Northern Ireland,The Lake District & Birmingham

“The Impulse to Travel is one of the hopeful Symptoms of Life” 🙂

Dear Readers, 

                     I am extremely sorry for the delay in publishing the concluding part of my trip.I had a healthy flush of anticipation for the many interesting experiences held in store for me and I am excited to share the same with you. 

Day 5 – 18th September (Belfast Trip)

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Belfast Airport

Our flight for Belfast was at 6.30 am with Easyjet. Jessy had booked the flight and also checked us in.I would like to mention that there was no facility to check in at the airport and also check in bags were not allowed.So we were relaxed as we already had our boarding passes and no bags to check in either.The Uber cost to the airport was  £20 from our friend’s home, it was just about 8.2 miles and took about 15 minutes. Maybe the rates are higher in the morning.The flight took off in time and we landed at Belfast at 7.30 am.We had booked a day tour of the Giant Causeway with Odyssey Tours.The meeting point was at Jury’s Inn.After inquiring for a bus with the locals we took bus no 300 to Jury’s Inn.We had taken a return ticket of £11 and reached after a hours drive to Jury’s Inn.We found the Coach with Odyssey Tours written on it waiting in front of Hotel Jury’s Inn.

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The Trio with the Coach Captain of Odyssey Tours

The Coach captain cum Guide a tall and broad man who was thoroughly professional in his approach welcomed us.He looked quite intimidating but I found him quite helpful knowledgeable and an adept driver as he kept talking and driving.The bus left at sharp 9 am and we were now travelling inland straight to the north Coast.The first stop was the Dark Hedges.

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The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges is near a small town called Balleymoney in County Antrim.It is one of the most photographed natural phenomenon in Northern Ireland and a popular attraction for tourists around the world.James Stuart built Gracehill House in 1175 AD and named it after his wife Grace Lynd.The family planted an avenue of over 150 beech trees along the entrance to the Georgian estate.It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached Gracehill house.Today this unique,tranquil and spellbinding tunnel of ancient beech trees stretches along the Bregagh Road interwining and entangling to create a spectacular fusion of light and shadow.Time storm and damage has caused many of the trees to be lost, at present 90 of them are still surviving.The Hedges are 0.6 miles in length.Its not clear why they are named as Dark hedges maybe the huge trees block the light that’s why the name.The place became famous after the shooting of the famous HBO series Game of Thrones.In the serial it appears in Season 2 Episode 1 as the Kings Road, Arya Stark has escaped from Kings landing disguised as a boy with the Hound.

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The Dark Hedges

Our guide took out a small watch made of cardboard which showed the time we should be back which was precisely 15 minutes.As vehicles are not allowed on the road we were dropped at a distance,it took us about 5 minutes to reach the location after quickly clicking a few photos we literally ran back as we didn’t want to be left behind.

The next stop was the Bushmills Distillery.The Old Bushmills Distillery is a distillery in Bushmills,County Antrim,Northern Ireland that is owned presently by Casa Cuervo of Mexico.It has changed many hands since it was established in 1784 by Hugh Anderson.

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The Bushmills Distillery

We took a round of the distillery and inquired about the complimentary shots(though not a whiskey drinker) wanted to try the famous Irish whiskey.It turned out it was not free but cost £2.We didn’t want to waste any money on what we didn’t enjoy.The Guide had however warned us not to return drunk.This was however also a lunch stop.We packed the food and ate it at leisure in the bus.I bought a quiche for  £3 Later we stopped for 10 min at Dunluce Castle.

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Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland, the seat of Clan McDonnell. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland.

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Dunluce Castle

We did not visit the castle but took photos of it from a distance.We stopped for about ten minutes and took photos and thereafter proceeded to our next destination the Giants Causeway.The Guide collected £6 from each of us for a guide for the Giant Causeway.

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Giant Causeway

Formed 50-60 million years ago the Giant Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching towards the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea.Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15-20 inches in diameter and measure up to 25 meters in height.They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 100 meters in elevation.

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Giant Causeway

According to legend the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant.The story goes that the Irish giant was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant. 🙂 The Irish giant accepted the challenge and built the Causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet.In one version of the story the Irish Giant defeats the Scottish giant In another he flees back to Scotland in fright.

