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lifestyle

Going meat free means I’ve been on the look out for places to eat that accommodate my new lifestyle. I solicited the help of my friend who’s been on this journey for some time now and she gave me some useful tips. She said you can never go wrong with Mexican and Indian food as there’s plenty to choose from. Barburrito happens to be a Mexican restaurant that specialises in making burritos. Last Friday, my friend and I made a quick stop at one of its restaurants located in the city for our occasional catch up. It had a lovely atmosphere with a choice of indoor and outdoor sitting. The open style kitchen plan allows you to see all the ingredients and make your preferred selection.

Not being one to love a wrap, I opted to have mine in a bowl without the wrap while my friend had the wrap Mexican style. The service was quick, almost like street food which I loved about it as I never like waiting for food especially when I’m hungry, lol. This is perfect for those having a quick lunch break from work. I had the Mexican rice with mushrooms, hot tomato sauce, beans and salad. My friend went for the classic burrito wrap with some guacamole and we were all set to go. The portions were very decent and filling. It was definitely a hit in my books as I enjoy spicy food. All the ingredients compliment each other well. Definitely a spot I will be revisiting soon. 

July 21, 2017
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Italian food happens to be one of my favourite food. I love pasta and pizza any day. Having recently transitioned to being vegetarian, I’ve been on the look out for spots to eat out that make a tasty veggie meal. Our last experience at Vapiano, inspired us to book a holiday to Venice where we had the most amazing time. We decided to pay it a visit again last Sunday to see what a vegetarian like me could enjoy from their latest menu.

Location

Vapiano is located right in the heart of Manchester city centre, in the Corn Exchange building.

Atmosphere

Spread across two floors with outdoor sitting good for a hot summer day, Vapiano is a spacious spot to relax in. With nostalgic black and white photographs hanging on the walls, it gives you the Italian experience. The open plan kitchen allows for some entertaining viewing as you watch your food being prepared by seasoned chefs.

Food

For the the starters, we had some green olives. We then moved on to a bowl of vegetable salad which came with cheese and black pepper. Garlic bread followed. You can’t go to Vapiano without indulging in some good old garlic bread. Next on the menu was Risotto ai Funghi. This was my favourite meal by miles. I love rice and the mushrooms gave it a really good taste. A meal I would highly recommend even for non vegetarians. For dessert, we had the New York Cheesecake, which melted like butter and tasted divine. We had a lot of water and pineapple juice that tasted quite refreshing. To see more of what Vapiano has to offer, you can view their menu here.

Service

Upon arriving at the restaurant, you’re given a card which will be scanned each time you place an order. The staff will talk you through how the process works if it’s your first time visiting. You are responsible for going to the kitchen to place your order where you get the chance to see your meal being prepared. The maximum amount of time we waited for a meal was 5 minutes. You have an option to take a timer back to your table which beeps when your meal is ready. At the end of your meal, your card gets scanned and your bill is produced, ready for payment. The staff are very friendly and professional.

We had an amazing time dinning here again and look forward to revisiting.This meal was complimentary of Vapiano. All opinions are my own.

July 15, 2017
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Last week I shared that I was taking a short trip to Hamburg, Germany. Suitcase packed, Craig and I were ready to hit the road (or should I say, catch our flight). We left Manchester around 6am on Saturday morning and arrived in Hamburg in less than 2 hours. Hamburg is a beautiful city with many canals and a youthful vibrance. It was very easy to see why it is fast becoming a popular tourist destination and knowing we only had 48 hours meant that we had to use our time wisely.

Where we stayed

We checked into our hotel, The Grand Elysee which is located in the heart of the city. Being a 5 star hotel we wanted to make sure we got a good deal so we booked it a few weeks prior to take advantage of the early booking offer through hotels.com. We paid for our stay upon arrival using my new Starling Bank card which allows me to spend abroad but doesn’t charge transaction fees. The hotel was dreamy, full of amazing paintings that make you stop and think and what seemed to be an indoor forest. The room was big and beautiful, stocked with apples and bottled water to welcome new guests, along with a view overlooking the city. We were also allowed to use of the hotel gym, sauna and swimming pool.

