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Patricia Ribeiro

Patricia's Brazil Travel Blog


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São Paulo Travel: Finding the Best of the City's Street Art

Saturday May 31, 2014
Art by Paulo Ito reproduced with the artist's permission. View full-size

Brazilian artist Paulo Ito's recently created mural-gone-viral has underlined São Paulo's pulsating street art scene and its power to provoke reflexive questioning. In Brazil's bristling pre-World Cup scene, the image is also a silent and eloquent representative of a context of dialogue rich in possibilities for other aspects of life in the metropolis.

As you make your way through the largest city in South America, take time to experience places like Beco do Batman in Vila Madalena, where, for three decades, the street art community has been peacefully negotiating spaces and the permanence of their creations on the alley's walls, or EMEI Santos Dumont in Pompeia, where clarity of stance and a belief in open communication have, for many years, made room for creations such as Ito's.

Finding São Paulo street art involves a lot of moving around, and there's nothing wasted in simply drifting and letting the urban gems catch you by surprise - even as you are faced with the city's sad and ugly facets. But there are shortcuts to those locations which have become hubs for the mutable and challenging creations of outstanding artists, including a handy guide put together by SPTuris, the city's official tourism board.

Last-Minute World Cup Brazil Travel: Tips from Agency Pros

Saturday May 31, 2014
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge: one of the places worth a visit from Manaus. View full-size

You're traveling a long way to 2014 FIFA World Brazil and you want to make the most of your time in the host country by going beyond the host cities. Though big numbers of visitors are popping up all over the news - according to news issued by the Ceará Tourism Secretariat a week ago, the state expects 350,000 visitors (140,000 international) during the event - there's still time to plan trips during the tournament.

Two travel planning pros I recently interviewed by email offer their suggestions for last-minute World Cup planning. Renato Freitas owns MXM Turismo, an agency opened in 2006 whose niche includes meticulously planned incentive trips and corporate events; Eduardo Martins, with 25 years of experience in the tourism industry, is helping boost the growing singles travel segment in Brazil with KeepCompany Viagens para Solteiros.

Even tough their work is not exclusively focused on international travelers, both Freitas and Martins encourage you to turn to competent, reliable travel agencies to organize your World Cup sojourns, which is understandable, in view of their background. But even if you're an adamant and confident independent traveler, there's inspiration to be found in this handful of ideas.

For example, Martins points you towards up-and-coming ecotourism destination Presidente Figueiredo, a city just 107 kilometers from Manaus (it's actually part of the Greater Manaus area) known for its nearly 150 waterfalls - and which is expecting 200,000 visitors for the Cupuaçu Festival this weekend. Unlike other Amazonas cities, usually reached by river, Presidente Figueiredo is linked to the capital by a road which is in good condition, and some of the local hotels, such as the Iracema Falls (www.iracemafalls.tur.br), offer transfers. The frugal traveler will also find buses departing from the Manaus bus terminal (Terminal Rodoviário Engº Huascar Angelim).

Back to the pros:

What trip planning possibilities do you see for the independent traveler in the World Cup who would like to explore Brazil from the host cities?

Renato Freitas (MXM Viagens e Turismo): "It's essential to do a good research. Brazilian cities offer many leisure and tourism options, with different routes for interests such as culture, culinary, ecotourism, adventure, and so on. Due to the great distances between the cities, planning is key, and so is help from a good travel agent."

Eduardo Martins (Keep Company Viagens para Solteiros): "It's harder for the independent traveler to do that due to the lack of knowledge that only a guide can provide, unless the traveler already has a plan for the places he or she wants to visit and, with the help of maps and a rental car, goes to those places. Personally, I don't recommend that, because Brazil is a very large country where, still, few people speak English. If the tourist doesn't speak at least one Latin language, it will be difficult to communicate and, traveling by car, there's also the risk of getting lost and compromising his or her safety."

Do you think the moment Brazil is going through, with demonstrations against the World Cup, will affect travel plans on the part of international visitors?

RF: "I do believe this wave of demonstrations can affect some tourists. There has been worldwide repercussion of the protests, which can generate insecurity and the cancellation of plans. But the high prices of hotels and air fares can also push away the tourists."

