I have visited Venice over the years and instead of finding something new each time, I find it is unchangeable. I find the same beauty in the changing light on the water and the buildings. In the narrow winding calle (streets) with small bridges that cross the canals. I love the feel of gliding on the water in a Vaporetto and the bouncing on the water in a water taxi in the Lagoon. Around every corner is a view. It may be the curve of the ochre colored building, or the fourth floor balcony with a profusion of blooms. It may be the masks in the store window next to marbled washed paper, or a group of children throwing a basketball against an ancient brick, church wall.

I love Venice in the winter. I love the foggy cold and the early darkness to be enjoyed with a hot chocolate in hand. I was surprised that I loved it equally in summer. The light is brighter the crowds larger but it is still the same familiar place.

This is just a taste of Venice. There is so much to see and do. Perhaps I will publish a small guide book in the future of the other places I have visited on this magical collection of islands. For now, join me on this short trip.

This is Saint Mark’s square in June. Sun shining and crowds of people


St Mark’s is a beautiful Byzantine church covered with mosaics inside and out. It is next to the Doge’s Palace which has a wonderful art collection



St Mark's

St Mark’s

The Doge's Palace

The Doge’s Palace

The bell tower

The bell tower


Here are views of Venice



TheBridge of Sighs called that as it was where the prisoners crossed the canal to go to prison.




Enjoying a gelato treat after touring art exhibits in the Palazzo’s for the Biennial.

DSC02971Beautiful windows






Below, the Santa Maria Della Salute is my favorite building in Venice. It was built in gratitude for the end of the plague, the Black Death. Every year the gondolas would line up to form a bridge for the people to cross the Lagoon to go and pray in the church. Now they construct a swinging bridge for people to make the thanksgiving pilgrimage. We walked around it one foggy, winter evening a few years ago. Magical.


All transportation is on the water.

Take a water taxi

Take a water taxi

or a gondola

or a gondola

The Vaporettas (water buses) glide from bank to bank of the Grand Canal

The Vaporettas (water buses) glide from bank to bank of the Grand Canal


Sit inside or stand on the deck as the Vaporetta glides in the water of the Grand Canal. Very relaxing

Sit inside or stand on the deck as the Vaporetta glides in the water of the Grand Canal. Very relaxing



Peggy Guggenheim Museum. She spent most of her adult life in this palazzo now with a fabulous collection of her art.


Beautiful buildings

Flowers everywhere

Flowers everywhere

This one is an office building across the canal from the Guggenheim museum. Those boats in front are taxis. I watched as a man in a suit got out and went into the building. Imagine working with that view in front of you everyday.




Bridges like this Calatrava, the newest one




Travelers perusing maps and books but not cell phones!


Sunset from a roof top restaurant

Sunset from a roof top restaurant



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The Red Rocks of Sedona

Woman emerging from Rock

Woman emerging from Rock

I know I have visited Sedona, AZ before and I have a picture to prove it. But I cannot for the life of me remember when it was. I remember that this picture was taken in Sedona and I remember it being taken. It must have been winter because that is snow on the ground and I am wearing a warm jacket. John took a picture of me standing in the snow to show that Arizona is not always hot. He then took many more of the rocks.

This being in the dark ages, before cell phones, Instagram and Facebook, he used a camera. When we got them printed, (yes we had to send them away to get prints) he realized it was a double exposure. Being a perfectionist, he wanted to toss it. I kept it, because to me it was magic, a woman rising out of the rock. Sedona is known for its Vortex sites, “a place in nature where the Earth is exceptionally healthy and a place on the planet of increased energy” (What is a Vortex? – Dennis Andres) I must have been at one and not known it.

Sedona is divided into three areas. Driving from Phoenix one approaches it on 179 which winds up a hill that is lined with restaurants, art galleries and small shops. Turning right at the top of the hill is Uptown. This is where Sedona began and has hotels, shops, cafes and a wonderful Art Center. Hollywood filmed many westerns in this area. Continuing past the village is Oak Canyon so named for Oak Creek which winds through the canyon, bubbling and gurgling its way through the red rocks for miles. On the left is a long straight main road, which could be any road in the suburbs of any city. This is West Sedona. What ties them all together are the towering limestone cliffs, huge green pines, juniper and cypress forests and the amazingly colored sandstone.DSC02819

Wherever you are there is a view. Eat at the restaurant in L’Auberge Hotel and watch the ducks paddle the rapids of Oak Creek. Fallen leaves float over the rocks and pebbles. Flowers bloom on the opposite shore.



