Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Atlanta, Georgia

After a long 12 hour Amtrak train journey, we arrived in Atlanta, Georgia in the early evening. This is a huge modern city (it was burnt to the ground during the Civil War so there's not a lot of historic buildings). Much new building occurred for the Olympic Games held here in 1996, but the city is vast and not too easy to get around without a car. Public transport is not wonderful so we relied on taxi-cabs which, thankfully, were not too expensive (compared to Australian fares). Our B&B was in the Inman Park area and is the Sugar Magnolia B&B. It is just the most gorgeous house (a 'Queen Anne' style but called a Grand Dame here in Atlanta). Our hostess is Mz Josie, the elderly mother/mother-in-law of the absent owners. She is a true southern lady and so kind and thoughtful. There are quite a few of these 'Grand Dame' homes built at the turn of the century (early 1900s) by wealthy businessmen and most seem to be in the many leafy suburbs. This one had once been divided up into apartments until beautifully restored about 20 years ago. Trees and parks abound in the suburbs - both the wealthy and the poorer areas, and this makes the residential areas beautiful and cool in the summer heat.

Sallying forth to see the sights, we took an electric car tour of the city and suburbs. Thankfully it was a Sunday and not too much traffic on the roads as we whizzed around from one interesting site to the next. Later we walked to Atlanta Underground which is a whole series of shops and businesses underneath about 5 city blocks. That evening we walked from our B&B to Sauce, a great little bar and restaurant only a block away. We got chatting to the waiter - and again our Aussie accents attracted attention. After a series of delicious taster courses plus wine, beer, dessert and coffee, we were surprised at the low cost ($47) and worked out that we had not been charged for dessert, several courses, etc. Upon pointing this out, we were told that we had been given a discount (an extremely generous one), for travelling so far!

On Sunday evening, we went to our first ever baseball game to watch the Atlanta Braves play the Washington Nationals beginning at 8pm. It was a massive turn out because of Memorial Day weekend and people arrived early and set up barbeques and picnics in the carpark (called 'tail-gaters'). Others, like us, wandered around looking at the fast food outlets, the souvenir spots, the areas for the kids to practise their batting, etc. As first timers, we were directed to 'Guest Relations' and were welcomed with Atlanta Braves caps, and a certificate. Our seats which we'd booked only the previous day on the internet, turned out to be quite good seats and we had good views of the game. Such a lot of entertainment during the game with 'The Star Spangled Banner' to begin, later a minute's silence for servicemen past and present, then 'America the Brave', various short competitions for spectators, and finally the whole of the stadium stood, swayed and sang 'Take me out to the Ball Game'. Sadly the Atlanta Braves lost the game, but it was quite an experience for us and we just loved the whole exurberant atmosphere.

Monday was Memorial Day, and our planned excursion was to have been the Cyclorama (a civil war depiction similar, we believe, to the Mesdag Panorama in The Hague, Holland). Unfortunately it was closed and so we spent several hours at the nearby Atlanta Zoo. We were most impressed as it is so well set out within shady parklike surroundings, the animals are wonderful, and the food stops had quality, healthy food choices.

Our train didn't leave until 8.05pm, so our hostess at the B&B kindly suggested we relax for the rest of the very hot afternoon in the sitting room. Later we caught a taxi to the station, checked in our suitcases and finally boarded the Crescent Train to Charlottesville, Virginia for an 11 hour journey. We had dinner in the Train Diner, then settled down to try and sleep - not too successfully - for the night-time journey.  

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