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Pacific Northwest Vacation 2017

This post has been half-complete for about two years now, so it’s about time I finish it and get it posted! Bach in May of 2017, gem and I were both attending a friend’s wedding in Portland. Neither of us had been there, so we decided to take some extra time and explore the surrounding areas.

After flying to Portland, we checked into our AirBNB that was, in my opinion, practically in a forest. Okay, not really, but Portland definitely has a different feel than Southern California. Where as at home, I get the impression we flattened nature and paved it over, it felt like in Oregon people decided to actually live with nature.

We had dinner at Cartopia, a collection of food trucks/carts with a nice place to sit and eat. The palak paneer fries from Potato Champion were delicious.

These are the PB&J fries, which were also quite tasty.

And this is the Girl Next Door from Pyro Pizza with a ricotta goat cheese blend, oregano, rhubarb, Parmesan, Romano, basil, oil, and pepper.

I started the next day with coffee from Never Coffee. I had a Holy Grail and Nutella Puff, about which I wrote “meh” in my travel log, so I guess something didn’t do it for me. gem had a drink called the Hug along with zucchini bread.

After getting our caffeine, we started driving toward our hiking destination, Ape Cave, but we made a detour at Yale Park Recreation Area. It was really beautiful!

Here I’m about to descend into Ape Cave, one of the longest lava tubes in North America.

gem had lights and headlamps for both of us, so we were well equipped!

Ape Cave had two trails, a lower cave and an upper cave.

Lower cave was basically a stroll to a dead end, and then you return to the start.

Upper cave was a great hike in pitch black for the majority of it. This is a hike unlike the ones I usually do at home. Some of it is walking, some of it is climbing over “breakdowns,” large piles of rocks from ceiling collapses, and some of it is crawling under or between rocks. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve practiced a bit of bouldering! This was definitely a cool experience. My Runkeeper tracked it as 4 hours and 25 minutes, but I can’t remember if I was tracking the whole thing. Plus, a lot of the tracking was inaccurate underground.

We survived and made it out alive. I think gem thought we were going to be stuck down there forever.

After leaving the cave, I met this cool little guy! He came up on my fingers. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have let him. Not shown: the snake I almost stepped on that made me yelp.

After getting cleaned up, we headed to our friends’ Kristine and Justin’s place. Kristine and Justin were the couple getting married just a few days later. gem and I met them in World of Warcraft, which is how they met as well. Kristine is out guild leader, and the two of them are our main tanks for the majority of the guild’s raiding time. Our friends Marc, Matt, Katie, Adrian, and Nate were also there, who we know from the guild as well.

Did I take any photos with my friends? No, of course not. I focused on the cat. gem goes by Mooglegem in WoW, and when Kristine and Justin got this cat, gem suggested the name “Moogle.” So, this is Moogle!

Seriously, I get a good chuckle out of the fact that I don’t have any photos of anyone else at the house that night. I do remember eating pizza, lots of talking, and learning about how Justin destroyed a bidet… twice.

This is a photo of our AirBNB we took the next day before heading out for morning coffee!

We started the day at Heart Coffee Roasters. I had a 12 oz mocha with Scandinavian cinnamon roll with cardamom. gem had an “Ick” coffee according to my notes, whatever that was, haha.

After coffee, we drove down to Koriander in Corvallis to meet our friends Hal and Mary Margaret for lunch! This was great because I hadn’t seen them recently and on top of that… they’re my friend Alex’s parents, and we didn’t tell Alex we were planning this. I texted him this photo and told him I was just grabbing lunch with some friends!

Next it was time for goat yoga!

What’s not to like? Goats? Good. Yoga? Good.

I think the goat enjoyed eating gem’s hair.

Look how cute this little goat is!

Next we headed back to Portland for dessert at Salt & Straw! I suppose it was appropriate that my first time at Salt & Straw was in Portland, as it’s based there. There are a lot of locations in Southern California now though. We got wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, pear with blue cheese, almond brittle with salted ganache, and strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper. Yum!

