burlington, vermont guide


illustration by julia rothman

today’s burlington, vermont city guide comes from angela m. graziano, the founding editor of something green. her site features daily tips, resources and inspiration to help hostesses plan contemporary and stylish green events. today angela shares a bit of her planning expertise in this comprehensive guide through the beautiful city of burlington, with thoughtful sections like  “books, music and art” and “markets and co-ops.”  thanks angela for this wonderful peek into this lovely mountain city! –stephanie

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Nestled 200 miles northwest of Boston and 100 miles southeast of Montreal is the small city of Burlington, Vermont. Though most travelers make the trek to the Green Mountain State in search of rugged ski trails, fresh mountain air and, of course, maple syrup, Burlington serves up an eclectic mix of food, fashion and art often found exclusively in a big city environment. The largest city in Vermont, boasting a population of about 40,000, Burlington is home to multiple colleges and universities including the University of Vermont (13,000 students) and Champlain College (2,000 students). Don’t let the city’s small size fool you. The greater Burlington area is home to more than 446 restaurants, 53 bars, 28 libraries and 2 museums among a multitude of other cultural retreats. But a lively downtown scene isn’t the only reason travelers visit this small mountain city year-round. Because of its close proximity to top Northeast ski resorts, such as Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch and Mad River Glen, as well as its location on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the longest and most historic lakes in the nation, stretching 120 miles from Whitehall, New York to the Richelieu River in Quebec, Burlington has become a refuge for active travelers. In recent years, the city has even earned top honors from major media outlets including The New York Times, Outside, Arts & Entertainment and Traveler who have cited Burlington as a top city for outside activities, the arts, safety and overall quality of life. Similarly, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently named Burlington as one of the “10 Best Cities for the Next Decade” thanks to its commitment to innovation, creativity and environmental initiatives and CNN Money named Burlington as one of its “Best Places to Live.” If you’re in search of a thriving arts scene, local foods, sophisticated boutiques and maybe even a quick hike or two be sure to set your GPS to Burlington, Vermont – a perfect city for a weekend getaway anytime of the year.

Books, Music & Art

Bennington Potters North – Specializing in Vermont-made stoneware pottery, this multi-level shop features an assortment of dinnerware, serving pieces and bakeware as well as a mix of creative gifts and assorted décor, much of which is handmade.

Burlington Records – Music lovers are certain to get lost in the aisles of this shop, which features a variety of original vinyl LPs, used and vintage stereo equipment, used and vintage instruments and a range of musical memorabilia.

Crow Bookshop ­– In search of the perfect beach read? The Crow, Burlington’s long-time indie bookshop, stocks a mix of new and used books that cover an assortment of topics –from fiction to film to cooking and comics.

Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center – Get to know Lake Champlain a bit more by visiting the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Featuring more than 70 species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles, more than 100 interactive activities as well as changing and permanent exhibits, it is the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon.

Firehouse Gallery – Situated in the heart of the downtown shopping district this exhibition space is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art by both local and national-level artists.

Fleming Museum – Located on the University of Vermont’s campus, the Fleming Museum offers year-round exhibits of contemporary and historic art from around the world.

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts – Housed in a 75+ year old art space (originally a vaudeville house and then a movie theater) the Flynn brings high quality emerging and established performing acts onto their stage year-round.

Frog Hollow – This downtown space features the work of more than 250 Vermont artists. Both an exhibit space and a storefront, Frog Hollow’s mission is to offer traditional and contemporary Vermont artists and crafters a space to display and sell their work.

Consignment/Second-Hand

Battery Street Jeans – Stocking a constantly evolving assortment of coats, shoes, apparel and accessories, Battery Street is the place to find a funky vintage handbag or dress to wear out during your stay in town.

Clothing Line – In addition to a large assortment of women’s dresses and blouses, the Clothing Line is also known for their collection of quirky vintage relics.

Old Gold ­­– Looking for something over the top? Old Gold boasts an extensive inventory of vintage and new clothing and accessories for both women and men. Perhaps best known for their vast costume selection, they are an ideal venue to find funky jewelry at fair prices.

