Connie and Chris, a.k.a. Ladyandtramp, are retired school teachers, and happy grandparents, who live 2/3 of the year in a cottage on beautiful Lake Belwood in Canada and the other 1/3 traveling to ‘off the beaten track’ places with beautiful nature.
Living in: Fergus, Canada
  • Day149

    Templo Mayor Museum

    April 5 in Mexico

    We were thrilled by our walk through the old Aztec ruins but as we came to the end of the walk through the ruins, we came to the museum. Once again we were pleasantly surprised by how amazing it was!

    The museum of the Templo Mayor was built in 1987 to house the Templo Mayor Project and its finds—a project which continues work to this day. The Templo Mayor Project’s mission is to excavate the oldest area of the city, around the main plaza. The museum building was built by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, who envisioned ‘a discreet structure that would blend in with the colonial surroundings’. The museum has four floors, three of which are for permanent exhibitions and the fourth has offices for the director, museum administration and research staff.

    As we walked in, we saw a model of what Tenochtitlan looked like before the Spaniards arrived.

    The museum has eight main exhibition halls, called "salas", each dedicated to a different theme.

    Room 1 is dedicated to the goddesses Coatlicue and Coyalxauhqui, mother and sister to Huitzlipochtli, respectively. The first temple artifacts, which were found in the 19th Century, are located in this room associated with the temple, as well the huge stone disk of Coyolxauhqui, which initiated the Templo Mayor Project.

    This huge stone disc of Coyolxauhqui (She of Bells on her Cheek) is the pride of the place. We were able to see it more clearly from the top-floor. She is shown decapitated, the result of her murder by Huizilopochtli, her brother, who also killed his 400 brothers en route to becoming the top god.

    Room 2 is dedicated to the rituals and sacrifice in Tenochtitlan. This room contains urns where dignitaries, who had died, were placed, funerary offerings, as well as objects associated with self and human sacrifice—such as musical instruments, knives and skulls.

    Room 3 demonstrates the economics of the Aztec empire in the form of tribute and trade, with examples of finished products and raw materials from many parts of Mesoamerica.

    Sala 4 is dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli. His shrine at the temple was the most important and largest. This room contains various images of him as well as offerings. Also located here are the two large ceramic statues of the god Mictlantecuhtli which were found in the House of the Eagle Warriors who were dedicated to Huitzilopochtli.

    Room 5 is dedicated to Tlaloc, the other principal deity of the Aztecs and one of the oldest in Mesoamerica. This room contains various images of the god usually worked in green or volcanic stone or in ceramic. The most prized work is a large pot with the god’s face in high relief that still preserves much of the original blue paint.

    Room 6 is dedicated to the flora and fauna of Mesoamerica at this time, as most contained divine aspects for the Aztecs. Also many of the offerings found at the Templo Mayor were or were made from various plants and animals.

    Room 7 contains exhibits of the agricultural technology of the time, especially in the growing of corn and the construction of chinampas, the so-called "floating gardens".

    The last room is Room 8, which is dedicated to the archeology and history of the site.

    There were so many interesting things to see during the 3+ hours that we spent here. It was well worth the 70 pesos or $4.91 Cdn admission fee!
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  • Day149

    From our hotel, we could see the huge Mexican flag fluttering over the zocalo. The flag’s design refers to a vision dating to the 13th century, telling Aztec seers to seek an eagle (crested caracara) on a cactus, devouring a snake. This was to be the place where they were to build their temples and settle there. The wandering tribe finally found their sign atop an island in Lake Texcoco, and built the mighty city of Tenochtitlán upon it.

    Seven centuries later ... In 1978, there was an electrical problem close to the Zocalo, just around the corner from the huge Metropolitan Cathedral. Workers for the electric company were digging at a place in the city then popularly known as the "island of the dogs". It was so named because it was slightly elevated over the rest of the neighborhood, and when that was flooded, street dogs would congregate there. Just over two meters down, the diggers struck a massive eight-ton pre-Hispanic stone depicting Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec goddess of the moon. Archaeologists who had long suspected that the Templo Mayor, or Great Temple of the Aztecs, lay beneath this neighborhood, were proven right.

