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Scottish Holiday Day 3

We woke up to the pitter-patter of rain. We had been hoping that the weather would clear up, but that was too much to ask for.

Seeing the dismal weather forecast, husband even tried to see if we could cancel our booking but it was too late for that. Left with no options, we decided to go ahead, rains or no rains. It was almost mid-day by the time we set off. The rains seemed to have eased off a bit. Just enough to let us into the car without being completely drenched.

Soon we were passing through the gorgeous landscape of Scotland. Even the weather couldn’t detract from it’s beauty. We drove by lochs, mountains,  some with gushing streams and little waterfalls.. Not the greatest of pictures, better, proper camera ones will follow once we are back home.

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The greenery and the waters of the lochs make for such beautiful scenery.

Somewhere on the drive, the weather started to clear up. Gorgeous sunlight started to stream through the clouds.

We were headed to Fort William, where we had a booking for the night, but midway, decided to take a detour to Oban instead. This was again a trip where I did no research at all. Husband had been given some pointers by his colleagues, but it wasn’t much. We stopped at the tourist information centre in Oban to find out more.

We were directed to McCaig’s Tower. It was supposed to be some sort of observation point. The lady at the information centre gave us directions, and they seemed straight forward. The road how ever, well, it was straight forward, but was also super steep. Let’s just say that remember all that food we ate? We felt a wee bit less guilty after that trek. The walk up was pretty too. There were cute houses, pretty B&Bs. That certainly helped divert our attention from the steep climb.

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Our first view of the tower.

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Apparently, John Stuart McCaig, a weathy philanthropist banker noticed that the masons in the area had no work in the winter months. So he commissioned this tower to be built as a monument to his family. Today it houses a beautiful garden and provides the most magnificent views of the lochs.
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By the time we came down the hill again, it was time to head to Fort William. The weather was beautiful. Nice and sunny, at 8 in the night.

We found our hotel easily. It was a loch facing hotel and to our surprise, our room was a loch facing one, with a wonderful view! Husband booked the hotels in a hurry. There wasn’t many to choose from, but we were lucky, I guess. Check out our view from the room.

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We were completely knackered by the end of the day but wanted to make the most of the sunny weather. Who knew what the next day would hold when it came to weather? So off we went for a walk. Husband found a little path leading to the banks of the loch where daughter had the best time, collecting shells. That completed the holiday for her:) Nothing made her happier than collecting shells.

Exhausted but satisfied we returned to the hotel, ready for a night’s sleep to recharge us for the next day.

PS: Please do ignore typos and the lack of proof reading. These posts have been typed on the phone.

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Scottish Holiday Day 2

Day 2 was supposed to be a relaxed day in Glasgow. We had been told that there was something called Merchant City Festival happening, and that sounded interesting.

We had a totally relaxed morning, lazing around until that got boring. Husband’s flat is quite in the central area, so we decided to walk to the area where the festival was being held. We walked past the river front, under magestic bridges. I loved those bridges so much that I came back home and looked up their history. There is something about a river flowing through the heart of the city. I guess it shows how almost all towns were built around water sources. One of the bridges has some inscription to the effect that bridges showed and nurtured a town’s progess and I can understand that. Having a bridge must have improved commerce in so many ways. I thought I had taken pics on the phone, but turns out, most of the pictures were in the camera. So just one of the many bridges we walked past.
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It was a lovely sunny day, the last for the next few days, according to the weather report so we made the most of it. The town centre was bursting with people,but most going about shopping. We were the only tourists, or so it seemed, with cameras around our necks. And the shopping options! It made me miss being in a city. The place we now live in a little town, and the shopping options are not the greatest. Here. I could go crazy. But didn’t. After all, shopping could be done on rainy days, and from the look of it, we have plenty of them coming. But I was tempted, seriously tempted.

The festival was further ahead, so we walked past shoppers with bulging bags, walked into a little market which we initially thought was part of the festival but realized that it couldn’t possibly be so small. There some cute trinkets on sale, but I wasn’t in the mood for them, so went on, on search of the festival.

After walking through the crowded city centre area, we finally reached the festival. It was like a massive version of the continental markets that keep happening in most towns. There were handicrafts, hand made stuff, scarves, painted boots.. all sorts of stuff on sale.