Have lunch, breakfast or dinner at Sound Bites Grill in Uptown and gaze at the rock formations where you will swear you can see Snoopy and Lucy.





One morning we took a drive to see other famous rock formations. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is built into the rock with beautiful views from the top.




Bell Rock has hiking trails to the top of it.


As does Castle Rock.


My favorite rock formation is Cathedral Rock, which is known as a Vortex site. It is in a national forest and area called Red Rock Crossing. Pre-settlements included Clovis Paleoindian, 10-11,000 years ago; southern Sinagua cliff dwellers 700-1400; to currant day Yavapai people. It was homesteaded in 1876 and used to raise cattle and farm crops. One can swim in the creek and cross on the red rocks under the shadow of the stunning Cathedral Rock. We strolled past the Water Wheel


and along the path next to the creek. And rising above us is Cathedral Rock.



I was filled with awe at the beauty of the rocks and gazed at the two rocks that looked like a king and queen surveying their kingdom.


We strolled back and noticed a photographer taking pictures of a couple standing in this amazing, curved root. They had just become engaged. We wished them luck and said we hoped they too, would make it to fifty years. The photographer insisted on taking our picture as well. Must have been the energy of the Vortex.


We pulled of the road on our drive back to get one last view of this natural masterpiece.


After our Rock formation tour we stopped in Uptown for ice cream and a visit to the Sedona Art Center and Galleries. We were lucky enough to view the paintings of Adele Seronde, a lovely petite woman who celebrated her 90th birthday this year. We chatted and she told us that the exhibit included paintings by her children and grandchildren.Talent runs in the family.


Her paintings were huge. This is her interpretation of Cathedral Rock


The next day we visited the Amitabha Stupa Budda, a Buddist sacred landmark. It stands high in the mountain of red rock above West Sedona.

One can walk around it in meditation.


Or simply sit in meditation on this beautiful wooden bench


As I said before every way you turn there is a view.


Sedona is full of art galleries including the Tlaquepaque Arts Village created years ago by Abe Miller. He built it to resemble a Mexican Village, which included plazas and a chapel. The artists lived above the stores that sold their creations.

Art in the garden




My favorites were Gallery of the Ascending Spirit, and The Gallery of Wholeness, Harmony and Radiance. Just the names make me feel peaceful. Honshin Fine Art owns them.

Card we bought

Flower of the Healing Heart

Flower of the Healing Heart

There is so much to do in Sedona for all ages. We took the Ancient Ruin tour with Pink Jeeps Tours and I highly recommend them.

Here are some pictures from the tour.



The ruins have been preserved as well as possible with limited funds


Tribal Art

Tribal Art


There are many other things to do like Vortex Tours, Trolley Tours, Horseback riding, riding the Wilderness Train and hiking. Or you can explore galleries, restaurants, have relaxing massages or just sit in the outdoors and gaze at the scenery.

The beauty was all around us, from this

Red rock at sunset

Red rock at sunset

to this


To the clouds in the sky


We will return

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 Butterfly Wonderland – a Rainforest Experience

Normally the words, desert and rainforest do not go together, but they meld very well in America’s largest butterfly atrium. Butterfly Wonderland is located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, in the Greater Phoenix area. The Native Americans believe the butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color and a miracle of transformation, rebirth and regeneration.



On a lovely sunny day in March we visited this wonderland in the desert. There is an order to the visit. First view the movie The Flight of the Butterfly, a story of three generations of female monarchs, who journey through many states to eat, breed and survive. It is in 3D and I reached out to touch the trees, grasses and butterflies, on more than one occasion. It is truly a miracle of nature.

The next step on the journey is a visit to what I thought of as the birthing room, but what they call the Butterfly Emergence Gallery. It is where the Pupas hang on branches while the amazing transformation from a worm into a butterfly takes place. We watched as a couple slowly worked their way out of the cocoon. As I watched I remembered that as a child I collected silkworms, put them in a box with mulberry leaves, which they devoured and then spun the shell becoming pupas, and then moths.

