. Very easy and a short walking distance to restaurants, shops and grocery markets, although Cala D’or is very touristy and we tried to explore other cities for more authenticity and classic Mallorcan buildings etc.

The villa boasts wonderful views of the sea, with good restaurants and bars nearby

The reviews that have been posted for Villa Can Pirata so far have been very positive

Airbnb reviewer ‘Christopher’ said: ‘A beautiful house and location. Friendly and accommodating service. Wish we were still there’

Guests can scamper down these steps – straight to the glistening warm waters of the Mediterranean 

‘Everything you need is, however, within a short walk and it’s a great place for families with or without children. We would love to come back sometime.’

And ‘Christopher’ said: ‘A beautiful house and location. Friendly and accommodating service. Wish we were still there.’

Netflix describes White Lines as a ‘thrilling series from the creator of Money Heist’ in which ‘the body of a legendary Manchester DJ is discovered 20 years after his mysterious disappearance from Ibiza’.

It continues: ‘When his sister returns to the beautiful Spanish island to find out what happened, her investigation leads her through a thrilling world of dance clubs, lies and cover-ups, forcing her to confront the darker sides of her own character in a place where people live life on the edge.’  

Reviewer ‘Elisabeth’ said: ‘Beautiful views and scenery and very charming house. Very easy and a short walking distance to restaurants, shops and grocery markets’

 Netflix describes White Lines as a ‘thrilling series from the creator of Money Heist’

The villa, it has been said, is an excellent place for families, with or without children

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The solar-powered floating Airbnb villa in Sydney's Palm Beach

Water place to stay! The astonishing solar-powered floating Airbnb villa for two moored in Sydney’s exclusive Palm Beach

  • Lilypad Palm Beach lies in Pittwater Bay, a body of water protected by the exclusive Palm Beach peninsula 
  • The luxury floating villa boasts a double bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and a private boat for exploring 
  • There is also a wine cellar stocked with Veuve Cliquot Champagne, a private chef and a personal concierge 

Want to splash out on the ultimate post-lockdown romantic getaway? This Airbnb rental moored off the Sydney coast might float your boat.

Welcome aboard Lilypad Palm Beach, which boasts a double bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, a private boat for exploring the coastline, a wine cellar stocked with Veuve Clicquot Champagne and a personal chef. 

It lies in Pittwater Bay, a body of water sheltered by the exclusive Palm Beach peninsula, which is 28 miles from Sydney’s city centre and where many wealthy Australians have swanky holiday homes.

Lilypad Palm Beach is a floating Airbnb rental moored off the Sydney coast in Pittwater Bay, a body of water sheltered by the exclusive Palm Beach peninsula

Even though the villa is just metres from the shore, the owners of Lilypad say it ‘feels a million miles away’

The luxurious bedroom at Lilypad. The villa also boasts a bathroom, a kitchen, a private boat so guests can explore the surrounding beaches and a wine cellar that includes Veuve Clicquot Champagne

Even though the villa is just metres from the shore, the owners of Lilypad say it ‘feels a million miles away’. And those who have tried the villa agree that it’s a tranquil and altogether quite special place to be.

One happy customer wrote on Airbnb: ‘This place is amazing – it’s such a unique yet relaxing experience.’

Another said: ‘Amazing stay and such a unique experience. Food and wine were plentiful and of great quality.’

While a third raved: ‘If you want an amazing, high-end unique stay you cannot go past Lilypad. An amazing location, fantastic accommodation and an all-round great time in a beautiful part of the world.’

A night’s stay in the villa, which is 100 per cent solar-powered, starts from AUS$1,650 (£885/$1,080), with the price including other perks such as a private concierge, onboard breakfast items supplied by nearby restaurant Boat House Palm Beach and use of paddleboards, fishing rods and a floating day bed.

Those booking a two-night stay also receive a complimentary dinner for two at the ‘iconic’ Barrenjoey House, with a private boat transfer (value AUS$350, £187, $230).