Second Time Around – This growing chain of contemporary resale designer clothes recently opened a Burlington location in the heart of the Church Street shopping district. Although technically a second hand shop, the store only carries consignment goods that are no more than two years old. Be sure to scope out their excellent collection of accessories and their wall of blazers.

Food & Drink

American Flatbread – Flatbread is perfect for any traveler who enjoys good beer, local food and an inviting atmosphere. Although they’re known for their small menu of all-natural pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens they also feature a tasty brunch menu.

Dobra Tea – If you’re looking for a warm atmosphere to enjoy unique teas and small plates stop by Dobra Tea Room. Order a cup of “Dragon Pearls,” a unique and aromatic green tea blend that is almost as appealing to look at as it is to sip.

The Farm House Tap & Grill – One of Burlington’s newest restaurants, the Farm House Tap & Grill is dedicated to supporting local agriculture as a means to produce their burgers and various upscale comfort entrees. Additionally, they carry a wide selection of microbrews, which can be enjoyed while you eat or while seated out back in their seasonal beer garden.

Hong’s Chinese Dumplings – When you think of Vermont you may not initially think of street food. However, Hong’s Chinese Dumplings (a small cart parked nearby the local Barnes & Noble) makes some of the best street eats around. A plate of dumplings costs only a few dollars – an ideal lunch for a traveler on the go.

Muddy Waters – Aside from their coffees, teas and specialty drinks, this Burlington staple offers guests an artful interior designed with tree trunks, rich woods and local art.

Penny Cluse Café – Open for breakfast and lunch, Penny Cluse features high-quality comfort food made mostly with local ingredients. Be sure to stop in early since this place tends to get packed on the weekends! Don’t leave town without ordering their “Bucket-o-Spuds.”

Red Onion – A Burlington landmark, Red Onion is famous for their hearty sandwiches and indulgent cookies. In search of the perfect lunch: go with the signature “Red Onion” sandwich, which features turkey, thick-cut bacon, local cheddar and sliced apple, and a snickerdoodle cookie for dessert (it will totally be worth every single calorie).

The Skinny Pancake – Located on Burlington’s waterfront, the Skinny Pancake features an assortment of sweet and savory crepes that are perfect for a snack or a meal. In the warm weather months take advantage of their outdoor seating and enjoy the sounds of one of the many live music acts that take the stage right on their patio.

Stone Soup – Situated just steps from multiple bars and boutiques, Stone Soup boasts a fantastic local and organic hot buffet, as well as sandwiches and an amazing rotation of freshly made soups. This is a great place to go to score a healthy but filling lunch or dinner for just a few dollars. (Insider tip: their corn chowder is arguably one of the best in New England).

Uncommon Grounds – Take an afternoon break and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at this locally owned coffee house. Throughout the fall, spring and summer they have an excellent outdoor seating area – a perfect spot for some casual people watching.

Markets & Co-ops

Burlington Farmers’ & Artists’ Market – Every Saturday from mid-May through late-October Burlington’s City Hall Park is transformed into an outdoor farmers’ market that carries everything from organically grown fruits and vegetables to locally raised meats to artisan breads and various regional specialties. A large section of the market is dedicated to Vermont-based craft vendors. Here, market-goers will find locally made beauty products, jewelry, apparel, handmade crafts and the like.

City Market/Onion River Co-op – This community owned food cooperative carries conventional, local and organic food products and toiletries at fair prices. In addition to their grocery items they also stock many ready-to-eat carry out items such as freshly made salads and sandwiches.

Nightlife

Breakwaters Café & Grill – When visiting Burlington in the summer months be sure to reserve at least one night for drinks at Breakwaters Café and Grill, a casual bar and grill with some of the most rivaled waterfront outdoor seating in the area.

Drink – If you’re looking for a laid-back lounge atmosphere, Drink offers a casual but sophisticated environment. Be sure to try one of their many house-infused vodkas.

Nectars – One of Burlington’s claims to fame, Nectars holds a long musical history, namely as the original stomping grounds of the rock band, Phish. Nectars is a local headquarters for live music – ranging from folk to rock to reggae – and the occasional late night order of gravy fries.

Red Square – Aside from being a popular watering hole for the local hipster crowd, Red Square features a monthly rotating art exhibition featuring local artists working in a variety of mediums.