EM: "I don't think so; other World Cup host countries, such as South Africa, faced protests as well. Besides, they are isolated events and I'm sure international tourists understand that they are normal and won't spoil the party for those who arrive in Brazil ready to root for their national team."

What suggestions do you have for the tourist who wants to explore the country departing from host cities and prefers to get help from a travel agency?

RF: "You should check references for travel agencies. Check more than one agency to compare prices and the different tour options. Be on the lookout for promotions, because several hotels still haven't reached their expected sales and are bound to come up with interesting offers. Another tip: travel around by bus. The prices can be very attractive, and the scenario is likely to be less hectic than air travel."

EM: "I believe all tourists should use the help of local travel agencies and sign up for those services at their hotels to be able to count on safety and comfort. Besides, that could also be less expensive than hiring those services separately and at the last minute."

What are some of the destinations near host cities which, in your opinion, stand out for their attractions, their weather in the World Cup season and the quality of their accommodations?

RF: "There are great options near the host cities. Some of the destinations with nice attractions and prices are:

  • Belo Horizonte - Brumadinho, Caeté, Ouro Preto, Mariana, Tiradentes
  • Curitiba - Ilha do Mel, Paranaguá
  • Fortaleza - Jericoacoara
  • Manaus - Jungle lodges
  • Porto Alegre - Serras Gaúchas (Gramado , Canela, Bento Gonçalves)
  • Recife - Porto de Galinhas, Fernando de Noronha
  • Rio de Janeiro - Búzios, Cabo Frio, Angra dos Reis
  • Salvador - Morro de São Paulo"
Ouro Preto: a top destination near Belo Horizonte. View full-size

EM: "The host cities are strategically located and  great attractions can be easily explored from them. Some of those destinations are:

  • Recife - Famous Porto de Galinhas is just 80 km from Recife. Praia dos Carneiros, another Pernambuco paradise just 113 km from Recife, is still pristine and considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil.
  • Salvador - In Bahia the tourist can choose from destinations such as Ilhéus, portrayed in Jorge Amado's literature; Praia do Forte, 50 km from Salvador, with 12 km of seaside and natural pools formed by reefs; and Mangue Seco, a fisherman's village in the north of Bahia, close to the Sergipe borderline, with beautiful beaches of fine sand.
  • Rio de Janeiro - Besides the capital's postcard attractions, the tourist can enjoy many other beautiful destinations in Rio de Janeiro state: the Lake District is known for its vibe and the scenic beaches of Búzios, Cabo Frio, Saquarema. Those who choose the southern part of the state will marvel at the historic scene of Paraty and can enjoy the charm of the islands in Angra dos Reis.
  • São Paulo - The North Shore is a great bet for tourists who love beaches. Another attraction is Brotas, about 250 km from São Paulo, famous for adventure sports and activities such as rappelling, zip lining, and rafting, among others.
  • Curitiba - You can explore the hills of Paraná on a train ride. The trip through Serra da Graciosa will take you to Morretes, where you can enjoy barreado, a typical dish.
  • Porto Alegre -Rio Grande do Sul also has beautiful attractions in the mountains - Gramado, Canela, Bento Gonçalves and surroundings, with local wine and German and Italian cuisine.
  • Belo Horizonte - Minas Gerais has attractions for tourists with a wide range of interests. If you like ecotourism, visit Serra do Cipó National Park, with wonders such as the Tabuleiro Waterfall. Very close to BH, in Brumadinho, is Inhotim, an immense open-air art gallery. Colonial towns such as Ouro Preto, Congonhas and São João del Rey are also worth a visit.
  • Manaus - Enjoy the wonders of the Amazon Forest, the boat rides to the meeting of the waters of the Negro and Solimões Rivers, and the waterfalls of Presidente Figueiredo."

After the World Cup: The Búzios Gastronomy Festival

Tuesday May 27, 2014
Fábio Rossi/Courtesy of Festival Gastronômico de Búzios. View full-size

Travelers in Rio for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will deserve a break from all those strong soccer-generated emotions. One of the top choices for something relaxing and nourishing to do after the event is the Búzios Gastronomy Festival.

