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50 Best Things to Do in France03/04/2022
What to Do in France?
Are you looking for your next adventure or travel destination in France?
With so many interesting regions, beautiful landscapes, and endless French landmarks scattered throughout the land, it can be hard to decide what to do in France.
But if what you’re looking for are the top things to do in France to satisfy your urge for adventure, ensnare the senses or just have a good time, we may be able to help.
We narrowed down a France Bucket List, a list of the most iconic, beautiful, fun, awe-inspiring, best things to do in France, and things to see in France for when you visit this great country. Now, how many have you ticked off your list?
TIP: Start planning your next French adventure; check out our France Travel Planner!
Best Things to Do in Northern France
1. Be Moved by Mont Saint Michel
Be moved by Mont Saint-Michel, the wonder of the Western World and one of the best places to visit in Northern France. This superb Benedictine abbey and renowned center of pilgrimage is set on a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet.
The area is known for its high tides, which let the abbey inaccessible for some hours and give Mont Saint-Michel a picturesque setting.
MONT SAINT-MICHEL TRIP PLANNING
2. A Royal Day in Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is a wonder of French baroque architecture and one of the top things to see in France on any holiday to Paris.
Visit the fabulous rooms and halls inside the Palace, home to three French kings and their courts. Then explore the magnificent French-style gardens, with beautiful fountains and grooves, and the grounds around the Grand Canal, perhaps on two wheels or on a rowboat.
3. Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches
The Normandy Landing Operations was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy (Omaha, Utah, Sword Gold, and Juno Beach) on Tuesday 6 June 1944 by the Allies, and it was the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control.
The Normandy D-day Landing Beaches is one of the most popular day trips from Paris. However, if you have the time, explore the area on a multi-day road trip to visit the beaches and some war cemeteries and memorials.
D-DAY LANDING BEACHES TRIP PLANNING
4. Spend a Night (or Two) in a French Château
Spending a royal night in a French château is one of the unique things to do in France. France is home to more than 40,000 châteaux of all periods and styles. Some of these French châteaux are home to nobles or rich people, while others have been beautifully restored and turned into boutique hotels, perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway in France.
Château de Villiers-le-Mahieu or Château d’Ermenonville are two beautiful examples near Paris but there are many more!
5. Climb Up the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic monument in Paris (and France), and the climb up to the summit is always on the top of any Paris bucket list.
The views from the top of the Eiffel Tower are amazing, especially at sunset. On the second floor, there’s also an interesting exhibition about the history of the Eiffel Tower and its construction – Click here to buy your tickets to the Eiffel Tower
6. Visit the Burial Place of the Kings of France at Saint-Denis
The Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis is the burial place of the Kings of France, from the 12th century to the 19th century. This magnificent building also represents the birth of Gothic architecture in France.
Indeed, this is the first French cathedral rebuilt using techniques like the pointed arch, the pointed ribbed vault, or the use of stained glass windows to get more light inside.
Located in the city of Saint-Denis, a few kilometers north of Paris, the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis makes for an easy half-day trip from the French capital. – Click here to Buy your Tickets to the Basilica of Saint-Denis
7. A Day at the Louvre Museum
Visit the Louvre, the world’s best museum, and admire some of the greatest masterworks of all time!
Also, take the time to learn the history of this former Royal Palace. For many centuries, the Louvre was the seat of the French Kings until King Louis XIV moved to Versailles. Explore the Louvre’s medieval moats and walls, Napoleon iii’s apartments, the royal galleries, and more!
LOUVRE MUSEUM TRIP PLANNING
8. Follow the Cider Route in Normandy
If you are looking for fun things to do in France, take the Cider Trail in Normandy. Here, apples abound, and the region is famous for its cider and other famous French drinks like Calvados or Pommeau.
Get ready to unfold the journey of apples from farms to your glasses by following the Cider Trail – a well-marked 40km tourist circuit through the region of Pays d’Auge in lower Normandy.
The Pays d’Auge is popular for typical half-timbered houses, stud farms, apple orchards, and distillers who open their cellars and pressing sheds to visitors to taste their products.