A night’s stay in the villa, which is 100 per cent solar-powered, starts from AUS$1,650 (£885/$1,080)

Chuck Anderson, the brainchild behind Lilypad, said: ‘We have built a space that is for true relaxation and enjoyment of the natural beauty where Lilypad exists’

Guests can also purchase additional extras such as seaplane transfers from Rose Bay, luxury chauffeured vehicles and onboard beauty treatments.

Even though Lilypad only sleeps up to two guests, the owners say it can also be used as an ‘event venue to host friends, family or clients’ and can host up to 16 people.

It can also be booked as a day spa venue for up to six guests.

Chuck Anderson, the brainchild behind Lilypad, said: ‘We have built a space that is for true relaxation and enjoyment of the natural beauty where Lilypad exists.

The owners of Lilypad say it can be used as an ‘event venue to host friends, family or clients’ and can host up to 16 people. It can also be booked as a day spa venue for up to six guests

Perks include a private concierge, onboard breakfast items supplied by nearby restaurant Boat House Palm Beach and use of paddleboards, fishing rods and a floating day bed 

‘It is the perfect venue to either reset from the world in ultimate comfort or host friends and colleagues in a way like never before.

‘The design and construction of Lilypad was a feat in engineering to ensure guests could experience luxury accommodation on an entirely stable surface, whilst drifting with the rhythmic sounds and movements of the ocean.

‘Growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and spending much of my life around boats, I always had a vision to create something truly special that people can now enjoy as their own, a design space and service that would eliminate the pitfalls of the traditional boating experience whilst amplifying the rest.’

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The shortest flight route in the US is now a 29-mile American Airlines trip connecting two of Colorado's most wealthy resort towns

a large passenger jet flying through a cloudy blue sky: American Airlines AP

Two of America’s most lavish towns are now connected through a 29-mile American Airlines route. 

From May 21 until at least June 1, you can fly between Aspen, Colorado, and Vail, Colorado. American Airlines launched the 35-minute service as part of a circle route that connects Aspen, Vail, and Montrose, Colorado, with America’s Dallas-Fort Worth hub, as The Points Guy first reported from Cirium schedule data.

Those who are flying on the route don’t need to disembark in Vail or Aspen, The Points Guy reported. 

It’s currently the shortest commercial plane ride you can take in the US, beating a 31-mile Alaska Airlines loop, and it happens to connect two of the country’s most famously wealthy resort towns. Vail’s median home value is $1 million, while Aspen’s median home value is $1.9 million, according to Zillow. 

Aspen is one of the four ski destinations on Earth where properties consistently sell more than $25 million, as Business Insider’s Lina Batarags reported. The Bezos and Dell families both own homes on Aspen’s so-called “Billionaire Mountain.”

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Alyse Kalish/Business Insider

The reason these two ultra-wealthy enclaves are now connected stems back to the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law in late March. 

Airlines may only suspend service to up to 11 cities that they served pre-coronavirus in order to receive much-needed aid through the CARES Act. But passenger travel has collapsed by 93%, so flying these so-called “ghost planes” on a lengthy route would not be profitable.

As a result, airlines are adding cities onto other routes. The Vail-Aspen plane journey, part of a larger circle connecting Texas and Colorado, is an example of that. 

Colorado’s mountainous landscape actually means the drive between Vail and Aspen is a little longer than the 29-mile flight route would suggest. American’s five-day-a-week flight takes 35 minutes, but driving between the two towns takes nearly two hours.

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The latest COVID-19 coronavirus and travel news from Provence – A Luxury Travel Blog

It’s incredible to think that it’s been nearly two months at the time of writing that the whole of France was placed into a strict lockdown which prevented anyone leaving their homes. In common with the rest of the world, there were of course some exceptions such as being allowed to exercise or shop for food but broadly speaking, the message (and law!) was clear. Stay home!