During our time at Hamburg airport, we discovered a cheaper accommodation option. If you find yourself wanting to travel on a very low budget, you can use the Sleeping Pods, which are currently free of charge as part of a special promotional campaign. The sleep capsules, as they are called, are installed at the airport and enable passengers to get some rest, away from the hustle and bustle of the terminals.

Travel

Hamburg has a great tram system and this is what we used the most when getting around. We also reached out to a Hamburg tourist company who provided us with 2-day travel tickets to get around the city. Hamburg is well known for their bike friendly streets, so of course we hired a couple of bikes ourselves which we  booked online at €9 each for 4 hours. There are other flexible hire options available, but If you plan on just looking around the city, walking is also a great option. We did a lot of walking while capturing photos, as walking allows you to pay more attention to your surroundings and discover new spots. We came across so many cute stickers stuck on traffic posts and bins which we may not have seen without walking.

Where we ate

I must say we got a bit lazy with our eating options, which was to be expected given that we had very little time in the city. One of the new features on the Starling Bank app Spending Insights, showing you exactly where you money goes by merchant and category – this showed our second largest spend while in Hamburg was at McDonald’s right after our accommodation. We ate quite a few burgers, fries and, of course, strawberry milkshakes.

We also discovered a hot chilli burger which was very fitting  for the cold weather we experienced while in Hamburg. As we were mostly out and about shooting, we got some ready- to-eat food supplies from a city supermarket to eat while exploring, which came in third in our expenditures in the Starling Bank app. We came across so many lovely outdoor restaurants which we hope to try out when next we visit.

Places we visited

We went to The Roncalli Circus which was less than a minute walk from our hotel. Tickets cost €13 per person but we saved 15% on entrance fees by using Groupon. We got to see some really amazing talent — I highly recommend the 8pm show as it just looks so beautiful at night.

We spent a lot of time walking through the city and came across many canals, our favourite one being a canal that had a building in the middle. In the evenings, we sat by the bridge among the other folk and watched the magical lights. We took a trip to the Parliament Square where we saw the beautiful parliament structure, adding history and charm to the city. We watched the pigeons potter and peck by the bridge, while the swans and ducks swam together, it was truly a lovely sight to behold.

Feeling pressed for time, our last stop was a beautiful botanical garden called Tropengewächshäuser Des Botanischen Bartens. There we got to see unique and exotic plants. The cacti was my most favourite and it’s made me want to turn our apartment into an indoor garden! We also encountered a white parrot who must have been a movie star as he was being shot by a film crew. What made the experience even better was that it is free to enter, which is just great if you’re looking to cut costs.

Expenses and Starling Bank

I said I was going to share my experience using my Starling Bank account abroad in previous blog post, and here it is.

Thanks to the Starling Bank app, we were able to track our spending and we managed to stay on budget with over €3 left to spare. Our budget, of course, was in Pounds Sterling and the Euro equivalent offered by Mastercard’s competitive exchange rate, met my expectation as our accommodation ended up costing £1 less than we reserved it for.  

Starling Bank offers a current account that you can use overseas with no fees – that means there are no transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal fees for spending abroad, hurray! And because it’s a current account, it means you are able to earn interest on your balance just like you normally would at home.

I found the app to be an effective tool to manage costs as it displays a percentage split of transactions based on categories e.g. Holidays, Eating Out and Groceries, and merchants e.g.  Grand Elysee Hotel, McDonald’s etc. The app is also cool as you receive instant notifications every time you spend money, allowing you to track your spending in real time, so if you happen to be charged the wrong amount this allows you another chance to double check!

When traveling it’s super important to be careful with where you spend your money —, Starling are big on security, so much so that there’s this really cool card locking feature in the app. If you misplace your card you can simply lock it in the app so it can’t be accessed by anyone else, but if you happen to find it again, you can  easily unlock it!

Although I didn’t really need to take any money out, Starling allows you to withdraw up to £300 (or equivalent in foreign currency) which is the same as in the UK unlike some restrictions you may have with some travel cards.