9. A Night of Can Can Dance and Bubbles in a Parisian Cabaret
Parisian cabarets are a fun way to enjoy Paris at night in style and a popular option for special celebrations.
Today the most famous cabaret shows in Paris like the Moulin Rouge or the Lido are a mix of music hall and burlesque show offering lavish musical and theatrical productions, with elaborate costumes, singing, and dancing.
In Paris, a cabaret show is traditionally served with dinner, paired with some of the best French wines and champagne into an all-evening extravaganza. It is an evening of entertainment, fun, and lots of bubbles.
10. Admire the Spectacular Cliffs of Etretat
Our bucket list France is also full of natural wonders. Etretat is a small town on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy, famous for its spectacular vertical cliffs and other rock formations that inspired some of Monet’s masterworks. There are arches, sea stacks, and tunnels cut into the 50 to 80 m high chalk walls.
Etretat also has beautiful architecture built in Anglo-Norman style and some interesting sites. It is possible to visit Etretat on a weekend trip from Paris – or even better – as part of a Normandy road trip.
11. Feel the Divine at the Grandes Cathédrales
The historical region of Picardy, in Hauts de France, is probably the region with more awesome gothic cathedrals per square meter in the world!
From Laon, one of the first cathedrals inspired by this new Gothic art, to the cathedrals of Amiens or Beauvais, visitors can witness the main steps of the evolution of Gothic architecture in France, extraordinary buildings, all listed UNESCO heritage and usually surrounded by charming old towns.
12. Nature as its Best at Bay of Somme
The Bay of Somme is the largest estuary in northern France, an unspoiled place composed of dunes, marshes, and salt meadows.
Situated on the route of the migrating birds, the Bay of Somme is a paradise for birdwatchers, with more than 250 different species of birds spending a part of the year in the area. It is also home to the largest colony of French seals, which can be spotted resting on sandbanks that emerge as the tide recedes.
Enjoy the Bay of Somme and its wildlife from the water, on foot, or by bike. The Belle Époque steam train (Le Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme) is also fun to discover these beautiful landscapes.
13. Look for the Water Lilies at Monet’s Garden
Explore Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, the object of some of Monet’s masterworks. Admire the water lily pond, where Monet painted his world-famous water-lilies series.
The artist’s house and the attached workshop are also worth the visit, and they are an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of Monet’s life and work in Giverny.
GIVERNY TRIP PLANNING
- Quick Guide to Monet’s Garden in Giverny
- Monet Impressionism Tour to Giverny from Paris
Best Things to do in Central France
14. Fly over the Valley of the Kings on a Hot-Air Balloon
A hot air balloon flight, wherever it is in the world, is a truly magical experience. But it is even more magical if you can fly over some of the best castles of the Loire Valley.
Glide through the sky in a massive floating vessel while enjoying sunrise or sunset — and perhaps a glass of champagne — over magnificent Renaissance châteaux and their beautiful grounds in the Loire Valley.
15. The Loire Valley by Bike
La Loire à Vélo is one of the top things to do in France for bike lovers. The Loire by Bike is a unique, 800 km cycle route that links Nevers to Saint Brevin-Les-Pins in the Atlantic Ocean. Follow France’s last great wild river on two wheels while exploring the French Valley of the Kings with its beautiful renaissance châteaux, medieval towns, and good wines!
16. Go in Search of the Blue Gold in Provence’s Lavender Fields
The lavender fields in Provence are some of the most striking landscapes in southern France. From mid-June to late August, explore the Valensole Plateau, the Luberon Valley, and the Sault Plateau, well known for its ‘blue gold,’ lavender distilleries, and pretty small towns.
A trip to the Provence lavender fields is one of the unique things to do in France. For the best pictures, plan your trip carefully around the blooming periods in each area.
LAVENDER FIELDS TRIP PLANNING
17. Explore the World of Perfumes in Grasse
Worldwide known as the perfume capital, Grasse is a small town in Provence where the perfume industry has prospered since the end of the 18th century.
