January 30, 2017

Things I learned as a cross-border worker/student in Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a unique country. Placed in the middle of Europe and surrounded by big countries such as Germany and France, in a working day in Luxembourg over 200.000 people cross the border to go to their jobs. Recent studies show that they are over 44% of the Luxembourgish working force (Statec). The European terminology calls them "cross-border commuters" or "cross-border workers". I am one of them. I live in Belgium and work/study in Luxembourg. I get that for someone who has never been to this area, it is hard to grasp, but that's the situation here. Just to give you an example, it takes me 20 minutes by train to go from Arlon to Luxembourg Gare (Railway station) and 25 or 30 to go by car to the City Centre. There are more than 3 access roads from Arlon to Luxembourg, including the highway and the rent is cheaper :)

So that's that. In more than 4 years of cross-border commuting I gathered some advice to give to the newcomers. Here they are:

1. You always have to take your passport with you, always. I have a Belgian card, but you always have to have a border crossing document with you. It happened to me once, I was going to a BBQ at a friend's house in Germany (so leaving Belgium, crossing Luxembourg and going to Germany, crossing in the process two borders) and I thought that it was not necessary to carry my passport with me. As my luck goes we got stopped by the border control and I had no papers with me, nothing. 24 euro fine. I was lucky though and being the first time, they let me pass. So remember, always take your passport with you!

2. As a mentioned, I can go to Luxembourg, by train, bus or car. Choose very carefully your means of transport according to your needs. I've tried them all and although it's not very ecological, I prefer my own car. A 20 minutes drive by car turns into a 45 minutes to an hour ride by bus, because the bus stops and believe me in Strassen there are stops every 100 metres and the bus stops in all of them. Train would be the most comfortable and logical solution, if the Belgian railway were to be trusted, but they aren't. The train never leaves on time, even if it starts from Arlon. They are on strike maybe once per month and if something breaks the Luxembourgish are to blame. I am sick and tired of "signalisation" (read it in French) I don't even know what it means, but apparently the "signalisation" is responsible for me being late. I understand that the trains leaving Arlon at 7 and 8 in the morning manage somehow to have insignificant delays, but with the others is like Russian roulette, you never know if you will be in Luxembourg on time. Most of the times everything is ok, but when it happens...

3. When the Belgian railway workers are on strike or the "signalisation" problem comes along the easiest way out of Arlon is first not to get nervous (it never happens to me), then gather three or four people in the same situation and cross the border by taxi. 27 euro to Kleinbetingen Gare and the Luxembourgish trains are rarely late. 27 euro split by 3 or 4 is not that much. It's a lot if you think the monthly ticket is around 98 euro, but to get on time to work is not that much. I keep saying that at some point I would ask for a refund from the workers on strike, but it never happens.

4. Don't stress about being late, depending where you work, that is. For me being late and coming from Belgium, is an obvious fact. At first I was stressed, I would excuse myself until my boss told me one day "you live outside Luxembourg, it's a miracle you get in at all" and she was right. Plus all the places I worked or interacted with allow people being a little late.

5. Speaking about being late, in Luxembourg nothing starts on time. Don't count on that, cause you never know how the luck goes, but that is my experience. You hurry to a concert, arrive on time, find a decent parking spot and enter the door just before the starting hour, just to find out that they start half an hour to an hour late. The movie is always at least 5 minutes late. People don't stress if you are late to a meeting and in general everyone is laid back about punctuality. I'm learning.

6. Speaking about being late, in Luxembourg and everywhere else for that matter, it is polite to tell the people you are meeting with that you will be a little late. It happened to me once in Bucharest, I waited for my friends for 45 minutes and since then I am crazy about waiting for people, as in I never wait for no one, especially if they don't bother to call or let me know somehow that they are going to be late. I noticed that as being the rule in Luxembourg, too. If you are late and you don't let people know that you are late, you get weird stares at you all evening or meeting, and you are lucky to get a second meeting. It sounds right to me and I like that it is this way.

