Sunday, April 29, 2007

Parbold-Hilldale-Fairy Glen

This walk, URL for this route is: , starts in Parbold, a village at the foot of Parbold Hill; only about 130 metres high but prominent because it is the first hill of any kind inland of the flat south-west Lancashire Plain.

It is one of many walks that can be taken over and around the hill, which is criss-crossed with public footpaths. The walk was flat at first, out of the village and across farmland and through woods, some walking on road (busy for a Sunday) and then the climb we expected.

Everywhere was much greener than two weeks ago, when we last walked in the UK;

...blossom appearing in the now leafy hedges brightening our day and adding pleasant aromas to the warm but breezy day. The view, as we climbed, became ever more expansive but a haze prevented seeing the Welsh hills and Blackpool we were promised in the guide.

The walk alternated between open farmland and woodland paths with a gradual decent through Fairy Glen.

Children playing Pooh Sticks at the bridges and brave infants walking up the stream brought back many memories of earlier walks with Melanie, Mandy and Ben; I think Ben spent more time in this stream than on the paths.

Ransomes (wild Garlic) and Bluebells (we just caught them before they were past their best, lined our walk along with many other flowers Chris pointed out including Hedge Mustard.

We emerged from Fairy Glen and again walked through open farmland passing a herd of cows and a bull, who to Chris's relief was occupied with the charms of a disinterested cow.

Back through woods followed with a short section of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal; We passed the Chapel-Cross soon after we left the towpath...

It marked the site of the former parish church of Parbold.

A little further on we passed a riding school with youngsters living their mother's dream and, by the look on their faces, were not enjoying it one bit!

Back in Parbold we called for refreshments at the Windmill; sitting outside to consume our beer and sandwiches. Chris took a look at prices of houses in the area, and was pleasantly surprised at how low they were, and then it was home.

We are all looking forward to Lucy's Wedding on Friday so watch this space....

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

No it wasn't the 13th

Friday 20th April

We arrived at Heath Row a little late but generally the 10 hour flight had gone well; Chris had a few naps.

BMI was when the delays started! We put in the booking code, on the self-booking in units, and up we came right the way through to printing the boarding passes. The message was to talk to a BMI Rep; we tried again, got a rep who tried, was sent to a desk and a young lad tried (apparently his system crashed) and eventually a young girl discovered that the flight to Manchester was over booked and was already full!

To cut a long story short we were given cash compensation and a flight on the 3:30pm plane.

During our long wait I spotted a fox crossing Heath Row and this kept us amused for a time; plus drinks and food and an odd nap.

The journey to Manchester was uneventful and we caught a train to Lime Street, walked to Central and caught a Mersey Rail train to Maghull! Mel picked us up and we went for a drink and a meal at the Hare & Hounds; it was packed and so we ended up having a take-away at home.

We didn't wake up until 11:00a.m Saturday! Both Chris and I have had a wonderful break with excellent food, drink and company. M and B could set up as holiday guides if their other plans don't work out; the organization was spot-on! Lots of cobwebs were blown away!

Good luck on Monday, Madeline, both Chris and I will be thinking of you! Let us know how everything went!

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Last Day and Journey Home

Thursday 19th April

We said our farewells last night and the weather reflected our moods; we didn't hear M go to work but did have a chance to speak to B before he left.

We walked up 8th to catch the BART to Embarcadero and walked to the Post Office; Bec's Camera extras collected without fuss, we headed on foot back along Harrison Street to 3rd.

Gifts were purchased for family and work before we headed back to Clementina Street for the last time. Making sure we left B's Keys we headed back to catch the BART to the airport and the flight home.

Nothing much to report about the flight home but when we arrived in England that was another matter...

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Japan and Flower Collection

Wednesday 18 April

Today it was muni (municipal transport) and walking. I haven't done a map but we walked up 9th and caught the muni from Market Street to Ocean Beach. Chris wanted a dollar off the beach. We walked along the beach towards the Golden Gate pausing briefly to look at the Snow Plovers in the surf; it was a very cold wind blowing off the ocean and we were glad to head up and into the shelter of Golden Gate Park. We made our way through the park past the Equestrian Center & Stadium, Elk Glen Lake and emerged on Lincoln Way at the junction with the 19th Ave.