Today, Grasse attracts visitors worldwide willing to learn about the art of perfumes in France. Grasse is also the last stop of the Route du Mimosa, which is especially beautiful to drive in wintertime.
Grasse has several perfume factories, being Fragonard the most famous. There’s also a fascinating museum on the art and history of perfume making – Click here to Design your own Fragrance in Grasse
18. The Gorges du Verdon by Kayak
Set in the Verdon Regional Park, Gorges du Verdon is one of Europe’s most fabulous natural settings and one of the most beautiful places to see in France. This limestone canyon with turquoise waters runs for 25 kilometers through the park, and at points, it reaches depths of more than 700 meters.
Among the different ways to explore the Gorges du Verdon, kayaking is the most popular. Rent a kayak for half-day and paddle through the canyon alone or in two. There are some spots where you can tie the kayak to take a refreshing bath.
TIP: This Gorges du Verdon Road Trip covers the gorges and some pretty neighboring villages.
19. Explore the Magnificent Palace of the Popes in Avignon
If you are wondering what to see in France for great architecture and history, Avignon is a good place to visit. Avignon, in southern France, was in the 14th century the heart of Christendom and home to six Catholic Popes. Standing high above the city, visitors will find the Palace of the Popes, the magnificent 14th-century building where the Popes lived and celebrated the most important religious events.
Listed as UNESCO World Heritage, the Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes) is also the world’s largest and most important civil construction built in Gothic style, with more than 15,000 square meters of living space – Click here to Buy your Tickets to the Palace of the Popes
20. A Breath of Fresh Air at the Calanques of Marseille
The National Park Calanques of Marseille – Cassis, in southern France, offers spectacular landscapes, rich flora and fauna, and endless outdoor activities. This National Park includes coastal ranges of creeks, a vast marine area of the Mediterranean Sea, several islands, and one of the richest submarine canyons in the world.
The best way to explore the Calanques is by walking one of the hiking trails that follow the coast, but you can also book a catamaran tour and explore this wonderful area from the water.
21. Explore the Hilltop Villages of Provence
The region of Provence is dotted with many hilltop villages, a world of winding roads, beautiful stone houses, stunning panoramas, and silence. These villages were usually built on the top of the hills to protect their population from different threads.
If Roussillon, Gordes, or Menerbes are the most popular villages of Provence, there are still many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
22. Corsica Island by Car
The best way to explore the beautiful Corsica Island is on a road trip. This is also the only way to reach Corsica’s best beaches.
For short stays, we suggest staying in one of the biggest cities and exploring its surroundings on day trips by car. For more extended holidays, go off the beaten path, inland, and also visit the smaller islands nearby – Check out our Best Tips for Renting a Car in France
23. Whisper to Horses at Camargue Nature Reserve
A trip to the Camargue is one of the unique things to do in France. This protected area in southern France, mostly made of marshlands, is famous for its herd of horses and pink flamingos. The Camargue is also an excellent place for bird watching or just for a relaxing mini-holiday among great nature.
TIP: This Road Trip in Southern France covers the Camargue and much more!
24.Explore the Cathar Region of France
The Cathar Route in southern France takes you to some of the most incredible fortresses, intriguing abbeys, and medieval towns. These sites are related to the Cathars, a Christian dualist movement in the Languedoc region between the 12th and the 14th centuries. The Cathars were considered heretics by the Catholic Church, and they were the main target of some of the most violent crusades.
A Cathar Country road trip with your own car is the best way to explore the Cathar sites like the Cité de Carcassonne, Château de Montségur, or Fontfroide.
25. Walk the Ochre Trail in Roussillon
The Ochre Trail in Roussillon is a beautiful hike through Roussillon’s remains of the ochre quarries. Walk between the cliffs and the red tints, surrounded by a lush forest, and learn about the ochre exploitation in Provence.
26. Winter Fun at Menton’s Lemon Festival
If you are looking for fun things to do in France in wintertime, don’t miss Menton in February. The picturesque town of Menton, close to the Italian border, is famous for its lemons: very bright, yellow, and elongated fruits prized by chefs for their rich essential oil.