7. Also about being late, travelling by car, you know you are in Luxembourg when the roads get smooth. It doesn't matter if you enter Luxembourg using the highway or the tractor road, once in Luxembourg the roads are smooth and not bumpy. So I apply my make up on the car :). Of course I'm not driving, but being in a hurry, I apply only a coat of primer or cream at home and get out of the house. Once on Luxembourgish roads I can safely apply makeup, I even colour my inner eyelid, rimmel my eyelashes and put lipstick. And I am not the only one. I have to say that I am not at the level where I can put makeup in public, but on the bus I saw some pros on applying makeup on the go. So the roads in Luxembourg are so smooth that you can safely apply your makeup on your car.

8. Stay in town at night at your own risk. Of course, I'm not saying it is dangerous to stay in Luxembourg during the night, on the contrary, it's just that from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the trains are not circulating, neither are the busses. I know people who rented a room when they had a late meeting (or party) in Luxembourg city and I know my master colleagues who would wait for the first train on a bar or in McDonalds. It's a risk. Of course you have the taxi possibility, but from what I've heard from Luxembourg to Arlon the taxi is 150 euro. I would say that a room in town is much cheaper than that.

9. Plus, or more like a minus, the railway station is closed by night. It closes at around 10 p.m. so if your plan is to wait in the railway station you have to change your plan. It is a downside of being a cross-border worker: you are always dependent on your car.

10.There are of course a lot of advantages as well. First one that I can think of is saving money from the rent to travel. Luxembourg is literally in the middle of Europe. I saw in a travel brochure the distances in hours to the most important capital cities of Europe: 2 and a half hours by car to Amsterdam or 1h30' by plane. 5 hours by car to London, or 1h10' by plane, 2 hours by train to Paris, 1h50' by plane to Rome, 2h20' by plane to Madrid and of course 2 hours by car to Brussels. And what is even nicer is that you have low cost airports close to Luxembourg and from there you can literally go anywhere. I like to have options so when I plan a holiday or just a trip I check all the airports and all the flights and I managed so far so have nice and well scheduled trips. I went once to Dublin, leaving Luxembourg on a Friday evening from Brussels and arriving back on Luxembourg on Sunday evening from Frankfurt. I love Dublin, but that was the downside there, you had only one way out of the country and that was by plane and that was used by everyone.

11. I can practice all my language repertoire on one day and I like it. Of course my strong language is English and I get to use it daily, I speak Romanian at home or with my friends, I speak Spanish and Italian at work and I use French when interacting with people of Luxembourg. I even picked up some Luxembourgish words and my level of understanding German is rising. I am one of the people who thinks that speaking as many languages as possible and being able to interact with as many cultures as possible makes me a better human being. My master was trilingual (English, French and German), but my colleagues came from as many as 20 countries. 20 countries and 20 cultures and 20 new ways of seeing things that I discovered just by going to school. It was amazing and this things happen daily in Luxembourg.

Of course I have a hard time explaining to people where I live, cause I do live in Belgium, but what do I have to do with Belgium except sleeping in Belgium? It happened to me once that one of my colleagues invited me to coffee and she was in Brussels and she thought that I can easily get to Brussels within an hour :) I couldn't. I post pictures with me in Germany or France and my friends and family home think that the only thing I do in Luxembourg is travel. I have to explain every time, that my favourite British or Irish stores are only in Germany, that I go to work or events or meet with friends in Luxembourg, I go grocery shopping in France and I sleep and live in Belgium. It's complicated even to me, but I've grown to like it.

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January 17, 2017

FreyWille revine! / FreyWille makes a come back in my life!