We found a small shop for drinks, sandwiches etc and headed back to the park for a picnic next to Stow Lake.

Ducks etc., sat with us as we sat in the sun looking at the Huntington Falls opposite. The food was good and refreshed we headed for the Japanese Tea Garden.

The detail on the Gate brought back many fond memories of our visit to Japan. As in Japan water was an important part of the gardens with waterfalls, calm pools and stepping stones; there were even cranes...

Blue Jays, I think, added a California touch...

Pagodas, bridges, a variety of statues, a shop and a teahouse completed the gardens which are well worth a visit.

It was now time to head for the Conservatory of Flowers. Only reopened in September 2003, it was modeled after a greenhouse in London's Kew Gardens. The contents were well presented and the automated 'mists' added to the feeling of tropical rain forests. The flowers had an added beauty with the droplets on their petals.

There will be more images on flickr when I get round to uploading them. I did like the water plants in particular!

From the Conservatory we made our way back to get the muni from Irving Street back to Market Street.

Urban Market was the next port of call (becoming a habit) for a drink and to purchase chocolate biscuits.

M and B returned to the fold and there was a card to say Bec's camera case, battery etc. was at the Post Office for collection tomorrow after 10:00 (that's tomorrow morning sorted). We all headed off, by taxi, for a bar/art gallery prior to going for an Indian Meal (The restaurant B had taken M for her birthday); it was decided that the music was too loud so, a few phone calls later we headed for a bar/restaurant/micro-brewery. The 9 samples plus 2 pints prepared us fully for an excellent meal and the end of the penultimate day in San Francisco.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cable and Beer

Tuesday 17 April

Today we mainly traveled by cable car and sampled beer. shows the route taken today and by clicking on large next to Elevation on the right of the screen, you will see a profile of the cable car ride! The following picture doesn't do justice to the steepness of the climb.

You realise how high up you are when Bay Bridge can be seen below you...

The choice of cable car was a good one as not only was the climbs spectacular, it was also possibly the longest ride. At one point we had to stop before the level, between inclines, and the car was unable to continue. So it was all off onto the pavement (sorry side walk!) while the crew from three cars pushed it onto the level. Then it was all aboard to continue the ride towards fisherman's wharf.

After coffee and cakes we made our way slowly along the bay planning to arrive at the brewery, for our tour and tasting, at 2:00pm. Plenty of time!

We called in briefly to look at a collection of boats/ships/paddle steamers etc...

Including one aptly named Lobster fishing boat...

M wasn't impressed as previous visitors had taken the same picture before we had!

Not every one in San Francisco was happy and well! One gull had a broken wing or, like a number of humans, was putting on a good act for the sympathy vote...

He/she was being well fed and wasn't apparently suffering. There were other forms of transport available including more traditional ones...

Chris read, in her trusty guide book that, before the introduction of the cable cars, one horse slipped and the wagon dragged the horses back down the hill!

Along the Bay front are a number of sculptures, including this one...

...I've called the picture "sealed with a Chris!"

As we neared the Bay Bridge, I think it is just as impressive as the Golden Gate Bridge, it was apparent that we were pushing it, time wise, to get to the brewery by 2:00pm. Note the traffic leaving San Francisco goes across the bridge on the lower level and those entering the city come in on the top level!

We caught a taxi to take us the last part of the journey and arrived spot on two o'clock! The bad news was that the tour started at one o'clock! The good news was that we were in time for the tasting! Six beers were tasted (third of a pint samples) followed by more of the one we liked and all for free!

Chris and I then walked back to 8th and had a drink and sandwich at Urban Market. It is becoming one of our San Fran Haunts!

Later that evening, B had classes and didn't get back until 7:30ish, we went for a Chinese meal followed by a visit to M's sister, Emily, for drinks and afters! Mmmmm another good day!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All on our own in SF....