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Giant Causeway

We met the guide and frankly the guide did not impress me at all.He was telling more about his family history and less about the place.However we enjoyed walking which was about 4 kms it’s a beautiful scenic walk.If you do not want to walk you can take a bus from the visitors centre(charges just a pound).After taking some amazing pictures we returned to the bus.

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Flowers growing on the crevices of the stones  of Giant Causeway

Our last destination was the world famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-rede. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks below.The bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust.

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Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The guide handed us the tickets for the ropeway. The ticket cost is  £9 per person. Jessy had walked fast and I could see her crossing the ropeway while Simi and self walked towards the ropeway walking a bit slow and clicking pictures of the beautiful pathway.It took me about 20 minutes to walk to the entrance of the ropeway.With excitement careening around my chest I inched closer to the entrance of the bridge.

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There was a lady guard at the entrance after she checked my ticket I was told to wait as only 8 people are allowed to walk on the ropeway. When my chance came I was the only one and I was petrified to go out there all alone but I didn’t have time to think as the guard nudged me to go ahead and tentatively I stepped on the ropeway as if testing the waters telling myself “don’t look down “ but at the same time I wanted to see what it looked like so I took peek of the ocean from the corner of my eye.The winds were strong and the ropeway was swaying from side to side as I held tightly to the hand rails and walked ahead and soon I was on the other side !!!!. While walking I had a combination of feelings of adventure and exhilaration.I found Jessy and together we explored  the tiny island there is not much except a tiny fisherman’s cottage.The bridge was used by fisherman to catch salmon and haul their catch on their shoulders and walk back.Those days it was just a ropeway and didn’t have the wooden planks.The ropeway was rebuilt in 2008 and is now a major tourist attraction.We were rewarded with spectacular views and tried capturing the same on our phones though the photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the place.

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View from the island

I found there were steep cliffs totally unguarded with any kind of fencing or railings, so you get an uninterrupted view of the place however don’t try taking selfies as its certainly dangerous to do so.

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Breathtaking View from the Island

After exploring for sometime we decided to return and now was the daunting task of walking on the bridge again.!! To walk twice on the bridge within a span of half an hour was indeed a challenge but did we have an option? We had to reach the other side 🙂 We made the most of it by clicking pictures of each other as we were unable to do so earlier.

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Ropeway Crossing accosting strong wind

Jessy even made a video !!! We rushed back as we had to reach the Coach by 3 pm.I don’t know exactly how many from the group attempted but Jessy and self were happy that we managed to cross it without much drama.The coach left us at Jury’s Inn at 4 pm.We took the bus for the airport at 5 pm and reached the airport at 6 pm well in time for our return flight to Glasgow at 8.15 pm.We landed at Glasgow at 9.15 pm and took an Uber which cost us about £14..The Uber charges were less to what we had paid in the morning although the distance was same !!! We reached around 10 pm and welcoming hot and delicious dinner was awaiting us.We ate heartily as we didn’t have much for lunch.We shared our experiences and chatted as it was going to be the last night at Glasgow( we were driving to the Lake District in the morning).

Day 6 – 19th September( Drive and Stay at Windermere)

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Beautiful Windermere

Jessy had booked a car from “ Enterprise-rent a Car” from 19th-21st September.An initial deposit amount of  £107 was paid.After a cup of tea our friend dropped us at Giffnock,Glasgow to pick up the rental car.After the staff checked  our driving license.(You can use your Indian smart card license) the car was delivered to us.It was good that we clarified that all three wanted to drive so we had to shell out additional £15 for additional drivers.