după succesul postărilor mele din anii trecuți am zis să revin cu un ultim articol despre FreyWille. Pentru cei care nu sunt la curent cu istoria mea legată de acest brand, încerc să fac un scurt rezumat. Când locuiam în România si ajungem mai repede la Viena (adică acum cel puțin 10 ani), am descoperit acest brand, FreyWille. Pentru că eu nu mă prea duceam la Viena la shopping (cum făceau colegele mele), bugetul era unul numărat și niciodată nu am apucat să îmi cumpăr nici măcar un cerceluș de la această firmă, deși pe vremea aia eram îndrăgostita de Mucha și Klimt. Însă am intrat în magazinele lor și am fost tratată foarte frumos, am plecat de acolo cu broșuri și vorbe bune. Vă dați seama că atunci când s-a deschis primul magazin FreyWille în România m-am dus să îmi și cumpăr ceva. Știu prețurile sunt enrome și mi se par enorme chiar și acum, când vorba aia câștig euro, dar cu nebunia unei femei nu te pui. Punct.
Neșansa mea a fost că era în perioada, nu știu dacă v-o mai amintiți, când la modă erau cizmele de cauciuc. era cam tot prin perioada asta când se topeau zăpezile și cel puțin în București, cizmele de cauciuc aveau sens. Desigur, ale mele nu erau Hunter, ci de Obor, pe care le mai și tăiasem eu cu foarfeca pentru că nu îmi încăpeau pe picior. Apoi probabil că aveam vreo greacă banală, că doar ce să se potrivească la cizme de cauciuc? Și cu această ținută de lucrător la canalizare (dar pe care eu o vedeam trendy și să știți că chiar era) am descins eu în magazinul de la Calea Victoriei. Pentru cititorii mei nefamiliari cu Bucureștiul, pe Calea Victoriei sunt cele mai de firmă magazine și evident cele mai scumpe.
Probabil că nu arătam ca o persoană care și-ar fi permis ceva de la magazinul FreyWille de pe Calea Victoriei, dar asta nu l-a împiedicat pe vânzătorul din Veneția din Piața San Marco (parcă), (unde am ajuns pentru că tocmai ce vă spusei eram obsedată cu acest brand), să mă trateze ca pe un om normal, să îmi dea un ceai și să vorbească cu mine jumătate de oră. Și istoria s-a repetat ani mai târziu în Luxemburg, unde magazinul FreyWille e pe una dintre cele mai scumpe străzi din oraș.
Revenind, cu cizme de cauciuc și greacă am intrat în magazinul din București și numai nu am fost dată afară. Ce vorbit frumos? A fost nasol. Noroc că nu eram singură, era și prietena mea cu mine și noroc că m-a dus capul să scriu pe blog.
Și acum articolele cu FreyWille sunt cele mai citite de pe blogul meu, deși este clar indicată pe ele data.


Însă ce voiam eu să vă spun e că FreyWille are site. Tot la fel de scumpi, tot la fel de frumoși, iar mie mi-a revenit pofta de a achiziționa ceva, măcar un cerceluș :) Însă minus vânzătorii îmbufnați care se cred marele duce când le intri în magazin, fără să trebuiască să te îmbraci la patru ace ca să le treci pragul și mai ales cu prețurile la vedere. Îmi amintesc că pe atunci asta era problema, că toată lumea știa că produsele lor sunt scumpe, dar cât de scumpe erau nu știa nimeni.

Long story short, I am in love with FreyWille for more than 10 years now, I discovered them in Vienna, I was glad that they opened a shop in Bucharest, I went to the shop and was badly treated because I was wearing wellies at the time. Wrote about it on the blog and those articles are even now on the top "most read articles".

Today I found out that FreyWille has an online shop. They are still very expensive and very delicate, but at least I know how much money I have to save to afford a single earring :)

Until I set my mind to be ok with me spending 450 euros on a pair of earrings, I will leave here the product I fell in love with more than 10 years ago and hope to own some day.
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January 11, 2017

Romanian concert in Luxembourg

If you happen to be in Luxembourg on Sunday, January 15th without something planned, maybe you want to check this out. It is a piano and violin concert of two Romanian artists. They will play Ciprian Porumbescu's "Ballad" which is one of my favourite Romanian classic pieces.
Here is the Facebook event created for the concert.
The concert is free, but you have to reserve your seat either on the telephone (+3524708951) or by email at

I will put next the description in French. As always if you have any questions contact me on my fb. page: A Romanian in Luxembourg.

ICR Bruxelles, en collaboration avec l'Ambassade de Roumanie au Luxemburg, dédie un récital de violon et piano à la Journée de la culture nationale roumaine, dans l'interprétation des artistes roumains Remus Azoiței et Eduard Stan, dimanche, le 15 janvier 2017 à 17hrs au Conservatoirede Luxembourg. 