Shopping

Burton Flagship Store – A short drive or bike ride from the main Church Street shopping district is the flagship storefront for this worldwide active apparel brand. Stop in to stock up on graphic tees, casual handbags and cold weather soft goods.

Ecco Clothing – This locally owned boutique stocks its shelves with the latest denim, dresses, shoes and accessories. Although they carry many well-known designers such as Ella Moss and James Perse their inventory also includes a range of up-and-coming indie designers.

Fire & Metal Goldsmiths – Housed in the front of a working goldsmith shop are cases filled with beautiful metal rings, bracelets and pendants for sale. Keep a look out for their edgy, yet understated, stud earrings.

Stella – Hidden in this basement space are walls of carefully selected shoes by somewhat obscure but on-trend brands. Their styles range from adorably preppy flats to Gaga-inspired heels.

Sweet Lady Jane –Sweet Lady Jane offers a stylish mix of separates by companies like Free People, French Connection, Mac & Jac and Triple Five Soul. They also carry an assortment of unique vintage-inspired jewelry and accessories.

Tradewinds Imports – Easily the most eclectic shop in town, Tradewinds carries an absolutely staggering variety of imported gemstone jewelry as well as assorted home décor. If you’re in a shopping mood, their rows of statement rings are an absolute must.

Trinket – Trinket offers a unique collection of jewelry, small gifts and fashion accessories, many of which have been crafted by indie designers.

Waterfront

Burlington Bike Path – Burlington’s recreational bike path stretches for 7.6 miles along the scenic shores of Lake Champlain. Keep active during your visit by packing your running shoes and hitting the pavement. A more leisurely option – take your time by strolling the path and stopping at each of the many parks and resting areas sprinkled along the waterfront.

Leddy Park & Beach – Hidden in Burlington’s New North End, Leddy Beach offers over 1500 feet of waterfront including a sandy beach and shaded picnic areas. A blanket and a good book are all that you need to create an ideal afternoon in this serene setting.

North Beach ­– Located just steps off of Burlington’s seven-mile bike path (see above) North Beach is the city’s go-to beach. Entrance fees are for vehicles only so pack light and walk or bike the short trek for a free day on the water.

Waterfront Park – Situated on the shores of Lake Champlain is Burlington’s own Waterfront Park. Here, guests will find access to the city’s seven-mile recreational bike path as well as a boardwalk, 900 feet of lakeshore and multiple green spaces. Throughout the warm weather months, Waterfront Park is home to various community events including the Vermont Brewers Festival.

Ana

Simply one of the BEST towns in New England! Thank you for this guide!

Laura

So happy to read this Burlington city guide! As a UVM alum, this great list of shops and restaurants instantly brings back a ton of great memories.

And as always, I’m loving Julia’s illustration! :)

Faye

I’ve been hoping for a Burlington city guide, thank you! I love living in this town, and finally have documentation to share with my friends as I try and convince them that it’s not just a college town and that they should all move here!

Grace

Another great place to check out when exploring Burlington is Vermont Farm Table. My sister and I stumbled upon it while traveling a few miles south of Burlington in Charlotte. Their studio offers a wide variety of custom tables and benches.

The wood materials used are sourced locally from old barns throughout Vermont and then finished with eco-friendly oils. Definitely a unique place to stop by on your way out of town.

susan

as a resident – i want to thank you for featuring our little city!!

Katie

I paid a visit to Burlington one fall several years ago. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to live there ever since. It’s a fantastic city.

christine

thanks for featuring burlington! it’s one of my favorite places. bennington potters north, the bike path, city market/onion river co-op and the skinny pancake are all great mentions!

Michelle

Thanks to my favorite blog for featuring my fair city! I work right above Stone Soup and have never tried the chowder – I think it’s lunchtime…

Hannah

Im so glad you posted this!!! growing up in vermont, I know its one of the best small cities to be in! This is great :)

Jessy

Thank you so much for this guide! I live in Shelburne, close to Burlington and I love to spend time walking around Chruch Street (Where a Frog Hollow is located) A resturant my family normally goes to there is Sweetwaters which is worth any wait for it. I love that on church street not only are there are many local-owned shops which could take all day to go through but also a mall with almost any brand-name store you can think of (entrance between Starbucks and Old Navy). There are so many other beautiful places to visit and walk or ride your bike around but Church Street has to be my first recommendation.

