Friday, August 12, 2016

The end of an epic journey

Not epic in terms of scale, but rather in terms of major events in my life.

Day 7 of my first trip to the US (hopefully the first of many) started slowly, with a lie-in and a continental breakfast. Since I only needed to be at the airport late in the afternoon, I decided to explore this new city.

But with less than a day in Atlanta, how best to see as much as possible without blowing my constrained budget? I wanted to see as much as I could of the city and the answer was the electric car tour run by ATL-Cruzers. Advertised as a one and a half hour overview of Atlanta's attractions, I figured I could see a large swathe of the city without missing my plane.

I took an Uber into town (the only way to travel in Atlanta if, like me, you're too intimidated to drive on the wrong side of the road) and arrived early enough to stroll around the downtown area, taking in the Olympic Centennial park, Peachtree Centre and a Starbucks frappuccino before the tour.

Olympic Centennial Park

The electric car tour was great fun, and the tour guide very informative. I really felt as if I got a glimpse of the city, which is smaller than I'd originally thought, with a population about one eighth the size of my home town of Johannesburg, and a land size of about one fifth that of Jo'burg's.

In an hour and a half we toured the downtown area, Martin Luther King Jr. historical district, The Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Midtown, the university campus part of town, and finally back to Centennial Park.

Martin Luther King Jr's final resting place

Martin Luther King Jr's childhood home

Shotgun houses in the Old Fourth Ward (Martin Luther King Jr Historical District)

Inman Park historical trolley barn

Delta Park Lock Box:
keeping miscreants in holding from 1890 to 1905

Leafy suburban streets

Candler Mansion

Beath-Dickey House

A carriage mounting block from the good ol' days

The house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind
while recovering from a broken ankle

When the tour was done, I had one more thing on my To Do list: taste some traditional Georgia food and the famous sweet iced tea of the South. A Google search led me to Mary Mac's Tearoom, an elegant restaurant en route back to my hotel, where I not only sampled sweet iced tea, but also Southern fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits and fried okra.

By now the clock was ticking loudly so I hurried back to my hotel for a quick shower and change, packed up my bags and headed to the airport. The Uber arrived not a moment too soon. No sooner had I got under cover, then the heavens opened in the kind of downpour we usually have here at home - the kind of downpour I had written into my Georgia-set novel When September Ends (which is still trying to find a home!)

A few things I learned during my single day in Atlanta:
  • almost everyone in Atlanta is from somewhere else
  • most of the traditional Southern foods appear to be brown and battered
  • Their sweet ice tea is a vast improvement on the Californian concept of iced tea, but still nowhere near as nice as South African ice tea
  • Cars only have license plates at the back of the car, which makes it difficult to recognise your Uber when it arrives to pick you up.

I really hope I get the chance to return to Atlanta some day. Not so much to see more of the city (I'm not that keen on visiting the CNN Center, World of Coca Cola or Turner Field) but I have friends there I didn't manage to see, and I'd love the chance to explore further afield, not least of all to visit the town of Madison where my novel When September Ends is set.

But for now it's Adieu USA. Until we meet again...

The plane that brought me home

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