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On the way to Windermere

Jessy was the primary driver with Simi being the secondary driver an additional 200 pounds were deducted from Jessy’s credit card as refundable deposit.To our best of knowledge we had checked everything.The GPS was set and Jessy tentatively drove back to our friend’s place.As it was a new experience driving on foreign lands its better to be safe !!! After breakfast we loaded our bags and thanked our hostess and took some last minute photographs.The GPS was set to Lakes Lodge, Windermere. Initially there was some problem with the reverse gear it was solved later.To our profound dismay we found that the voice commands on the GPS was not working frantic calls to Enterprise enlightened us that the charges are extra for it ! Unbelievable as we were sure there was some technical problem, which got resolved later while we were driving around Lake District.The person who answered to our query was surely a novice or was not aware of the problem. Simi set the GPS on the phone and it became easier to navigate with the voice commands.Our friend had apprised us of the driving rules.It would take another post to explain all the driving rules but I will mention a few like the speed limit is miles per hour and on the Motorways Like “M” and “A” roads it varies from 60-70 miles per hour.The person on the right has the right of way.The smaller roads   naturally had a lesser speed limit.There are signages for cameras everywhere and we maintained the speed limit to avoid getting a ticket for speeding.There were also road signs indicating you to reduce the speed.The speed limit is the number on the sign with a red circle on it.As in India we follow left hand drive so it was not very difficult to drive.Seat belts are compulsory for everyone. If the passenger seats have three seat belts all three should wear them.The traffic lights are same red,yellow and Green. Rounabouts. are very common in the UK,they are where other roads meet,using them is simple you always give way for the traffic which is approaching you from the right,you will always turn left on a roundabout and traverse it clockwise.If there are traffic signals on a roundabout and if it is green you have the right of way.It is important to know the exits the GPS was very helpful otherwise we wouldn’t know where to exit.I noticed the sign of Hard Shoulder wondered what it was ? later our friend clarified that it is an emergency stopping lane by the verge of a road or motorway, on the left side of the road.During rush hours the lane is open.We enjoyed this new experience and reached at 12 pm at Lakes Lodge it took us around 2 ½ hours and we drove roughly 116 miles.To our dismay the lady at the reception was very unfriendly and rude and shooed us away telling us to come back at 4 pm as that was the check in time.We were not even allowed to use the washroom we however located one with the help of our friends.( Jessy and Simi’s batchmates)

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We parked the car with the luggage and walked to Popeye for a takeaway.( A treat by our friends)We ate at the lakeside and later walked around the lake.

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Windermere Lake

We later   relished an  ice cream (name of the ice cream I had was thunder and lightening ).Later we ventured out into the streets and were enthralled with the charming sights of the place.

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Icecream Stop

We found a colourful caravan parked and took several photos of it,after spending about two hours our friends dropped us at the hotel.It was such a delight and a pleasure meeting them – a very warm and friendly couple !!

The Colourful Caravan at Windermere

Thereafter we checked   in to the hotel.The room was good with three separate beds and a neat and clean bathroom with tea and coffee facilities we had paid £228 for two nights.After checking in we relaxed with a cup of tea and some snacks which we had carried with us.At about 5 pm we decided to walk around the place.We peeped in to the shops which were regrettably closed.

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As we were walking around we came across a quaint little pub “The Pie and Pint”and decided to try it we found the Ginger Beer very refreshing ( £2 for a pint) and a slice of cake for a pound.

An Evening well spent at Pie & Pint

They had a haunted room and we decided to sit there.We returned to the hotel around 9 pm and dinner was some some left over lunch and Simi made her Cuppa noodles and we called it a day.(To our surprise we found the lady at the reception was more relaxed and more friendly now).

Day 7- 20th September( Windermere)

                                                         “The loveliest spot that man hath Found”                                                                                      William Wordsworth

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We started our day with a typical English breakfast I particularly liked the hash brown which was quite different from the hash brown I ate in India.After a lot of deliberation we decided to drive down to Grasmere.It was a feeling of freedom to drive around on your own.We put Grasmere on the GPS and set ourselves.The entire drive was on narrow country roads and there was not much traffic.Driving through the beautiful English countryside was a dream come true for me.On the way we stopped at a beautiful lake at Ullswater.

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Ullswater Lake

It is the second largest lake in Lake district.It is approximately nine miles long and 0.78 miles wide with a maximum depth of slightly more than 60 m.We walked around the beautiful lake and clicked many photos.After spending some time we drove to Grasmere,and luckily found a paid parking for two hours(£3)

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The Trio at Ullswater Lake

Grasmere is a village and tourist destination in the centre of the English Lake District. It takes its name from the adjacent lake.It has associations with the Lake Poets, one of whom,William Wordsworth, lived in Grasmere for 14 years.We first visited the Wordsworth Museum and inquired about the Dove Cottage.Unfortunately it was under renovation.