Because the card is a Mastercard, it was accepted for all our transactions. It is a card I plan to use more often even when not on holiday, mainly to get an overview of my expenses and identify ways in which I can cut costs. So If you’re interested in trying Starling Bank, they have kindly given me a Starling Pass for my readers to skip the queue. If you download the app, simply input this pass CNLALET1 to apply for a current account.

Overall, Hamburg is a very beautiful city which I believe is currently underrated in the tourist scenes. I’d say pay it a visit when you get a chance and enjoy all it has to offer. We hope to visit for a longer period sometime in the future.

This blog post has been sponsored by Starling Bank. All opinions are my own.

 

July 4, 2017
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My upcoming trip to Hamburg has come about in an attempt to find a new and cost saving way to travel. I was initially going to visit Paris, but after being faced time and time again with travel tickets that cost more than my budget, I decided to take a different approach.

Flexibility

One of the things I picked up as a travel blogger is that if you want to be cost effective when it comes to travelling, you have to be very flexible. This could either be with your travel dates or location. I opted for the latter in this instance seeing as I couldn’t budge on my travel dates. To go about finding a new and less expensive location on my set dates, I turned to Google Flights. All I had to do was put in my exact travel dates, select my departure airport and the continent I was most interested in visiting. It didn’t take long to get the results I needed. Hamburg was the obvious choice, not only in terms of cost but also what the city had to offer. A quick search on Google showed some of the things that make Hamburg a place worth visiting. From its maritime history to its art and museums to its architectural structures and youthful vibrance not to mention the outdoor lifestyle with parks across the city. It is also very accommodating of bike riders as many residents use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. I haven’t had a chance to ride my bike all year and this seems like the ideal place to go bike riding. When it comes to booking an accommodation, I usually try to take a collaborative approach with hotels. In this instance, as it was very short notice, I was on a mission to find discounted hotels. My search led me to Hotels.com where you get given additional discounted rates on some hotels if you register on their website. Another good thing is that after you’ve collected ten nights, you get one free which could come in handy when booking future holidays.

Packing and what to take

When packing for a short trip, I like to keep it very simple. My go to suitcase is a piece of hand luggage. Because flights across Europe tend to be fairly cheap, there are add ons which could easily double the costs. Most flights tend to have one item of hand luggage allowance with hold luggage for an additional charge. Travelling with hand luggage not only saves me money but also saves me time at the airport. Having no hold luggage to check in means I can go straight to board my flight plus I’m only responsible for looking after one item, which reduces my chances of losing it. Downloading the airline app to access my boarding pass is a must as it costs to have it printed at the airport.

As I’m going with one piece of luggage, taking only essential items is key. I tend to go with outfits planned for the number of days I intend to stay. A pair of jeans is always a must as I can wear them a few times with different tops. Only one pair of shoes as I’ll already be wearing a pair for the journey. I tend to pack shoes using a shoe bag so they stay protected and don’t ruin any other items. Makeup and skincare products not exceeding 100ml are put together in a see-through bag as per the requirements set-out by customs. I like to take my journal with me as it helps me document my thoughts and feelings on my trip. Then last but not least is my camera, which I need to capture lots of moments.

Budgeting

One of the initial things I tend to do is set a budget for my travel. A number of factors determine what the final budget will be. I budget for my flight ticket based on the average cost of three low cost airlines (Ryanair, Monarch and easyJet). For accommodation, I always want to stay in a three to five star hotel with good reviews based on customer experience. With this is mind, I tend to reserve the cheapest with the most value to offer which locks in the price. The next most important thing to account for is my daily allowance. I usually set this after researching the cost of eating out and visiting certain places in my itinerary. This cost can sometimes go up if not careful. In the past I’ve always had to take money out of  my account to change it to the local currency before I travel, in order not to incur additional charges when making purchases on my card abroad. It isn’t the most ideal option for me as I like to keep track of my spending. It means making use of safes in hotels so I’m not wandering about with cash, with the downside that  I limit spontaneous purchases by not having enough money on me. This time, ahead of my trip, I managed to set up a bank account with Starling Bank. A bank that doesn’t charge any fees when you’re spending using your card abroad or taking money out of  ATMs. The account opening process was easy thanks to their efficient app. To set up an account, I had to download the Starling Bank app and input my personal details. I went through a number of checks to verify my identity, which the app does by scanning your relevant documents. It took me less than fifteen minutes to get set up and my card, which arrived in the post within a few days, had no delivery cost attached. To activate it, I scanned it using the app and it was good to go. The thing I love about the card is that it is a MasterCard which is widely accepted in many retail outlets across Europe, as well as the Pulse feature and detailed transaction feed in the app that will keep me on top of my spending — it’ll also handily show me the transaction costs in GBP and local currency via notifications.

