Whistlestop AtlantaJune 8, 2017 in the United States
Just one day to experience Atlanta is a big ask. Atlanta is a huge sprawling city with seemingly no gravitational centre. We are staying downtown in a cavernous Hilton with an atrium the size of an aircraft carrier. Conventioneers come and go and the feel of the hotel is of transcience and anonymity.
After settling in we headed out to the cultural area in downtown which centres around the Olympic centennial park. It was just a short walk of 3 or so blocks but the heat and humidity made it a little uncomfortable even at 10:30. The sketchiness of the neighbourhood didn't help. We were reassured by our cheery Uber driver who brought us from Atlanta's huge airport that the area is safe. 'But always stay together' she worryingly added. She told us that there are quite a few shootings on the highway from road rage and then barged her way across 3 lanes to the angry hoots of fellow drivers as if it provide us a practical example.
As we passed the back entrances of huge, chain hotels who we talk to be homeless people were actually hotel staff on a break drawing heavily on their cigarettes and staring sadly at the floor.
The centennial park area is pleasant enough, bordered by large but empty roads. Kids played I. The fountains and it seems a great place to meet people, chat and eat your packed lunch. We stopped for a coffee and sweet ice tea at a local cafe. Goodness knows how much sugar is added to the tea but it certainly gave me a much needed shot of energy. We didn't have time for the massive Georgia Aquarium with its Whalesharks and Manta Rays and didn't have the interest for the Coca Cola Experience and its uninspiring promise of 300 different flavours of Coca Cola form all around the world to sample. I've had enough sugary soft drinks for today. Our Atlanta based friend Malcolm recommended the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights which shared the plaza and we went there instead which we describe in another posting.
After the museum we headed across the road to the CNN headquarters. Inside its huge 70s atrium (which seems to be a thing in Atlanta corporate architecture) we watched snippets on the big screen about the UK election while we tried Chick-fil-A. A somewhat ordinary fried chicken sandwich which is extremely popular in the US and recalled with mouthwatering detail by our informative Uber driver. It was ok, a little dry but I enjoyed the waffle cut fries which actually tasted of potato.
After CNN we tried to get a birds eye view of the city and we went to the Sundial building which housed the Westin hotel. Sadly, the viewing gallery was closed and we decided to head back to our hotel due to ours and our phones energy being depleted. After an hour or so top up for both we headed to the top of our building and its 70s style bar and restaurant, gold glass elevator, smoked glass and all. We were granted a look around by the manager with less than Southern style friendliness and wandered around taking in the view. It was surprisingly green, in fact incredibly so. Trees covered every space from horizon to horizon broken only by clumps of tall buildings and neighbourhood housing. It was rather like a mega city that was slowly being reclaimed by nature. Quite unexpected.
We decided to head out to Buckhead for dinner in search of Sushi. We took the metro called MARTA to Buckead station and wandered around what we hoped would be a quieter and less anonymous district but proved the same as downtown only with Mandarin Hotel hotels and Hermes boutiques. After a rather good cocktail in a local bar and a couple of beers we secured a table at a local French restaurant which was pretty excellent especially the gougeres and oysters.
The certainty of a hung parliament at home left us with a feeling of dread that the white wine went some way to alleviate. Perhaps unsurprisingly not one American that we spoke to knew we were having an election in the UK. And judging by the probable turmoil that lies ahead it was something I rather envied.Read more