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There were dance performances on the streets, this one has daughter watching captivated.

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They were really good.

Festivals would be incomplete without the food stalls, wouldn’t it? All sorts of tantalizing smells assaulted our senses. Spicy Paella, hot dogs, sweet fudge, baklava, ice cream, jacket potatoes.. We however ended up in another restaurant that husband and his colleagues frequented. Daughter was tired after all that walking, and she wanted to be indoors. We had another massive meal(a rather late lunch), and all we wanted was to go to sleep. We went back into the festival, in search of gelato. The flavours didn’t appeal to us. I do suspect that we had eaten so much lunch that we had no real space for dessert. Husband was tempted by the churros people were carrying but we couldn’t find that stall. Actually, I was glad we didn’t. I wasn’t sure my tummy could take it, but I was sure that my tastebuds would have been easily tempted to give in:)

It was on the way back that we realized how much we had walked. The walk back had us dragging our tired but happy feet past the river front, past the bridges, soaking in the sun. Thank god we did that, because today it is pouring, like the monsoons in India.

We ended the day with another Indian meal, delicious, with dosas and Indian Chinese. Yum! But I do think the next few days, I will be looking at other cuisines, I need a change of cuisine:)

Reading through my account, I’ve just realized, that all we’ve done so far is eat! So not the holiday thing to do! Hopefully, the next few days, we will do a little more than that:)

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Scottish Holiday – Day 1

We have been planning this for years. Driving around Scotland.

The first time, we visited Scotland, we didn’t have a car, and we did a bus tour. We missed the fun of stopping where ever we fancied and just driving around the highlands.

This time, we had the time and the means. Not going to India in the summer meant that we had loads of time, and husband has loads of holidays accumulated, so we decided to go for it.

Yesterday was the first day. We want this to be a relaxed trip, so took our own sweet time getting out of the house. As we drove past the midlands and moved up north, the landscape slowly turned breathtaking. Different shades of green, dotted with sheep, hillocks and plains, some with little streams making their way through the lush greenery. It made us miss our days in Leeds, when a twenty minute drive would take us into the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. I wish I could post some pictures, but I clicked them all using the camera. I should have taken some with the phone.

We even stopped at the cutest services ever, with a little lake behind it, and a walking trail around it. What a gorgeous little lake it was!

Our holidays are incomplete without bad weather. After the last few weeks of brilliant weather, our hopes were high that, for a change we would have good weather on a holiday. Turns out, we were just too optimistic. The forecast is all bleak. And we got a taste of things to come when we passed through a cloud burst and for about 6-7 minutes, drove blind, there was zero visibility. The only saving grace was that the weather cleared up within minutes.

We reached Glasgow by 6 and decided to relax a but before stepping out for dinner. Now,husband can’t stop singing the praises of Glasgow when it comes to food. The last two years or so, that he has been working here, he and his colleagues have explored all the Indian places, and have found some wonderful places. We set off to one of them, and it was just great. I normally don’t like eating Indian on holiday but it was worth it. Authentic tasting food, and a menu that was so different from the regular stuff we some across. I had planned to take pictures, before we start eating, but all that was forgotten as soon as the food came.

Food sorted, all we could was hit the bed.

Today, we plan to hit Glasgow. No fixed plans, just walking around, soaking in the atmosphere… And taking it as it comes.

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Day 3 Part 2 Day Trip to the Hill Towns Tour of Veneto

Now for the last part. I thought I had better get on with it, before it spends another few months languishing in my drafts.

So after a delicious lunch , we set off again. To Villa Barbaro.  It is a Palladian Villa, designed and built by Italian Architect Andrea Palladio. The same architect who designed Ponte Vecchio that we visited earlier. The villa is one of the World Heritage Sites and also a private villa with the family living in it. Some parts of the villa is open to the public and contains some amazing frescos on the walls. A lot of them have been renovated.

We weren’t allowed pictures inside, but here are a few views of the Villa. And yes, by the time we reached the villa, the bad weather had caught up on us. It was pouring, but thankfully, we had come prepared.

See how grey the weather has become? The grounds of the villa. We couldn’t get a shot of the villa from the entrance – it looked far more majestic than it appears here.

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And the mandatory lemon tree 🙂

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A Nymphaeum water feature.

