20 Reasons to Love France (and Bastille Day)

Beautiful Paris - reasons to love France

France is one of the most visited countries in the world. From the fantastic gastronomy (think croissants, baguettes, cheese and wine), the language to the stunning scenery, there are many reasons to love France. For me, France was just the country I grew up in, but since I came to live in London, I  started to appreciate all its goodness. As the French are preparing to celebrate the National Day on 14th July,  and maybe more, I thought to ask some travellers experts why they love La France! Here, we delve into 20 reasons to love France.

Contents

Food and fine wine

Bordeaux wines by Stephanie from History Fangirl

Vineyards of the Bordeaux wine region - Reasons to love France

One of the magical things about France is the way it makes you appreciate simple things: chocolate, cheese, wine, etc. The French take such pride in the art of making these simple pleasures so that when you are in the country, you have to stop and enjoy them, too. Visiting the Bordeaux region and discovering the history and delights of Bordeaux wine, I learned a new appreciation for enjoying wine in general and Bordeaux wines specifically. Bordeaux wine commands respect, but it also yearns to be appreciated. While many come to buy bottles to store up in wine cellars, the town is also full of restaurants and wine tastings where you stop and take in the wine’s delicate flavours surrounded by good friends and good food.

The history of Bordeaux wine is also one of overcoming struggle. The city of Bordeaux was famously overrun with grime, but a city-wide beautification project over the last twenty years has transformed the city. While it was not a glamorous tourist destination as recently as the first part of the twenty-first century, now the city oozes charm and sophistication.

Bouchons Lyonnais by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours

Yummy tart from a Bouchon Lyonnais - Reasons to love France

Though I am an American, I work with many French people, and if there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about “Les Français”, it’s that it’s very hard to get them to agree on anything. The one exception I’ve found is that every French person I’ve asked agrees that the greatest food city in France is Lyon. Though Lyon is only the third largest city in France, it is widely considered to be its gastronomic capital. Some of you might read this and think this means it’s necessary to shell out major bucks at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon, but this is far from the case. In fact, perhaps the best restaurants in France’s best restaurant city might set you back only 20 Euros for a three-course meal. I refer, of course, to Lyon’s answer to the bistro, the humble Bouchon.

What the Bouchon lacks in fanciness, it makes up for in deliciousness. For an appetiser, you can choose from such traditional dishes as tripe soup or chicken liver pate, but I recommend a salad Lyonnaise, which is one of the least healthy salads I have ever consumed. If you dislike vegetables, you’ll probably like them prepared this way: covered with bacon and a poached egg. For the main course, something hearty like coq au vin or sausage might be offered, but my favourite option is the rich fish dumpling known as the quenelle. For dessert, I give you only one option: the Lyonnaise speciality called the praline tart. Not only is this tart unspeakably delicious, but because it is made with pink candied almonds, the tart comes out glorious bright pink. Now you know how to get one of the best meals in the world, and you barely need any money to do it. Vive la France!

Cheese by Kate from Our Escape Clause

French cheese - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

It might be a cliche, but it’s true that I have (more than once) booked a flight to Paris with one of the huge motivating factors being cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese, stinky cheese–I love it all, and no one does cheese quite like the French! The fact that a full meal in France includes a course dedicated entirely to cheese warms my heart (and fills my belly) with each visit, as do the fragrant shops throughout French cities and villages that are dedicated to nothing but the art of selling delicious cheeses.

During my trips to France, I have eaten cheese in cheese shops, in restaurants, in hotel rooms, in cafes, and in parks (after all, any decent French picnic requires cheese). Whether it’s a brie, camembert, a Munster, or–my personal favourite — cheese I’ve never heard of and am hopeless to pronounce — French cheese is a highlight of any trip to France for me.

French wine regions by Elisa from World in Paris

 

Vineyards of the Champagne region - Reasons to love France

There are many reasons why I love France, but if I had to choose just one, I would choose the country’s wine regions. The French wine regions are worldwide known and produce some of the best wines on the planet. In France, there is a commercial production of wine in all the country except in the regions located along the north coast, so there are good reds, whites, and rosés for every taste.