    Throughout the 1980s, Spanish buildings were cleared away as excavation revealed an incredible wealth of treasures from every corner of the Aztec Empire. The old pyramid was taken apart by the Spanish advance, but much remains: walls of stuccoed skulls and enormous carvings dedicated to Tlaloc, god of storms/rain, and Huitzilopochtli, god of war, the most powerful Aztec god.

    Ongoing excavation continues to turn up major pieces. Just west of the temple, a monolithic stone carved with the image of Tlaltecuhtli, the goddess of earth fertility, was unearthed in October 2006 and is now prominently displayed on the museum's 1st floor.

    Another key find was made in 2011 when a ceremonial platform dating from 1469 was uncovered. Based on historical documents, archaeologists believe the 15m structure was used to cremate Aztec rulers. A recent dig also turned up what archaeologists believe is the trunk of a sacred tree found at a newly discovered burial site at the foot of the temple.

    Then in 2017 a tower of over 650 human skulls 6m in diameter was found nearby, believed to be Huey Tzompantli, mentioned by Spanish conquistadors but undiscovered until now. Most surprisingly, the remains of the sacrificed included women and children.

    We entered the site and were able to wander around on raised walkways over the site. Signs were written in Spanish and English so it made it easy for us to understand what we were looking at. Seven temples had been built, each one over the previous temple like Russian stacking dolls. We were able to see sections of the temple’s seven different phases. At the center is a platform dating from about 1400. On its southern half, a sacrificial stone stands in front of a shrine to Huizilopochtli, the Aztec war god. On the northern half is a chac-mool (a Maya reclining figure) before a shrine to the water god, Tláloc. By the time the Spanish arrived, a 40m-high double pyramid towered above this spot, with steep twin stairways climbing to shrines of the two gods.

    Even though we have been to many of the main archaeological sites in Mexico (and Central and South America), we were still amazed by what we saw today and can only imagine what this site was like in its heyday.
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  • Day142

    Exiting from the Cathedral, we heard the familiar sound of a conch shell being blown. We couldn’t miss spending a little time watching the Concheros, the Aztec Dancers of Mexico City.

    We could definitely hear them but they were easy to spot as they are bedecked in feathered headdresses (penachos), scanty pieces of cloth decorated with vibrant figures and designs, and wear shell-embellished ankle cuffs that provide much of the musical beat for the dance. Female dancers typically use huipiles (tunics), and several men and women put on body paint, which more accurately represents the god or animal they’re honouring. However, the outfits can change from person to person and group to group, as they’re decided based on social status (not class).

    We wandered through the dancers who were preparing to dance.

    The dance itself is genuinely entertaining. The dancers are totally into their dance filled with percussion-heavy beats and filled with religious significance. Each routine reflects the duality of the Aztec culture, with women, the night, the jaguar and the earth on one side and men, the day, the eagle and water on the other.

    Entertainment is not the principal objective though. The dancers so this to honour their ancient Gods and to create a connection between the gods and themselves. For that reason, the four cardinal points are blessed before the start of the routine and steps are dedicated to the harvest, fertility, earth, fire and water.

    An Aztec priest was cleansing people who wished to have this done. Chris joined a line of people and went through having copal incense blown on him and bad vibes swept away with the green leaves from the pirul tree (California Pepper Tree). At the end of the ceremony, water is put on key parts of the body for cleansing.

    "Earth my body;
    Water my blood;
    Air my breath; and
    Fire my spirit!"
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  • Day142

    From the 7th floor of our hotel, we had a great view of the Metropolitan Cathedral which is located on the north side of the zocalo.

    The Cathedral, built over a period of nearly 250 years (1573–1813), has a mixture of three architectural styles that were used during the colonial period: Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical. We first visited this church in 2000 and the church was definitely sinking into the soft soil. At that time a major stabilization project for the building was in the process.

    When Cortes and his Spanish missionaries converted the Aztec in the 16th century, they tore down the existing temples and used much of the stone to construct a church on the site. Nearly all of the stone from the upper parts of the nearby Templo Mayor was built into the cathedral.

