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Georgetown/Washington DC & Old Town/Alexandria

Georgetown/Washington DC & Old Town/Alexandria

Old Feb 25th, 2024, 08:26 PM
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Georgetown/Washington DC & Old Town/Alexandria

Hi All!
I'm planning my first trip to DC towards the end of March with hopes of catching the cherry blossoms. I'm trying to plan well enough that I can be happy if this is my only ever DC experience.
We'll be staying in Georgetown (where we'll be doesn't seem to be super convenient to metro) and plan to uber towards National Mall tours and museums. I'm thinking we'll spend 2 days seeing the things in DC (including Cooper Hewitt, Other museums, gardens, National Zoo, Arlington, Capitol, Library of Congress, etc.) I'm interested in using our third full day to visit Old Town Alexandria by boat/ferry but see the timing options for the return boat trip aren't ideal.

I was hoping you all might be able to shed some light on things to see in Alexandria, restaurant recommendations for a nice dinner that I can book ahead—and how much time is enough there. I see the earliest we'd arrive by Potomac Riverboats is after 1pm and unless we want to come back after dark, we'd have to head back around 5:30pm.
I know this can be subjective, but walking on King st. and seeing historic buildings, etc. will be nice, but would love some other ideas.
Really in need of food suggestions for all areas of DC as well. My husband says I'm terrible at food breaks on vacation.
Is there a vote for best cupcake in Georgetown? I guess that's a thing? Anything neat to try to see at the university when we're that close by?

Favorite zoo attractions? Very sad that the Pandas are no longer there. And it looks like the zoo is NOT on the trolley map?
How much time do you really need at the Ford's Theater? I see options for museum/ranger talk OR walkthrough/Peterson House.
Is the Old Town Trolley hop on, hop off a good idea to get around, specifically to Arlington?

Anyone have a particular night tour to recommend? They do look beautiful and we will have an extra night.

Getting time reservations for all the sights is so competitive and exhausting with lots of reminders set and still missing out on things like the Washington Monument—will try again the days we're there.

I appreciate any help and thanks in advance. I'll continue to research but I don't travel without coming to my Fodor's community first.

Last edited by geanster; Feb 25th, 2024 at 08:49 PM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 04:23 AM
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Good luck with the cherry blossom timing.
We saw them at peak once 5 years ago and they are beautiful, but the crowds are very big. We found it hard to get around the Tidal Basin area.

You might want to look into the Circulator routes as a way of getting around. One route goes out to Georgetown from Union Station and others cover major sights.
https://dccirculator.com/

For gardens, I recommend exploring the Smithsonian gardens
https://www.si.edu/museums/smithsonian-gardens
and the US Botanic Garden.

You are listing a lot of things to cover in 2 days. I think you need to set priorities especially in the "other museums" category.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 04:44 AM
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I have visited the Cooper Hewitt in New York City. Is there one in DC too?
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 06:22 AM
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Thank you k_marie ! You just saved me from great embarrassment (and wasted money)! I had spent time on the Smithsonian site looking at their samples of every museum's collection to select which places I wanted to spend my time! I was so excited about Cooper Hewitt! I had missed the NYC part of it. I was so close to purchasing tickets yesterday.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 06:26 AM
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Thank you @Vttraveler! I just discovered the 33 bus route and I think that will be handy for us. I had looked at the peak bloom dates of the last 10+ years and took a gamble. It seems like things are unseasonably warm, so who knows. It would be neat to see them though! Maybe a boat would be a good way to see them if the foot crowds are too much. We're actually there for 4 nights and we leave out later on Day 5. So I'm looking at 2.5 days of DC and then 1 day of Alexandria.
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Old Feb 27th, 2024, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by geanster
Hi All!
I'm planning my first trip to DC towards the end of March with hopes of catching the cherry blossoms. I'm trying to plan well enough that I can be happy if this is my only ever DC experience.
We'll be staying in Georgetown (where we'll be doesn't seem to be super convenient to metro) and plan to uber towards National Mall tours and museums. I'm thinking we'll spend 2 days seeing the things in DC (including Cooper Hewitt, Other museums, gardens, National Zoo, Arlington, Capitol, Library of Congress, etc.) I'm interested in using our third full day to visit Old Town Alexandria by boat/ferry but see the timing options for the return boat trip aren't ideal.
The 33 bus you mentioned in another post is a good resource for you but it is a bit of a milk run. I'm guessing you're staying up Wisconsin Ave? Consider taking that bus or an Uber/taxi to the Foggy Bottom Metro (closest metro station to G'town) at which point you will have quicker access to most everything on your list. Someone else mentioned the Circulator bus, a fabulous bargain at $1/ride with routes that cater to tourist destinations. Given the crowds that come for the Cherry Blossoms, the National Mall route (or parts of it) is usually suspended.

