Ash
Written by Ash

Find The Best Area to Stay in Barcelona (+ Star Guide)

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If you don’t know the best area to stay in Barcelona you’re not alone.

When I came to this city I had to live in about 5 or 6 of them before I even got my bearings.

All these years later and I’m still not sure myself.

Don’t worry though. From drink districts to peaceful precincts and everything in between you’ll find them on my list – so let’s take a quick tour around the city.

Where Should I Stay in Barcelona?

Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned veteran this is always a great question.

Tourists usually only stick to about nine or ten neighbourhoods (barrios) due to an area’s:

I’ll be breaking down the areas to stay using this criteria.

Keep in mind there are no rankings here. This is simply a review of the areas based on my long experience of living in the city and talking with tons of tourists on the blog.

If after reading you’re looking for any combination of the above and still aren’t sure then write me in the comments below or check my accommodation finder for some custom advice.

Once you’ve found the best area you can also check my Airbnb discount homestay, hostel and holiday apartments pages.

Make sure you click the blue buttons to find the best deals on accommodation in each area.

The Best Area to Stay in Barcelona

a ton of tourists looking for things to do on the rambla barcelona

Las Ramblas

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★★  Relax: ☆☆☆☆

It’s not a neighbourhood but Barcelona’s most famous street is tourist central.

Pros

Nearly every form of airport transport gets you here in a hurry. There are three metro stops along the street including Liceu and Drassanes plus the legendary Plaça Catalunya.

If there’s any street that doesn’t sleep in Barcelona then this one is it.

The Boqueria Market is one of the best markets in the city.

Cons

A ton of hotels line the street made up of tourist traps of any kind from tapas bars to clubs to souvenirs. If you’ve got a room facing the street expect a ton of noise until early hours.

Nights bring pickpockets and pesky drug dealers and prostitutes.

Stay here only if you want a short walk home from partying or have found a great deal.

LAS RAMBLAS
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tourists shopping in the born barcelona

El Born/La Ribera

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★★☆☆  Relax: ★★★☆

If you like boutique shopping and cool bars then book a hotel in El Born.

Pros

The charm of this safe and central neighbourhood comes from its pedestrian only streets and tasteful street art which creates arguably the prettiest barrio in the city.

It’s in this neighbourhood that you’ll find the Picasso Museum as well as the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral. You’ll also be just minutes away from a great picnic spot at Ciutadella Park.

From here you’re also just a 20 minute walk to the beach. If you’re travelling with energetic kids this is in my opinion the best area to stay in Barcelona with family.

Also, if you’re looking for a party the nightlife isn’t far away if you need it.

Cons

If there are any downsides it would be that bars and restaurants tend to be pricey – but keep in mind this means quality too.

EL BORN
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the view of placa del sol in gracia barcelona

Gracia

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

Gracia used to be a separate town from Barcelona and retains some of its independent feel.

Pros

What will strike you about this very safe area is the never-ending supply of beautiful squares and its complete lack of chain restaurants and shops. This may be the only true Catalan neighbourhood left.

It’s the best neighbourhood to grab a morning coffee at a good local cafe or unwind with a cold beer or artisan gelato in a square straight out of a postcard. You can also get to Park Guell walking if you don’t mind a bit uphill.

You’ll get great rest here since it’s an area devoid of noisy nightlife – not to mention it’s pedestrian-only. I’d recommend this area for couples looking for a low-key weekend.

Cons

Downsides? If you’re deep into Gracia it’s not very accessible except on foot. If you’re looking for a party as well this won’t be the wisest choice.

GRACIA
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a pedestrian bridge in the barrio gotico barcelona

El Gotico

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★★  Relax: ★☆☆☆

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is a maze of bars and restaurants without end.

Pros

Locals go here for big nights at quirky bars or bumping clubs. If you’re looking for the best area to stay in Barcelona for nightlife or on a stag do/bachelor party then this is it.

This neighbourhood of contrasts gives us the famous Barcelona Cathedral and the classic square Plaça Reial. You’ll also be right in the thick of Barcelona’s best shopping street Portal de L’Angel.

For solo travelers this will be your best bet to meet people.

Cons

For downsides the beach is about a 40 minute walk, things can get noisy at night, and you’ll have to dodge some tourist traps – but that’s all in a days work in Barcelona!

I suggest taking the Secrets of the Old City tour of the Gothic Quarter to learn the real history of the city, but if you’re not partying or taking a cruise I’d look elsewhere.

EL GOTICO
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a skateboarder takes a jump at macba in raval neighbourhood barcelona

El Raval

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★☆  Relax: ★☆☆☆

Barcelona’s most multi-cultural area may be the most divisive area to stay.