Le violoniste roumain Remus Azoiţei s'est produit dans des salles prestigieuses et il a participé aux plus réputés festivals de musique classique (Tokyo, Cambridge, Londres, Berlin, Heidelberg, Santander etc.). Il a eu l'occasion de jouer avec des artistes mondialement connus : Lawrence Foster, David Geringas, Gérard Caussé, Michael Sanderling, Adrian Brende, ou bien avec le quatuor à cordes Voce et il a été le soliste de plusieurs ensembles musicaux tels : Berlin Kammer Orchestre, Orchestre Nationale de Belgique à Bruxelles, Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio France lors du festival Enescu à Bucarest. En 2001, Remus Azoiței est devenu le plus jeune professeur dans l'histoire de l'Académie Royal de musique de Londres.

Eduard Stan est acclamé par Fkankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pour son "sens exceptionnel des timbres et des couleurs". Invité sur les grandes scènes musicales du monde (Carnegie Hall New York, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Kennedy Center Washington DC, BOZAR Bruxelles, Konzerthaus and Philharmonie Berlin, Queen's Hall Copenhague), Eduard Stan a joué avec des orchestres internationaux, sous la direction de chefs d'orchestre célèbres, notamment Shinya Ozaki, Lutz Köhler, George Balanet, Thomas Dorsch, avec des musiciens de renom tels : la violoniste Nina Karmon, le contrebassiste Romain Garioud, le clarinettiste Johannes Peitz ou la violoncelliste Aida-Carmen Soare.

December 8, 2016

Luxembourg Light Nights

If you are in Luxembourg this time of year, you probably know that the Christmas Markets are open and that at least the centre is filled with lights and the Holiday Season is in full swing.

Well, on top of that all for three days, starting today, if you happen to be in the city centre you can watch the Luxembourg Light Nights.

For the second year the light and sound show will introduce you into the Holiday spirit, but also into Luxembourg's history. Using video mapping, the organisers will project on emblematic buildings in the city centre short films and video effects.

For this year, the second one, the organisers extended the area where the videos are projected, so you can watch their masterpieces on Cite Judiciaire as last year, but also on the Grand Ducal Palace and National Library.

I recomand you to buy a glühwein from one of the markets and then walk from one location to another, I think that is what I will do.

I happened to be in the centre yesterday when they were making some last checks and from what I saw it is going to be great. More info on Facebook.

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November 21, 2016

10 reasons to visit Rotterdam from Luxembourg

When I first made the reservations for Rotterdam, I imagined it as an maritime/industrial city with not so many things to see or do. In that spirit I put in our city-break schedule a visit to another small city in the area, Delft or Gouda for the second day. 
Oh how was I wrong! Definitely one weekend is not enough and I wanted to stay more, but it's just three hours away from Luxembourg so I might just pop in someday in the future. In that line of thought, I will list here on the blog the reasons why you shouldn't think like I thought and go and visit Rotterdam, even for a weekend.

Old and new architecture

Being almost wiped out during the WWII, Rotterdam has an amazing mix of old and new architecture. You walk the streets and all of a sudden between skyscrapers you see a little gem. I have to admit, I am not a fan of tall buildings made out of steel and windows, but in Rotterdam it didn't bother me. We had the misfortune of an all day rain, so I thought that the buildings combined with the rain will look dull, but they didn't.

White House, the first skyscraper in Europe
Loads of things to do

You can visit the city, like we did, or you can go to Rotterdam with a purpose (for me would be to check the English/Irish stores such as TK Maxx and Primark), no matter why you go there, you will find many things to do. Coming from Luxembourg, where at 4 p.m. everyone is in bed, Rotterdam bursts with life. You see people on the streets, stores are open till late at night and the pubs are lively. You can visit a museum if that is of your liking, you can just walk the streets or you can go to a pop up live concert. We found one in a church, we almost went to, but we had limited time and we preferred to roam the streets a little and look at the buildings. Do you believe that in 1900 in Rotterdam the first sky scraper in Europe was build? It has only 10 storeys high and I find it lovely.

Rotterdam's Market Hall
The most amazing food market

I've read about it on my little documentation before leaving for Rotterdam, but it wasn't included in my plans. At best we would pass it and take a few pictures, because indeed the architecture is amazing. Imagine a normal food market surrounded with apartments. You can't, right? Well, it exists in Rotterdam and we visited it and we spent an entire evening there, eating and buying food and treats. If you look closely at the picture you see those windows high on the ceiling, they are the windows of the apartments.