So, it was with much excitement (and some trepidation) that the strict lockdown rules were eased by the French government on the 11th May. This easing is designed to be the first baby step towards a return to normal life and has been welcomed by many across France. There are also plans in place to begin to allow travel in order that some of the summer may be salvaged for holidays.

What restrictions have been lifted?

There have been some significant changes to the lockdown laws that are allowing people to begin to enjoy some sense of normality.


The easing of the lockdown restrictions allows for children to return to pre-school and primary school. The initial wave of schoolchildren allowed back in the classroom totals around 20% of school age children in France. There are plans to allow junior high schools to open from the 18th May in regions where infections are low. The government will make a decision at the end of May as to whether to allow senior schools to reopen in June.


Most shops (excluding cafes, bars and restaurants) have been allowed to open. This excludes shops in shopping centres/malls. The queues at the checkouts in the first couple of days attested to the fact that people across France had some significant stocking up to do, having been deprived of the ability to shop anywhere other than supermarkets for nearly two months.

Hairdressers are among those allowed to open, much to the relief of the population at large! I think it’s fair to say that hairdressers will be kept busy for some considerable time.

Cafés, bars and restaurants

As a nation that is celebrated for its food and café culture, it’s been particularly hard for the population to be deprived of the ability to enjoy a coffee out with friends or a convivial meal at a local restaurant with the family. And of course for those who own these establishments life has been particularly hard. The French government is keen to allow these venues to open as soon as practicably possible and there are plans in place to potentially see restrictions lifted on the 15th June.

Exercise and meeting friends and family

Prior to 11th May, meeting up with friends and family was strictly forbidden. In fact, even leaving the house was a mini exercise in bureaucracy as you were required to fill out and carry a ‘attestation de déplacement dérogatoire’ which stated why you were away from your home. Thankfully, since the 11th of May this is no longer a requirement. You are allowed out as often as you wish and can travel freely within your own county (Province). If you want to travel to another province then you can do so as long as your destination is no more than 100km (as the crow flies) from your home). This restriction looks likely to be waived by the end of May.

Meeting up with friends and family is now also allowed as long as the group is limited to a maximum of ten people. You can’t however congregate at bars, cafes and restaurants (hard to do so since their closed). Neither can you assemble as a group on a beach. None-the-less, this easing is definitely welcome. Beaches it’s worth noting are not off limits as long as you are there to exercise, swim etc. Sunbathing is unfortunately still out.

Travelling to France

Frustratingly, but entirely understandably, travelling to France in the immediate future still won’t be possible from many areas of the world. That said, the French government does recognise the massive importance of the tourism industry to France and is clearly keen to allow travel to resume as soon as sensibly possible.

The good news for international travellers (in a roundabout way) is that there are plans in place to allow those already resident in France to begin to holiday in France with more information on what (or will not) be allowed in early June. Traditionally, many French holiday in July or August and the French government feels that it would be hugely problematic if this wasn’t allowed this year. Clearly the overriding thing is that infection rates continue to fall but it’s encouraging to see that, if possible, holidaying in France (for French residents) will be allowed.

So, what’s the silver lining for international tourists in all of this? Well, quite simply, if hotels and restaurants are allowed to open, then they can get back up to speed. It’s hard to go from being totally shut to fully staffed and open overnight. Hopefully therefore by the time international tourists are allowed back to France, things will be running smoothly allowing them to enjoy the relaxed holiday that they will definitely deserve!

So when might visitors from abroad be allowed back to Provence? Whilst there is nothing definite, signs are promising that, assuming infection rates continue to fall, you may be able to enjoy a holiday here from August. Given that August, September and October are such wonderful months here in Provence, that is exciting news!

It’s been a difficult couple of months for everyone affected by this horrible virus around the world. The partial lifting of lockdown restrictions both here in France and across several other European countries is promising. I hope that wherever you are, you and your family are staying well. With a little bit of luck, it hopefully won’t be long until we can welcome you back to Provence. I for one can’t wait!

Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.

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This Is the Future of International Flight

So this is the way that one of aviation’s greatest leaps of technology comes to an abrupt ending, thanks to the coronavirus:

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

In late April, a small crowd gathers at the edge of the airport at Alice Springs, Australia—known in Australia colloquially as simply “Alice.” It’s one of the remotest and hottest spots on this sun-cooked continent, geographically at the dead center.

Cellphone cameras are trained on the runway’s final approach over desert and tinder-brittle brush. The sheer size of the raw red landscape diminishes the size of the approaching jet, even though this is the world’s largest airliner, the whale-profiled Airbus A380, in the livery of Singapore Airlines.

The people of Alice have never seen a jet of this size here before. Normally it carries around 550 passengers, but there are no passengers on this flight. It’s the first of four A380s flown here from Singapore, on what may well turn out to be their last flights.

The airport has, in addition to being a big tourist destination, a second role—as a parking place for jets the airlines don’t need at the moment or don’t want any longer. The dry desert climate is ideal for storage – or, if the jets are being junked, they will be cannibalized for spare parts.

The four Singapore jumbos, a fifth of Singapore’s A380 fleet, may or may not fly again. Nobody can yet tell. But whether they do or not, the business model represented by the whale is now on life support. As the boss of Airbus said of the A380, “If you have a product that nobody wants any more you have to stop it.”

And one thing is for sure about the post-virus future of international air travel. Big is out—both for the airplanes and for a lot of airports.

In the U.S., the airlines’ immediate problem is how to develop health security protocols for the airports and airplanes that will convince people (and airline crews) that it is safe to resume flying on domestic routes. Beyond that, to the post-virus world, the new normal won’t involve a dramatic shift in the experience of flying within the country—the kind of airplanes you fly in, the levels of service offered.

But the same will not be true when you are heading for overseas destinations. The calamitous state of the airline business is accelerating a transformation in the international flying experience that was already beginning to take shape. For passengers, some of this is good news, and some not so good.

The good news is that, in one striking example, passenger convenience has finally coincided with the new imperatives of airline economics.

It’s been apparent for a long while that passengers much prefer direct, nonstop flights between cities to flights involving transferring at a giant hub airport to a regional connecting flight.

But for the last three decades international long haul routes have been built around the hub-and-spoke principle: flying between 400 and 550 passengers in big jets to airports that were themselves getting bigger and bigger, adding runways and terminals to meet the demand, and then dispersing them to other connections (the spokes). Since 2008 the number of international airports handling more than 40 million passengers a year has grown from three to 20.

Nonetheless, airlines always knew that it would be a lot more efficient for them (and a lot more agreeable for us) if, instead of flying us to hubs they flew direct to our final destination. For example, going from New York to Florence, one of Italy’s great destinations, involved going to either Milan, or Rome and then changing. Or to go to many Latin American cities from the U.S. involved being routed through the congestion of Miami.

What was missing was the right, smaller size of jet that would fit the lower passenger numbers for a direct flight. To maximize their profits, the airlines needed airplanes they could fill.

And this is where the good news meets the not-so-good news. For many of those nonstop flights between cities the ideal airplanes now exist—but they are single-aisle jets, new versions of either the Boeing 737-MAX or the Airbus A321.

It’s true, of course, that most passengers don’t pay much attention to what model of an airplane they are flying on. But in this case one step change in the capability of a new generation of jets is bringing about a hugely consequential change in the flying experience.

Boeing and Airbus both extended the range of their best-selling single-aisle models to make them capable of transoceanic routes—although the Airbus jets have a significantly greater range and other advantages, while the MAX models have been grounded for more than a year for safety reasons and orders for them have been canceled at an increasing rate.