Pros

On one hand you’re at the doorstep of the best ethnic food in the city and some of the best value bars in Europe. Dive bar and street food lovers should pay attention here. You’re also super-central.

The area is filled with students and home to great museums like MACBA and the CCCB.

Here it’s all about value and it’s easily the best area for adventure.

Cons

On the other hand there’s a bit of a nasty reputation with locals for being the site of a lot of petty crime – be aware of ‘friendly’ people you may meet in the street after dark.

I don’t recommend it for parents travelling with kids.

EL RAVAL
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the leaning homentage a la barceloneta monument at barcelona beach neighbourhood

Barceloneta

Attractions: ★☆☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★☆☆

This seaside neighbourhood is the best area to stay in Barcelona near the beach.

Pros

The old fisherman’s village still retains some of its charm of yesteryear with old women sitting on stoops chatting afternoons away while children kick balls around narrow streets. Look for the turquoise neighborhood flag hanging from the balconies.

If any neighbourhood hasn’t been completely taken over by mass tourism this is it – you’ll have a great choice of local bars plus the best seafood restaurants in the city. And it’s only 5 minutes from the beach.

Cons

What you won’t like is the enormous amount of foot traffic (and noise) moving through – try to get a hotel not facing one of the main streets.

With only one metro station in the area trains get crowded especially during summer.

There are also hardly any tourist attractions and little hotel variety.

BARCELONETA
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casa batllo in eixample neighbourhood barcelona

Eixample

Attractions: ★★★★  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★★★☆  Relax: ★★☆☆

This fashionable area is known for its fascinating grids that make great aerial photography.

Pros

While you may be confused as it is divided into 7 sub-neighbourhoods keep in mind the easily navigable streets of the area are consistently littered with trendy bars and cafes. It is also remarkably safe.

It’s home to some of Barcelona’s top attractions like the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila. It offers a ton of stops on the Bus Turistic – if you’re here to soak up the culture this is the area for you.

The ‘Gayxample’ district of the area also offers some great gay nightlife opportunities.

It’s easily the best area to stay in Barcelona for sightseeing.

You also can’t beat the high-end shopping on Passeig de Gracia.

Cons

If there are any cons to this area it’s that it’s not as picturesque as areas in the Old City.

You won’t be able to get to the beach so quickly and there are not many great squares to relax and have a drink.

EIXAMPLE
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a nighttime showing of the magic fountain barcelona

Poble Sec

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★☆☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

This underrated neighbourhood finds itself in a picturesque area under Montjuic Hill.

Pros

What you’ll notice here are narrow streets following a gentle slope upward. Foodies will love the restaurant scene in this area and Calle Blai is a great street to get €1.00 pintxos and bottled beer.

It’s also a great neighbourhood to stay if you’re in Barcelona for a conference at the Fira de Monjuic. You’ll be close to the Magic Fountain show.

In all it’s in my view the best neighbourhood in Barcelona to stay for tranquility.

Cons

The downsides are that nightlife doesn’t really get going here – except the legendary Sala Apolo. You’re also quite far from the beach and may have to walk a bit uphill from the metro station after a long day.

POBLE SEC
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Poble Nou

Attractions: ★☆☆☆  Central: ★☆☆☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

This up and coming area used to be the industrial heart of the city.

Pros

What we have now is bustling area full of warehouse apartments and new hotels. Having a walk through this area even in summer gives a sense of near-abandonment – but in a good way. Here you’re only metres from the beach and the streets are quiet as a mouse.

Taking a stroll down car-free Rambla del Poble Nou and its cafes and ice cream shops is almost like a small town.

Cons

Some prominent downsides are that it’s not walking distance to any main attractions. There are also very few nightlife and shopping opportunities.

POBLE NOU
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the view over plaza espanya barcelona

Sants

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★☆☆  Nightlife: ★★☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

You’ll find this neighbourhood right outside Barcelona’s main train station Sants Estacio.

Pros

This is easily the most accessible area to the airport and another great area for those attending conferences at La Fira or any attraction near Plaça Espanya. This very utilitarian area has everything you need but won’t offer anything too special – if you get a good deal pull the trigger.

If you’re coming for football matches and want to stay near Camp Nou book here.

Cons

The downsides here are obvious as you won’t get much of a ‘go downstairs and wander’ feel – if you love discovering a city on foot then avoid at all costs. If you’ve got no problem taking transport to the centre then don’t be shy.