Monday 16 April

M & B were at work and school respectively today so we set off at about 9.30 a.m. to do the hippie trail around Haight - we saw the house where Janis Joplin lived in the Summer of Love  which is very smart these days and looks a nice area to live. The walk  seemed to grow as the day went on &  John has done a map to show where we went on the  11+miles of our day out. We all arrived home between 4.30 and 5 p.m. and B & M went to the gym and jogging respectively. J & I cooked spaghetti bolognaise and another day nears its end! - has to be worth a look!!

Here are a few photos taken along the way, I am sure there will be more on Flickr eventually!

A few nice Haight houses above and some gunnera at the botanic garden in Golden Gate Park plus a very friendly squirrel!

The Japanese Temple and the Civic Hall

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Monday, April 16, 2007

It's the weekend!

Saturday 14 April

Not a good start to the morning - rain!! However, by the time we set off for the ferry to Alcatraz it had stopped but didn't look too promising. We got the Muni to the end of Market St stopping for bagels, stuffed croissants and sandwiches to keep us going. A brisk walk along the Embacardero to Pier 33 and a very orderly queue for the ferry. They certainly know how to organise people in America but then most things are a federal offence if not done properly! The sky and water were very grey as we headed for the island....

Once landed (well organised with no eating or drinking after the dock) we climbed up the 4 switchback roads to collect our audio tour sets and spent the next hour or so in total silence following the trail around the prison as instructed on the tape by ex prison officers and inmates of the prison.

The cells were incredibly small and basic and it gave a really good idea of what life must have been like for inmates and officers. A quick look around the shop and a walk back to the ferry for the return trip via the Western gulls own particular patch of island. A brown pelican flew by too but didn't stop long enough for a photo! This magnificent gull was captured by M.

The weather was looking a lot better although somewhat breezy.

We continued our walk along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf which is the modern, American version of a pier with lots of shops, cafes etc - very touristy but worth a look. There were lots of big fat seals lying on pontoons near the piers! We headed off towards Downtown and Union Square, calling into Bloomingdales shopping mall for a brief sit down on their comfy chairs! Smart dome!

Very like the Trafford Centre - perhaps that is where Manchester got the idea from. We walked to Little Italy where we stopped at a lovely restaurant for a meal then carried on through to Chinatown. We popped into St Mary's Cathedral which survived the earthquake and then right along Market St and back to B & M's apartment. Time to load photos onto Flickr, blog, watch TV and visit Trader Joes (B & M) for lovely snacks and beer later in the evening.

Sunday 15 April

Ben decided that Santa Cruz was the place to be on a bright Sunday after a lazy start! We set off about noon for the 40+ mile journey via highways 101, 85 and 17 rather than the more picturesque but very windy coastal highway 1. Santa Cruz is famous for it Boardwalk which is basically a linear Blackpool with roller coasters, amusements etc. J, B & M bought corn dogs then we walked along the beach towards a quieter, more interesting stretch with lighthouse but where it was incredibly windy - not really conducive to sitting in the sun!

As the wind was behind us we hoped to find shelter on the other side of the lighthouse but unfortunately the harbour was in the way when we got there! We strolled back through the town to the parking lot and decided to drive back towards SF and found a Greek cafe in Palo Alto which is a stone's throw from Stamford Uni. We took a stroll through the town then did a small detour to try to find the Yahoo! headquarters where Ben will be working over the summer. I think this was definitely the highlight of the day for Ben and it certainly looked impressive. Was this the reason why he suggested Santa Cruz? Google was even bigger and better. J will probably be questioned by the Federal Police as he took photos!!

Back to Clementina St for relaxation (B & M went to the gym and shops!), TV snacks and so to bed - again. Tomorrow B & M are at work so we will be set loose to do some of the Downtown things suggested in Mandy's guide book! Ww have also offered to cook tea!! Watch this space.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

SF Travels cont.

13 April 2007

Set off at around 10 a.m. for Sonoma - the Wine Country! We called at the Visitor Centre for requisite badges and then after following a very poor map and one or two detours we ended up at our first winery called Benziger.

We had a really interesting tour to see where the grapes were grown and the machinery where they are processed then the man-made caves where the red wine is left to mature in oak barrels.