This is how it looks from the outside. The covered market is in a central and green area of Rotterdam and you can't miss it if you visit the White House or the Cube Houses. Only for that market and I will definitely come back to Rotterdam.

Rotterdam Port

Marvel at Nederlands Engineering in the Harbour and visit the Maritime Museum

When I documented Rotterdam, I found out that you can take a cruise around the harbour and visit the flood protection gates, out in the sea. It's not an activity that I would favour, but after watching a 5 minutes YouTube video of the cruise, I realised that there are people interested in that. If you are, I am sure that the Tourist Information Offices around the city can tell you all you want to know. We only saw parts of the harbour (the largest port in Europe) as we walked and also our hotel was in the harbour area facing the water.

Quiet, cosy, old neighbourhood

If you go to Rotterdam you mustn't miss the Delfshaven, an old neighbourhood which is a separate municipality. You can walk from the city centre, but I wouldn't recommend it. We took the metro from the Covered Market and arrived in the area within 10 minutes. More information about transport and prices are at the end of this article. As you can see, we arrived in Delfshaven when it was dark already, but I can only imagine how nice it must have been on a sunny day. Nevertheless, we could see the little buildings and walk towards the mill and went into a local pub and tasted some local beers.
Cube Houses
Smell the sea

I have to say that I mostly go to Nederlands to smell the sea air. I miss Ireland so much and my neighbourhood by the sea, that every time I go to Nederlands I expect it to be like Ireland. Well, it isn't, but that doesn't spoil my desire to visit every little town in Nederlands by the sea. I told you about the mix of architecture and about the incredible engineers that live in Nederlands, but I cannot say it enough. You see, the Cube Houses are just that, cubes. They stretch across a busy highway and I simply couldn't find a right angle to photograph them. You can also visit one of them and see for yourself how people manage to live in the Cube Houses, but for me just seeing them was enough.

Stores open on Sunday

I had no intention of going to my favourite stores (TK Maxx and Primark), but when I found out that they are opened on Sunday I had to give it a try. I only went to TK Maxx and I have to say that I almost didn't buy anything. I am so hooked with the way the store is supposed to look (like in Dublin or Saarbrucken) that if it looks in another way I can't find my way around it. Rotterdam's TK Maxx is smaller and is crowded, but it exists. Because I so got used to the stores being closed on Sundays, I didn't even imagine it any other way and so close to Luxembourg, too.

Rotterdam Railway Station
Fairly close to Luxembourg

In a little more than three hours we made the journey from Luxembourg to Rotterdam, by car. You can pass through Belgium and I found out that similar to Liege-Maastricht, Rotterdam is very close to Antwerp. In the image above is the Railway Station, which reminds me of a cosy little railway station in Predeal, Romania. I didn't check it, but I am sure that you can go to Rotterdam, from Luxembourg, by train, too.

Luna in Rotterdam
Dog friendly city

Rotterdam is a dog friendly city. Luna was in her element there and she was allowed anywhere, even inside the Covered Market and inside stores and pubs. It is amazing! Also we didn't pay anything for her when we used the public transport and I read it on their website, that dogs also go for free in the Water Taxi. So Rotterdam is definitely a city you can visit with your furry friend.

Vibrant night life

I know in the picture is a Belgian beer, but I couldn't help it. Kriek is one of my favourite beers which I was lucky to find in Rotterdam. About the night life, I've already told you that Rotterdam is a lively city, but we happened to be in the Cool District during the evening. I think it is very close to the Museum District and the centre. I spotted some really nice pubs, bars and restaurants, some cosy art galleries and art stores. The shops were opened until 8 p.m. or even later and the whole atmosphere of the district was a nice one.