One of your best bets for a good chance at sunshine in the Southeast winter, Búzios is reaching the 13th edition of this appetizing annual event with a celebration of Brigitte Bardot, who made the beach town famous when she showed up there for a vacation 50 years ago. This year, 60 restaurants are participating.

Right now is a good time to take a look at hotels for the festival's two weekends and even for the World Cup period.

Búzios Travel Guide

Photo by Fábio Rossi courtesy of Festival Gastronômico de Búzios.

São Paulo Travel: New Murals at Congonhas Airport Celebrate Brazil's World Cup Titles, Stars of 2014

Sunday May 18, 2014
Portal da Copa. View full-size

The newest in São Paulo street art is a celebration of Brazil's five World Cup titles (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) in murals painted by Paulo Consentino on a wall outside Congonhas Airport. Portal da Copa reports that the World Cup Mural ("Mural das Copas") is almost ready.

The artist has also been working on murals inside the airport lobby. Those depict Brazilian and international stars who will be playing in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

World Cup Mural, São Paulo

Photo: Mané Garrincha (1933-1983), star of the winning Brazilian national teams of 1958 and 1962, in the mural by Paulo Consentino. (A typo has been corrected. Brazil's second World Cup title was won in 1962)

Botando Banca, São Paulo: Street Food to the People

Sunday April 27, 2014
Coentro Comunica. View full-size

Street food in São Paulo is an oversized and tempting fruit, bursting with potential and ripe for the picking. Yet, to the megalopolis with an estimated 2013 population of 11,821,873, street food in its various forms - stands, carts, food trucks - is hanging out of reach in a legal limbo. The de facto local scene got stirred last December, when mayor Fernando Haddad sanctioned a law allowing food to be sold in the streets, beyond the already legal few such as hot dogs and open-air market pastel. However, the transition from outsider to mainstream is pending on a decree with the pertinent norms which is expected to be released soon and has been generating quite a lot of debate.

Botando Banca is the latest effort towards a full-fledged comida de rua in Sampa. The movement, complete with a manifesto, has just been launched by a group of eateries whose owners say, "if we can't sell food in the street, we can at least occupy our sidewalks."  They are restaurants (Tordesilhas, Suri Ceviche Bar, Obá, AK Vila) and a pâtisserie (La Vie en Douce) working in a partnership with Coentro Comunica and with support from Deni Bloch, both communications agencies specialized in gastronomy.

The manifesto, available on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/botandobanca), states that street food must be legal, cheap, varied and representative of São Paulo's cultural diversity; have quality; generate jobs and income; be supported by public policies for its improvement and regulation; and be available "in the street, at the squares, in the parks, in front of bars and restaurants". The manifesto also states that "street food is a joyous way of occupying the street and generating safety".

The name of the movement, an idiom which means "throwing one's weight around", can also be understood as "setting up a stand" and in this case "taking a stand", which is what the chefs involved were already doing on their own before they realized they should join forces. The project was kicked off last Thursday during Obá na Calçada, the sidewalk version of Obá held every last Thursday of the month. Guest chef Maurício Santi served curry-soaked noodles during this special edition.

The launch has its second phase this evening, when Colombian chef Dagoberto Torres will introduce Botando Banca to those attending Domingo Cevichero at his Suri Ceviche Bar. Folders containing a map created by Coentro (in Portuguese) with information on the initiatives of participating members as well as the manifesto will again be available.

Photo by Lucas Terribili

Domingo Cevichero, held on the last Sunday of each month, presents the chef's multicultural and contemporary take on ceviche and other Latin America dishes, as in last month's manjubinha encevichada (R$10).

Manjubinhas Encevichadas by chef Dagoberto Torres, Suri. Photo by Lucas Terribili

Botando Banca brings new impetus to the ongoing discussion about norms. Last April 17, according to Folha de S. Paulo, mayor Haddad had a closed meeting with major players in the street food scene, including Mauricio Schuartz, producer of the Vila Madalena Gastronomy Fair, and Rolando Vanucci. The latter, a major advocate for the cause who refuses the term "food truck" as a foreignism, has successfully been turning out various types of food on wheels (comida sobre rodas, his preferred term). They all use his name, which is also the word for "rolling" in Portuguese, and diminutives: first there was Rolando Spaghetti which became Rolando Massinha (pasta); now there's Rolando Doguinho, Churrinho, and Kebabinho.