Menton is one of the best places to visit in France in winter. Every February since 1934, the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) takes place. This unique event that celebrates lemons involves giant sculptures of lemons and other citrus fruits. The displays are also accompanied by parades, shows, music, and dances.
27. A Journey to the Center of the Earth at Gouffrede Padirac
The Gouffre de Padirac (Padirac Chasm) is another of the unique things to see in France. This is the monumental entrance to a natural cavity 53 meters wide and 103 meters deep located in the Lot department in Occitanie.
After a vertiginous descent, embark on a boat trip along the underground river to explore one of the most interesting geological sites in France,
The best part of the visit comes after the boat trip, where the caves are stunningly brilliant. Book your tickets well in advance.
28. Dreamy Days in the French Riviera
The French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) is one of the most beautiful parts of southern France, which always seems to be bathed in sunshine. Nice is the French Riviera’s capital and a convenient place to stay to explore the surroundings.
Clustered around Nice, there are some compelling destinations like Antibes, the hilltop villages, Cannes, Menton, or Saint Tropez, perfect for exploring on day trips from Nice. You can really spend some dreamy days in the French Riviera!
29. Canal du Midi on a Boat Barge or by Bike
Stretching from Toulouse to Sète, the Canal du Midi is a feat of architectural genius that links the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This 17th-century construction required the work of 12,000 men over fifteen years.
The Canal du Midi is listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is an unmissable tourist destination in southern France. Visitors can explore the Canal du Midi by boat, hotel barge, and bike.
30. Get Lost in the Markets of Provence
The markets of Provence are lovely and a ritual that is truly part of living in Provence. Just about every village in Provence has a weekly market, usually in one of the main squares, while markets in bigger towns occur twice a week or even daily.
The markets of Provence sell prepared foods and fresh produce but not only. There are also stalls with flowers, provençal goods such as lavender, tablecloths, clothes, and more.
We have some favorites, like the markets of Saint-Rémy, Lourmarin, Apt (voted one of the most beautiful markets in France), or Aix-en-Provence. You can easily spend a day wandering through the colorful stalls and people watching, or you can sit at a wonky table with a coffee or a glass of rosé.
Best Things to Do in Eastern France
31. Follow the Alsace Wine Route
The Wine Route of Alsace is one of the best road trips in France. The legendary 170-kilometer stretch along the historic region of Alsace, in Grand Est, takes you through a string of picturesque villages, well-known wine-producing towns, and exceptional landscapes.
To get the most of the Alsace Wine Route, consider a minimum of three days, but of course, you can take more time! Be sure to include places like Strasbourg, Colmar, and perhaps a short hike through the vineyards.
ALSACE WINE ROUTE TRIP PLANNING
32. Join a Food Tour in Lyon
If you are wondering what to do in France to enjoy great food, head to Old Lyon. Generally acknowledged to be the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is the ideal place to discover French cuisine and fall in love with it.
Lyon is a city with more restaurants per head and where food is taken to another level and people, it’s a way of life!
Join a food tour to discover the secrets of Lyon’s cuisine and try it as much as you can in one of its endless gastronomic restaurants or bistros.
33. Explore the Lakes and Waterfalls of the Jura
In the region of Bourgogne-Franche Comté, the department of Jura offers a magnificent succession of forests and lakes with wooded banks. Some belvederes are perfect for admiring the lakes and getting some fresh air.
The Jura is also land to many waterfalls usually linked through beautiful hikes.
The Jura and its natural wonders are best explored by car. Have a look at this road trip through the Jura, one of the best road trips for nature lovers.
34. Stunning Modern Architecture by Le Corbusier
This French bucket list also has space for iconic architecture. The Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier is the father of Modern Architecture, and he designed many iconic buildings all around France.
Villa Savoye near Paris is Le Corbusier’s most famous work, the first project where he applied the five pillars of Modern Architecture. Other famous buildings by Le Corbusier include Ronchamp Chapel (on the picture above), L’ Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, or La Tourette Convent.