We ended the day at Ground Kontrol, an awesome arcade and bar in downtown Portland. I tried the Falcon Punch (orange Stoli vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of pineapple juice) and the Green Turtle Shell (Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin, muddled cucumber, and Cock N Bull Ginger Beer). I also ate a chili dog (shout out to Sonic) and a Luigi (pesto pizza). We played a variety of games, including some Pac-Man and The Walking Dead pinball.

This was the highlight of the night. As I walked past the machine, someone asked me to join him and some others in playing Killer Queen. He told me he already paid and I could play for free. I felt like there was a catch, but I soon learned the truth. This amazing game is for two teams of five players. While it can be played with AI controller characters, it’s much better with people. Because you pay per game and not per person, they were just looking for more players. It was a such a fun strategy game! I really love games that encourage socialization, which Killer Queen definitely does. By the end of the night, I was the one asking strangers to join and offering to teach them to play.

Here’s the guy who played most of the evening with us!

Did I mention that our AirBNB came equipped with a kitty? Heck yeah.

The next day we checked out Multnomah Falls, which was beautiful!

Here’s gem in front of the waterfall.

I have a bunch more photos on Flickr!

After checking out the gorgeous waterfall, we went to a place called Crafty Wonderland before deciding to have lunch at Pok Pok, an amazing Thai restaurant. We had spicy peanuts, spicy fish sauce wings, half chicken with dipping sauces, papaya salad, and drinking vinegars (one mint, lime, and cucumber and one strawberry and Thai basil).

Now it’s time to talk about the whole reason for the trip! This is me and Kristine at her wedding!

Look at Kristine and Justin, the happy couple! The wedding was awesome and subtly comic book themed. There were stacks of comics with Funko vinyl figures as table centerpieces, and the wedding (including the ceremony) used some great Guardians of the Galaxy music.

Here’s one of me, gem, and Kristine.

We can’t forget to use Snapchat and involve the cats 🙂

The photobooth was a ton of fun, and here’s the one photobooth picture that didn’t look sloppy drunk haha. I love that seven people in this photo were part of our raid team in WoW, and we were at the wedding of two others. I had already met everyone except one significant other previously, and I think it’s great that such real friendships could have started thanks to playing World of Warcraft together. Even though most of us don’t play together anymore, the friendships continue.

The next day included quite the adventure to get brunch from Screen Door. Our Uber had to make a lot of u-turns and detours because many streets were blocked off. There was some police search going on involving a crime of some sort, but I don’t remember the details now. But what’s important is the food. This huge brunch includes biscuits and meat gravy, beef brisket hash and eggs, praline bacon, and bacon pancakes with strawberry preserves.

Unfortunately, it was time to say good bye to kitty as we left the AirBNB and took a train to Seattle.

Luckily our AirBNB in Seattle came with these two good boys!

Hey baby I hear the blues a-callin’, tossed salads and scrambled eggs… Sorry, I just had to drop the Frasier theme song in here. Anyways, we visited the Space Needle! It was apparently the 46th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival – a cool little bonus!

Here’s the view from the Space Needle. It’s a much clearer view than the solid gray that the Eiffel Tower gave me in Paris!

Seattle Center, the location of the Space Needle and surrounding area, also featured this playground called Artists at Play! While meant for kids, gem convinced me to climb it as well. She had to coax a kid who made it to the top but was scared to climb into the chamber that you can see in the center of this photo. While I helped encourage kid, I was actually thinking “kids are allowed to do this? What if they fall?!” I was right behind the kid, so as I held on, I admit that I was also thinking “come on, hurry up kid because I’m getting tired!”

After leaving Seattle Center, we explored Seattle a bit.

And then we had dinner at Serious Pie! This appetizer was local beets, rhubarb yogurt, and pistachio butter.

We ordered two pizzas. This is yukon gold potato, rosemary, and pecorino romano.

This is soft eggs, smoked prosciutto, local greens, pecorino sardo.