Bordeaux wine region (along the southern Atlantic coast), Burgundy region (south-east of Paris), Côtes du Rhone wine region (southeastern France) and Champagne region (close to the border with Belgium) are perhaps the most famous wine regions in the country but there are other lesser-known wine regions also producing interesting wines, like Provence or Alsace. The best French wines are paid like gold, but all this wine bonanza means that you can also find good wine bottles for a decent price. Apart from drinking wine in a nice bar, locals and visitors enjoy wine tours or wine tasting sessions. These activities are usually lead by experienced sommeliers which means that apart from tasting good vintages you can also learn about the world of wine in France.

Fresh produce by Kathleen from Dream. Wander. Repeat. | Instagram | Facebook

In my three months camping and road tripping around Europe I spent around three weeks camping in France, mostly in the smaller cities and rural areas. The thing that stood out to me about France above all of the other countries in Europe that I spent time in during my trip was the French fresh food culture.

I fell in love with the availability and quality of fresh produce, as well as the way of life of just buying what you need for the day, maybe the next. Each town that I visited seemed to have a thriving local market with fresh fruit and vegetables sans plastic packaging, local meat, and of course an amazing selection of cheese and wine.

Locally owned shops still flourish, so even if you visit on a day with no market on, it is easy to find good quality, locally produced food. It is so much more enjoyable than shopping at the chain grocers. You can see how much the owners love and care for what they do.

Most of the campsites I stayed at either had their own on-site bakery or had a bakery van come to the site for a few hours every morning. You could place orders the night before to secure your preference, but there was always enough so you could purchase a delightfully warm pastry or a loaf of bread each morning for your breakfast. I don’t think I will ever again find a pain au chocolat that is as amazing as the one I had from my campsite in Alsace!

 

Diversity of scenery

 

Lavender fields in Provence by Gabor from Surfing the Planet | Facebook | Twitter 

Lavender field - Reasons to love France

One of the most beautiful experiences you can have in France is getting to visit blooming lavender fields in the Provence Region. This spectacle of colours takes place every year in summer, between the middle of June and the middle of August. Depending on the area, the altitude where the fields are found and of course on the year, the blooming period varies, therefore, if you plan to visit, it’s better getting information from the local tourist office on this matter. It’s a fantastic experience to gaze at the vivid colours of these fields, while you enjoy the scent of the flowers.

The largest concentration of lavender fields you can visit in the Luberon Region, close to Apt for instance, and in the area around Sault (although there the blooming usually takes place significantly later). Some other places where we found large fields dressed in violet colour are Grignan, Salles-sous-Bois and around the Abbey of Notre-Dame d’Aiguebelle. You can expect to see bees everywhere in these fields, so be careful when walking amongst the flowers. The Provence region is famous for the lack of good public transport. Therefore, it’s almost essential to rent a car to explore the lavender fields there.

Dordogne by Christina from Explore Now or Never | Facebook | Instagram

Dordogne caves - Reasons to love France

The lovely Dordogne – also known by its historic name Périgord, – in southwestern France is all about castles, cliffs, and cave art! What’s not to love about that? While the south of France is all sunshine and lavender, the Dordogne feels leafy, green, and ancient. (Think crazy dwellings carved high into steep cliff faces.) The Dordogne region is the epicentre of prehistoric Cro-Magnon cave art. If you reserve well ahead, you can still see colourful drawings from 18,000 BC (!). Or tour the faithful reproductions in Lascaux Cave II, that you probably read about once upon a time in Art History 101.

If it’s fine French dining you’re after, look no further. The Dordogne is famous for its foie gras (goose liver), cassoulet, truffles, and cabécou (goat cheese). Be sure to include a market visit – like the famous one at Sarlat-la-Canada – during your visit to taste all the regional specialities. And finally, don’t miss the incredible Château de Beynac, standing sentry over the whole of the Dordogne valley. You can climb a watch tower for the view and then canoe the river looking back at the castle.