Then the interesting part of the day began with tasting of 5 different wines and then off to Sonoma Market for paninis for J,B & C, salad for M. We drove a short distance to the Jack London Estate Park where we picnicked and saw some cute lizards on a big rock! Then it was off to the next vineyard - Imagery. The wine labels were amazing - all done as very different works of art but each one incorporating a Greek temple which is the vinyard's logo. We tried another 5 wines each here - smiles all round! (some scarier than others!)

The final vineyard was just a stroll away and we sat in the sunshine tasting another 4 wines - not a bad end to the afternoon! Some competition for best photo of the day but I like the way that the rim of the glass lines up with the distant hills on this one.

We then set off for the town of Sonoma to our hotel for the night. French rustic style furniture and fittings (quaint according to J!) with a lobby which doubled up as the place for more free wine tasting - full glasses this time and as we seemed to be the only 'tasters' we were left alone well beyond the 6 p.m. limit and polished off a couple of bottles of a very acceptable Chardonnay. It was then off for a quick tour of the eating places that Sonoma had to offer. A Taste of the Himalayas won and proved a very successful option. Good food and only a stones throw away from the Irish Bar featuring a lady on guitar. Numerous rounds of beer, cider and Irish whisky followed whilst dominoes was the name of the game. Fortunately the hotel wasn't far away and everyone slept well that night!

14 April 2007

J & I did a tour of the town square before breakfast and found out about the flag of the bear being raised when the town became independent from the Mexicans. We breakfasted in the lobby on croissants, muffins and Danish pastries with juice, tea and coffee then walked down to the Mission and did a bit of cheese tasting on the way. A quick call to the Farmers' Market for strawberries then we set off back towards SF. Madeline driving as Ben felt less than 100% - just one Irish whisky too many? Highway 1 proved very elusive but after a stop at a store for picnic goodies Ben eventually found it and we headed for Muir Beach.

B found some fat orange starfish and anemones stuck to the rocks and M & I read and snoozed a little. We were conveniently located next to a seal skeleton on which we had a running commentary from the man next to us. M & B played a little Frisbee and ball and we picnicked on bread, ham, cheese (imported from England at great expense), chips (crisps), salsa, grapes and carrots. Ben then drove us to Muir Woods - interesting switchback road with ridiculous gradient. We were all amazed (some more than others) at the giant redwoods and spent a pleasant hour or so on the trail through the woods. On the way back we stopped at  Marin Heights for photo shoot opportunities of the Golden Gate Bridge which looked truly splendid but it was incredibly windy and we had to get over the bridge before 6 p.m. During rush hour it is free to cross with 3 or more in the car!

After a nice cup of tea and a bit of a rest it was off to Mission district to try to find a Mexican meal!  Parking anywhere near a restaurant proved impossible so we parked on a steep hill, walked back to Mission and found a small place to try a wide selection of very colourful Mexican food. Not sure what it all was but I am sure if you mentioned a particular Mexican ingredient then we had it! We found the car again then headed home at the end of a very busy day. And so to bed.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Home thoughts from abroad.....

Monday 9 April 2007

A 4 a.m. start to the day with Mel taking us to the airport ready for our 6.40 flight to Heathrow. Once there we had plenty of time to grab somethings to eat (yoghurt, fruit puree & granola for me and egg & bacon sandwich for J), buy some perfume - the large size was much better value and a Peter Rabbit for ₤1 was an added bargain! We took off at about 11 a.m on the 10 hr and 30 minute flight to SF with frequent snacks and drinks and numerous perambulations around the plane - not much leg room! Amazingly I only slept for a couple of 15 minute stints and we arrived at around 2 p.m. SF time. Getting through the immigration checks didn't take too long and Ben was waiting there to whisk us off to 766 Clemantina Street.

After a tour of a very tidy apartment and copious glasses of water, Madeline was home from work and we all went off exploring to Twin Peaks with wonderful views over San Francisco and then a beach walk near Crissy Fields opposite the Palace of Fine Arts where we admired the wind surfers.