Originally Posted by geanster
I was hoping you all might be able to shed some light on things to see in Alexandria, restaurant recommendations for a nice dinner that I can book ahead—and how much time is enough there. I see the earliest we'd arrive by Potomac Riverboats is after 1pm and unless we want to come back after dark, we'd have to head back around 5:30pm.
I know this can be subjective, but walking on King st. and seeing historic buildings, etc. will be nice, but would love some other ideas.
Really in need of food suggestions for all areas of DC as well. My husband says I'm terrible at food breaks on vacation.
Is there a vote for best cupcake in Georgetown? I guess that's a thing? Anything neat to try to see at the university when we're that close by?
The entire DC metro area is slammed with great restaurants. It might be easier for people to recommend something if you can narrow the Q to cuisines you like (or don't). IMO, the best cupcakes in Georgetown are from Baked and Wired (1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW). I don't know if they're still "a thing" but anything to eat from B&W will be good. Excellent coffee as well. If you like seafood, I high recommend Fiola Mare in G'town on K Street by the Potomac River.

Originally Posted by geanster
Favorite zoo attractions? Very sad that the Pandas are no longer there. And it looks like the zoo is NOT on the trolley map?
Not sure which trolley you mean but, regardless, there are two red line metro stations close to the Zoo. If you go that route, take the metro to the Cleveland Park station, turn left when exiting the station and walk 10 minutes downhill to the zoo. When leaving the zoo, turn left onto Connecticut Ave and walk 10 minutes down hill to the Woodley Park/Zoo metro station.

I'm a fan of the elephants. The Asia Trail (former home to the pandas) is also home to some pretty cute residents -- the red pandas, the sloth bears, and the otters.

Originally Posted by geanster
Is the Old Town Trolley hop on, hop off a good idea to get around, specifically to Arlington?
We recommend to friends & guests the "official" tour of ANC run by Arlington Tours. It leaves multiples times a day from the Welcome Center which a directly across the street from the Arlington Cemetery metro stop (blue line).

Originally Posted by geanster
Anyone have a particular night tour to recommend? They do look beautiful and we will have an extra night.

Getting time reservations for all the sights is so competitive and exhausting with lots of reminders set and still missing out on things like the Washington Monument—will try again the days we're there.
I don't know if it's the best but the Old Town Trolley does a comprehensive tour of the monuments plus drive by's of the White House, the Capitol, and probably other "iconic" buildings. If you want something less structured you can Uber to one end of the reflecting pool on the National Mall and walk the circumference from the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial. Along the way will be the Vietnam, Korean, MLK, and the FDR memorials. It's about a half a mile distance between the Lincoln and the WWII. Both offer stunning views of the Washington Monument at night (or sunset).

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Old Feb 27th, 2024, 07:14 PM
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You have a good chance of seeing the cherry blossoms at some stage. If lucky maybe even at or close to peak. Having said that you trying to get a gallon of sites into a quart container. The blossoms alone can easily take a couple of hours to fully enjoy. As far as museums, I would concentrate on those museums unique to DC. For me those would include the American History Museum, Air and Space Museum and American Indian Museum. The National Arcives are interesting as well. Skip the zoo. It is a wonderful zoo but can take a full day. Ditto the Botanical Gardens. Both are not easily accessible from downtown as far as efficient use of your limited time is concerned and are spread out. However, near the Mall you will see a very large hothouse. It has an excellent botanical collection.
Food near the museums and monuments can be a problem unless you are a fan of food trucks. However another good reason to to visit the Museum of the American Indian is that is has a unique food court. Each station features tribal food from different sections of the country. I don't think you will find anything like that anywhere else. I would also skip going up the inside of the Washington Monument. It is a nice view but IMO not worth the line for the elevator, but, if you do decide to go up, walk down - you might find it of interest.
Skip Arlington unless you want to see the cemetery (a moving sight) and the Iwo Jima memorial.