The food was so good, gem left this feedback with pictures!

The next day we rented a car to drive to Treehouse Point. I’m pretty sure it was this car rental visit at which the vendor told us to pick any car from the lot… and then the lot contained one car. While we were out there, they brought a second car, and we ended up taking that new car. “Any car from the lot” isn’t much of a choice when there’s only a single car in the lot!

Treehouse Point had six amazing treehouses. The one above was Temple of the Blue Moon. They were basically like hotel rooms – furnished and with electricity. So cool.

How cool would it be to stay in a place like this?

This one was called Trillium. I love the staricase. I didn’t get a great photo of the next one, called Upper Pond.

This was Nest!

The Gazebo had a little landing underneath it. That seems like such a relaxing place to stay.

Lastly, this one was called Burl. While we only took a tour, people can also book a treehouse for an overnight stay!

Next up was a trip to Snoqualmie Falls!

Here you can see the waterfall from above. It was really pretty.

Here it is at the base. There’s a little hike down this way along with some signs that teach you about the Snoqualmie People, which consider the falls important to their spirituality.

Snoqualmie Falls has two power plants. Does this have anything to do with them? No idea. Probably?

This tunnel of rings looked very cool! Snoqualmie Falls was a pretty awesome sight, and of course, I had to stop by the gift shop on the way out for some honey and snacks. I think I picked up some postcards too.

After visiting the falls, we decided to hike Rattlesnake Mountain Trail to Stan’s Overlook.

Here are two panoramic shots from my phone. It was a little over 4 miles there and back, and it had some amazing views!

There was so much green!

A little bit of human infrastructure seeped into nature here.

This little guy at Stan’s Overlook wanted to say “hi” to me. Hiking to Stan’s Overlook and back to the parking lot was a bit over 4 miles and definitely worth it.

Here’s a bit of the trail on the way back.

All that hiking must have worked up an appetite, because we had an amazing dinner at The Black Duck Cask and Bottle in Issaquah. The photos didn’t come out great, but here they come anyways!

This is duck gravy poutine with duck added on top (for an extra cost if I recall correctly).

Look at this amazing dish! It’s mac n’ cheese with duck, cheddar, Gouda, cheese puffs, bacon, and pistachios. I can’t really remember what “cheese puffs” meant now. I can’t imagine there were something like Cheetos in it. I do remember that it was delicious.

This is the black duck pie, which I also showed above. It had duck, arugula, Worcestershire sauce, goat cheese, aioli, and pistachios.

For dessert, this is the house made cinnamon roll with blood orange glaze and white chocolate. Not shown: drinks – Uinta Cucumber Saison, Odin Strawberry Smash, and a Black Duck Mule (house infused ginger and jalapeño vodka with ginger beer).

LOOK AT THIS GOOD DOGGO THAT GREETED US WHEN WE GOT BACK TO THE AIRBNB!

The next morning, we explored Capitol Hill in Seattle

We stopped at a coffee shop called General Porpoise.

The coffee was delicious, and the sign was cute too! I had a mocha and rhubarb lemon jam donut. gem had the coconut cream donut!

Here’s gem with the sign in the door.

We also saw this sweet sign for a pizza place called Sizzle Pie!

Oh, and check out this sidewalk. Lysol rox? Uh, I guess it does actually. And the cat is cute!

Next up was Canada! We drove north across the border, stopping at Tim Horton’s for a Canadian maple donut and a double chocolate donut of course.

Next we drove over Lion’s Gate Bridge and used the Trans-Canada Highway to drive to Cypress Provincial Park, where it was suggested we could get above the city for a good view. We stopped at Barrett’s View, but thanks to the dreary day, the view wasn’t so epic. It was still fun!

Realizing I was somehow bleeding, I made a makeshift bandaid and then we headed back into the city. After a quick stop at 7-11 for bandaids, we had dinner at Peaceful Restaurant for Chinese food!

