Italian Travels – Two – Lucca

The town of Lucca is thought to be the most charming of the “art cities” of Tuscany, Italy. It is small enough to stroll around and although we only spent a few hours there, we got a taste of what it had to offer. It is known for its churches, a beautiful garden (Villa Reale di Marlia, which was closed when we were there) and as the home of the composer Puccini. A fun fact is that it is also Europe’s leading producer of toilet paper and tissues.

Here are some of the sights we saw. The old Roman wall remains intact around the city. This is the entrance

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It was hot and we were hungry and thirsty so headed for a table at one of the many small cafes.

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At the table next to us was a couple with a baby in her stroller and her three-year-old sister. Perfectly good little ones. Suddenly we heard a crash. My first thought was that a chandelier had fallen, but from where? No chandeliers outside in the square. One of the little ones had managed to pull the tablecloth off the table and broke plates, glasses and bottles. A few tears of fright but no one hurt and in no time everything was picked up. We continued to enjoy our pasta con fungi and mozzarella and tomato salad. When we left the father apologized for his children, but we assured him it was fine and we were grateful no one was hurt. I could not resist making this chicken that hung next to the tables, squawk.

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We strolled around town and joined others gazing at the buildings and the blooms.

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and came upon my favorite of all shops.

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They were doing renovations on the building in the square, hence the signs. I loved the stripes on the posters, reflections from somewhere. Happily I pottered around the stalls, pulling English books from the piles. I did not buy anything but add this Square of the Book to my list of bookstores around the world.

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We were so hot that we had to follow this little girl’s example. Not to ride bikes but to do what everyone does in Italy in the summer eat Gelato.

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Lucca is full of churches and they are seen around every corner and through every alley.DSC03142DSC03140Strolling down the street, finishing our gelato we saw this sign. It looked like a typical New England general store, and it was air conditioned so we took refuge. Of course I bought a few things too.

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Too tired and hot to continue to explore we went back to the Piazza. I found that there are very few benches in Italy so I joined many other tired people on the steps of Casa di Puccini – the home of the composer. In front of me was the beautiful cathedral of Lucca.  The Duomo of San Martino,  dates back to the 6 C, and was rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11 C, consecrated by Alexander II (1070), and again restored in the quattrocento, when the beautiful columns of the upper arches were added. We just sat there and took pictures while the crowds wandered in front of and around us.

Notice the angel in the picture below

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and here is the angel facing the other way.

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The clouds were flecks of white against the blue so I simply pointed my camera up to the sky and shot.

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We had a lovely time in Lucca. We walked out of the walled city, down this avenue of ancient trees to our bus. We will return one day.

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Pictures and text, copywrited by EveryjourneyTraveled

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Venice

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

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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

Mosaics

Mosaics

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

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

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

DSC02971Beautiful windows

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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.

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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

 

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

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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.

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Bridges like this Calatrava, the newest one

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Travelers perusing maps and books but not cell phones!

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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.

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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.

Snoopy

Snoopy

Lucy

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.

 

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Bell Rock has hiking trails to the top of it.

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As does Castle Rock.

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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

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

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Or simply sit in meditation on this beautiful wooden bench

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

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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

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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. www.Honshin.com

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. www.pinkjeeptours.com

Here are some pictures from the tour.

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

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Tribal Art

Tribal Art

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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

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To the clouds in the sky

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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.

Atrium

Atrium

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.

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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.

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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.

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There were butterfly wreaths.

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And some that looked like mosaics

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

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Another blue beauty

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Stunning

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Apparently they like bowls of fruit for breakfast

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Perfect camouflage

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The lovely Monarch

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Like a painting

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Where is the butterfly and where is the leaf?

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Waiting to leave

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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!

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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.

butterflywonderland.com

 

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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.

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Carmel Beach

They catch tennis balls and frisbees

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They are puzzled when humans pretend to be dogs.

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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

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where they are washed, rinsed and dried.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGhYMM2xeEo

http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/great-alaska-earthquake-shook-state-years-ago/article_3b067ea0-b4fb-11e3-95b2-001a4bcf6878.html

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