Alexandria is indeed lovely. When there we usually end up eating at The Fish Market although Alexandria has many good eateries. There is a free bus running up and down King Street. Since the street starts near the river, walking the street from the river is indeed an up hill walk.

Oh! One historic Georgetown site not to miss is 2700 Q St. NW, the former home of yours truly. Actually on 28th St, 3 townhouses in from Q is where Ted Kennedy lived in the late '60s.

Last edited by basingstoke2; Feb 27th, 2024 at 07:33 PM.
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Old Feb 28th, 2024, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by geanster
Hi All!
I'm planning my first trip to DC towards the end of March with hopes of catching the cherry blossoms. I'm trying to plan well enough that I can be happy if this is my only ever DC experience.
We'll be staying in Georgetown (where we'll be doesn't seem to be super convenient to metro) and plan to uber towards National Mall tours and museums. I'm thinking we'll spend 2 days seeing the things in DC (including Cooper Hewitt, Other museums, gardens, National Zoo, Arlington, Capitol, Library of Congress, etc.) I'm interested in using our third full day to visit Old Town Alexandria by boat/ferry but see the timing options for the return boat trip aren't ideal.

I was hoping you all might be able to shed some light on things to see in Alexandria, restaurant recommendations for a nice dinner that I can book ahead—and how much time is enough there. I see the earliest we'd arrive by Potomac Riverboats is after 1pm and unless we want to come back after dark, we'd have to head back around 5:30pm.
I know this can be subjective, but walking on King st. and seeing historic buildings, etc. will be nice, but would love some other ideas.
Really in need of food suggestions for all areas of DC as well. My husband says I'm terrible at food breaks on vacation.
Is there a vote for best cupcake in Georgetown? I guess that's a thing? Anything neat to try to see at the university when we're that close by?

Favorite zoo attractions? Very sad that the Pandas are no longer there. And it looks like the zoo is NOT on the trolley map?
How much time do you really need at the Ford's Theater? I see options for museum/ranger talk OR walkthrough/Peterson House.
Is the Old Town Trolley hop on, hop off a good idea to get around, specifically to Arlington?

Anyone have a particular night tour to recommend? They do look beautiful and we will have an extra night.

Getting time reservations for all the sights is so competitive and exhausting with lots of reminders set and still missing out on things like the Washington Monument—will try again the days we're there.

I appreciate any help and thanks in advance. I'll continue to research but I don't travel without coming to my Fodor's community first.
Peak bloom this year is forecast to be March 21-23. Depending on weather there should still be many blossoms to be seen for at least a week after peak.
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Old Feb 28th, 2024, 03:26 PM
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I would also skip going up the inside of the Washington Monument. It is a nice view but IMO not worth the line for the elevator, but, if you do decide to go up, walk down - you might find it of interest.

I think a visit to the inside the WM is by elevator only. Elevator up to the observation deck and then back down with stops at the interesting historical and architectural bits.
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Old Feb 29th, 2024, 07:39 AM
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One of my favorite museums in DC is the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. The African-American History Museum is outstanding. It is frequently sold out for advance tickets but if you get there early and can be online when it opens, you should be able to get in. Of course the Lincoln Memorial is essential. I also am a big fan of the FDR, Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials. The Holocaust Museum is outstanding although not part of the Smithsonian. What about the art museums- the National Gallery and the Hirschhorn are part of the Smithsonian Complex of Museums. I've been to the American History Museum several times and one of my favorite exhibits there is Julia Child's kitchen from her Cambridge,MA home which is installed completely intact as it was left although not always on view as they do change the exhibits. I also love to tour the U.S. Capitol Building. I am not certain about tickets in advance for that as last time we were there about 20 years ago, we did wait online to get in, same with the National Archives. In addition to the founding documents, there are outstanding exhibits that vary on the lower level.