I’m not sure if we just decided to eat a lot or what, because the next thing in my notes was that we stopped at another restaurant. ANYWAYS! Check out this awesome sign for Ramen Gojiro! How could we not eat there, right? Look at the cute, chalk Godzilla!

The menu is cool looking too!

Now it’s possible that the atmosphere and theme of the restaurant is part of this, but I think this was my all time favorite ramen. We got a big plate of karaage as you can see.

And here’s the whole meal.

Before I stop talking about Ramen Gojiro, look at the art on the wall. It was awkward taking this photo since there were people, but oh well.

You’d think this travel log would involve something other than food for a second, but no. Next up was mango milk tea with boba from Sushi Home. Boba doesn’t count as more food though, right?

Now, on to something besides food! This is the Telus Garden, an office building that drew our attention due to its cool style.

Even the inside was classy. Yes, there’s water behind her. I’m sure I’d fall in if I sat there all day.

After we explored some more, we found where pizzas are grown. No, we didn’t eat there.

Anela somehow has me eating at McDonald’s in every country I visit thanks to our European vacation, so we stopped at a McDonald’s. I ordered the poutine as well as a beanie baby, which was the toy at the time, for Anela. Was it a moose? I can’t remember.

Our last noteworthy sighting in Canada was this John Fluevog store.

How wonderfully Canadian! I bet this is kind of annoying to the locals actually, but it made me smile.

So long, Canada! It was back to States for us.

During a chat with our AirBNB hosts, they recommended we look at the Space Needle from Kerry Park.

It was a great place to look at and photograph the Space Needle!

The next day was the last day of the trip, and we started it off with Starbucks at the 1st & Pike location at Pike Place Market.

It’s considered the first Starbucks store, although it’s the first store’s second location because it moved.

Here’s gem waiting for her coffee!

With our coffee, we were ready to explore the Pike Place Market. We ate at Piroshky Piroshky, bought some Johnson Berry Farm jams, saw the flying fish, and listened to a pianist named Jeffrey Circus (which could be spelled differently).

Here’s gem at the gum wall.

We had a bite to eat at Market Grill. I had Copper River Sockeye salmon. There was a map on the wall with pins signifying the hometowns of customers. We found our hometown!

There was a lot of fun chalk art outside of unicorns, each with an arrow pointing in the direction of the next one. We enjoyed following the directions and looking at them all.

I really liked the exterior of Red Cedar & Sage.

Finally, we explored the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park.

It was a nice garden and park with a variety of sculptures, benches, trees, and good views.

Here’s the Space Needle from the park!

Of course, the adventure ended with food! On the way to the airport, we stopped at The Crumpet Shop. Thanks for the fun, Seattle! That’s it for that adventure. So many great memories! 🙂

European Vacation – England

I visited England about 10 months ago, so it’s about time I talk about it. We flew from Copenhagen to London where security was almost as annoying as it is in the US. The rest of Europe was relatively relaxed, but getting into the UK takes some time. After landing, we took a train where we changed in the train bathroom to prepare for our first stop…

Tea time! We had tea at the Hilton West End. Unfortunately, we had to bring our luggage with us since we were cutting it close, but everything worked out fine.

I had Earl Grey tea and tomato, cucumber, salmon, and ham sandwiches. They were all delicious, and it was a lot of fun.

We took a bus to get to our AirBNB and then explored the city a bit. It was kind of fun to see places with names we recognized from the computer game, Hellgate: London such as Piccadilly Circus and Charring Cross. It was also fun to use the real London Undergrounds. I know it’s not special to those who live there, but I was a tourist and I enjoyed it!

After a quick detour to get photos of each of us in a red telephone box (because how could we not), we stopped at McDonald’s to continue trying McDonald’s in each country.

None of my photos of Big Ben turned out great since it was dark, but it was pretty cool seeing it lit up in the London sky. It’s so iconic. We also walked along the River Thames near the London Eye!