The true potential for switching to single-aisle jets for long haul flights became clear when—just months before the coronavirus struck—three U.S. airlines, American, Delta and United, ordered the newest of the A321 models, the A321XLR (Extra Long Range).

This jet is 30 percent more fuel efficient than the previous generation of the A321; even more appealing to the airlines is that it has a range of 4,700 miles, which means that it can comfortably fly nonstop from many U.S. cities deep into the heart of Europe—or, perhaps more significantly, open up a whole new route map between the northern and southern hemispheres, for example from Seattle to Panama or San Diego to Lima, Peru, thereby avoiding the unloved Miami hub.

In Asia, where the hub-and-spoke routes have long controlled passenger choice, the new jets bring the opportunity for a whole raft of new city-to-city flights: Tokyo to Darwin, Australia; Singapore to Sydney, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia, to Auckland, New Zealand; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Brisbane, Australia. Or, looking west, from Beijing to Ankara, Turkey, and from Shanghai to Bangalore, India.

As the prospect of breaking free of hubs emerged, it became a lot more logical with the collapse of travel brought by the coronavirus. Analysts are now giving a worst case scenario for the recovery of international air travel in which it will take until the summer of 2022 to reach 80 percent of pre-virus demand. Under this kind of pressure the downsizing of jets is inevitable.

The jumbos were the first to go. Of the 66 A380s flown by Asia Pacific airlines, only two are now flying, with China Southern Airlines. The four flown to Alice Springs by Singapore Airlines will not long be alone in retirement. In Europe, Lufthansa has already announced the retirement of six of its 14 A380s. No American airline ever bought an A380.

Most of the remaining 747s are 20 years old or more and less efficient to operate than the much newer A380s; they will probably be retired en masse.

And then there is the impact on airports. Traffic through 18 hubs in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, where the recent growth of hubs has been dramatic, was down by 95 percent in mid-April, equal to losing 340 million passengers.

GALLERY: Iconic planes are disappearing from the sky earlier than planned as coronavirus wreaks airline havoc (provided by Business Insider)

a airplane that is flying in the air: The reduction in the demand for travel has caused some airlines to move up retirement dates for their aging aircraft.Older, inefficient aircraft are among those on the chopping block as airlines turn to next-generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB. Virgin Atlantic Airways retired its Airbus A340-600 aircraft ahead of time while KLM Royal Dutch Airlines retired its Boeing 747-400 aircraft for passenger use at the end of March.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.Aircraft are quickly becoming casualties of coronavirus. As Boeing and Airbus continue to roll out new aircraft, airlines the world over have embarked on fleet renewal projects that will see aging aircraft being retired in favor of more efficient birds. The past few years, especially, have seen the gradual retirement of iconic quad-engine aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 from global airline fleets in favor of twin-engine aircraft.Both Boeing and Airbus themselves are largely stopping production on such aircraft to focus on the next-generation planes being adopted by airlines such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A350 XWB, and Boeing 777X. Aging twin-engine aircraft are also on the chopping block, with airlines seeking to clean house with newer types that provide their passengers with better experiences and relief for their bottom lines. While some airlines had planned to slowly phase out these older aircraft over the next few years, the reduction in demand caused by the global spread of COVID-19 has accelerated some of the retirements meaning more iconic aircraft will be permanently grounded sooner than originally expected. Using the coronavirus-related downturn as a catalyst for aircraft retirement isn't new for the industry as airlines typically use periods of low demand to restructure their fleets around newer aircraft, as seen with the post-9/11 period that saw a similar reduction in air travel," according to The Points Guy.Take a look at some of the aircraft being eyed by airlines for early retirement as the novel coronavirus continues to cripple demand for air travel around the world.Read the original article on Business Insider

The new hub at Istanbul, a vanity project for Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the eventual ambition of being the world’s largest, is now like a ghost town. Dubai World Central, a rival project in the Gulf designed to handle 250 million passengers per year, is now dead

Singapore’s Changi was due to add a fifth terminal capable of handling 50 million passengers by 2030. That is now in doubt, as is Tokyo Narita’s plan for a third runway by 2032.