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The view of the grounds from inside. As I said, photography was not allowed inside, so we could only capture so much.

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And the greenery, as usual, is fascinating!

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Onwards to the next stop – Proseco tasting. I’ve never had so much alcohol in my life, I think, before sundown 🙂

It continues to pour, but we are nice and cozy in our van.

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The scenery is such a contrast from Venice, isn’t it? And all this is just hours away.

And soon we are in wine county. See the vines?

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and more..

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Doesn’t this look picture card perfect? I love those clouds..

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Doing what we came here for – all set for Proseco tasting.

IMG_7299Want to know what I was pointing at? It’s the picture of the place we are at. Check it out.

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The wine..  I just took a sip, I think I had had my fill, and was in no mood for tasting. Husband was more busy taking pictures. The other family, though, seemed to have truly enjoyed it.

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We went outside to soak in the view a bit more. The factories where it’s all made.

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See that house, nestled in the mountains, surrounded by the clouds? IMG_7323

That was our last stop. We headed back to Venice, tired, but satisfied. And we got to evade bad weather. Atleast our holiday wasn’t spoilt by rain, for a change! Clear blue skies as we head back.

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Before we knew it, we were back in the Grand Canal..

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The rest of the evening we spent walking around, just enjoying that last bit of Venice before we took the next day. It never feels enough, does it? You can always find places that you missed out on, and you wished that you had been able to explore that little alley that looked so inviting, but you kept pushing it away, because it was just around the corner, so we could do it anytime.. But you never do.  We walked around, trying to pack in memories both in our minds and our cameras… And of course, food. We sat down in a tiny cafe, which had tables laid outside. It seemed just perfect. It is another story that weather did catch up with us, and we had to rush indoors when a sudden downpour drenched us. But even that refused to take away from the evening…

A wonderful end to a wonderful holiday.. It makes me yearn for another one now…

 

 

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Day 3 Part 1 Day Trip to the Hill Towns Tour of Veneto

*Beware : Ultra Long Picture Post*

A long, long time ago, I started a post on the day three(and final day) of our Venice Trip. It languished in my drafts for months, before I remembered. That too, just because daughter and I were going through the old pictures of the times when the three of us had so much fun.

Given that the year is coming to an end, the least I can do is do the post, before the year ends. Next year’s holidays can be chronicled the next year 🙂 without a backlog. Talking of holidays, this has been the longest time for us without a proper holiday. India trips never counted as holidays in that sense – they are just to replenish our souls, staying with parents and enjoying the cosy, warmth of being with them. For our holiday souls, we needed other holidays, like the ones to Greece, Venice or America. Or even a day trip to the Dales was good enough. So when we were planning our move to India, daughter had just one concern, ‘Where are we going to holiday next?’, and no, moving to India was not holiday by her standards. We haven’t done much this year, but we do have some plans in Jan, when husband is here. Fingers crossed.

While we plan for our next, long-awaited holiday, let me take you on a tour of Veneto’s Hill Towns. If you haven’t read about the earlier parts of the holiday, you can read them here,  here and here. You see, the weather forecast for Sunday, had been wet and rainy, so I did some research on TripAdvisor and figured that we could go on a day tour of the Hill Towns of Veneto. The tour operators came heavily recommended and the pictures of the places seemed great. So we booked the tour before we started on our trip.

Right on schedule Sunday morning dawned, grey and ready to pour. Never had we been so happy to see that we might have for once beaten the weather. Those of you who follow my travel posts, know how good we are at attracting bad weather. We’ve brought bad weather to California once,  have had our flights cancelled thanks to snow, perfectly good conditions turn nasty as soon as we plan a holiday.  So this time,we decided to do what we could to outwit the weather.

We set off nice and early, with all out bad weather clothes and food, just in case we needed to nibble. We did manage to forget one very important thing – a book for daughter  to read, and that sent us scouring the streets of the places we stopped at, to find one book in English.  They had warned the tourists to be on time, and we being very punctual when on holiday, were right on time, actually before time, but better early than late,eh? We reached Tronchetto,  which is the place from which our tour would take off. Apparently, Tronchetto is an Island that was created in the 1960s and it serves as a car park for tourist vehicles. Our tour guide had his van parked here, and off we  went with another family of four.