SANTS
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Follow Up in the Comments Below

Again, if for some reason you haven’t found the best area to stay in Barcelona for you then make sure you get in touch using the comment box below.

I am more than happy to find you a place to stay if you tell me the kind of holiday you’re looking for, what you want to see most etc.

Also don’t be afraid to join the area discussion by first giving me a like on Facebook and then joining my group I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, and chat with thousands of Barcelona travelers.

Anything goes!

Cover photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

288 comments
  • December 21, 2019 at 8:16 pm
    BRENDA S MILES
    Hi there! Three mature but adventuresome women planning a trip to Barcelona for 4 nights in late September next year. We found a place on Airbnb that looks like it's one block from Parc de la Cuitadella ...not much info on the listing and it's super cheap maybe because of only 2 reviews...but the owner has many more listings with good reviews. What do you think about that area? Thanks for all your articles and info about one of my favorite cities ever!
    • December 22, 2019 at 5:04 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Brenda, You're very welcome :) I love the area you refer to... in fact our office is right there by Arc de Triomf, selected on purpose of course! It's super central, easy to walk to many attractions, close to the beach etc and quite safe. If the owner has good reviews and it looks good I wouldn't hesitate :) Cheers, Ash
      • December 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm
        BRENDA S MILES
        That's great to read - yayyyy! it's actually on Buenaventura Muñoz, which I assume means "good adventure" - how propitious can one get?! so I may have to stop in and say hi! And btw, thanks for all the info about bike rentals and tours...I plan on doing quite a bit of that. My first visit to Barcelona was last year in September and we did a great bike tour probably with that company you mention. And I'm super pumped to tour Gaudi's mansions this time as we only gawked from the far side of the street on bikes ;-). Thanks again Ash!
        • December 23, 2019 at 9:47 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Indeed, that's one street below where I'm at every day. You'll be happy to walk into the El Born area with its cafes and cool artisan shops. You'll be amazed how much more can be gained by visiting the inside of the mansions, especially Casa Batllo with its super cool augmented video guide. Please let me know if you have any more questions! Cheers, Ash
  • December 13, 2019 at 12:38 pm
    nbird
    Hello! My 18 yr old son and I are going to Barcelona for 1 week in June, to celebrate his high school graduation. It's his first Europe trip and I haven't been in decades! I booked an airbnb on Carrer de Brusi (in Sant Gervasi, I believe, theoretically 10 min walk from Gracia) which was $589 USD for the week. In your opinion, does this seem like a good place to stay? I can cancel it still.... I am leaning towards the City Pass for transport, although we are not interested in riding the tourist bus....If you get the pass, can you still reserve a time online? I will likely write again to flush out the itinerary, and also join the online travel group. Great website, thanks!
    • December 14, 2019 at 12:37 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hello there, Thanks for the kind words... sounds like an amazing trip you've got planned! :) I really like the area of San Gervasi but it's outside of the chaos but also close enough that you're in the action, if that makes any sense. Also just around 10 minutes from there in Gracia is probably my favourite place to walk in the city. No problem at all with the location. As for the City Pass... this doesn't have general transport included. What are you referring to? If you're not getting the Bus Turistic though the City Pass makes no sense because it's really hard to recoup the value. At any rate... please let me know what you meant and I can advise further. Maybe it was the Barcelona Card you were referring to? Cheers, Ash
      • January 1, 2020 at 2:53 pm
        nbird
        Hi Ash, Thanks for responding! Yes, I meant the Barcelona Card. I don't think we will want to ride the tourist bus as an activity. Yet we still need to get to/from the airport, and we'll certainly do some of the major "must see" sights. I guess even after reading your thorough description of the choices, I was still a bit confused as to which option would be better for us!
        • January 1, 2020 at 5:14 pm
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hello again! Now it's a bit clearer that you mention the Barcelona Card. But also keep in mind this card is not transport only and includes many attractions. Also keep in mind however that the Barcelona Card cannot be used online. You must present it at ticket windows to get entrance or discounts to the listed attractions. This means there's a chance you'll have to wait in lines, though for the non-major attractions this is unlikely. I think maybe you were referring to the Hola Barcelona card? It is an unlimited transport card and it'll be great for somebody who's staying in Sant Gervasi since you'll need a lot of transport. The value can be made up quickly and it's low hassle. If you're still a bit confused go ahead and let me know what attractions you're planning on seeing and I'll be able to give you a better idea if another pass is best. Cheers, Ash