The next day we struggled to figure out the washing machine and then left on our tour of Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. Cotswolds wasn’t a destination; rather, it’s a lush area of hills and grass through which we drove on our bus tour to the other destinations. First was Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare.  We went on a tour of his first home where the tour impressed upon us just how simple of a life it was during that time. They gave us a snack, and we watched some actors perform a short scene.

Next we visited Bath where the Roman Baths were built. The water wasn’t so pretty now, but at one time, people visited to bathe in the waters. The architecture was cool, but more interesting was some of the classic art – statues, tools, coins, scrolls, and more. The writings were mostly simple lists – debts and, if I recall correctly, a list of suspects from a crime.

Outside the baths was a street performer who set birds all over us. As gem and I had recently played Hatoful Boyfriend, a computer game in which you play as a young woman in a world now run by birds (it’s from Japan, okay?), we were quite excited.

Stonehenge was the last stop on our tour, and likely with good reason. This was the main attraction. It was really awesome seeing such a well-known icon up close. At the same time, and I think this applies to a lot of things, it’s less idyllic in person with huge groups of people wandering around. Of course, you can’t actually get close either.

There was an audio tour you could use while walking along as well. I used it and listened to a large portion of it, but honestly, nothing I learned really stuck with me. If you visit, I think you could safely skip it.

I do, however, remember the audio tour causing me to focus on the rock. What did it say about it? I have absolutely no idea. But I like the photo.

I also really like this photo of Antonio gazing at Stonehenge. What do you think he’s thinking about?

When we got back to London, we needed to go shopping. Anela had torn her jeans and needed a replacement. Irish John and Steve, our tour guides, were really nice. They offered to drop us off last near a store. After making her purchase, we went in search of dinner. We ended at Simply Indian, a delicious Indian restaurant in London. It was super delicious – one of the better meals we had on vacation. I have to be honest though; we had a lot of great food!

Our goal the next day was to see some British guards! Look, gem holds one of the tiny guards on her palm.

I’m getting ahead of myself. First on the agenda was a place Antonio suggested – Borough Market. There was cheese, olive oils, vinegar, honey, sausages, and even brownie samples. I ate a venison burger, more Indian food, a meat pie, and had some tea. After eating, we split up because one of us forgot our phone. I don’t even remember who it was or who went with who at this point. However, I knew how to use the underground to get back and then get where we were going to meet.

We were meeting at the Lush flagship store, across the street from a Uniqlo, about two blocks from where we’d get off the underground. Awesome. Easy enough, right? Not quite. I thought I followed the directions, but it didn’t seem right. As it turns out, a couple blocks in either direction was Lush, each across the street from a Uniqlo. What the heck?! We eventually found the correct Lush, and I had a great chat with a woman working there who’s actually half Greek.

Now it was off to Buckingham Palace and Whitehall for the changing of the guards. Anela really wanted to be able to go up to a guard who can’t respond like in films, but that’s not possible anymore. She did get a photo with this officer though! Who doesn’t like a man in uniform?

I believe this is the four us at Whitehall for the changing of the guards. It was fun!

With our mission complete, we did a little exploring and wandered the streets.

We decided we definitely had to have some fish and chips while in London, so we stopped here at The Clarence for a bite to eat and a beer.

While we were in London, we decided to try to sneak to Hogwarts. We found Platform 9 3/4 and pushed our way through! There was a bit of  line, but I enjoyed chatting and watching others have fun when it was their turn. If the participants are willing, they have each person pose once as if walking through and another jumping. They also have participants focus on the professional cameraman as well as their own. On top of that, they let us take group photos and individuals photos. It was pretty cool!

gem did a little shopping for a wand. So many choices! We didn’t actually purchase a wand, but it was fun to shop. We also met a cosplayer who goes by La Espada de Obi Wan in line. He specializes in Obi-wan and The Doctor. You can find him on Facebook as La Espada de Obi Wan!

After looking at all the goodies in the Harry Potter store, we went in search of the door used as Sherlock’s door in the show. It’s not a show I watch, but I was happy to go too. gem was certainly excited!