Buzina Food Truck, launched by Márcio Silva (owner of Oryza, a promising restaurant that closed down) and Jorge Gonzalez a couple of weeks before the sanctioning of the street food law,  is a hit. So was a truck sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey which circulated around town last summer with food by André Mifano (of Vito).

Support for street food has also come from two of Brazil's greatest chefs - Alex Atala (D.O.M., Dalva e Dito) and Rodrigo Oliveira (Mocotó, Esquina Mocotó), who have long made their award-winning cuisine available at very attractive prices. The role of street food in the fostering of social inclusion was one of the topics in a meeting they had with Haddad last October, when they also presented projects from NGOs Instituto Atá, co-founded by Atala, and C5, co-founded by Oliveira, according to Arnaldo Lorençato of Veja SP, who reported on the meeting on his blog "Como, Logo Existo" ("I Eat, Therefore I Exist").

Botando Banca puts forward a compact and appetizing sample of São Paulo diversity. The street projects are:

  • AK na Rua - AK Vila, in Vila Madalena
    Daily. Varied food by Andrea Kaufmann
  • Domingo Cevichero - Suri, in Pinheiros
    Last Sunday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Obá, in Cerqueira César
    Varied food. Last Thursday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Hypadinhas da Carole - La Vie, in Cerqueira César
    Shaved ice in various flavors (which can be mixed with spirits such as cachaça or sake), in the store weekdays and outside on Saturdays during regular hours
  • Tem Tacacá na Tietê - Tordesilhas, in Jardins
    Tacacá, the signature soup of the Brazilian Amazon, by Mara Salles. First Thursday of the month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Botando Banca

São Paulo Hosts World Travel Market Latin America

Thursday April 24, 2014
Brazil's Minister of Tourism, Vinicius Lages (fourth from left) opened WTM Latin America. Glauber Queiroz/MTur. View full-size

World Travel Market Latin America and the 41st Braztoa (Brazilian Association of Tour Operators) Business Event opened yesterday at the Transamerica Expo Center in São Paulo with over 1,250 exhibitors from about 60 countries.

One of the world's largest tourism trade events, WTM Latin America (through April 25) is featuring top destinations such as Greece , this edition's patron country, and other countries and regions represented by governmental organizations, as well as major hotels and tech world giants such as Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor.

Brazil's Ministry of Tourism and Embratur (the Brazilian Tourism Institute) are represented in the event. The Minister of Tourism, Vinicius Lages, took part in the official opening ceremony; the trade show was also visited by Embratur's interim president Vicente Neto. Both officials highlighted the importance of participation in WTM Latin America.

"Brazil needs to be more competitive to ensure the expansion of tourism and, as the organization responsible for promoting Brazil abroad, Embratur takes these opportunities to reinforce the country's image on the minds of foreign professionals," said the minister in a press release.

As the country gets ready to host great events - WTM's opening day also marked 50 days to 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympics - Lages also referred to the trade show as a chance to "invite international tourism professionals to feel at home and experience Brazilian hospitality and joy."

Vincente Neto said, "WTM is the proof that the partnerships between public and private initiatives lead to the generation of real business opportunities in Latin America". Among Embratur's actions is Hosted Buyers, co-promoted by Braztoa, a program which is bringing together about 150 Brazilian and international leisure travel and meetings industry professionals for business rounds during the three days of the trade show.

The next edition of WTM Latin America and the Braztoa Business Event (April 22 to 24, 2015) will be at Expo Center Norte which, besides being large enough to accommodate the growing event, is more centrally located.