Lots of fine restaurants in DC and if you are staying in Georgetown, there will be many to choose from including Clydes. There is also a branch of Clydes right by the Portrait Gallery. Right near the White House, we will head to the Old Ebbit Grill for at least one dinner.

While Alexandria is very charming, I don't know that I would make it my priority especially as if you are staying in Georgetown there are many blocks with charming architecture.
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Old Mar 1st, 2024, 12:54 PM
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Old Town has a few museums, if you are interested
https://www.boardwalkwharf.com/

I go there occasionally as they have good classical music concerts at times in the Lyceum. There is a recital Sat March 23 at 1 pm.

I agree that since you are in Georgetown anyway, if it is difficult, I wouldn't put it at top priority for that reason. Georgetown has cobblestones and old houses, also. I don't really like cake and particularly cupcakes as I don't like eating from my hands like that on the street, so can't help you on best one. I think there is just one shop there that has a good PR agent. I think it's name is exactly that, Georgetown Cupcake.

Georgetown isn't the most convenient for tourists as there is no metro stop. That bus 33 goes to Friendship Hts eventually. I think the Circulator bus system, which is cheap, might be most useful, there is a line in Georgetown that goes to Union Stn and up to Dupont Circle, I believe.

https://dccirculator.com/circulator-...rmation-guide/

I think Old Town Trolley tours are ok. It's not really a trolley FYI, it's just a bus dressed up to look like one, although I suppose that doesn't matter. One advantage is that it is high up so the windows have better view than a regular city bus would.

I'd guess an hour or two at Fords theater. I also really like the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museums (attached), and the American History Museum. Of course archives and LOC are unique DC attractions. Probably not during march which is very crowded with tourists, but you often can get into the African Am Cultural Museum at last minute if you are willing to go after 2pm. I mean if you check the site in the morning for tickets, sometimes later ones are available.

I have never done a night tour so can't help on that one. I don't really like the National Zoo very much, either. First, I am not overly fond of zoos to begin with. But I just don't think that one is that good, frankly, I've been to much better zoos in other cities, like San Diego or Columbus. I don't remember anything special there that really struck me as a great job in display or species. I would concentrate on things that are unique to DC in terms of history/government as you can't get those anywhere else. The zoo isn't one of those.

The Spy Museum is fun but private so pricey compared to all the free stuff.

If you mean by Arlington just that you want to see the cemetery, there is a metro stop there, that would be cheaper and easier than buying a Trolley Tour, if that's the main reason you would do that.

You should definitely see cherry blossoms at that time. It has been a super "hot" winter as far as I'm concerned, I really like winter and we haven't had one hardly. So the blossoms are going to open early probably and that should be a good time, even if towards the last few days in March, probably they'll still be ok. Unless some big storm comes in and blows them all off.

It's hard to say about food as we don't know where your hotel is. AS for food breaks, is that only snacks you are concerned about or lunch? Lots of food trucks around the Mall but that's mainly the usual junk/fast food type stuff of course for the most part. Depends how much you like eating sitting on a wall or something. I don't care for it myself. Old Ebbits Grill near White House is very good. THe cafes inside the American Indian and African Am Cultural Museum are good.

In Georgetown, Martin's Tavern is historic so can be fun for that reason alone. If you want something better, for French there is Chez Billy Sud and Bistrot Lepic, La Piquette not as pricey . Clydes is reliable. ; FIola Mare is upscale. https://lapiquettedc.com/critics-reviews/
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Old Mar 1st, 2024, 06:06 PM
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I’ve done the Old Town Trolley tour and recommend it. I especially enjoyed the Moonlight Monuments tour. I’ve stayed in old Town Alexandria a couple of times and recall it was just a block or two from a Residence Inn to the metro, or a Hilton right near a metro stop. The Library of Congress was surprisingly beautiful to tour.
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Old Mar 1st, 2024, 11:01 PM
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Double post. Trying to remove this one.



Last edited by Sassafrass; Mar 1st, 2024 at 11:21 PM. Reason: Trying to remove this because it double posted.
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Old Mar 1st, 2024, 11:15 PM
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I would look for things unique to DC. There are lots of great zoos and I am sure you can find great cupcakes everywhere, skip those.