Our final major goal was to visit Abbey Road. There was a designated wall on which people could write or draw, which was pretty interesting. There were a decent number of tourists, but it wasn’t packed. I do feel bad for the poor drivers who just want to drive down their street!

This is the best photo I have of us. Yeah, yeah, I know we’re walking the wrong way when compared to the Beatles. We also met a tourist there who loved the Beach Boys. He must have spent at least five minutes talking about how much better the Beach Boys were than the Beatles. He wasn’t mean about it or anything, but he was certainly opinionated. His wife seemed less than amused.

We finished at Abbey Road, and moved on to exploring Soho. We ate our second fish and chips meal of the day and then grabbed some coffee at the Soho Grind, a very pleasant location.

After a good night’s rest, we quickly visited Borough Market again in the morning before heading to the airport. I had a salad, and then we prepared for our flight. Unfortunately, by luggage was overweight, so I had to check it. It wasn’t a problem though, and then we were off to Dublin!

Thanks for the memories, London!

Action-packed Super Bowl Sunday

Quail Hill

Sunday morning I went to Quail Hill for a hike!

Quail Hill

gem used her nice camera while I took pictures with my phone.

Quail Hill

It was a really beautiful day. We didn’t hike for very long, but it was nice to get out. The sky seemed especially blue against the greenery.

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After our hike, Anela suggested tea. It was a great idea! Roasting Water was serving their drinks in cute glass bottles with corks. The tea was tasty, and I got to keep a neat bottle.

When we were finished with our tea, we headed to Boiling Crab for lunch. It’s a Super Bowl tradition. The plan is usually to eat during the Super Bowl to avoid the rush, but this year we went before the Super Bowl. It was still relatively empty. I didn’t take any photos, but it was delicious. You’ll have to trust me.

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With food out of the way, I went to hang out my friend Aiya.

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We also trapped this baby. Henley didn’t seem to mind.

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Actually, I went to spend time with Alex, Darnell, and Henley, three of my very favorite people in the world. It was wonderful seeing them. Every day I get to spend with them is always one of my favorite days.

It was a excellent and action-packed day!

Reggae and the Toshiba Tall Ships Festival

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I did two interesting things this weekend, but I don’t have enough to say about each of them to make individual posts! First, I went The Point Restaurant and Bar in Dana Point with Anela and gem. Our friend Sean invited us to watch his dad’s reggae band. It was also Sean’s dad’s birthday! He seemed pretty popular!

The band was fun, playing a variety of reggae and classic rock covers. The venue was pretty cool too. It’s a bit far to go just for drinks, but if I was in the area or there was something happening there, I’d definitely go again.

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The 30th annual Toshiba Tall Ships Festival was also in Dana Point! It was a beautiful day.

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gem and I watched some pirates learn about Pirate High Tea from their admiral. It was an amusing performance in which the pirates struggle to understand the delicacies of having tea.

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They also had dancers!

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We met an adorable rat named Izzy the Pyrat! He had a little pirate’s hat and everything.

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This blacksmith was making dice. He was pretty interesting and answered many of gem’s blacksmith questions.

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He even made this rose.

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Aboard one of the ships was a band playing amusing songs about being pirates. They’re called The Boo Hoo Crew. Despite claiming to be a children’s band, I liked them. “Old McPirate had a ship. / E-I-E yo ho!”

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Then it was snack time. gem wanted to get corn, and it was buy two items, get a third free. I bought a corn dog with the corn so I could get an Arnold Palmer for free. They didn’t have any corn dogs ready unless I was willing to accept one with a split in the breading. Because I was okay with it, they even threw in an extra corn dog for free!

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We got our corn all lathered up in mayo with a variety of delicious toppings.

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gem was hungry!

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While watching a weapons demonstration, we met the most adorable dog. His owner didn’t mind, so we showered him with attention.

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Oh, right. Here’s the weapons demonstration itself.

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And then we had dinner!