Prices and other tips

When I booked a room in Rotterdam, I discovered that the prices for rooms are higher than what I am used to. We payed a little over 100 euro per night, with the dog tax included. For me, that is expensive. Indeed, we choose a very chic hotel, but it was advertised as "every room has a water view", but I guess we choose the short straw and we got a room with a parking view. For just one night it wasn't such a big deal, but we did pay the same price and we couldn't admire the passing of ships in and out of the harbour, as advertised. If you are keen to find out the name of the hotel, email me and I will give it to you.
Also I thought that the public transportation was a little pricey, 2 euros and something for 90 minutes trip. Later I found out that I could have bought a day ticket and saved some money. So if you are in our situation, buy the day ticket. I don't know how much it costs, but you can find everything online.
Coming form Luxembourg, the prices of food and drinks were reasonable, but you have variety. If you are not a picky person, go to the food market and you can eat whatever your heart desires.
Of course, this is a very personal and at the same time subjective blog post. Take it as it is. I was not impressed by the Erasmus Bridge, because the Lira Bridge in Dublin is even more beautiful, also I am not into high altitude restaurants or viewing points, that is why you will not find on this post anything about Euromast Tower.

Did you discover anything else in Rotterdam that I might have missed? If so, please message me on my Facebook page: a Romanian in Luxembourg.

November 13, 2016

Pop Art Exposition - A good reason to visit Arlon, Belgium

I don't know how many of you know where Arlon is, judging by the fact that every time I have to explain to people that Arlon is in Belgium and not in Luxembourg, but for those of you who went to Arlon for Maitrank or for the Carnival here is another good reason to revisit. The Palace in the city centre is organising these fabulous exhibitions of well known artists. I know in the past they had Chagall's paintings and now they have art works of Andy Harhol and Roy Lichtenstein, in an exhibition called Pop Art. More details about it, here.
Since the exhibition has some weird opening hours (Tuesday to Sunday from 2 p.m. till 6 p.m.) we only now got a chance to visit it, but you still have time, because it is opened till February, 26th.
I took only a few pictures so I won't spoil the joy of visiting the exhibition by yourselves. 
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November 8, 2016

Luxembourg - Romanian movies at CinEast Film Festival in Luxembourg

CinEast Film Festival stands for Central and Eastern European Film Festival and takes place every year in Luxembourg. Since we live here I had the opportunity to watch Romanian movies, some of them not even premiered in Romania.
This year at the festival there were five Romanian movies and I have to say that I missed just one. I am proud of myself :). I went to see, Dogs, Illegitimate, The miracle of Tekir and Two lottery tickets and I have to say that the last one was my favourite.
Two lottery tickets is a remake after a very famous Romanian short story written by I.L. Caragiale, but this remake somehow brings the story into this time without damaging the essence. I liked everything about the movie and it is a breve of fresh air in the Romanian movie world. I've read somewhere that the movie was made with little money and that all the actors in the movie played for free. The little money were spend on post-editing. This is indeed good news and Two lottery tickets is at the same level as many other Romanian movies, if not even better.
Two lottery tickets is a comedy, that should be said form the beginning, and the actors are all known and admired in Romania. One of them, Dragos Bucur, is playing the lead role also in Dogs, but that part is totally different. Dogs in more of a drama and although I wanted to know more about the subject I left the cinema disappointed. For sure we could make better movies and we have better movies in our filmography.
Another movie I did not get was Illegitimate. I liked the actors and I discovered with this occasion some very good young Romanian actors, but the movie was plane. It didn't move me, but that is just my opinion.
The miracle of Tekir is a very heavy movie. I would really like to talk with someone who isn't Romanian and who has seen the movie to know what they understood from it. I could relate to it because I am Romanian, but I don't know what a Luxembourger would understand. Actually I don'e even think that a single Luxembourger went to that movie.
This brings me to one of my problems with the festival. There is a circle that has to be solved before the next edition of the festival. Too few Romanian came to see the Romanian movies, the organisers say that the events outside the festival are few for Romanian because Romanians are not interested in the festival, but Romanians are not interested because they feel that they are not represented in the festival. I went to a Polish movie and the audience was even sitting even on the stairs. This did not happen at the Romanian movies.
Also, not even a single Romanian known actor came to represent the movies, compared to Poland and Czech Republic who had actors and directors and events especially for their communities here in Luxembourg. I am just wondering why?
I think a possible explanation is that there is no Romanian among the organisers or if there is it is not a vocal one. I give all my appreciation for the selection of Romanian movies, but I feel that we need more. We need events which target Romanian expats, because I feel that the Romanian community here in Luxembourg is as big as the Polish one or Czech or other Eastern European one.
Overall it was a good festival. I can't wait for the one next year!
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