Chamonix by Cydny from GOAL TravelerInstagram | Facebook

Village of Chamonix - Reasons to love France

You have to love the French Alps! More specifically, the historic town of Chamonix. Mountains, altitude, skiing, snowboarding, wine, food, and all types of extreme sports; there are not many places in the world where you can take a 20-minute cable car ride to 12604 ft (3842m), then ski/snowboard nearly 14 miles down a glacier back into town. One of the most memorable experiences of my life was riding the cable car to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. From there it’s a steep hike down an exposed ridge to start the skiing/snowboarding descent down the famous Vallée Blanche. Dodging crevasses on the glacier is as exhilarating as eating your local baguette under a giant, precarious serac (block or column of glacial ice). It only takes about 2-3 hours to complete, but I was rewarded with panoramic views of the French Alps and its majestic peaks.

The amazing views don’t end when you reach town either. In the centre of town, sit at a local cafe and order any French wine to your liking. Oh, don’t forget to look up. Not only can you see others begin the descent down the Aiguille du Midi, but the tallest mountain in the Alps is lingering directly next to it. That’s right! Staring at the summit of Mont Blanc over an already delicious wine or croissant will instantly enhance the flavour 10-fold. That’s just solid French Alps science!

Cote d’Azur and the Mediterranean by Maureen from Life on the Mediterranean | Facebook | Twitter

Nice, France - Beach - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

While many love France for the cuisine, cheese and wine, for me it’s the beauty of the Cote d’Azur and the Mediterranean Sea. Initially, I was looking for refuge from the rain of northern Europe, and once I settled on living in Nice, I cannot see myself anywhere else. This part of France was originally part of Italy, and there are still remnants of that diverse culture today. There’s a fantastic mix of French, Niçois and Italian cuisine, language and culture.

The light from the Mediterranean inspired many famous artists and draws many creative types yet today to experience the same inspiration. Many came for a more healthy way of life with copious amounts of sunshine and the benefits that maintaining a Mediterranean lifestyle bring. The whimsical colours of the buildings against the magnificent sea and sky are awe-inspiring.

There is a very international feel in Nice, to the ultra chic in Monaco and Cannes. Then you have the quaint, perched, traditionally-French villages of St. Paul de Vence and Eze. When you tire of the sea, the fresh mountain air is 1.5hr away. Our international airport can fly you directly to hundreds of destinations.

There are numerous festivals celebrating what is unique to this area, like the olive, lemon, garlic, onion and honey festivals, then there’s the Nice Carnival, the Nice Jazz Festival, Jazz at Juan le Pins, the Cannes Film Festival, Formula 1 races, the Citrus Festival in Menton and more. There is something for everyone. To appreciate the beauty from the sea, you simply take a boat excursion or rent a boat for the day, and there are numerous sandy and rocky beaches hosting loads of beach-front restaurants where you can soak up the sun.

The Alps by Danny from Coddiwomp | Facebook | Instagram

The Alps, France - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

Before I got to know France a bit better I sort of thought Paris was the only thing worth seeing there. To my naïve English mind, France sort of, well, was Paris. But then, thankfully, with the help of my French girlfriend, I started exploring more. Which is how I discovered the Alps. I mean. Wow. For the first 24 years of my life (…I’m 25) I’d never been skiing and had no real idea what I was missing in the mountains. I was more of a beach and ocean sort of guy. I didn’t really feel any actual desire to spend time high up, cold and covered in snow, dodging avalanches and annoyingly cool people on boards and skis.
The French Alps changed that. As soon as I saw them for the first time, they blew my mind:

the immensity of the mountains, the sheer scale and magnitude of them, the awe-inspiring atmosphere that drifts and swells from their peaks. I discovered a newfound love of mountains and snow. There’s something humbling about the immovable, immutable, omnipotent mountains of the Alps. They stun and humble you. They demand your respect and captivate your attention. They’re breathtakingly and mind-bogglingly beautiful. I love France for all manner of reasons, but the Alps has to be reason number one.