Marisa

One of the best restaurants in Burlington is A Single Pebble. Their mock eel (made with mushrooms) is amazing! So glad to see a post about Burlington.

Amanda

I just got back from attending a wedding in Burlington this weekend. Loved the Saturday market – fresh food vendors, pottery and cheese samples were awesome!

Maureen A. Banack

hi-
i’d love to hear suggestions for lodging in this area. thanks!

Shannon

Oh man, I thought that you were talking about my current town, Burlington, Ontario and I thought to myself – where the heck have I been?!

Katherine Robinson

Don’t forget the fantastic handmade shoe and leather workshop of Matt Renna right on Church Street! This is my favorite place to find an impeccably made wallet or bag, crafted right in Vermont. Check his studio/shop out!

Christina Diaz

We used to live in Montreal and made many many day trips to Burlington. We loved walking down by the frozen lake and walking the cute little streets and window shopping. We always stopped by the coop on the way back home for some goodies….Nice memories….

Lorna

Great guide, but you totally missed Radio Bean for Drinks and Live Music, lots of upcoming bands play here. Next door is Duino Duende, International Street Food, same owner as Radio Bean. Here you get a real sense of the young, local Burlington music and art scene for one can eat dinner outside and watch the hipsters mingle.
Also Burlington has a loft building totally run on wind and a food oil furnace.

Molly

Wonderful! You got all the best spots! Nothing like a coffee and a mocha chip cookie at Muddy Waters…

Mariel

I can’t believe that Lake Champlain Chocolates factory wasn’t mentioned! It’s in central Burlington near the waterfront.

Zack Luby

Great job getting the places down!

I would add Sneakers and Tiny Thai, which are in Winooski, for food.

The glaring omission? New World Tortilla. Every college town needs a burrito place, and NWT is ours. It also happens to be fantastic.

Also, The dumpling lady sets up in front of Borders on Church St, there is no Barnes and Noble downtown.

KAM

It’s great to have another version of the Burlington guide, but does Angela Graziano actually live here? There are numerous errors in her guide (Hong’s is in front of Borders not Barnes and Noble, Stella is now at street level and has been for months, ECHO is great but it’s really a children’s museum, which she doesn’t mention), and she’s included some of the most mainstream (and often more touristy or college-student oriented) businesses, but missed some real gems, e.g., the Bluebird Tavern, Radio Bean, the Monkey House, 1/2 Lounge…and in the design department she’s omitted mention of the Pine Street arts district, a neighborhood home to Conant Metal & Light (an amazing lighting store), ReSTORE (secondhand), and many other shops, as well as the location of many of the city’s artists’ studios and the annual South End Art Hop. Also design/craft related, what about the gorgeous yarn and fabric shop nido? And she’s also failed to mention the Old North End neighborhood, home to the Bobbin Sew Bar + Craft Lounge, among other businesses owned by young, hip locals.

I’ve used the D*S city guides when traveling and have enjoyed the “insider” spots they’ve led me to, and I would love for Burlington to have a guide that represented not just the major, mainstream/downtown cultural attractions that can be easily found through an internet search, but a local’s guide to our lovely city.

grace

KAM

in a sizable guide like this, errors will occur. i’m going to touch base with angela about getting this updated. but please keep in mind that these guides are an edited look at a town through one person’s view, so there will be places that don’t appear because of their specific tastes.

that said, if you feel strongly that there are d*s-style shops missing, feel free to mention them here (i’m checking out the ones you mentioned above now, thanks) we’re definitely always open to amending the post. i’ve done that before, but it’s based on other locals’ suggestions for the same places and us reviewing the store to see that it’s a good fit.

it’s nearly impossible to create a guide that everyone is going to love, but we aim to do the best we can. i’ll look into these shops you mentioned and will be sure to update this if the shops seem like a good fit and if others echo the recommendations as well.

grace

Kami

Oh! My hubbie-to-be and I are going on a Vermont tour for our mini-honeymoon in a few months! This is a perfect guide since we’re too busy w/ the wedding to do too much honeymoon planning. Thank you!!!!