Puppas and emerging butterflies

Puppas and emerging butterflies

There is a feeling of magic when you finally enter the glass-enclosed rainforest atrium. It is lush with foliage, waterfalls and a koi pond. It is probably the only place for miles that there is any humidity. The music is the almost soundless fluttering of the butterflies, the people’s murmurs of wonder, the running water and all around us hundreds of eye-popping, colored butterflies, landing on our backs, fronts, heads and hands. There are the usual signs, like don’t touch the butterflies, but also the ones that say, watch where you step, because they sit in the ground.


Butterfly Wonderland gets most of the pupas from Africa, Asia and South and Central America. I asked a volunteer if they also breed and release them, given the destruction of the butterfly population from pesticides. He said no. As nothing in the Conservatory, like the trees, bushes, flowers and butterflies are natural to the area, that when they die, they have to be disposed of like toxic waste.


We spent time watching the butterflies and the kid’s faces when a butterfly landed on their hands or clothes. They were all entranced and some were as colorful as the butterflies themselves.


There were butterfly wreaths.


And some that looked like mosaics


Our favorite, the Blue Morpho which flies in a zigzag to confuse its predators.


Another blue beauty




Apparently they like bowls of fruit for breakfast


Perfect camouflage


The lovely Monarch


Like a painting


Where is the butterfly and where is the leaf?


Waiting to leave


One cannot just wander in and out. When enough people gather a staff person opens a door that leads into a room, where we check for butterflies on our person, or in our belongings. It is almost like a level of security. No one leaves with a butterfly in their possession.

Oops John nearly did!


They then open another door and we are free to leave and visit the store or café. It is a delightful tourist attraction to visit, especially on a sunny day in March.


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It’s a Dog’s Life in Carmel by the Sea

I remember the family dogs of my youth, in the small town of Messina, South Africa. They all lived outside, where they ran around and got all the exercise they needed. They were well fed, received rabies shots, got into fights with neighborhood dogs and were simply part of the family.

I would have liked a dog in Minneapolis, so my kids could experience having one as a pet. But the fact that I would have to walk it in the snow, put the kibosh on that plan. Since spending time in Carmel by the Sea I can see and enjoy dogs, everywhere I go and I mean everywhere.

Carmel Beach is one of the few beaches in California that allows dogs to be off leash and they love it.

Dogs in sea

Carmel Beach

They catch tennis balls and frisbees

Dog catching frisbee

They are puzzled when humans pretend to be dogs.

Children crawling 2

Like humans they work up a thirst after running all over the beach and in the water, so they rehydrate at the water bowl at the top of the stairs.

Dog dish at the top of the beach stairs

Dog dish at the top of the beach stairs

After a busy day at the beach they go to the dog spa

Dog washing sign

where they are washed, rinsed and dried.

Dog washing 2

Dogs wander around town with their humans and snack on dog biscuits or quench their thirst at local merchants like this one

TiffanysDogs dish

They even have their own fountain, which is a good thing.

Fountain of Woof

Many hotels and Inns in Carmel by the Sea cater to dogs. Doris Day, the beloved movie star of the romantic comedies of the 1960’s, lives in Carmel Valley and is the owner of the Cypress Inn.

Cypress Inn

Doris is devoted to animals and loves dogs. They can, with their humans, eat, sleep and play at the Inn. They can even have birthday parties.

Dogs at table Cypress Inn

Two dogs in their Christmas collars waiting for lunch

I do not have to own a dog at home in Minnesota. I can get my fill when I spend time in Carmel by the Sea.





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Alaska- Part Three – Cruising the Glaciers.


The Catamaran we sailed on in Prince William Sound

The Catamaran we sailed on in Prince William Sound

I don’t do boats. So the idea of spending five hours on a boat or ship or catamaran in the rain, even to see glaciers, seemed to be a no go. Especially as it took a two-hour bus ride there and back. But, I had paid my money and I did want to see glaciers, and they offered a money back guaranty if I got seasick.

We drove along Cook’s Inlet, the river and the ocean on one side and fields and mountains on the other.Permafrost

It was foggy and rainy but still beautiful with the mudflats exposed during low tide, and the orange grasses and evergreens shining through the mist.