Quiberon Peninsula by Mayi from SecretMoona | Facebook | Twitter

Presqu'ile de Quiberon, France - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

One reason to love France is the stunning diversity of its landscape. From the beautiful beaches of the south, snowy mountains, rugged coasts to charming villages, there are lots to love and explore. When I was younger, I was fortunate to travel a lot in France either with my schools or during summer camps. I was able to discover the diverse coastlines (France has three coasts: the Mediterranean, North and Atlantic) and the full range of mountains (Alps, Jura, Pyrenees, Massif Central and Auvergne).

My favourite place is without a doubt, Brittany especially, the breathtaking Presqu’île de Quiberon (or Quiberon Peninsula in English). The Quiberon Peninsula offers a long stretch of sandy beaches (9 miles) offering hiking trails as well as charming villages and port towns to explore along the way. On the western side is the rocky Côte Sauvage (wild coast) a rough and remote part of the coast. Locals love to watch the waves hit the cliffs and coves. I witness that last January, and it was heart-stopping.

Gardens by Dorothy OzandOtherPlaces | Pinterest | Instagram 

Jardin du Luxembourg - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

Growing up as someone with bad allergies, I was never drawn to flowers, let alone gardens. That all changed when I studied abroad in Paris during my junior year of college and got to travel around much of France. The gardens here are something else. France is known for the Formal Garden style (or jardin à la française) featuring symmetry and order, like the gardens at Versailles. However, French gardens come in all shapes, styles and sizes, and are everywhere. The Tuileries in Paris are massive and manicured to match the grandeur of the Louvre, while the gardens of Giverny are calming and lush making it clear as to why they inspired one of France’s most famous artists, Claude Monet.

In Southern France, fields and fields of lavender provide an incredible backdrop and fill the air with their natural perfume. In Limoges, perfumeries use their rose flowers in products that allow visitors to enjoy the gardens of central France around the world.
From hidden balconies to sprawling vineyards to formal castle courtyards, gardens are inescapable across France. There are so many things to love about this country (the art, the wine, the cheese!) but the one thing that caught me off guard and has stayed with me since are the gardens. I have no doubt that the Jardin du Luxembourg will always be my favourite place in the world for a picnic!

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Castles

 

The Dordogne castles by Zoe from Together In Transit | Facebook | Instagram 

Castles of Dordogne - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

My top thing for loving France is because of the region Dordogne, a place I spent many summers camping with the family. The Dordogne is full of beautiful little towns like La Roque-Gageac and Beynac-et-Cazenac, which have the most amazing cafes and walkways to the castles above. My favourite Castle to visit is Castelnaud, a 12th-century medieval fortress with the perfect panoramic views across the valley. As well as these must-see castles from above, the coolest thing to explore the Dordogne region is from the river below.

As well as boat trips, there are many canoe and kayaking companies that can organise your trip for different distances of the river, such as 8km or 15km. They take you up the river, and you complete the distance back to the starting point, with no time limit set. Many times we would stop somewhere along the river for lunch, but it’s perfect for taking your own picnics too and stopping your own private beach along the way. If the weather gets too hot, why not check out one of many caves that you can tour in the valley, such as the Le Gouffre de Proumeyssac. Filled with special but natural formations, this cave is perfect for all ages to explore. They provide special tours where you can descend in a basket to the bottom of the cave and a light show inside at special times. The Dordogne is definitely a location I would go back to in a heartbeat, perfect for exploration for all ages and lots of activities all year round.

Versailles castle by Rashmi and Chalukya from Go Beyond Bounds | Facebook | Twitter

Chateau de Versailles - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

For anyone visiting France, Paris is at the top of the list. Paris draws visitors looking to explore the culture, heritage, museums and of course the iconic Eiffel Tower. If you are looking to explore France beyond Paris, there is no dearth of places rich in history and heritage. It is said that France is home to over 1000 castles and palaces and each one of these has an intriguing and compelling story to tell about the history of France. The opulent palace of Versailles which is a UNESCO’s World Heritage site is one of our favourite palaces. The palace rooms and royal apartments are decorated with paintings, fine stucco work, tapestries, sculptures, and chandeliers.