35. Enjoy Some of the World’s Best Wines along the Route des Grands Crus
The Route des Grands Crus is the most famous wine trail in Burgundy. This Burgundy wine trail from Beaune to Dijon is an ideal road trip for wine lovers who also enjoy picturesque small towns and beautiful landscapes.
Explore the beautiful region of Burgundy and learn about its winemakers’ savoir-faire while enjoying some of the world’s best reds and whites.
36. Winter Getaway at Les Trois Vallées
The French Alps are an excellent destination for a winter getaway in France, home to iconic snow-capped peaks, charming old towns, and endless ski slopes.
Les Trois Vallées is the largest ski area in the world, with 600 kilometers of pistes and some of the best ski resorts in the French Alps. Enjoy a ski holiday in one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe, as well as other thrilling activities guaranteed to keep dedicated skiers and non-skiers alike happy all holiday.
37. Lyon’s Festival of Lights Awaits
In Lyon, the coldest season kicks off with the Festival of Lights, one of the best things to do in France in wintertime.
The Fête des Lumières (usually the first weekend of December) began as a spontaneous celebration of the Virgin Mary when her bronze statue was erected, and all the Lyonnais placed candles in their windows to honor Her.
Today, different artists light up buildings, streets, squares, and parks all over the city. The city has a magical atmosphere with more than forty light installations to discover.
38. Admire the Top of Europe from Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3,842-metre-tall mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix for a closer view of the Mont Blanc (4,810m).
Once up, several terraces offer panoramic views of beautiful glaciers and the Alps. Don’t miss The Vertical Space, a museum dedicated to the adventure of ascending Mont Blanc throughout history.
39. Champagne Tasting in Epernay
Epernay, in the region of Grand Est, is the capital of the Champagne region, where the most important champagne houses succeed one another along its famous Avenue de Champagne.
Visit the city with its beautiful 19th-century private mansions and join a champagne tour to learn about the history and production of champagne wine and fun champagne facts. Most of the times, these tours end with some champagne tastings – Click here to book a Moët & Chandon Champagne Tour from Paris
40. Hike the Volcanoes of Auvergne
Auvergne, in the Massif Central, is one of the most beautiful things to see in France, a land of 450 dormant volcanoes spread in the Chaîne des Puys, Monts Dore, Artense, Cézallier, and Monts du Cantal. The volcanoes of Auvergne are a paradise for hikers, with long and short trails that suit all levels.
The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park is the largest French regional natural park, home to the famous Puy-de-Dome and other stunning volcanos. It has unique landscapes, but also beautiful heritage built with volcanic stones and remarkable biodiversity.
41. A Spa Day at Vichy
Thanks to the richness of its volcanic soil, the region of Auvergne contains a variety of thermal sources to treat many conditions, also perfect for a quick recovery after a long hike.
Among the Auvergne’s spa towns, Vichy is the spa resort par excellence, well known for its springs’ healing and therapeutic properties and its beautiful Art-Déco architecture.
Enjoy Vichy Thermal Spa, one of the biggest spas in Europe, but also be sure to explore Vichy’s rich Art-Déco heritage, its Opera House, eclectic villas, grand hotels, and two casinos.
42. Christmas Wonderland in Alsace
Alsace’s Christmas Markets are the best Christmas Markets in France to visit. As Alsace sits on the border with Germany, some of the German traditions of Christmas have become part of the culture in Alsace.
The Christmas Markets of Alsace are a must on any France bucket list. There are huge Christmas trees, many lights, and many Christmas decorations in the different old towns, and it truly feels like a Christmas wonderland.
Wander around the different wooden chalets, do your last Christmas shopping, eat some sweets or gingerbread. When it gets too cold, you can always keep yourself warm with a hot chocolate or a jar of mulled wine.
43. Surf the Waves in Biarritz
In the French Basque Country, Biarritz is a surfing haven, the undisputed epicenter of surfing in France.
In the beginning, only the foreigners came to surf in Biarritz. Soon the locals adopted the sport and promoted it to the point that today Biarritz is at the top of anyone’s places-to-surf bucket list, the place where some of the biggest international-surfing competitions take place.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, we are sure that you will find your sweet surfing spot in Biarritz.