    As it was Maundy Thursday when we visited, the church was full of people. The whole inside was covered in gold. We could see that the church had four domes supported by rows of columns and 15 chapels. The whole cathedral was filled with innumerable paintings, altarpieces, and statues.

    We heard that the building has catacombs and contains many prized works of art from the colonial era, in a variety of artistic styles. The altars were built and carved in 1737.

    I was interested in trying to see the twin18th century pipe organs, but we could only see the pipes. The massive organs were damaged by a fire in 1967 and required a painstaking restoration process that took 7 years. This was completed in 2014.

    Outside of the cathedral was an interesting statue. It was even more interesting as we looked at it more closely. It is a statue of Pope John Paul II with Our Lady of Guadalupe, made entirely with keys donated by Mexicans to symbolize that they had given him the keys to their hearts. It is called ‘Keys of Faith’.
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  • Day141

    Off to Mexico City

    March 28 in Mexico

    Wednesday arrived, and we were packed and ready to leave our Patzcuaro home at 8 a.m. Travelling without a car is so easy, convenient and inexpensive in many places that we have travelled to.

    We walked to the corner of the street where we picked up a taxi to take us to the Pátzcuaro bus station. Normally we could walk as it is not far away but we had our backpacks ... and souvenirs! The Purepecha buses to the Morelia bus station leave every 15 minutes so we were not worried about time. In 45 minutes, we were in Morelia and waiting for our 10:45 ETN bus to Mexico City. The ETN bus is a secure, comfortable and clean double decker bus. Drinks and snacks are included with the ride. We had good viewing seats with lots of legroom on the second floor at the front. The trip takes about 4 1/2 hours so we just sat back, read and relaxed. At Mexico City’s North Bus terminal, we were able to buy taxi tickets in the station, right to the historic area. This eliminated any issues with any type of taxi scam (prices, etc.) if we were to call a taxi off the street.

    The taxi driver took us past buildings covered in giant murals. As Chris went to take a photo of a mural, a police car drove up and blocked his view. Chris got a dirty look from the officers and the taxi driver had to explain that Chris was trying to get a photo of the mural, not the officer. Haha anyways, we went on, directly to the Catedral Hotel, where we were staying. Our room was ready and waiting for us, and what a nice room we had!

    I had booked the hotel on a few weeks before, knowing that because it was Easter and was in a great location, it may fill up quickly. I had asked for a quiet room with a view. We ended up on the 7th floor (top floor), were given a quiet room (away from the active square) with a large bedroom, a living room and private balcony overlooking the city. At the end of the hall, there was another public deck with patio tables with umbrellas and plants. The view was of the huge Basilica on the zocalo. It was wonderful. We could see all the Easter activities happening around the church, below us.

    The hotel had a restaurant on the main floor which was very handy as we didn’t want to go hunting for a good restaurant when we arrived. The hotel staff was pretty amazing in their desire to help out and their smiles. The breakfast buffet was awesome - a lot of anything that people would want. Great service!

    In the early evening, we went for a bit of a walk by pawn shops, jewellery stores and food stands while looking for a wine store. We decided to have a little celebration as our trip was ending soon. We found some good wine, one being a Mexican white wine, Valle de Guadalupe, and a red wine, L.A. Cetto, both from Bala California.

    We just enjoyed the night after all of our travelling. Tomorrow, we have plans to walk around the zocalo and visit the archaeological site of the Plaza Mayor.
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  • Day140

    Margaret Ann's Joy Purse #3

    March 27 in Mexico

    This trip, I brought Margaret Ann's Joy purse #3 with me - a bright royal blue one. When I was trying to figure out what colour to bring this time, I decided to take the one that would match this year’s grey, blue and black travel clothing colour scheme.

    I won't go into many new details about the story, but I will copy and paste what I wrote on a previous trip re the "Joy" purse #1. This will give anyone who is new to the blog some background to this story.

    Every year In October, my brother, Hugh, and his wife, Jane, host a Thanksgiving luncheon followed by a walk in the woods for both of their families at their farm in Limehouse. We always have a lovely time and also have the opportunity to get caught up on news from the other side of our families.