As a part of the palace tour, you also get to visit the lavish rooms of Royal Apartments which has sumptuously decorated rooms with canopied beds, paintings, and rich furnishings. The most impressive part of the palace is the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ which has over 350 mirrors, gilded sculptures, crystal chandeliers and breathtaking painting on the ceiling adorning its interior. Equally stunning is the palace garden which features manicured lawns, fountains, and numerous sculptures. On your next visit to France make sure plan a visit to Versailles and other historic castles and palaces, most of which are easy day trips from Paris.

  

Villages and towns

 

Grasse by Maura from TravelKiwis

Grasse, France - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

If you love perfume and everything French, why not visit Grasse, the world capital of perfume. Only a short 40-minute drive from Nice, or just over an hour if you decide to take the train or bus. Grasse is a wonderful day trip to explore and learn more about the history of perfume. In the hills overlooking Nice, you can find the town of Grasse. Surrounding the town is a countryside where flowers and water are in abundance, especially Jasmine, a key ingredient of perfume brought to the area by the Moors in the 16th century.
When visiting Grasse, you have three options to learn more of its perfume history dating back to the 18th century from the three perfume houses, Galimard (1747), Molinard (1849) and Fragonard (1926).

Fragonard Perfume Museum is a great place to start when you arrive in Grasse. It is here you will learn not only the history of perfume but you have an opportunity to become familiar with the scent you love. The name of the museum is in honour of the Grasse-born painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). I have to admit, the perfumery I choose is Guy Bouchara, an Artisan Parfumeurs located in the cobblestoned old town. This lovely, warm and inviting store offers you, with the help of Guy and his lovely wife, the chance to create your perfume specifically for you. So, when in the south of France, make sure you stop by Grasse to choose a French perfume for you.

Annecy by Arzo from Arzo Travels | Instagram 

Flower city of Annecy - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

I admit I have a weird relation with France. However, I have to say that France has some of the most beautiful places in the world (and the best crepes but that is mentioned here separately) and there are many reasons to love it. One of the reasons why I love France is… because of the gorgeous town of Annecy. While Annecy is pretty photogenic, it is even prettier in reality. I would go as far as saying it is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe! The colourful and lovely houses, the canals, the flower posts everywhere, the lovely and entertaining swaps on the river, the bridges and of course the beautiful Lake d’Annecy – there are many reasons to love this town – and thus love France.

Getting lost in its narrow streets, buying fresh fruits in the street market, eating delicious baguettes in the cafes, and spending time at the lake…what else can you ask for a perfect day? Well, maybe it is even more perfect to end the day with a French wine at the lake. While it has an Italian touch (it is also known as the Venice of the Alps), this town is France at its best and though not the only reasons it convinced me even more, that France is stunning!

 

French uniqueness

Moulin Rouge by Hannah from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel | Facebook | Instagram 

Moulin Rouge - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

There is so much to love about France; the food, wine, buildings, history, and art. But, I expected to love those things about France. What I didn’t expect to love so much was the cabarets, specifically Paris’ Moulin Rouge. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went for the first time. I liked the idea of going to a real cabaret, and such a historic one as well. But, I also worried that it might be too touristic and cheesy. Especially as I stood in line and had a local come up to me and tell me I was wasting my money. That was a quick way to make me second guess my decision. After all, the tickets aren’t cheap.

But as it turns out, I loved every minute of it. So much so that I went back two years later to see the exact same show, Feerie, again. It was just as good as the first time. The dancers, costumes, sets, performers, and the whole atmosphere was absolutely captivating and over far too quickly. Even now, after seeing it twice, if I had the opportunity to go again, I absolutely would. So if you are planning a trip to Paris, France and wondering if the Moulin Rouge is worth it, then my answer is a very big and clear YES.

Disneyland Paris by Amy from The Travel Fairies | Facebook | Twitter

Disneyland Paris - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

The reason I love France is because it is home to Disneyland Paris. Whilst it is not the biggest Disney Park, it is one of the most unique and keeps me coming back to France over and over again.  Disneyland Paris is home to a most beautiful castle – and my favourite of all the Disney castles. Of all the Disney parks, this is the only castle based on fantasy rather than the more traditional style since France is already home to plenty of real castles. Instead of being a walkthrough or a restaurant like other parks, Disneyland Paris’ castle allows you to go onto the different floors and follow the story of Sleeping Beauty. It does this through the exquisite stain glass windows and statues. There is even an animatronic dragon sleeping under the castle!