We scarily drove down Lombard Street which fortunately is one way extremely steep and winding and saw other sheer drops which are roads in some parts of the city and are crossed in places by equally steep streets with cable cars! I fully understand why Madeline wanted an automatic car! Then it  was out to Basil for a lovely Thai meal within walking distance of their apartment, a quick game of pool at an Irish Bar in which I helped Ben to draw even with J and M in the second game! J & I were asleep by about 9.15 p.m. but considering we had been awake for around 26 hours I think we did well. Jet lag? What jet lag?? M & B went to watch a reality TV show with Emily (M's sister) and B ate too many chips (crisps) which he regretted the next morning.

Tuesday 10 April

J & I were awake early and were showered, bright eyed and bushy tailed before our hosts were awake. Ben made smoothies for breakfast then off to see where Ben studies so hard. Very pleasantly green grounds surrounding less attractive buildings.

M, J and I climbed up onto a roof amphitheatre to get the best views of the surroundings whilst Ben went to plead his case to be allowed to work for Yahoo over the summer. We then went for coffee and muffins before heading back to Ocean Beach and rolling breakers, no surfers, but lots and lots of dogs! The local dog walkers seem to have anything up to 10 dogs and they all seem to get on very well together. Some very interesting, flat sea urchins which M reliably told us are called sand dollars. Must get one to bring home if we visit the beach again. Madeline's photo of the world through a hole was the winner!

Then it was off to the shops to view the trainers, (no purchase) and to buy goodies for a picnic which was eaten by the shores of Lake Merced surrounded by an interesting display of birds including herons, cormorants and starlings in disguise plus some lovely blackbirds with patches of bright red feathers.

Our experienced chauffeur then took us to Sausalito which is on the opposite side of the Golden Gate Bridge which looks very impressive as you drive over and seems very long. Rapidly going off the idea of walking over it later in the week as the road leading from it looks very busy and full of cyclists. Sausalito is very pretty with lots of boats and warm sunshine. We ate an ice cream whilst watching a fisherman land a 100lb batwing ray (his estimate not ours but it certainly looked very big). We then drove home and played Scrabble which M narrowly won (oxen on a triple word score did it!). Emily took us to a lovely Italian restaurant called Nob Hill Cafe where we saw the San Francisco twins!! Parking places seem to be at a premium in that area of the city but Ben (driving Emily's swish Audi) found a space!. A lovely meal was had by all and then it was home for a game of Scattergorie in which J managed to play completely the wrong round and still scored points and I won overall. And so to bed.

Wednesday 11 April

It rained, as forecast, during the night and early morning but fortunately cleared up for the rest of the day. A lazy start to the day for some!  Impressively, M went for a jog! B, J & I walked to Trader Joes for ingredients for the evening meal; Ben took his wok cook book with him to ensure he didn't forget anything!

A really nice shop with lots of local organic fresh produce and other  interesting goodies. Ben cooked eggs and goodies for himself and J and M & I had cereal. It was then time to walk to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) station to get the train to Oakland Colliseum for the baseball game. (Thank you Mandy for our birhtday tickets!)

There are 9 innings in a match each of which continues until 3 players are out. We al now have an impressive knowledge of the rules and understand the terms, pitcher, catcher, home run and 3 strikes and out! A vast amount of food and drink seemed to be consumed by the 19,000+ people who were there including hot dogs and jacket potatoes for our party.The Oakland Athletics were playing the Chicago White Socks who were losng all the way through until near the end when an Oakland pitcher, who didn't seem to know how to play, managed to allow the  CWS to get 3 runs. The fianl score was 6 to 3 for the CWS who I was supporting against the odds. Back on the BART for a lazy hour or so and a nice cup of English tea! B skateboarded tot eh Post Office and Fed Ex to post his importand documents and post cards and was later convinced by us all that going to the gym would be a good idea whilst M got on with the next instalment of the Diana Gabaldon books and I was allowed on the computer!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Toad's Day

Our walk today was one in which lambs took a back seat to TOADS! Starting from Hayfield, we stocked up with Eccles Cakes and headed off for the Snake Path. This picture was taken just as we were about to join the path (looking back towards Hayfield village)

Snake Path is apparently a famous right of way, dedicated in 1897; we passed through a number of kissing-gates until we reached the National Trust's High Peak estate; here the plateau of Kinder Scout filled the skyline in the open view that lay ahead.