    I especially loved walking and talking with Jane's mom as she always had interesting stories to share. One year, I asked her about the canvas purse that she had with her and she told me that it was the perfect travel purse. It had a strap that could be lengthened to crossover the body, had the perfect number of pockets, the zippers could be locked and it could be washed. (Later, I discovered that an ipad easily fit inside of it.) The label inside the purse had the word 'Joy' written on it.

    I went home and checked for it online and found out that the company that had made this purse had gone out of business. So, that was the end of the story for several years.

    Four years ago, Margaret Ann sadly passed away. She had been a very special woman who I always looked forward to seeing. She enthusiastically shared wonderful stories and had a wealth of knowledge.

    When visiting with my sister-in-law, I happened to ask her if she had seen the purse so that I could look at it more closely and Jane said that she could do better. She went down into the basement and came up with a huge bag. When she opened it, there were 8 Joy purses.

    Jane told me that her mom had really liked that bag so when she found out that they were going out of business, she bought one of every colour! Jane offered them to me.

    And so, ... I inherited eight purses. Eight!

    Well, I was not sure what I do with them so I bundled them up and put them in storage. But 3 years ago, a plan came to me, so I pulled them all out, gave them a good wash (they are washable), hung them on the line to dry and picked out a beige purse for Part One of my plan.

    The Plan

    Every time that we travel, I have looked for ' the perfect purse' to take with me. A cross body purse that can be easily packed away, a purse that can carry my glasses, sunglasses, water, snacks, possibly binoculars, a sweater, lipgloss, and a small wallet. Margaret Ann said that this bag was ‘the perfect purse’ so I was willing to give it a try.

    On each trip that I go on, from now on, I will take one of Margaret Ann's purses with me, use it during the trip and then find a person on the street that could use it. We have seen so many needy people on our trips who would love a bag, and the Joy bag could live up to its name.

    I mentioned my plan to my sister-in-law and she wrote back, “I love your idea about the purses… you have such great ideas! A little bit of my mom, spread around the world. Exactly what she would want. :)”.


    Joy Purse #1 - Destination Morocco

    Our trip to Morocco ended in Marrakesh and the time came to empty the purse and look for a recipient. We put a tshirt and a bit of change in the purse and Chris took to the streets to find someone. It was easy.

    Not far from our hotel, an old lady sitting on the sidewalk leaning against a wall. Chris didn't have to speak Arabic to get the idea across that he wanted to give the purse to her. She was thrilled and immediately hid it inside of her Djellaba.

    Taking the photo was a little trickier, but he did it. You can see a big of beige going inside her clothes. If only that purse could talk... I am sure that Margaret Anne will enjoy tracking it.

    Spreading a little Joy... fun!

    Joy Purse #2 - Destination - Leticia, Colombia on the Amazon River

    We spent 6 days in the Amazon in a little city called Leticia. Every day, we looked around trying to figure out who would appreciate having Margaret Ann's green 'Joy' purse. We had put my white long-sleeved blouse in it, some change and a large package of wet wipes in it.

    The poorest people seemed to be living right on the river in houses built on stilts over the water. In April/May, when the river is at its highest, the water would come right up to the underside of the houses. The houses have no bathrooms and the water in the river smells. Dead fish, plastic bottles and garbage float in the water near the shore.

    We walked down to this area and started looking for the perfect person to give the purse to. When we saw the little girl, we both knew that we should give it to her. She would be happy to take it home to her mom or grandmother. It made it easy for us to give it away.

    The little girl was thrilled when we offered it to her. No problem taking a photo of her walking away with the purse across her body. We felt that Margaret Ann was smiling.

    Joy Purse #3 - Destination - Patzcuaro, Mexico

    After living in Patzcuaro in Central Mexico for three months, we saw many Purepechan (Tarascan) people who would come into town on weekends and holidays to shop, or to see doctors. We saw many elderly people who could barely walk or had some pretty bad disabilities. But who would most benefit from a blue purse?