  • November 29, 2019 at 6:57 pm
    Reydel
    Hello Ash, I found your article to be quite informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I would like to get your opinion on where to stay for a couple on their honeymoon, first time in Spain. We would like to stay away from the thick of the crowds but still be able to stroll around in a beautiful area. We're mostly interested in sight seeing, food and culture. We don't much care for night life other than a peaceful stroll here and there. Any recommendations?
    • December 2, 2019 at 11:12 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Reydel, Thanks for the very kind words :) Always happy to help. For a honeymoon I would be looking at Gracia or El Born because they're away from the chaos, easily walkable, safe, and fairly central. This would be a good balance... more specifically Gracia with its lack of chain stores, local feel, and picturesque squares. Cheers, Ash
      • December 2, 2019 at 2:41 pm
        Reydel
        Thanks for the advice!
  • November 26, 2019 at 10:30 pm
    bcnwiththreekids
    Hi Ash, I would like to ask you what you think about Hospitalet de Llobregat? Would you recommend it for a family with three small kids? Thank you for your response, but especially for your super useful site! Cintia
    • November 27, 2019 at 10:53 am
      lucile
      Lucile
      Hola Cintia, Hospitalet de Llobregat is a good area, close to the airport and it's super easy and fast to reach Barcelona's center by train (less than 15 minutes) ;) I recommend you to take the all-inclusive transport card with unlimited rides: Hola Barcelona Travel Card. Let me know if you have any further questions! Cheers, Lucile
      • November 27, 2019 at 12:16 pm
        bcnwiththreekids
        Thank you very much! We will definitely buy it :)
  • November 14, 2019 at 1:29 pm
    Jas Frawley
    Hi Ash, Thank you for this information - very useful. I am one of two women traveling in April - 60-70 yo. Our interests are La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, La Rambla (market) and a little bit of the waterfront (barceloneta). We don't expect to be out late at night and don't mind short walks - travel by metro. Definitely would like a quiet area - no loud bars / streets. Have you any thought of the best area for us to find accommodations. Here are a couple of suggestions from friends: Hotel Suzio, Hotel Gaudi, Park Hotel Barcelona and Hotel Espana Ramblas. Thank you for your time. Jas
    • November 14, 2019 at 3:20 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Jas, If you're not into loud bars and streets (who is? haha) then I'd recommend against anything on La Rambla. It might be central but it'll be too much... so Hotel gaudi or Espana Ramblas won't be good. I would select an area like El Born or Gracia because the pedestrian streets are peaceful and there isn't a lot of the chaos of the Gothic Quarter. Cheers, Ash
      • November 14, 2019 at 3:52 pm
        Jas
        Thank You Ash ... Definitely will stay away from that area. Thought on Hotel EuroPark, is that considered Garcia?
        • November 15, 2019 at 11:10 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hi Jas, This would be right on the border with Gracia and so for me it would be good! It's in a fairly calm area away from nightlife... some fairly sized streets with traffic during the day but at night it's fine. Cheers, Ash
          • November 15, 2019 at 11:13 am
            Jas
            Thank you. Now, I’ll move to your transportation and discount options page. ~jas
            • November 15, 2019 at 11:18 am
              ashley
              Team Member
              Ash
              Good stuff! :)
              • November 15, 2019 at 11:22 am
                Jas
                Hey. Since we’re right here now, what do you recommend for transportation/ discount cards? Planning to see Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Picasso museum and LaPedrera, Palau Guell. Definitely don’t want to wait in lines. Can definitely see doing some time on HOHO bus and metro here / there. Thanks again.
                • November 15, 2019 at 1:10 pm
                  ashley
                  Team Member
                  Ash
                  Hi Jas, If you're going all that plus getting the HoHo then I'd go for the Barcelona City Pass as it'll take all the hassle out of the trip. If you're going to see less sites or not use the HoHo then it's fine just to book all online as you'll still skip the lines. As for transport if you're going to be using it quite frequently then the Hola BCN is your best bet. If you're planning on doing a lot of walking and getting fresh air then it's fine to get a T-10 pass which gives you 10 trips for about €10.00. Cheers, Ash
  • October 28, 2019 at 7:39 pm
    Richard
    We are going on a cruise out of Barcelona October of next year. I trying to book a hotel near the port we chose Chic & Basic Ramblas thru Expedia. Have we made a mistake? We intend o be there 2 nights. Coming in early to make sure we are there in plenty of time for the cruise. Thanks for your guudance.
    • October 29, 2019 at 8:12 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Richard, Why would you think you've made a mistake? Sure, I don't talk too highly of La Rambla but if you're slightly off the main drag (which you are) and don't plan on staying out till 3 am every night I wouldn't worry too much about it. Just enjoy the holiday... you're super central and will be striking distance to everything :) Cheers, Ash