elizabeth ciano

I think Paige did a great job here…

http://www.designspongeonline.com/2009/05/small-city-guide-burlington-vermont-part-i.html

(I tried to make a longer post including other shops, lodging suggestions and some other things that D*S readers may love, but it didn’t go through. )

One must for D*S readers would be Nido – the fabric and yarn store
http://www.nidovt.com
209 College Street (second floor)

and Isabean Childrens
http://www.isabean.com/
206 College Street

Judy

Red Square is NOT a bar for hispters. Repeat, NOT a bar for hipsters. Better suited for fist pumping, having your ass groped by strangers, and overpriced (yet watered down) cocktails…though you city folk might be used to that :). For a good ol’ fashioned watering hole, try The OP or ESOX.

Bluebird Tavern is the best restaurant in Vermont.

Stella Shoes (and clothes now, too!) is the best place to spend your money on Church Street.

Burlington is great for a long weekend or crashing on your friend’s couch. Otherwise, you might wake up in a few years and wonder how the hell you spent the last few years of your life in such a bizarre bubble of existence, coupled with subsequent guilt and anxiety if you even consider leaving. It’s an alternate dimension of reality, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Christina

The Lotus Shop is my favorite little eclectic boutique to find antique treasures, interesting books, organic USA made cotton clothing, Rebecca Minkoff bags (!!), and Me & Ro jewelry. This little gem is on College St, off of Church St…and truly a worthwhile stop!

GB

:( I miss vermont! your post brought back many memories..
Judy, I have to disagree with you here…perhaps it depends on which “stage” of life you’re in….it was the best place to raise a kid and I wish we’d never moved.

Design Fixation

I absolutely LOVE the illustration of Church Street, it’s a place near and dear to my heart.

I’ve also recently discovered both the Shelburne and Charlotte Vineyards… both offer wine tastings and breathtaking views. A bit of a drive from Burlington, yes, but worth the trip. And you might as well stop into the Bearded Frog for dinner while you’re in the neighborhood!

I grew up in Shelburne, Jessy! Small world.

Shelly

I lived in Vermont for a year and love this little guide! I do wish she had included the Bluebird Tavern – pretty much all locally grown food and so DELICIOUS with a great patio! Very uniquely Vermont. Also missing is Viva Espresso – hands down some of the best lattes & bagels in Burlington. I’m drooling just thinking about the Montreal spice bagel… to die for.

Laura

Two more addition to a great list – for breakfast check out Magnolia’s Bistro on the corner of St. Paul and College St. Not only is it a certified green restaurant, but the food rocks and so does the service. I used to go there when I couldn’t get a seat at Penny Cluse, but now it’s my first stop.
Also, Nunyuns, on the corner of North St and North Champlain is a wonderful bakery/breakfast/lunch joint and Christine and Paul who own it are two of the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet.

Melissa

I second Magnolia! They have the best strawberry jam I have ever had in my life. I think I used a whole thing of it on my toast.

Liza

Thanks for visiting our city, but I second Kam on this one. The best parts of the city are those outside the tourist center, and you didn’t even go off the beaten path.

In the South End, visit The Lamp Shop, Fresh Market, Battery Jeans, Conant Metal and Light, The SPACE Gallery, Small Equals, Speaking Volumes, Meyers Bagels, Speeder & Earls, South End Arts & Business Gallery, New World Tortilla and Lake Champlain Chocolates Factory Cafe- all are located within a short walk along Pine Street.

Paige Russell did a much better guide for D*S last year because she actually lived and worked here.

Michelle

I third KAM on this, too. While I appreciate Angela stopping by and reporting her findings, her selections appear to be that of a tourist and not a resident. I think the comments have remedied that to some extent…mentions of Bluebird Tavern, the South End Arts District, Magnolia. Hopefully readers will refer back to Paige’s guide for a much better “insider’s” look at the city.

PS – recently used the guides for Providence and Newport on a recent trip to RI. Great recommendations for two great spots! Thank you! I always stop here (d*s) before visiting any city! The Montreal guide is fantastic, too!