Our tour guide was guy called, oops, I seem to have completely forgotten! See, this is what happens when travelogues are written after a year(almost) of the trip! I was telling husband that I was writing this up, and he was amazed, ‘Do you still remember what we did’? Well, not everything, but whatever I do, will get documented.

Our first stop was Marostica.  Marostica is famous for the Human Chess game that it hosts every other year. The square was closed for renovation, so we couldn’t see the chess arena, but we do have some other pictures of the quaint little town for you.  It has these fort like walls surrounding the city, which gives it such a romantic air. Like someplace out of medieval history.

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On the right is the boarded off chess square

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As I go through the pictures, I come to the same conclusion that I come to, everytime I do a picture post, the best pictures have one of   us in them! This is what happens when we forget that we also blog, we need to take pictures without people!

We had about an hour, so we grabbed a gelato, rather husband and daughter did, while I tried to abstain, only to grab bites from both of them, and ambled about in the empty, cobbled streets of Marostica. It was a Sunday, so most shops were shut as well. We did take this picture, I think it was a chocolate box cover, in case any of you wanted to see how the chess square looks normally.

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Can you see the cathedral at the back?

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Funnily, a lot of houses looked boarded up, which felt rather sad.

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But other vibrant windows made up for the forlon ones above. Aren’t these cute? I love plants, and I love creepers all over.

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An hour runs by really quickly when we are on holiday. We set off for the next stop, Bassano Del Grappa, where we were heading for some Grappa tasting! The first thing that caught my eye was this window. I can’t tell you how much I loved it. I had dreams of replicating it in my windows in Bangalore, only for the dreams to come crashing down. It is way too windy on the eleventh floor, to try something like this. Sigh! One day…

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Bassano Del Grappa, is famous for inventing Grappa, the traditional Italian after dinner drink.  The town also has the famous Palladian Bridge, a covered wooden bridge, which apparently had been destroyed many times during the second World War.

The entrance to the bridge.

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The wooden structure of the bridge.

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The buildings near the bridge. Can you see those marks? Those are the bullet marks preserved from the World War. What a painful reminder that must be…

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Crossing the bridge we went on our way to the Grappa tasting, which was high up on some hill. The view of the bridge from up there.

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The view of the mountains..

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And finally, we reached what we were here for – the distillery.

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We got to see how Grappa is made, got to sniff at the various flavours, and got to taste. Again loads of pictures, some with us behaving like monkeys, so you get to see just these 🙂

These were the ones we got to taste. I loved the coffee flavoured one -it tasted close to Baileys – but better. And after all that, I was drunk before it was noon 🙂

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Light-headed after all those tasting sessions, we walked around, took some more pictures. I would have posted, but I’m running out of patience now. I guess I should do some picture posts later.

Onward to the next destination – Lunch! Our guide gave us an option of traditional fare or a pizza lunch. We opted for the pizza lunch, when he said that the traditional fare might not work for children, and we had three kids under the age of 6. He promised to take us to the best pizza place in Italy, and true to his words, the pizza was absolutely delicious and massive!

We were starving by then, and would have eaten any pizza, best or not.  I have no decent pictures of the pizzas, because we gobbled them up before we could take any pictures. So famished we were, that pictures were the last things on our mind. Husband ordered wine, and they brought it in a huge jug. It was more than enough for me and him. And delicious too, if I might add. The combination of Grappa before lunch(it is supposed to be the other way around), and wine with lunch, had me more than a little tipsy). The after lunch expresso was the best thing to be had. I have to say, the memory of that lunch still has me sighing! Simple and yet so delicious!

More lemon plants – how I love them!

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Some of us even got some pizza dough to make our own pizza on our way out:)

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And then it was time to walk back to our van. On the cobbled streets of Bassano. There is some old world charm to these streets, don’t you think?

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Full and sated, it was tough not to fall asleep on the next leg of the trip.

The next stop was Villa Barbaro, a Palladian Villa. It was post lunch, and the weather was still brilliant!

I’ve just realized that this post has been going on and on, and there is still so much I need to cover! I guess the best thing is to give you guys a rest, while I go and compile the next post 🙂

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Venice Day 2 Part 2 Streets of Venice..

After half a day of walking around in the Murano and Burano, we decided to head back to Venice. Do read the previous parts of the travelogue here and here if you haven’t read them yet.