And because the account is a current account with an overdraft facility (subject to approval, and interest rates do apply), you have access to additional funds which allows for a bit of flexibility. Finally, there’s 24/7 in-app support if needed. I’m really looking forward to going to Hamburg with my new card and app where I hope to spend and save money while doing so. And of course, I’ll share my experience in my Hamburg travel post.This blog post has been sponsored by Starling Bank. All opinions are my own.

June 20, 2017
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After our trip to Mykonos, we found ourselves in beautiful Venice. Last year, I talked about how travelling to New York brought about a spiritual awakening for me. Well, it would seem that Venice had the same impact on me. This time, the message was to deliberately find an underlying cause for happiness. The answer turned out to be gratitude which is summed up in my Venice vlog. Venice took me to a happy place in my life. Much of which was around the time when I was in boarding school back home in Nigeria and being mischievous was my modus operandi. A time where we read almost every book Shakespeare had written with Romeo and Juliet being my all time favourite.

Travel

Venice is a very huge city with surrounding islands. The main mode of transportation within the city is walking. I never came across a car in the city. I seldom came across bikes and I suspect this might be due to some of the streets being quite narrow.  The second mode of transportation seems to be by private boats and gondolas. You can only travel to the surrounding islands by boat. We stayed in Venice Lido which happens to be very close to Venice and we had to take the public boat to and fro Venice. Daily ticket per person cost €20. We opted for a three day pass which saved us €20 each as it cost €40. And if you’re less than 30 years of age, the price goes down to €28 for a three day pass. Before you book a stay in a neighbouring island, be sure to factor in the cost of travel as this can become a lot depending on your schedule.

Where to Stay

When booking our accommodation, we opted to stay in Venice Lido as we wanted a quiet surrounding when we returned to rest for the evening. The hotels in Venice tend to be quite pricey. We found that the cost of staying in a low budget hotel would get you a lovely stay in Venice Lido even with the cost of our travel included. We stayed at beautiful hotel called Villa Tiziana. It was painted yellow in classic Venetian style and surrounded by beautiful rose gardens which I pretty much ran across almost everyday. Our breakfast was included in the price too.  In Venice Lido there were cars and bikes and beautiful restaurants to eat in too.

Places to visit

Venice is full of very colourful buildings and canals spread across almost every 200 metres. You’ll see a lot of folks sitting by the canal steps or stopping to take pictures and you can’t blame them as it is quite the sight especially when a gondola is passing by with the classic tune “That’s Amore” emanating from the lungs of the gondola man. You’ll come across really old bookshops that tell beautiful stories hidden in streets so be sure to keep an out for them. San Marco is definitely the district to be with St Marks Square located right at the heart of it where a lot of tourist gather to feed the pigeons and admire the wonderful architecture. Walking along the waters just past San Marcoyou’ll come across a number of contemporary museums which are all unique in their own way. You’ll also come across a lot of mask shops in Venice. The masks are extravagant in nature and almost make you feel tempted to attend a ball in one of them. There’s an island which is a cemetery that tourists tend to visit. It is covered in beautiful flowers and the architecture is that of an ancient nature.

Where to eat

There are so many places to eat in Venice. I found it to be very cheap compared to Mykonos not just when it comes to a meal but also with regards to shopping in general which was a plus. You’ll find a lot of pizza shops where you can purchase a slice of margarita for €2 and pepperoni for €2.50 which comes in very handy when walking all day. Eating in restaurants tend to range from €7 to €12 for a full pizza or a bowl of pasta dish which is good.

Our stay was quite short and sweet. Nonetheless, we tried to make good use of our time there and I look forward to visiting again sometime in the future.