Permafrost 3

We had to leave at 10 am sharp because the bus driver had a set time to go through the tunnel that connects to Whittier. The 2.5 mile tunnel, the longest in the country, was built for trains which were, and still are, a major form of transportation. Trains, busses and cars drive through the tunnel with trains taking priority. It is one lane and traffic is organized by traffic lights. Hence the reservation time for our bus. It was a slow and slightly bumpy ride through this narrow hole through the mountain.

Whittier is a cruise-ship port and Port William Sound is situated in a rain forest and that is why there are beautiful glaciers. The guide on board explained that viewing them was better in the rain because they glowed blue. As you can see from the pictures, she was right. It starts small and then grows.

Glacier 1 Glacier 15

It was a wonderful trip. The catamaran glided through the water and even when it bumped into small ice flows it remained stable.

Glacier 6 (1)

We sat around large tables and looked through picture windows. We snacked and kept warm drinking coffee and hot chocolate. We gathered on the decks in the rain and saw   Glacier 9waterfalls, eagles, seals, forested mountains and glaciers reaching into the water.





We were lucky to see them up close and personal. Enjoy the view with us.

Glacier 11Glacier 17Glacier 18

Worth the ride

Worth the ride

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Alaska – Part two – The Day the Earth Shook


On March 27, 1964 at 5.36 pm a 9.2 earthquake hit Alaska. The good news was that it was Good Friday afternoon and the downtown area was empty, which meant that the death toll was not as bad as it could have been. It lasted for four minutes and thirty-eight seconds. It was the most powerful earthquake in U.S and North American history and still holds the record for the second most powerful in the world. The strongest is the 1960 earthquake in Chile. The earth buckled and dropped and actually caused soil liquefaction in the area.


The guide on the Trolley tour told us a personal story. Her husband was eleven at the time. He was sitting in the dentist chair having emergency dental work done. The dentist had just injected Novocain into his gum when everything shook. The room they were in dropped, but did not collapse because of the supports beams that were built to hold the hydraulic chair. They suffered no injuries and he thought the shaking was due to the Novocain.

We drove past the high school on the tour. She told us that the boys’ basketball team had a championship game scheduled at 5 pm on that day. The parents complained, so the principal rescheduled it for the next morning. The school was destroyed.

Earthquake Park

Earthquake Park

The Trolley parked at Earthquake Park and the guide described how the neighborhood had dropped 20 feet. One of the passengers told us that he had been in Alaska that day. He was a marine serving at the base. He was at a friend’s house and they were just about to sit down for dinner when the shaking started. He noticed three small children playing on the carpet in front of him and out of the corner of his eye he saw the refrigerator sliding from the kitchen towards them. He shot up and steered it away from them. Everyone survived the shaking but never had Easter dinner. They had no idea what it was but he knew he had to get back to the base. It was the time of the Cold War and he said they thought it was a nuclear attack.

th Anchorage was not the only place that was demolished. Port Valdez suffered a massive underwater landslide. A tsunami destroyed the village of Chenga. Post quake tsunamis affected Whittier, Seward, Kodiak and as far away as British Colombia. Oregon and California.

I envision the earthquake being a boiling cauldron in the middle of the earth, pushing and buckling. It was even felt in Johannesburg South Africa, where church bells started ringing, and in Brazil where wells cracked and lost their water.

President Johnson declared the state a disaster area and made funds available and reconstruction began and finished in record time. I never knew that Alaska is on a very active fault and has hundreds of small quakes everyday. But this was a monster.

You can get more details by clicking on these links.

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Alaska – Anchorage – Part 1


Hullo Alaska

Hello Alaska

A friend asked me if he should put Anchorage Alaska on his bucket list after listening to me describe my visit there. I said yes, if you visit Alaska on a cruise, or to see glaciers, bears, and eagles, or to catch salmon so abundant one can almost catch them with bare hands, definitely spend a few days in Anchorage.

A quote from the visitors’ guide; “Of all the world’s cities, Anchorage uniquely combines the convenience of the modern world with a rugged natural environment. In Anchorage you can watch moose in the morning and ballet in the afternoon. You can take a short flight to see some of the most dramatic mountain scenery on earth, and then be back in town for fresh seafood at a five star restaurant. The world’s second highest tides surge against its shores, and North America’s highest peak glimmers in the distance.”