    On the day that we decided to give it away, we walked by the entrance to a doctor’s office and in the lineup was a lady holding a sick baby. She was the person we picked and what a great smile she had when she realized that we were giving it to her. I had filled it with some interesting things as well as a few pesos and tasty candies, so I am sure that she would have enjoyed unzipping it, especially as it was just before Easter.

    Margaret Ann, a bit of you is in the perfect home in Mexico!

    To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. – Mark Twain
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  • Day139

    The week before we left Patzcuaro, we had lots of coffees, dinners and goodbyes with the many people who we had met in the town.

    Of course, we got together with the family who were the main reason we were even in Patzcuaro - Jeremy and Linley, their two sons, Carter and Alden, Jeremy’s mom, Sherry, and Linley’s mom, Beth. Our next door neighbours Bill and Doug who were staying in the Posada Del Angel met with us for a dinner in a hotel, Posada de la Basilica, that we had stayed in with Diane and Claude 28 years ago. Jean and Steve from Kingston met us at a yummy pizza place, Mancala, for pizza and a salad just before we left. We only had one photo with the two of them (a cute backside photo). Sorry guys!

    It was a mixed feeling week. We were happy to be heading home but sad to be leaving Patzcuaro.

    We left Patzcuaro before the Silent Procession was to take place but we saw several posters announcing that it was going to happen right before Easter and it was supposed to be a ‘profound and unforgettable’ experience.

    During the weekend of Semana Santa, a powerful silent procession of Cofriadas takes place in Patzcuaro. The Spanish term Cofradia means Brotherhood, comprised of con (from) and fradia (Friar). Roman Catholic Cofradia originated in southern Europe in the mid 1500's, around the same time that this region was being colonized. The Cofradia members cover their faces due to a sacred vow to demonstrate humbleness and offer charity anonymously. The Cofradia also walk barefoot to show special devotion and humility. Though tourists often gasp at the sight of the Cofradias and their pointed head coverings, they are no way affiliated with the KKK.
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  • Day138

    Palm Sunday

    March 25 in Mexico

    Palm Sunday in Patzcuaro is a very special time and it represents the beginning of Holy Week. The streets are full of activity. The faithful attend the different temples, such as San Francisco or Santuario de la Virgin de Guadalupe and of course, the unique Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud de Patzcuaro.

    Patzcuaro is full of palm branches. People used them in Jerusalem to herald Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city, when they proclaimed him King. Many people sit outside the temples in Patzcuaro, binding these branches together and then weaving them into figures, such as Christ on the cross. This is an art form that has been handed down from generation to generation. People buy the figures and then take them into the various temples where they are blessed.Read more

  • Day138

    Busy Pre-Easter Activities

    March 25 in Mexico

    Easter is a very big deal here. School kids and teachers get a 2 week holiday starting on the Saturday before the Easter weekend. During this time, Mexicans love to travel especially to one of the many beach towns on either side of the country. They also love to come to small touristy places like Pátzcuaro.

    We have several plazas in Patzcuaro and pre-Easter each one is full of vendors.

    On the main plaza in Pátzcuaro, a city of tents were put up all around the square and vendors came from far and wide, selling their crafts. It is just a guess but we figure that there are over 250 stalls selling everything from hand-embroidered blouses, to jewellery, to wood or copper crafts, and pottery, just to name a few. And it was all so organized. Food stalls and tables and chairs were also set up on the perimeters of the crafts stalls. The vendors are there for a full week so probably have been preparing for this market for the past year. There were endless boxes of crafts. On top of this, performance areas were set up for dancers, musicians and clowns. It was a busy place!

    In the Plaza Chica, vendors were also set up selling straw hats, kids toys, socks, underwear and many useful cheap products from China. The food market was bustling.

    In the San Francisco market indigenous ladies were cooking tamales and a corn in a thick brown syrupy sauce made from sugar cane (piloncilo). These are typical specialty foods sold at Easter time.

    The Plaza by the Basilica seemed to hold the overflow of products from the Plaza Grande. If people weren’t buying things in the Plaza Grande, they were here.