IMHO, the one memorial not to miss is the Vietnam Wall. It is the most moving experience I have ever had in viewing a place focused on remembering people lost. I have seen many people who were strangers to each other, reach out to hug another person standing near, men saying nothing, just embracing. Of course, as time goes by, there are fewer people living who were affected by it, but seeing old soldiers who stand and think of those comrades gone and older people who lost Fathers, husbands, etc. is indescribable. It has been quite a long time since I was there, so may not be the same now, but try to go there.

The Peacock Room, by James McNeil Whistler was restored and reopened a couple of years ago. It is in the Freer Gallery on the Mall. It is an amazing single work of art that is actually an experience. I take friends who always say it is one of the most memorable works they have ever seen. It is well worth a stop just to see that, though hard to walk through the galleries without stopping to see all of the other wonderful pieces. Do stop for a few of Sargent’s works though. People head to National, but the Freer is never crowded and has some glorious work. It is my first choice to take visitors. If you are not familiar with The Peacock Room, just Google it for information and the story behind it.

In Old Town, Alexandria, there is the wonderful Torpedo Factory Art gallery. This is, IMHO, a don’t miss kind of place. It is right in the heart of Alexandria with tons of restaurants nearby. One of my number one places to take visitors who have any interest at all in Art.

Very close to Alexandria is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation on the Potomac. If you can get a tour or you have a car, and if you are super into history and have the time, it is well worth it, but takes a good two or three hours. Nearby, and worth while, is the Pope-Leighey House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unsonian Houses. It is on the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation. It is kind of special interest if you are into Wright’s work.

Lots of great theater in DC and wonderful to do something in the evening: Kennedy Center, National, etc. Another recommendation is the Signature Theater in Arlington. If anything is playing that you might like and if you have a free evening, every time I have been there has been a fantastic experience. There are lots of restaurants right there, within a block or two. There is parking.

Last edited by Sassafrass; Mar 1st, 2024 at 11:30 PM.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2024, 07:35 PM
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Hi All! I'm reading and taking lots of notes! I wanted to quickly thank you for sharing all these insights!
Thank you, thank you!

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Old Mar 3rd, 2024, 04:32 AM
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Mention of the Kennedy Center reminds me to recommend the free Millenium concerts there
https://www.kennedy-center.org/whats...lennium-stage/

And since it's Women's History Month, here are some other suggested places to visit. I really enjoyed touring the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument a few years ago.
https://www.nps.gov/tripideas/women-s-history-in-dc.htm
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Old Mar 7th, 2024, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by geanster
I'm thinking we'll spend 2 days seeing the things in DC (including Cooper Hewitt, Other museums, gardens, National Zoo, Arlington, Capitol, Library of Congress, etc.)
I think you are being overly ambitious about what you can accomplish in two days in DC. You've already gotten some great advice about what you might be able to skip. I would encourage you to think through your priorities carefully so you can make the most of the time you have. Pay attention to closing times -- most museums and monuments close by 5 or 5:30. Exceptions include the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Museum of American Art (in the same building), open until 7 p.m. The Library of Congress is open late on Thursdays.

Originally Posted by geanster
I was hoping you all might be able to shed some light on things to see in Alexandria, restaurant recommendations for a nice dinner that I can book ahead.
If you are still want to spend a day in Alexandria and are still looking for a restaurant there, consider Bastille. https://www.bastillerestaurant.com/
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Old Mar 7th, 2024, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by basingstoke2
Skip the ... the Botanical Gardens. ... not easily accessible from downtown as far as efficient use of your limited time is concerned and are spread out. However, near the Mall you will see a very large hothouse. It has an excellent botanical collection..
I wonder if basingstoke2 is confusing the US Botanic Gardens and the National Arboretum? The Botanic Gardens include a very large hothouse near the Mall (and near the Capitol) and it does have a very nice botanical collection. I would say it IS easily accessible from downtown. In contrast, the National Arboretum is some distance away.
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 04:14 AM
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That's what I meant when I suggested going to the Botanic Garden. I combined a visit there with time at the Library of Congress.
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 09:16 AM
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There is a great view of the National Mall and DC from the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington. The memorial (Iwo Jima) is impressive up close in person. Time it right and you can hear the Netherlands Carillon.
It is a bit of a walk from Rosslyn Metro.
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