Anchorage is surrounded by two mountain ranges – the Alaskan and the Chugach. It lies in the valley with the Cook Inlet flowing serpentine along its shores. We arrived on clear day and our cab driver pointed out that snow-capped peak, Mt McKinley, in the Alaskan range. I was glad that I could also see it from our hotel room in the Captain Cook Hotel that evening because we never saw it again. Even on a sunny day it often has a layer of cloud cover.

Trolley tour (5)Here are some of the things I did and saw while exploring Anchorage.

Outside the Visitors’ Center and across the road from the County Court house is the stop for a one-hour tour aboard an old fashioned wooden trolley. Our guide was very informative and could relate personally to the sites we visited. A schoolteacher for thirty years, she married a second generation Alaskan whose family was an important part of the history she would talk about.

She told us how as a student, her father-in–law, in order to make money for law school, worked selling woolens and goods in the Territory. In the summer he rode the train to the far-flung villages. During winter he would walk between the mining camps to sell his stock.

He earned enough for law school and practiced in Anchorage. In 1953 he got a call from President Eisenhower appointing him a Territorial Judge, which meant that once again he had to travel the length and breadth of the land to dispense justice. On January 3, 1959 Alaska became a state and he its first Federal judge.


The tour was not the usual city tour of where to shop and eat, but was more an historical tour. We stopped at Resolution Park and the statue of the British explorer, Captain Cook. We had a great view of the Cook Inlet, the Port of Anchorage and the mountain peak named Mount Susitna (sleeping lady) The Cook statue honors the 200th anniversary of his exploration of the Alaskan waters. The guide told us that Cook explored the Hawaiian waters after Alaska making him the first Alaskan to go to Hawaii for the winter. Trolley tour (1)

We drove past the train depot where in 1914 the railroad set up a construction port for its workers. It was called Tent City. We saw an antique engine and the guide described the Moose Scooper all the engines were fitted with. It looks like a giant shovel that forced moose that were sitting on the tracks enjoying the sun, to move. We never saw any moose but they are huge and very dangerous on roads and rail lines.

Trolley tour

We saw Lake Hood that is like an airport for floatplanes. Alaska has 25% of the small planes in the United States. There are three million lakes for them to land on. Planes are equipped with three kinds of landing gear. They have rubber floats for water, thick rubber wheels for land and blades for ice and snow. The vast wilderness is sparsely populated, most of it with few roads. So Alaskans fly. They can apply for learners pilot licenses at age fourteen. Many of them fly before they are allowed to drive.

Trolley tour (4)

We stopped at Earthquake Park and she talked about the 1964 earthquake and showed us where the ground  behind these trees dropped 20 feet under the suburban houses that stood there.Trolley tour (2)

(More about the earthquake in Alaska -Part 2)

After the one-hour tour we crossed the road to the Federal Courthouse building, which houses the Visitor’s Center and theatre. We showed our ID and went through the metal detector. We checked out some geological displays and then made for the theater to view the movie about the earthquake and the building of the railroad.

The restaurants are many and varied we never had a bad meal. We ate lunch at Sacks Café and Restaurant.

Sacks Anchorage

It looked like a diner outside but was a comfortable warm setting to enjoy the meal. The menu had Alaskan seafood and pasta dishes with an Asian influence.We shared the best salmon tempura roll ever. I had tomato gorgonzola soup and the Thai prawn salad. John enjoyed a spicy curry dish.

Aurora 1


We walked off the meal and explored the main street shops. Aurora is a locally owned fine art gallery representing over 500 artists.  Apparently the magazine Travel and Leisure said that Anchorage was the worst dressed city in the country. The Mayor’s response was posted on the window. He wrote, “It is hard to be fashionable with seven months of winter.” To prove T&L wrong, the gallery displayed artist Debra Lowney’s Alaskan Fashion Statement of original wooden wall sculptures. The artist asked people to write comments, which she displayed next to each piece.

Aurora 4 Aurora 5Aurora 3

Amazing that they are all wood!

For dinner that evening we dined (it is such an elegant restaurant that one dines, not eats there) with friends at the Crows Nest, on the 20th floor of the Captain Cook Hotel.

Views from The Crow's Nest at sunset.

Views from The Crow’s Nest at sunset.