In Europe, the long disputed plan for a third runway at London’s Heathrow is certainly dead, for a combination of political and environmental reasons. Ironically, the one new airport that will open later this year because it is needed is Berlin Brandenburg which, after a nine-year delay, will replace two relics of the days when Berlin was divided by the Wall—Tegel, in the west, and Schoenfeld, in the east.

To be sure, with the four-engined jumbos gone, there will still be the two-engined widebodies for long-haul flights where there are the largest numbers of passengers. Depending on demand, they will be flying both through the hubs and on nonstop inter-city routes.

And it’s important to know that which of these jets you choose to fly on can make a tangible difference to the comforts of a long haul flight, particularly the impact of jet lag. The most advanced of the widebodies are the  newer versions of the Boeing 777, the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

For passengers a forthcoming and largest version of the 777, and the A350 and Dreamliner all have the virtue of a superior cabin climate, with markedly less dry air that can greatly ease the toll of jet lag, as well as more individual control over lighting. This is a quality that both of the single-aisle jets lack, which means that, say, spending up to eight hours in an A321 will be a lot less comfortable.

But when it comes to the actual personal space in the cabin, the room—or lack of—that you pay for, the choice between the single-aisle or widebody is not always clear.

For example, in coach a Dreamliner normally has nine seats per row, in blocks of three. That gives you a seat width of 17.2 inches. In an A321, where coach is always six per row, three each side of the aisle, and the cabin is actually seven inches wider than the rival 737, the standard seat width is 18 inches, a small but noticeable difference.

But, whatever the airplane, there won’t be much difference in the seat pitch, the space between one seatback and the next, where the airlines mostly offer only 30 inches of pitch in coach, although these sardine-can dimensions get noticeably better in premium economy, where the seats also offer reasonable recline.

The part of the cabin the airlines most care about, because it generates far more profit than coach, is business class. And they will be anxious to win back these frequent fliers, many of whom have suddenly discovered that meetings conducted over Zoom are as effective as those across a table.

The airline that pioneered widebody-standard flat beds in single-aisle business class on coast-to-cost routes, Jet Blue, with its Mint cabin in its fleet of new Airbus A321s, was planning to begin flying to Europe from New York and Boston by next year, with an upgraded version of Mint at prices designed to undercut the legacy airlines like British Airways and American.

That development will probably be delayed by the financial pressures of the moment, but it is an inevitable precursor of welcome competition to come on long haul flights, as many passengers on those routes will have to get used to sitting in the tube of single-aisle cabins rather than a widebody.

The jumbos eliminated the claustrophobia of the tube. The extra space, inherent in the sheer size of the airplane, came with other advantages, like generous luggage bins and larger exit doors. However artful the airline cabin designers are with the single-aisle jets, using trompe-l’oeil tricks to make them seem more spacious than they are, it is the spatial qualities that we will really miss as these mammoths of the species gradually disappear.

The A380 has had a relatively short life. It first flew passengers in 2007. Airbus ended production after selling only 250, each one at a loss, and 115 of them went to one airline, Emirates. The 747, in successive versions, has been with us for more than 50 years, and it pioneered affordable long haul air travel for many millions of people.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

WATCH: The surreal experience of flying during the pandemic (provided by The Washington Post)

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Footage of a meal in the 3-Michelin-star Le Louis XV restaurant

A trolley of herbs for your tea and fish steamed on hot stones at the table: Mouthwatering footage of a £930 meal (for two) in the 3-Michelin-star Le Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo

  • The footage has been filmed by foodie Egor Appolonov during an epic dinner
  • He posted it to his YouTube channel – Elite Life – where it’s had millions of views
  • He told MailOnline Travel: ‘Every dish at Le Louis XV is a culinary revelation’ 

The lid has been lifted on what it’s like to eat at one of the world’s best – and most expensive – restaurants.