Belo Horizonte Travel: Monthly Birding and Birdwatching Tours in Municipal Parks

Tuesday April 15, 2014
Parque Municipal Primeiro de Maio. Photo courtesy of Fundação de Parques Municipais. View full-size

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil's fourth largest state capital and one of the host cities in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, plenty of nature is just around the corner. Well-kept municipal parks such as Mangabeiras, abundant in native vegetation and animal species, are among the top attractions in BH and a real treat for birdwatching and birding aficionados. If you're one - newbie or seasoned - plan on enjoying the free tour organized every month by Ecoavis (www.facebook.com/ecoavisBH), a local NGO, in a partnership with the city's Municipal Park Foundation (Fundação de Parques Municipais - FPM). The tour's name is AVISTAVIS, which sounds almost like "aviste aves" ("see birds") in Portuguese.

Each month, the group visits one of the 70+ parks maintained by FPM, an organization created in 2005 which is also responsible for the city's four municipal cemeteries and five ecological agriculture community centers (Cevaes). Next month, the visit will be to Parque Primeiro de Maio (1st of May Park), in the northern part of town. A symbol of BH's Environmental Program, the park transformed an abandoned property with open-air sewage into an environmental preservation area with a trail, picnic areas and playgrounds; 118 acres of the Primeiro de Maio Creek were recovered, a sewage network was put in place, and nearby streets were urbanized.

According to the Municipal Park Foundation, Parque Primeiro de Maio sightings included 16 orders, 32 families, and 65 species of birds from 2011 to 2013 (Parque Lagoa do Nado, in the Pampulha region, has 117 species recorded between 2008 and 2014 so far; Parque Burle Marx, in the southern tip of the metropolitan area, was second, has a list with 75 species).

Some of the species sighted at Primeiro de Maio the last three years in a row were the Swallow-tailed Hummingbird (Eupetomena macroura); Sapphire-spangled Emerald (Amazilia lactea); Grey-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajaneus); and the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild). The Great Egret (Ardea alba), Pale-breasted Thrush (Turdus leucomelas), Southern House Wren (Troglodytes musculus), and Rufous Hornero (Furnarius rufus).

You can find lists of species sighted in various parks on the city administration website (portalpbh.pbh.gov.br). Click on "Parques Municipais" (where you'll find an interactive map with all the FPM parks), then, to the right, on "Observação de Aves" (where you'll find the schedule). At the bottom of the page, click on "Espécies Avistadas nos Parques de BH" (species sighted in BH parks).

These are the tours scheduled for the rest of the year. The July one is two days before the first World Cup semi-final (Tuesday, July 8) at the Mineirão arena.

They start at 7 a.m. Participants are advised to wear comfortable clothes in neutral colors. Participation is free. See the full Ecoavis schedule of upcoming events and email them (under "Contato") on their website: www.ecoavis.org.br

  • May 11 - Parque Primeiro de Maio
  • June 8 - Parque Ursulina de Andrade Mello
  • July 6 - Parque das Mangabeiras
  • August 31 - Parque da Serra do Curral
  • September 7 - Parque Aggeo Pio Sobrinho
  • October 05 -Parque Julien Rien

For 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Travelers:

Correction: FPM's bird sighting records vary in the number of years listed. This post has been corrected to reflect that.

Reatech 2014 Presents New Inclusive Technologies, Products, Services

Friday April 11, 2014

The 13th Brazilian edition of Reatech, the International Fair of Rehabilitation, Inclusion, Accessibility and Parasport, is taking place in São Paulo (through Sunday at the Imigrantes Exhibition & Convention Center). The leading event of its kind in Latin America, this year Reatech has about 300 exhibitors presenting new technologies, products and services to an estimated 50,000 visitors.

The trade show produced by Grupo Cipa/Fiera Milano has a job fair, with over 7,000 openings for people with disabilities and reduced mobility offered by various companies and employment agencies; 50 lectures; and 40 hours of cultural activities and entertainment, including sports courts and test driving of adapted vehicles. Reatech is expected to generate R$320 M in business deals.