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.***

June 13, 2017
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I’m so excited to share with you our wonderful journey through this white painted paradise that is Mykonos. I can’t describe enough how beautiful this Greek Island is. I’ve been dreaming of visiting for a year now ever since I came across pictures of it on Instagram. After doing some digging I quickly realised it was a party spot and wanted to avoid the party season (which is usually in summer) so we booked our visit for Spring which was perfect as we got to experience loads of sunshine without lots of crowd. We both weren’t disappointed when we arrived. It felt like something out of a story book. Whenever I dream of heaven, I see streets paved in gold and rays of sunshine. If there were ever to be a white heaven, I would like to think it might just be Mykonos. We came across so many folks repainting their walls and street floors white. What I also loved about it was how they understood complimentary colours which was evident across the Island. It was almost as if nature also grasp this concept. The blue skies, flattering sunshine and what appeared to be desaturated trees made this Island very picturesque which made for some great Instagram feed.

Travel        

We stayed in what was classed as the city which was quite small. We walked on foot as we are use to back home. The airport was 45 minutes walk away from the city. There are taxi services which you can also make use of. We took a ride in one when heading to the airport to catch our flight back home at a cost of €13. There are buses that can take you to other parts of the Island but we didn’t hop on one which found us walking for 4 hours when we decided to look around the Island. For us, there was more exciting stuff in the city than there was outside of it so bear that in mind if you do decide to wander off like we did.

Food

It’ll be fair to mention at this point that we found the Island expensive quite earlier on in our holiday. Lucky for us, we discovered a food spot that sold Greek Pitas for €3.50 each and that became our go to place. We did notice that we weren’t the only ones trying to save on food as a lot of restaurants weren’t always full of folks dining which would explain why more of them if not all had someone standing in front of the entrance in an attempt to drive some traffic into their restaurants. There were lots of coffee shops too which seemed reasonably priced and always came with complimentary wifi which is good if you’re trying to save on data usage.

The People

The residents of the Island were very polite and modest people. I really did like that about them. Everyone had time to engage with you and it did make us feel at home. Craig came across a street musician originally from Germany named Bernard who said he travels around the world to play his music but always finds himself back in Mykonos because of how lovely the people are. Almost everyone we encountered could speak and understand English which made it easy for us to navigate our way across the Island. The residents also appear very trusting as we did come across shops which were closed for business but had their doors open which meant anyone could walk in and walk out. This did give us a sense of the city being safe.                  

Places to visit

The beach front is where you want to be walking along as thats were all the magic is. You get to see boats on the dock, cruise ships in the sea and sunbathe while at it. You’ll come across a place called Little Venice because of how the waves hits the houses next to the water. Further up you’ll see the windmills that compliment the Island so beautifully. There are a number of museums located within the city and you have to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss them. One thing you don’t have to look out for is Churches as there are a lot of them. A local told us there were over 70 Churches in Mykonos. Most of them built and maintained by family members in memory of a loved one. They all seemed quite small and we never came across a priest or any service taking place in the ones we visited but there were always candles lighted.

Traditions

The Greeks have a lot of traditions so it wasn’t a surprise when we immediately spotted one in Mykonos. We noticed almost every house and shop had wreaths or flowers hanging in front of their doors and my curiosity got me asking why is that. I was told by a lady in the museum that it was a tradition in Mykonos to mark the start of Spring where they hang dried flowers on their doors on the first day of May. And after a year goes by, they burn it. The wreaths were so beautiful which meant I had to get myself one to hang back home in England. Unfortunately, it never made it back with me as I forgot it while heading to the airport in a hurry.

All in all, we had a wonderful time in this Greek Island. This has been one of my favourite holidays and I’m certainly looking forward to visiting again.

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.*** MYKONOS, WHITE PAINTED PARADISE

June 1, 2017
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As I said before, my trip to Nigeria was one to reconnect with family. As I’m originally from Nigeria, this post won’t completely be from a tourists’ perspective but I will try my best to give clear instructions about navigating your way around if you do decide to visit. My family resides in Abuja which is the city where I was born and raised. With my last visit being circa six years ago, I decided it was to go back to the motherland. We thought Easter would be a great time to visit as most people would be on holidays which would also give us the chance to travel to our country home in Anambra State.