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Dove Cottage

Dove Cottage is a house on the edge of Grasmere in the Lake District of England. It is best known as the home of the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth from December 1799 to May 1808, where they spent over eight years of “plain living, but high thinking”.

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After clicking a few photographs we visited the Daffodil Garden which is just adjacent to the Wordsworth Graveyard.

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Later we walked to Grasmere’s famous ginger bread shop.There was a big queue so Simi stood in the queue and Jessy and self made our way to the Oswald Church.

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The Church is dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria king and champion of Christianity.After praying and appreciating the quiet church, fortunately we were the only visitors.

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Inside the Church

Threafter we met Simi and sampled the famed Gingerbread.By now it was 4 pm and we decided to drive back to Windermere. On the way we stopped at Ambleside.

Ambleside is a town in Cumbria, in North West England. Historically in Westmorland, it is situated at the head of Windermere, England’s largest natural lake. The town is within the Lake District National Park.Luckily we found a free parking space for two hours.

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Ambleside

After parking we walked around this beautiful town.We walked to the famous children’s writer Beatrix Potter’s Gallery.Children all over the world have enjoyed the characters created by her especially Peter Rabbit.We wanted to visit the Roman fort and after inquiring with the local people we finally made it to the fort.

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The Roman Fort

During the Roman army’s conquest of Northern Britain,towards the end of the 1st Century AD,a small timber fort was built at the Northern tip of Windermere to house a garrison of 200 men.This early fort was soon abandoned,but the site was reoccupied early in the 2nd century AD.This second fort was built in stone on a raised platform which is still visible.It was larger to house a cohort of 500 auxillary infantrymen.The fort remained in use until the 4th century AD,with a large civilian settlement developing on its north and east sides. Archaelogical excavations between 1913-1920 revealed the remains of the Fort’s defences an parts of the internal building arrangement.Today you can see the remains of the main gate,the south gate,the commanding officer’s house,the headquarters building and the granaries.

Appreciating the natural beauty all around us we reached the hotel in about 20 minutes I was quite disappointed that we reached so fast.After refreshing ourselves with a cup of tea we decided to explore more as this was the last day in Lake District.We wandered into the Public library.

Windermere

Earlier we booked a table in the Golden Mountain Chinese restaurant at 7.30 pm to avoid the weekend crowd.Its such a joy to walk around this beautiful town with colourful flowers all around.The cottages and quaint homes(we didn’t notice any multistoryed building here) is a treat to the eyes. What is pertinent is the calmness of the beauty it is as though the land knows of its beauty and does not feel the need to demonstrate it.After exploring for sometime it was time to head back to the restaurant.We enjoyed our dinner at leisure.

                     Golden Mountain Restaurant

            After dinner we walked and then sat on a roadside bench and chatted.

Windermere by Night

We wanted to make the most of the place since tomorrow morning we were driving down to Birmingham.

“ You may leave Lake District,but once you have been there,it may never leave you”

Day 8 –   21st September( Birmingham)

After a typical English breakfast we checked out from Lakes Lodge and were on our way to Birmingham we planned to leave by 9 but my wish to have another Hash brown was the reason for the delay(which I thoroughly regretted later).The rooms and facilities are satisfactory in Lakes Lodge but the owner and the sole staff is rather rude and unfriendly I found the owner a bit racist.

Lakes Lodge

Simi was at the wheels and with the help of the GPS we cruised along for an hour but later we found the traffic crawled due to an accident.

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We had to return the vehicle at Shirley Center Solihull but the way the traffic moved we could not make it at the designated time so we called up and informed them they suggested we drop the vehicle at Stirchley which was open till 5 pm.On the way we filled up petrol and just before reaching the drop off location we remembered that we have to give back the vehicle with a full tank,Our hunt for a petrol station began and the GPS took us on a joyride and we finally landed at Texaco Petrol station.

