So, Atlanta. Love it. What a great place! The people were friendly, the streets were clean, the food was good (for the most part) and the hotel had free WLAN which was a bonus! Rather than bore you with long-winded tales of the holiday, I shall summarise the key points below.
BA all the way. All the free booze you can drink, decent food (for a plane) and eighteen channels of movies to choose from. What’s not to enjoy? Well, the man of substantial bulk in the seat in front of you who can’t (or hasn’t learned how to) get out his chair using his legs. Instead, by forcing his frame upright with his shoulders, he managed to force his seat so far back that I could practically eat the headrest, even with my own seat fully reclined. I guess you can’t choose your fellow passengers. At least on the way home, since we checked in early, we got seats by the emergency exit; for a 6’4″ strapping lad like me, it’s Christmas come early!
Not the greatest, but cheap, clean and right in the centre of downtown Atlanta. Can’t complain, can you? Plus points: free wireless internet, excellent location, good view, and a 24hr diner downstairs. Down points: not the most aesthetically pleasing construction ever, but more annoyingly, the television changed channels of its own accord. We got quite good at rapid response channel-changing, especially whilst watching ‘Lost’ before anyone in the UK!
I felt at home there immediately. Everything was so relaxed and friendly – the people were great, the city was beautiful and the transport was cheap and efficient. (I know that’s a geeky thing to say but when you go somewhere you can travel around cheaply and quickly, it highlights how ricketty British public transport really is.) In hindsight, it was a long way to go for such a short time (Weds to Sun) but well worth it.
What a concert! I don’t worship her like the rest of the audience did, but she can certainly belt them out! The show was witty and entertaining, she did an excellent job on a range of numbers and mocked George W. Bush remorselessly so kudos to her for that. What I liked most about the concert was the crowd though. Everyone was so chilled out – they all LOVED Barbra – and they were happy to be amongst friends I guess. We had a great chat with our neighbours (native Atlantans) and everyone enjoyed the show together; something you rarely get at concerts in England. As a bonus (?) we also got a mini-set from Il Divo. They were quite good, although I’m not a big fan of theirs either: there’s something a bit smug about singing songs everyone knows in a language no one can speak. It sort of robs you of the right to sing along, which is the whole point of pop music, is it not?
James can die happy now he has seen her live, and I can say that I was there: if this really is her farewell tour (I have my doubts) then it’s an experience that will get rarer as I get older. We decided against a programme though – $40 for a book of Babs photos was taking the piss a bit.
What little I remember of it is good: American drinks are ridiculously strong (though also very expensive: I suppose you get value for money in a roundabout kind of a way) so by 3am after the concert it was all I could do to fall into a taxi with Jim and get back to the hotel. After seeing Babs we headed to Midtown and accosted a couple of people on a street corner for guidance on where best to go out. Eric and Jason took us under their wing and introduced us to the Wet Bar where, amongst other things, I saw my first bartender without a shirt on. Apparently it’s a ploy to get more tips – by making you think you stand a chance you are more inclined to tip him better. It sounds a bit like prostitution to me, or at the very least fraud, since he’s not going to leave with you in any case. My expressing this point of view (which is commonly held) resulted in my foot firmly in my mouth, and I think it was only my charm (or more likely, genuine naïveté) that prevented serious offence. I thought, since I am commonly held to be the king of the inappropriate comment, that I might record some of my blinding faux-pas for posterity – you can read this one and others by clicking ‘open wide’ in the tabs above (or click here if you are lazy).
This was the highlight of the trip for me, I think. Of course the concert was brilliant, but the world’s largest aquarium blew my mind. It was AMAZING. Photos of the whole trip are here (they’re not brilliant I’m afraid) and the aquarium is well worth a look. I could rave about it all day, but where else in the world do you get to see things like this?
Just extraordinary! I encourage you all to go!
World of Coca Cola
A charming, interesting exhibition of the history of Coca Cola and the story of its journey from accidental refreshment to global superbrand. At only $9 it was good value for money, and it didn’t take too long to get around either – I wondered how interesting it could be but they had just enough to engage without going overboard. Also, the idea of the ‘World of Coca Cola’ was a nice one – you left feeling that they were actually helping to make the world a better place, even if it isn’t necessarily the case. You do get to taste all the Coca Cola products from the US and around the world (strangely, Lilt was flying the flag for the UK despite being “totally tropical”), and I have since developed a heartfelt love for rootbeer. That is some tasty sugary shit, I tell you!
Margaret Mitchell house
The first home of Margaret Mitchell, who wrote “Gone With The Wind” is now a museum. She wrote the majority of the book in the tiny apartment downstairs, and only showed to a publisher after considerable pressure from her friends. She ended up earning more in a month than the President did in a year. Sadly she was hit by a taxi and killed, thus ending that story. Intersting (if a little pricey) museum of the woman, the book and the film.
Haveli is without doubt, the worst Indian I have EVER tasted; their website does for the internet what their cooking did for my taste-buds. Zocalo does nice mexican food, but their mole was too rich for me and I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. Their margaritas were bloody good though! The Landmark Diner on Luckie Street did excellent breakfasts, and they even accommodated my not liking eggs (does everything in America come with two eggs?) and took them out of my cheese-and-bacon toastie. I’m also loving the free refills idea – pay for one coffee, get three. Yum yum yum. American Diners rule!
Underground Atlanta was created when the city planners decided there wasn’t enough space for trains on the streets. They just laid new streets over the old ones, moved everyone upstairs and used the old – now underground – roads for the railways. Ingenious! Now part of the old roads are used as a big underground shopping centre, which is a little touristy but still interesting to have a poke around. We also went to Lenox Square mall, which is just, well, a big mall. Fun though!
In other news, I had my BSL 101 assessment on Monday. I don’t know what to expect really, since we flew in on Monday morning at 8am, and drove from London to Bristol for 11.30am so I could spend five minutes having a chat in sign language to prove i could do it. Suffice to say I was mighty tired! I finally got into bed in the afternoon (I can’t sleep on planes: every time I got to that point where your ears stop hearing things, I would suddenly realise I couldn’t hear the engines and wake myself up in a panic. Ridiculous!). I fell asleep during an episode of Star Trek: Voyager (I know, I can’t believe it either) and slept for fourteen hours. Jetlag sucks. I also popped over to Hampshire to see Elsa in Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter”. Needless to say she was excellent, but I have just realised that in the seven years I have known her this is the first show I’ve been to see her in. Looking forward to the next one though!