Foodie Egor Appolonov filmed the 1,060-euro (£930) dinner he enjoyed with his wife, Anna, at the three-Michelin-star Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris restaurant in Monte Carlo.

His footage, viewed millions of times on YouTube, reveals that it was an out-of-this-world experience – Mediterranean fish was steamed on hot stones at his table, herbs for cups of tea were snipped from a mini-garden on a trolley, and a waiter scooped butter from local farmers onto a piece of marble.

Foodie Egor Appolonov filmed the 1,060-euro (£930) dinner he enjoyed with his wife, Anna, at the three-Michelin-star Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris restaurant in Monte Carlo

Egor’s footage shows Mediterranean fish being steamed at the table

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘Every single dish at Le Louis XV is a culinary revelation. It’s a culinary drama and you become a participant of this opera.

‘It’s a mind-blowing experience.’

Are there ever any missteps? Of course not.

‘Nothing ever goes wrong at Alain Ducasse,’ said Egor, a journalist from Russia. ‘Le Louis XV is a symbol of perfection.’

His six-course dinner, which cost 380 euros (£335) per person, plus 150 euros (£130) each for paired wine, lasted around three hours, so Egor’s three-minute video shows a soupcon of the full experience.

But that’s more than enough for Le Louis XV’s capabilities to be seared into the memory.

A waiter places a freshly scooped roll of butter on a piece of marble

Tasty: Steamed green asparagus with sheep’s curd

Surely no meal is complete without a trolley of herbs for the tea

The video begins with a shot of the aforementioned fish, an amuse-bouche, being presented raw on hot stones. A broth is then poured over them and the fish cooks in the vapour under a lid.

As Egor said, it’s a culinary drama.

Next, we see extra virgin olive oil being poured from a wall-mounted dispenser into a delicate little glass pot, the butter being scooped onto the marble, more pre-starters placed on the table and a personal breadbasket being prepared.

A slice of the good life: A waiter prepares Egor and Anna’s breadbasket

Egor said that the rum baba with Haitian rum, pictured here in a publicity still, was one of the best dishes he’s ever had at Le Louis XV – ‘a huge classic’

Gamberoni from San Remo in Italy, rockfish gelée and caviar – one of Egor’s favourite Le Louis XV dishes, which he experienced on a visit previous to the one he filmed

Provence garden vegetables cooked with black truffle – another Le Louis XV favourite for Egor

Egor regularly posts videos of his incredible restaurant experiences to the YouTube channel he runs with Anna (pictured here with Egor) –

Then a shellfish and chickpea dish arrives followed by steamed green asparagus with sheep’s curd; turbot ‘au naturel’ with chard and calamari; grilled pigeon breast; guinea fowl from breast cooked on an open fire; home-made pink pepper sorbet; mango and passion fruit soufflé; rum baba with Haitian rum, and raspberry with verveine ice cream.

After the herbal tea trolley disappears Egor films coffee being made in what looks like laboratory equipment as a waiter explains the science.

Egor’s video, filmed last year, documented his fifth visit to Le Louis XV.

He said that the rum baba with Haitian rum was one of the best dishes he’s ever had there – ‘a huge classic’ – while his two other favourites were enjoyed on previous visits: gamberoni from San Remo in Italy, rockfish gelée and caviar; and Provence garden vegetables cooked with black truffle.

‘Every menu is a very different seasonal story,’ he added. 

Egor regularly posts videos, all made using an iPhone, of his incredible restaurant experiences to the YouTube channel he runs with Anna – Elite Life. It’s the place to go for post-lockdown restaurant bucket list inspiration. Egor has also written a book about the art of writing – ‘a best-seller in Russia’ – and is the editor-in-chief of the ‘Aeroexpress’ magazine for the Russian national airport railway.

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