    The oldest house (1711) in the city, the Huitzimengari Palace, is the site of the Oaxaca market.

    Everywhere, there are food vendors selling tacos and sweet potatoes and soups and Mexican shrimp cocktails.

    At the same time that this was all going on, workers are working on the main roads around the squares, cutting and laying the large volcanic cobblestones. Everything is done by hand. Daily, we are awed by the work that the men do in the hot sun and on their knees for hours. They had to be done working on the streets by the day that the Silent Procession was to take place.
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  • Day137

    Blessing of the First Well

    March 24 in Mexico

    According to legend, Don Vasco de Quiroga struck his staff on the ground here and a spring miraculously appeared to supply water for the town.

    The indigenous people of the area gather here to bless the water.

    To get to the spring you would have to down down several steps and past a carved stone conch shell. A grate usually covers this hole in the ground.

  • Day137

    Altar de Dolores - March 23

    March 24 in Mexico

    On Friday March 23, several altars were erected in the streets, on the Plaza Grande and in the museum and churches, in honor of the Mary, the mother of Jesus. This special day of devotion to the Virgin Mary had its beginnings around the year 1200 with St. Francis of Assisi and his Franciscan brothers. A council in Cologne Germany, in the year 1413, established the sixth Friday of Lent as a day to have compassion for Mary, the Mother of Sorrows.

    There were seven times that she grieved:

    1.) The prophecy of Simeon at the temple that her Son would bring redemption to the people of Israel and that her soul would be pierced by a dagger.

    2.) The flight into Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod and his attempt to have the Baby Jesus killed.

    3.) The loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple while He talked with the elders and priests.

    4.) The meeting of Jesus and his Mother on the Way of the Cross.

    5.) The crucifixion and death of Jesus.

    6.) The taking down of the body of Jesus from the cross.

    7.) The burial of Jesus

    Chris and I had a wonderful little tour of an altar set up in a school on the big plaza. A teenaged student who was taking private English lessons, wanted to explain the symbols in their school’s altar in English. She did a really good job!

    The practice of building altars in honor of the suffering of Mary for the passion and death of her son, began in Spain and from there it was moved to Mexico in the first years after the Spanish conquest.

    The altars are created by placing the image or statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in the center of the selected space, and often accompanied by a Cross. Around her are arranged large candles in white or purple, decorated in crepe, and as many flowers as possible. Traditional colors of the flowers vary to include shades of purple, symbolizing grief; all white representing purity; or white and red for the blood shed by Jesus.

    There are also bottles of colored water which represent the tears at the foot of the cross. There are traditional bitter oranges symbolizing the bitterness of tears with little flags of gold paper that symbolize purity and little clay pots or jars sprouting wheat grass that symbolize the resurrection and renewal.

    At the end of the ‘tour’, we were offered a red hibiscus drink. We found out later that one of the quaint old practices that still survives in Patzcuaro is a cool drink that is offered to neighbors and passers by on the Friday of Sorrows made from oranges, bananas, apples, beets, finely chopped lettuce, cold water, sugar, and ground cinnamon. We tried this drink out in the museum.
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  • Day134

    We had heard that on Tuesday night there would be a free concert at 5:30 pm in the garden at Posada Yolihuani given by an a cappella men’s singing group from Yale University called the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, or the SOBs. They were in Patzcuaro for a week and had already performed twice, once at a local restaurant and once in a high school. When they had finished performing at the high school, the students kept yelling, “ Otra, Otra” (Another, Another). They loved them.

    Little did we know, but we were in for a real treat. This was their last concert and it was performed in a lovely garden in a local BnB. They put on a great show with lots of humour and it was very obvious that these young men loved singing.

    “We are the second-longest-running a cappella group in the nation... or, as we prefer to put it, 20-odd friends who love to sing and have fun together. Whether serenading the sunset on the shores of Costa Rica or the President's Chief of Staff at the White House, the SOBs are there with tight-knit harmonies, a unique sense of humor and 79 years of experience in the realms of music & revelry. Join us as we dive into future adventures during this exciting 2017-2018 year, and may the gods be with you!”

    They have a good website which describes them.
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