It had a spectacular view of the city lights as they twinkled on at sunset. The Chugach mountain range snow capped peaks reflected blue light. There are about five skyscrapers, one being the Shell building, whose windows glowed in the light of the setting sun

The food was excellent. Of course we had salmon and halibut caught fresh that day. Black cod is another Alaskan fish that the waiter urged us to try. It was met with rave reviews. Our waiter was a third generation Alaskan and explained how they hunt and fish to prepare for the long, cold winter. He had just spent two days with his extended family catching hundreds of pounds of fish. They freeze, can, pickle, and salt it. (I may have left out a method of preserving it) and they fill freezers with it and the meat they have hunted.

Delicious flatbread

Delicious flatbread


Affegato - vanilla ice-cream in an espresso. An Italian dessert

Affegato – vanilla ice-cream in an espresso. An Italian dessert

The next day I decided to do some shopping, so walked to the 5th Avenue Mall. It has three floors and you could roll a bowling ball and not hit anyone. It was dead. Even the Apple store was quiet. There are some very nice stores and I walked in and out of Michael Kors and Sephora. I checked out some jackets at Nordstrom’s. Went to Lush and bought a bath soaps and oils. I chatted to the staff and asked how the store survived if it was this quiet. I was told that this was just a lull. That starting with Halloween and into the holiday season they were very busy. And then there was check each citizen over eighteen receives each year, for their share of the oil profits.

Anchorage is very committed to the arts. The Anchorage Museum of History and Art (put in link) is a beautiful building for the visual arts and the Performing Arts Center fills the need for the performances. As I walked from the Mall to the Museum I noticed the etched glass panels that looked like reindeer antlers at the transit stop. A bronze depicting Earth, Sea, Sky stands on the museum lawn. A mosaic of a great mythic owl, guards one of the entrances. A program called 1% for Art, was created in 1978. When a public building project starts, 1% of the construction budget is set aside for art. There are about thirty pieces of sculpture scattered around the city.

After lunch we set out to explore the museum but could not find the elevator. When we asked, we were shown to this. It was the door of the elevator.

IMG_0811 I loved it. Such a brilliant picture.

Once we found a way to get to the galleries we enjoyed the displays.



These coats are rainproof and very warm, because they are made from animal intestines. I wanted one but the one in the hotel gallery coast over $1000.


Still in the “art” frame of mind I visited two local galleries. Cabin Fever,  is a locally owned shop that sells Alaskan crafts, jewelry and art. It also has food, T-shirts and books! I bought a mystery by local author Sue Henry and a pair of funky earrings. The Sevigny Studio focuses on artist Katie Sevigny prints. It also has other Alaskan artists and a collection of cards, clothing and sculptures. I love birches and bought a print as a memento.

We were tired after our day and did not feel like much to eat so we went to the Whale’s Tail Bistro and Wine Bar on the main level of the hotel. It was a lovely warm space, a bar, small tables and arm chairs around two fireplaces. The menu was mainly small plates.

Circular  wine dispenser

Circular wine dispenser

What was fascinating was that they have wine dispensers, like pop dispensers. You buy a card for a certain dollar amount; walk up to this circular thing with wine bottles around it, put in your card, press a button for the amount of wine and it pours into your glass. The wines were very good and all different prices. We sat at the fire and it was so cozy. We ordered Kobe beef sliders, grilled pieces of salmon in lettuce leaves and sweet potato fries. So relaxing and comfortable.IMG_0822

I have only covered a few things to see and do on a visit. This list gives more options.

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail – Bike or walk this 11mile trail with wonderful views

Ship Creek Fishing and Salmon Viewing – Watch the locals fishing or rent tackle and join them.

Alaska Native Heritage Center. – Discover the cultural heritage of Alaska’s first peoples. Enjoy indoor and outdoor exhibits and workshops and demonstrations. I am so sorry this was closed when we were there.

The Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Botanical Garden.

Restaurants – Anchorage has a large collection of excellent restaurants. Pick up the official Anchorage and Entertainment guide called Local Flavor to eat really well.

I was afraid I would have nothing to do in Anchorage and five days were really too long. But I went, I saw and I ate. You can too.

Because of all the rain, there are lots of rainbows

Because of all the rain, there are lots of rainbows

Stay tuned for part 2 and 3


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