I love Disneyland Paris for the atmosphere and theming of the park too. It brings back so many childhood memories as I walk through the park and I feel like a child again (even if that’s just at heart)! The park is themed so well and has some exceptionally imagined areas of the park following the different themes. Some highlights include the Toy Story Playland which has oversized toys to make you feel like a toy yourself and the Ratatouille area which transports you to the heart of Paris without leaving Marne-la-Vallée and is unique to this park!  The Ratatouille: The Adventure, a 3D ride through the story of the film, is an amazing ride in this area and one of the many exciting rides on offer through Disneyland Paris and the Studios parks. My favourites and ones you should definitely check out are Crush’s Coaster, a spinning roller coaster riding along the EAC; Space Mountain, a speedy rollercoaster through the stars and Big Thunder Mountain, the wildest ride in the wilderness.

Beautiful cemeteries by Clemens by Travellers Archive | Facebook | Instagram

Paris-Pere-Lachaise - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

One of the most special things about France is the cemeteries that attract visitors from all over the world all year long. The reason for that is that some of them are super old and come with a very special charm. Also, cemeteries in France are generally protected by municipally. Most of them are so charming that you might consider doing a romantic walk in these parks.

The best example is Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, opened in 1804, tucked away in the northeast of the city, more precisely in the 20th arrondissement. Especially in autumn, it’s totally worth it to take a break from the big city life of Paris and just wander around the huge Père Lachaise. Enjoy the brown land yellow leaves in between over 300,000 tombs and breathe in the very special atmosphere. As in many other cemeteries in Paris and throughout the whole country of France you can find a lot of graves of famous people, such as Molière, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Colette and Marcel Proust to famous actors like Marcel Marceau, Sarah Bernhardt and Yves Montand to singers and songwriters like Chopin, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. It is not hard to fall in love with such a special atmosphere like this.

Shakespeare and Company by Jo from Beyond the Lamp Post | Facebook 

Shakespeare & Company - SecretMoona - Reasons to love France

Some might think that an English language bookshop is not really something to love about France, but those people haven’t been to Shakespeare & Company. A rambling little store on the banks of the Seine, just across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral, Shakespeare & Company has been a Parisian institution since 1951, educating, inspiring, employing, and even housing, vagabonding authors and literary travellers (including Allen Ginsberg, Zadie Smith, and Anais Nin) who made their way to the City of Lights.

Visitors to the shop wind their way through narrow passages filled with books, climbing rickety staircases to the upper rooms where the store’s ethos “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise” is painted above a doorway. Comfortable chairs litter the store’s rooms, inviting guests to sit and read as much as buy, and Post-It notes provide messages of hope and inspiration for visitors who are yet to come. Over time, Shakespeare & Company has expanded outward into the adjoining shops, opening an antiquarian bookstore and a café in addition to the original shop. If you time your visit right, you might be able to attend a book launch, a writers’ workshop, or a reading; but even if not, there’s nothing quite like spending a couple of hours in a quiet corner of a bookstore getting lost in words that were inspired by the beautiful city outside.

Why do you love France, please let me know the reason in the comment below.

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

6 thoughts on “20 Reasons to Love France (and Bastille Day)

  1. I am a big fan of France for several reasons: food, architecture, culture, art, wine, I could go on. It’s definitely a country I want to explore more.

    1. I’m with you Anisa, I could go on forever too but people say I’m biased because it’s my home country!

  2. This is a great list! I’m surprised, though, that no one mentioned the chateaux (castles) in the Loire Valley. They’re absolutely magnificent! I’d especially recommend Blois (and its sound and light show) and Chenonceaux, but there are so many and they’re all so different from each other.

    1. It’s true, the chateaux of the Loire Valley are amazing and maybe I should head over there to explore? I love Blois too. And thank you for suggesting the Château de Chenonceau, I did not know about this one.

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