44. Hike the Sentier des Douaniers
The GR34, also known as Le Sentier des Douaniers, is one of the top hikes in France. This path borders the coastline of Brittany for over 2,000 kilometers and it was originally used by the customs officers to prevent smuggling.
Walk the whole hike (or only a part of it) and explore Brittany’s impressive cliffs, lonely beaches, and picturesque coastal towns.
45. Visit the Quirky Machines de l’Ile in Nantes
Les Machines de l’Ile, is the must-attraction in Nantes and one of the quirkiest things to do in France. Located on an isle in the middle of the Loire River, in the city’s former shipyards, this artistic project brings together a set of crazy machines that seem straight out of Jules Verne’s imagination and Leonardo Da Vinci’s invention.
Ride the Sea World Carousel on the back of the strangest marine creatures. Wander around the isle on a crazy elephant who likes to shower all the kids he finds on his way! Visit the Galerie des Machines, where a team of crazy inventors and machinists are working on new projects and machines.
46. Get Mystic at the Alignments of Carnac
The Alignments of Carnac, in Brittany western France, is an exceptional site of megalithic alignments with more than 3,000 menhirs over more than 4 kilometers. These menhirs were erected between 6,000 and 2,000 AD, and even if we still don’t know the purpose of these alignments, they are just amazing.
Carnac is one of the unique places to see in France. Start with an introductory video and exhibition at the Maison dees Mégalithes. Then take the time to wander around the stones and soak up the special atmosphere of this unique site.
47. Run the Quirky Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc
If you are looking for fun things to do in France, don’t miss the Marathon du Médoc. This unique event takes place every year in September through the world-famous vineyards of Médoc, near Bordeaux. Here, participants run with a fun costume on, and wine tastings and other activities are organized along the course.
This marathon race is considered ‘the longest marathon in the world’ because of the numerous activities for runners scattered around the course. The various wine tastings do not help either!
The Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc attracts every year around 8,500 participants, representing more than 50 nations, as well as many spectators. The marathon is organized by a volunteer association with more than 2,800 volunteers, and it’s a joyful event that we suggest to try at least once in your life.
48. Climb up the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s Largest Sand Dune
Dune du Pilat is an impressive sight, spanning around 3 km in length, 600 m in width, and a lofty 100 or so meters high. It is located in the Arcachon Basin, not far from Bordeaux in western France.
Dune du Pilat is one of the most unique things to do in Western France. Climb up to the top of the dune to admire the nature on offer or book in for a paraglide over the dune to gain a bird’s eye view of the nearby forest and the Atlantic Ocean.
49. Enjoy Amazing Prehistoric Art At Lascaux IV
Lascaux, in Dordogne, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world! A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave features over 600 parietal paintings, considered to be masterpieces of stone age art.
Lascaux was discovered in 1940 by a group of local young boys and opened to the public in 1963. Unfortunately, human breath started to make the paintings deteriorate, so the original site was permanently closed in the 80s.
The current site is a perfect replica of the original. It is called Lascaux IV, being Lascaux II and Lascaux III partial replicas that eventually you can also visit. Don’t miss Lascaux IV’s great guided visit, which starts with an emotional approach to the discovery. You can visit Lascaux IV on a day trip from Sarlat or as part of a Dordogne road trip. Book your tickets well in advance!
LASCAUX TRIP PLANNING
50. The Sweet Life in Gulf of Morbihan
This bucket list France ends on the Brittany coast. With its many islands and islets, its micro-climate that warms the sea, and its sweet life, the Gulf of Morbihan is one of the most beautiful landscapes in western Frane to discover all year.
Morbihan means little sea in the local language, and it is the perfect place for sailing on a catamaran, hiking, or exploring the little islands protected from the vagaries of the ocean. Among the fifty or so islands in Morbihan, Île aux Moines and Île d’ Arz are locals’ favorites.
And there’s our France Bucket List, the list of best things to do in France. Do you have any favorites not included in this bucket list France? Let us know in the France Travel Facebook Group, we will be happy to enlarge the list!
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