The Journey

With Abuja airport being closed down for renovations we had to fly through Lagos which was a first for me. If you’re like me who likes things to work as they should, then my advice to you would be to avoid going through Lagos. The system at the airport is designed to extort money from you. The whole experience reminded me a lot of some of the reasons why I left Nigeria. There were so many unnecessary checks and stops with each person asking at every chance “anything for me?” Another term for “do you have some money for me?” It is very disgusting how people paid to do a job get to behave in such an unprofessional manner. I made a point of it not to give them a penny. If you do, you’ll end up broke even before your holidays begin. The unnecessary checks means your flights will always be delayed and not to mention how poor the state of the airport is. Thank goodness we only spent a night there. The following day we flew to the East to head to my village in Anambra State. There we spent Easter with extended family members and captured static and motion pictures for my blog and vlog. We really enjoyed our time here as we were surrounded by nature and great food. If you’re looking to explore Nigeria as a foreigner, I’d advise you have a trusted Nigerian indigene to accompany on your travels as it’ll make navigating your way a lot easier. We visited Nkwo market, the Church and took long walks. We felt very much at home here.

Transportation

Sticking with one driver to take you around is always a good idea. Taxis seem to be the main mode of transportation in cities like Lagos and Abuja. Lagos has Uber which means you can download the app and get exploring. We were lucky to have my kid brother assume the role of our chauffeur in the city. You have the option to take public transportation like buses or shared mini yellow cabs. My brother told me about the existence of a train line which operates from Abuja to Kaduna where we initially planned on going to spend some time at Kajuru Castle but couldn’t make it in the end. We hope to hop on this train during our next visit.

Things To Do

Abuja was our next stop. A place where we would spend a lot of our time. Having arrived after a road trip lasting at least eight hours, we were in the company of immediate family. And for the first few days we were stuck at home babysitting my sister’s kids who were a handful to say the least. To avoid not exploring the city, we had to come up with a way of incorporating the kids into our movements. We took them swimming at Transcorp Hilton Hotel which has a lovely atmosphere. You’ll find a lot of tourists here and most likely pay at least five times the amount if you so decide to purchase anything. If you’re on a budget like myself then you’ll be better of eating and drinking before visiting the poolside or bringing some light snacks and drinks along with you. At night time you can enjoy good food, live music and drinks at the hotel bar. Just beware of how unprofessional the artists are as they’ll approach you for some money, lol. Another spot to hang out at night is Beer Ban where you can play pool as well as eat and drink. Something worth noting is that smoking is permitted indoors in Nigeria so you’ll be inhaling a lot of secondhand smoke while in bar type spots. Abuja is full beautiful of streets with big mansions but I wanted to capture the essence of it’s roots which is why my images showcase more of the culture. My brother took us to Life Camp where we found a Fulani settlement with beautiful hut houses. We also visited the Arts and Crafts Village where I purchased a lovely straw hat for the equivalent of £2. It is the best place to buy hand made cultural pieces. Be sure to always bargain as the prices aren’t set in stone. We also visited the Zoo. Although, I must say, the scenery was more exciting than the animals we encountered.

Food

We enjoyed a lot of good food. Lucky for us we had a Suya joint right next to our family home. Suya is basically roasted spicy meat accompanied with rich organic vegetables. Craig thought this to be the best meal ever. I also got him to try one of my personal favourite, Sharwama. It is a popular Lebanese delicacy made in Abuja. It’s a crunchy wrap made with well spiced meat, vegetables and mayonnaise sauce. The best place to get tasty Sharwama is Chicken Capitol. There are so many restaurants offering Nigerian delicacies which you come across while going about. If you prefer continental meals, then places like Chicken Republic might have you covered.

My Experience

All in all, going to Nigeria was a great experience for me. I got a chance to reconnect with family and show Craig my roots. I used to have a love hate relationship with the country but challenged myself to revisit the things I once used to hate to see where I stand. I’m happy to say I’ve made peace with it all. Find out more about my journey in my Nigerian vlog.

April 29, 2017
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