The launching of new technologies is a big draw at Reatech, and some of most exciting releases this year are free apps which directly benefit travelers. One of the them is Rota Acessível, or IBM Accessible Way (rotaacessivel.com), an app developed by IBM Brasil's research lab in a partnership with AACD (Brazil's Association of Assistance to Children with Disabilities). The app, which can be downloaded for free from App Store and Play Store, pinpoints urban elements such as traffic lights, lowered curbs, accessible parking spaces, and tactile paving.  It allows for crowdsourcing: users can report on the accessibility (or lack of thereof) in their cities and help expand the service.

Another promising, free app for travelers is Clapp-In (play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=clappin.com),  which allows users to report on both public and private spaces such as hotels, parks, tourist attractions, restaurants and bars.  And for the tourist who enjoys putting in a little effort to communicate with the locals, there is PRODEAF (www.prodeaf.net), also free, which translates Portuguese to LIBRAS (Brazilian sign language).

Brazilian sidewalks, often obstructive or nonexistent and one of the inclusion issues which directly affect travelers as well as residents, are one of the points in the Statute of Persons with Disabilities, a bill whose rapporteur in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, federal representative Mara Gabrilli, took part today in "Quotas and Work for People with Disabilities", one of the forums at Reatech.

Inclusive tourism in Brazil will be the topic of one of the lectures on Sunday: "Adapted Speleology and an Evaluation of Parks and Caves to Receive Disabled, Obese and Senior Travelers", by Érica Nunes, the Brazilian Speleology Society's coordinator of Inclusive Cave Tourism. She will present photos of the caves visited and analyzed so far, share the experience of Association Handicap Aventure (France, handicapaventure.edicomnet.fr) in the caves of southern São Paulo State, and discuss Gruta do Lago Azul and Abismo Anhumas in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul.


Reatech 2014:

Through Sunday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Imigrantes Exhibition & Convention Center, São Paulo, Brazil



Photo courtesy of Reatech.

Deep in the Heart of Brazil: Visiting Caves in Bahia and Minas Gerais

Monday March 31, 2014
Poço Azul. João Ramos. View full-size

The scene in front of me is altering my perception, and it takes gentle taking of my hand by Israel, the guide at Poço Azul, to help me ease into the crystalline pool. So this is where the water begins!

Chapada Diamantina is a natural choice for any traveler who wants to explore the subterranean wonders of Brazil. So is Minas Gerais, where one of the newest tourist attractions is the Peter Lund Cave Route. The Peter Lund Museum and the Maquiné Cave Museum are helping us all understand the magnificence of these attractions and their importance to science.

Take time to learn about some of the best caves (and related attractions) to visit in Bahia and Minas Gerais:

Poço Encantado. Jota Freitas/Bahiatursa. View full-size

Fazenda Yrerê: Visiting a Cocoa Farm in Ilhéus

Sunday March 30, 2014

It was artist Jane Hilda Badaró who told me about Fazenda Yrerê. I'd asked Jane Hilda, who grew up and lives in Ilhéus, for tips on some of her favorite places in the area, and this cocoa farm owned by a couple - Gerson Marques and Dadá Galdino - and open to visitors was the first one she highly recommended.

Cocoa-producing farms are part of the reason why Ilhéus and the Cocoa Coast are on the rise as tourist destinations in Brazil. Yrerê had an extra chance to be in the spotlight in the last three days, when it hosted the 1st Flower and Chocolate Fair of Southern Bahia. That's because, besides offering guests the chance to visit a cocoa grove and cocoa processing stations, the farm with a great patch of preserved forest also has a magnificent orchidarium, as well as a profusion of tropical flowers putting out their colorful displays here and there.

Cocoa beans drying in the sun. View full-size

The farmhouse is simple and cozy, and filled with creative displays.


Be on the lookout for birds such as the green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon), which is known in Portuguese as saíra-sete-cores ("seven-color-saíra").


In this fun experience for families traveling with kids, there are farm animals as well.



The rustic furniture is made by Dadá's family. The gardens look great for a quiet rest after the guided tour of the land.


And then there's food - regional culinary, cocoa juice, chocolate made from the fruit of those trees you saw growing in the shade of the tropical forest, in an earth-friendly system locally known as cabruca.


Read more: Fazenda Yrerê, Cocoa Coast, Bahia, Brazil

All photos courtesy of Fazenda Yrerê.

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