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The total cost on petrol was £54. It was quite an experience to fill in the petrol as there are no attendants to do it.We reached Enterprise, Stirchley at 3 pm.The cost of the rental car was approximately 5000 with taxes per person(excluding petrol,already mentioned),the actuals still awaiting from dear Jessy.

After dropping off the vehicle we took an UBER to our friend’s place in Solihull.We walked into the beautiful and very aesthetically done up home.Every nook and corner was so well thought and so well done up.After a delicious lunch our friend took us to Stratford-upon-Avon.

We took some photos and headed to the theatre( Royal Shakespeare Company).We walked around and appreciated the theatre and took some photographs.

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Later we drove down to Ann Hathway’s Cottage,being a Sunday the place was closed but that didn’t stop us from taking a few photos of the Cottage.

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ANN HATHWAY’S COTTAGE

After that we came home had a cup of tea and went out for dinner at the  “The Covered Wagon”.We chatted and enjoyed the delicious food with a glass of wine.

The Covered Wagon

Later we had a desert binge at Icy Gems.We ordered an Apple Crumb,Sticky Toffee Pudding and Waffles.All  a treat by our gracious friends.We chatted and tucked into the lip smacking English Desserts.

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ENGLISH DESSERTS

We reached home around 10 pm and after thanking and bidding goodnight to our hosts we retired to our rooms.Later we web checked in( which was very wise of us)

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The Ducks swimming surrounded by the  Beautiful Weeping Willows .The ducks are owned by the Queen and are also numbered

Day 9 – 22nd September( The Last Day of the Trip)

We got up around 7 in the morning and after a refreshing cup of tea I walked around the beautiful well kept garden.We decided to visit Cotswolds as against shopping.We left around 10 after breakfast lovingly prepared by our hostess.It took us an hour to reach Cotswolds.

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COTSWOLD

Unfortunately the unpredictable English weather played spoilsport so we could not walk around but we did get out of the magnificent Tesla, to take a few pictures of this quintessential English countryside.

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Cotswold

Think of rolling hills and meadows, thatched medieval villages built with honey-colored stone and stately homes, and the first thing that comes to mind is the Cotswolds.This quaint rural area in south central England is home to six counties including Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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COTSWOLD

We reached home around 12 and after a quick lunch we booked an Uber and reached Digbeth just in time to board our bus to Heathrow.

On our way to Heathrow

The bus left on time but an hour later the traffic crawled the expected time of the bus to reach Heathrow was 6.15 pm but it reached at Terminal 5 at 7.30 pm.The kaleidoscope disc of the evening sun played on the window seat but I was far too tensed to enjoy this beautiful phenomenon.Our flight would depart at 9.15 with thumping hearts we made our way to the bag drop counter.Thankfully we had web checked.The baggage drop counter was another struggle as there was only one counter where the staff was helping,rest of the counters was self baggage drop we opted for that as we had to still do the security.I had planned to do shopping at the airport but there was only time to buy some chocolates,to reach our gate we had to take the transit.We managed to reach just in time for the boarding.The flight was comfortable and we landed on time at 11.15 am the next day. Jessy was in another flight whereas Simi and self were together.We bid each other goodbye and went back home with happy memories.

“Without new experiences something inside us sleeps.The Sleeper must Awaken”

Tips for Travel

  • Apply for the VISA first it normally takes 2 weeks to get it.You don’t need to book flights but you need to book the hotels where you plan to stay.If you are staying with friends or relatives an invitation letter is a must which will be part of your documentation.
  • If you plan to self drive its better to prior book it.
  • Carry an umbrella for the unpredictable English weather
  • Depending on the season carry sufficient warm clothes.A full down Fleece jacket is highly recommended.
  •  Carry pounds especially in small denominations,coins would help you in public transport..
  • Carry a credit card as when you travel by UBER they accept only credit cards.
  • Carry snacks as it helps when you miss your meals.
  • 8) Last but not the least be polite and not create nuisance and disturb people by your exuberance.

Source : Wikipedia,Wikitravel

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2 thoughts on “Northern Ireland,The Lake District & Birmingham

  1. Nice

    A K Kalita

    Like

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