  • October 15, 2019 at 1:18 pm
    Mirella
    Hi Ash! Thank you so much for all the information you provide, we are going in February and I hope to have read all your articles by then! I was just wondering if you are familiar with Sant Andreu and could recommend some nice things to see or do near there?
    • October 15, 2019 at 3:20 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Mirella, I stayed in Sant Andreu for a week awhile back... well, many years back! There aren't any major attractions there though the park called Parque de la Pegaso was quite nice and they also have Catalonia's biggest shopping centre: La Maquinista. Other than that I'm not so sure but luckily you'll be close to the city if you need it :) Ash
      • October 15, 2019 at 4:44 pm
        Mirella
        That sounds awesome! I’m sure we will spend most of our time in the city (so many things to do!) but it would be nice to see some of the local area as well. Thank you very much! x
        • October 16, 2019 at 10:47 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hi Mirella, Great to hear! At the end of the day when I was there I just went for long walks in the evening... sometimes you stumble upon a nice little square full of locals and far from the tourists. That's my advice :) Ash
  • September 16, 2019 at 10:00 am
    rawan
    im travelling to Barcelona solo for three days where is the best place to stay on ? and how i can go the Marseille from Barcelona ? thank you
    • September 16, 2019 at 11:51 am
      lucile
      Lucile
      Hola Rawan, As a resident I naturally haven't stayed in a lot of hotels over my time, though I've compiled a list of decently priced hotels which are 1-3 stars in my article on where to stay in Barcelona. You can also get some great ideas in the article on the best area to stay in Barcelona. If you're considering apartments know that often they offer better value. Here is a list of the top holiday apartments in this post. For solo travellers there are two websites that were a great help: Couchsurfing (Not only does it put you in contact with many locals (possibly even giving you free places to stay) but it has tons of local events that are organized by locals and travelers alike) and Meetup.com (In Barcelona there are tons of events (in English) from hikes to pickup basketball to dance or cooking classes and more organized by locals and with a big mix of people showing up). To go to Marseille from Barcelona, you can check trains on the renfe website, take a flight or a bus and even consider carpooling! Let me know if you have any more questions or need some custom advice ;)
  • September 4, 2019 at 7:14 pm
    Ron
    Hello Ash: Thanks for a really great run down of the different neighborhoods. My wife and I and are two 20 something daughters are planning a 3 day visit pre cruise next July. I'm looking to stay in a safe area that is near some sites but not noisy. I had heard that the Eixample area would work for us but the apartment I found is on Las Ramblas Catalunya which I read can be very noisy. We plan to walk or use taxis so proximity to public transportation is not important but would like a nice variety of good restaurants within walking distance of where we stay. Thanks. Ron
    • September 5, 2019 at 11:33 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Ron, Rambla de Catalunya is mostly pedestrian so won't have a lot of speeding/commuter traffic throughout the day and at night it should be OK. If you've got a great hotel along there I wouldn't have a problem at all. Otherwise, I'm thinking maybe a traffic-free area like Gracia or El Born as they are flooded with good food and a lot of walking distance attractions. Cheers, Ash
      • September 5, 2019 at 5:16 pm
        Ron
        Thanks for the help. The hotel we were looking at was the Aspasios Rambla Catalunya.
        • September 6, 2019 at 10:33 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Yes, this is more towards the crowded Plaça Catalunya etc. but again... a nice hotel like this should sound-proof the rooms and the street traffic is very little due to there only being 2 lanes. That said, maybe I'd check some of the reviews on Booking to see if anybody mentions the noise.
  • August 28, 2019 at 10:05 pm
    Finnich vessal
    Hi, Ash This post has totally blown me away. I just kept reading and going ‘OMG’ as I went further down the page. What an incredible experience and you packed so many fantastic things in this amazing post, Your photos are absolutely stunning as well. Also is there something special that you would suggest for us to see during December in Barcelona? because I am planing to visit. Thanks so much for your help
    • August 29, 2019 at 1:09 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Finnich, Thanks so much! I'm glad the post resonated with you, that was the idea :) Without knowing any concrete dates it's hard for me to say... that said, there are some Christmas markets and other thingsd related to the holiday season that are well worth seeing. I've got a post about visiting during December/Christmas here: https://www.barcelonahacks.com/barcelona-christmas/ Also, in my events post here: https://www.barcelonahacks.com/barcelona-events/#december I break down a few other options. At any rate, please get in touch closer to the time with some concrete dates and I can do a search for you to see what's going on. A lot of these things are only announced in November so it's hard to speculate at this point. Cheers, Ash
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