We had a day trip planned to the hill towns of Veneto for the whole of the third and last day, so wanted to experience as much of Venice as we could that evening.

So I had read of the Bridge of Sighs in loads of books. Silly as I am, I hadn’t checked out how it looked. I had asked the receptionist at the hotel, where it was, and she had indicated it on the map. Now, Venice has just too many bridges, each one as pretty as the other. We couldn’t figure out which one was the Bridge of Sighs. We took pictures of every bridge – just in case, asked lots of locals, who pointed us in the general direction, which we already knew. It was only when we got on our gondola ride, that we finally managed to confirm which bridge was the Bridge of Sighs.

TGND had asked me about the legend behind the bridge. The bridge connects the interrogation rooms in Doges Palace to the old prison. So according to Lord Byron, the convicts would sigh at their last view of Venice, giving the bridge the name. When we first saw the windows of the prison, we had no idea it was a prison, and had wondered why they were so secure. Check out the picture below.

As I mentioned in another post, it is said that if you kiss while passing under Bridge of Sighs, your love will last forever.

One of the things on our agenda was gondola rides. I had read somewhere that gondola rides were over hyped, and touristy, so initially I had plans of doing ‘non-touristy’ things, but the first sight of a gondola had me succumbing to its charms. There seemed something extremely quaint about sitting in a gondola and weaving through the streets of Venice. We found ourselves a gondolier, who was a real charmer. We had him giving us a wonderful commentary as we passed different parts of Venice, the library(which seemed massive), old houses, most with the ground floor boarded up. There was a massive flood in the 1960s which left thousands homeless. Many left Venice to never return. A lot of ground floor apartments are boarded up. The risk of floods combined with high maintenance costs and Venice being an expensive city made it an unviable place to live in for a lot of people.

I decided to create collages in an effort to avoid my media limit exceeding again. Clockwise from the top left picture – The library that I mentioned, our charming gondolier, one of the houses on our route and just before entering into the grand canal, right outside San Marco Piazza. 

Tallking of floods, Venice is flooded about 60 days every year between Oct and March. San Marco Piazza is the lowest, and is flooded quite a lot. Apparently it looks gorgeous even in floods, and there are tourists out there who try to go to Venice during these times, in the hope that they would get to witness a flood. I’ve seen pictures and it does look gorgeous! Although I have to say, I’m not too keen on braving floods to actually see it for myself.

So going back to the Gondola ride, our gondolier also told us about how they trained to become gondoliers. There are around 4oo gondoliers in Venice, and they have a very tough set training to qualify. Apparently when the Pope visited, he was one of the seven gondoliers chosen to row the Pope through Venice- it must have been such a cherished memory for him.

The smaller canal ride was quite smooth, the ride through the Grand Canal was slightly choppier, given the currents,  but a wonderful experience all the same.

Clockwise from top left: In the Grand Canal, facing the Doges Palace and San Marco, going back into the little canal,  passing under the Bridge of Sighs.

When the ride came to an end – much too soon, for our liking – we could have gone on and on, we went off on our favourite pastime of walking around aimlessly – Window shopping.

We weaved through streets after streets, catching glimpses of the Grand Canal every once in a while, crossing bridges onto islands and stopping to savour the atmosphere every once in a while. At one point, we reached a completely residential area, with only houses, no hotels or anything touristy. The only people we saw were people coming back from work, some with briefcases, others with delicious looking loaves of bread. Made me wish that one of them would invite us home for some delicious home-cooked meal. If wishes were horses…

We posed outside clotheslines hanging from windows, took pictures of quaint windows, and gorgeous windows with bursts of colour from the flowerpots placed at the windowsills. Made me want to live there..

We also passed street musicians singing, dancing, and one man was actually skating to the tune! We were so enthralled that we forgot to take a video! We had the fortune of having dinner listening to street musicians playing right next to us.

Dinner done, we took ourselves back to the hotel, and decided to turn in early. We had an early start the next day, and we certainly did not want to miss our tour.

PS: Recorded just so that we don’t forget, husband switched on English news on the telly in our hotel room. Daughter looks puzzled and says, ‘There’s something strange about this channel, I can actually understand it!’. All the other channels had been in Italian 🙂

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