Turning left off Snake Path we headed down through heather and bilberry on the fringe of Middle Moor. This turned into braken and rhododendrons as we approached the wall surrounding the grounds of Park Hall. Through a gate in the wall we swung left down to Little Hayfield; acroos the A624 and down to an old mill which has been tastefully converted into residential use. It was here that, a sign to warn mororists, Toads were first brought to our attention.

It was now time to climb again! Across two bridges, up a stone causey, then, climbing more sharpley, on to an ivy-covered house. Two stiles and an easier climb along a sunken track by a dry stone wall.

We never did see the apparentl unusual finger-post marking a six-way footpath junction but we cut south across rough pasture, inhabited by Highland Cattle and onwards and upwards to the summit of Lantern Pike.

Again this is National Trust Land. We headed, downhil now, south towards a drystone wall which we followed to the left and through a gate onto a farm track.

Sheep, the worse for wear, loosing their fleece were in feilds to either side of the path as we headed towards a minor road.

At the road we turned right and immediately left by a sign to Hegginbottom Farm. On this track, just after the sharp left at a hairpin, the first Toad was encountered. Chris was very worried about the "toad drying out" in the heat of the day.

She was all for carrying her to water or the shade; she didn't and we continued on our way, over a wall-stile on the right, before the farm buildings, and through two narrow squeeze-stiles.

Toad Two! much nearer the River Sett ahead and the reservior beyond; Chris was even more convinced that the previous toad, and possibly this one, should have been helped on their way to breed in either the river or reservoir.

We arrived, and crossed by bridge, the River Sett. No sign of toads but an orange-tip butterfly grabbed our attention; the path then negotiates the western end of the reservoir, containing a distinctive round island. This path was covered with toads! Chris and I had to take great care where we placed our feet; some females were carrying males on their back as they neared the water.

The path rose to a former railway, now known as the Sett Valley Trail. We stopped and had our Eccles Cakes before heading back along the Trail to the carpark.

The walk can be seen at and if you click on the hyperlink small next to the word elevation, you will see a profile of the walk as well. It may only have been 4.8667 miles but we also had two steep climbs.

Back home now and it is time to get ready for San Francisco. Chris is packing and I thought I'd better do the blog before I forgot what we did. Looking forward to seeing the San Franciscans tomorrow! Watch this space...

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Catch up brother...

I've just been informed that I'm getting as bad as Lynn, my sister, at keeping up to date with the blog so here goes...

Last week we decided to keep local, with our Sunday walk, so we parked at Maghull station and walked to Hall Road Station. (Those of you who look at the flickr site will know that already) Take a look at Gmaps Pedometer where I've mapped the route we took.

The walk was listed as 8.5 miles but, as you will see, it was 8.6174 miles!

The celandines were something to see, especially in the wood near Little Crosby.

Walking past the road to Hall Road Playing Fields brought back many memories as did Waterloo Rugby Club when we passed it on the train...

Today, First of April, we walked in Barbondale; In Cumbria since the demise of Westmorland. We started and ended at St Bartholomew's Church...

Built in 1893 on the site of much earlier churches. To say lambs were about, would be an understatement... Chris was pointing them out throughout the day and all I could think of was mint sauce, rack of lamb etc. Mmmmmmmmmm

We did a slight detour to view the Bull Pot of the Witches; 210 feet deep (more details if you click on the picture below...

Now for the "different"! Along Fellfoot Road, on either side of the track, there are a series of what appear to be small sheep folds...

...each containing a "single large boulder"; They apparently are the work of an internationally renowned sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy.

I'm not quite sure what they are meant to represent, if anything! More research required. The 8.5 miles this week were much harder than last week, as there was quite a climb. However the bright sunshine, lambs etc. made it all worth while. By the way Lisa, this was a walk out of the book you gave me at Christmas. I'm looking forward to the rest!

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