Gwen

Don’t forget the Magic Hat Brewery (free samples and tour), Champlain Chocolates (free samples and tour)! Radio Bean, mentioned earlier is awesome for small venue music in a relaxed atmosphere. Red Square is usually packed so you can’t move :-P. Recycle North is also a great place for cheaply priced vintage finds.

The Girl

I used this guide this weekend while I took a SELF-RETREAT (yeah, first time and it was fabulous!!) for four days to VT. Spent most of my time in Stowe but took the last day to hang around Burlington and this ended up being a terrific guide to know what to find and what to skip!

My addition would be a lovely breakfast and lunch place, Magnolia’s, tucked away in an ally (yes, literally, an ally!)… it was lovely, well-priced, had a lot of vegetatian options but still good meat-eater selections, and the most wonderful lime-aid I’ve ever tasted!

Paul

What a nice article! Even if it is written by an outsider, we can all agree what is so good about BVT. As far as Judy’s comments regarding nightlife in town; she has it backwards. Red Square IS the hipster crowd. Look at their couches on Church Street in the summer. What do you see? Hipsters. It’s packed for a reason…She hit it on the head when she said BVT is an alternate to reality. Having lived in big cities, this is a very good thing.

Morgan

I would have to agree with Kam’s post. There is something
about this that and the way it was written that really makes me
feel like it wasn’t written by a local, I was hoping it wouldn’t be
the stock answers you often see about Burlington, and unfortunately
it was. Many of the commenters did a really great job of filling in
the blanks of the article. I was very surprised that the article
didn’t mention Church Street by name. I live in downtown because of
the proximity to Church Street and the uniqueness that it brings to
our fine city, it sadly was mentioned only as the shopping
district. Burlington is an amazing city and every time I have
family visit they always say, “I see why you live here.” It is an
amazing place to live and visit.

Leigh

I’m living in Cape Town, South Africa and haven’t lived in Burlington for 4 years but this makes me miss it even more. It is such a unique and special place. And my FAVORITE place in all of Vermont is Petra Cliffs Climbing Center, its a whole world of its own and rock climbing is such a part of the Burlington culture.

Cynthia

I grew up in beautiful Burlington. When visiting I love to stop at retro, mid-century Al’s French Fries just into South Burlington on Williston Rd. Always packed with locals who appreciate hand-cut fries and great burgers.

Andy Morris

Planning a trip to Burlington in Feb or Mar in search of a new home, as an Artist I was pleased to hear of a vibrant art community.

Leigh

Just a few rec’s on some missing (and new) Burlington Restaurants:

Pizzeria Vertias on St. Paul. Authentic Neapolitan pizza in a warm and trendy spot.

El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina on Bank Street (off Church). Delicious local ingredient tacos and more housed in an old diner car by the same owners of Farmhouse Tap & Grill. Not a lot of seats, but there’s a takeout window. Don’t miss the Sopa!

Mirabelle’s on Main Street. Owner Alison Lane is a certified baking genius (IMHO). The pastry case will make even the most hardened anti-sweets people give in. Scrumptious breakfast and lunches too.

August First on South Champlain Street. Tucked away on a side street by the waterfront, this breakfast/lunch spot offers delicious soups, sandwiches, and breads from scratch. Also check out their new sandwich spot called “Stacks” on North Winooski near Radio Bean.

Panadero Bakery on North Winooksi in the Old North End. Breads, sandwiches, coffee, and sweet treats. Grab a cup of joe, a croissant and linger.

Leigh

Hi Grace,

Anytime you want to update the Burlington Guide, I’d love to help. I’m a Design Sponge fan, a foodie and have lived in Burlington for almost 10 years, so I think I could do this Queen City proud and dig up some unearthed gems for your readers.

Best,
Leigh

Laura

So glad to see so many of my fellow Burlingtonians chiming in with great suggestions! One update to the guide since it was in today’s post – The Clothing Line is closed. Heather moved out of state and now there’s an offshoot of Penny Cluse called “Lucky Next Door” in that spot. Plus, most of College Street has turned over to new shops, so it’s worth a side trip off of Church St.

Mirica

It’s right about Hong’s Chinese Dumplings, but Barnes & Noble bookstore isn’t in downtown Burlington but in South Burlington, that was the Border’s bookstore which isn’t in business any longer.

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