Our friend’s uncle has a house boat in Cumming, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. We drove down there after spending a few hours in Birmingham and met our friends at The Ridge steakhouse. After several hours of driving in the pouring rain, we were very happy to get some amazing steak and watch some live music – who was actually one of the former members of Earth, Wind and Fire!
The accommodation was a beautiful houseboat, which sits out on a lake and contains
four beds (enough room for 8 people, if you really wanted it), a piano, dining room, kitchen and a huge upstairs deck. The first night was spent catching up and relaxing up on the deck.
The following day, our friend took us for brunch at a wonderful place called the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant, from where you can watch private aeroplanes taking off while you eat. Their brunch is a huge buffet of amazing food, as well as mimosas and Bloody Marys to start the day.
We followed up brunch with some sailing around the lake on our friend’s smaller sailing boat, and then later on we had some hot dogs and chilled out on the boat. It was a pretty relaxed day.
The following morning, we headed into Atlanta itself. Gwynnie had a friend from Prague who had moved back to Atlanta, so we met him at the Avalon retail park on the way into the city. It’s like a small village, which was strangely reminiscent of the UK, with pavements, little parks, shops and restaurants. It all felt very quaint and gentrified; not like the Atlanta I had been led to expect from watching the show, Atlanta!
We ate at Kona Grill, where I had some great sushi and Anna had lobster mac & cheese. It was very classy and good. Then, like pigs, we followed it down with loads of gelato from across the road at Caffe Antico.
With an afternoon to kill, we needed to decide on what to do. Atlanta is actually the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr, so his birthplace and memorial were options, as were the Civil and Human Rights Museum, the aquarium (apparently the largest in the world!?) and the World of Coca-Cola.
Shamefully, we opted for Coca-Cola. Coke, that weird dark sparkly thing that everyone likes for some reason, was invented by a guy called John Pemberton. Now, I believe that Pemberton was in the business of creating “elixirs” and other potions aimed at curing various ills, and Coca-Cola was his latest venture. Filling a cauldron with a selection of random ingredients, including cocaine, people were surprised by how energised his product made them. Yeah, no surprise there. Asa Candler, a businessman, liked it so much after his first sip that he decided to buy the company; which is exactly the kind of impulse decisions people make when they’re coked up.
None of this is reported in the World of Coca-Cola. They tell us that Pemberton “wanted to create a refreshing cool drink for summer days”, and that to this very day the delicate balance of flavours are a top secret.
After a chillingly enthusiastic welcome and a video montage of “happy moments”, priming us to feel good after seeing scenes of families reunited, people proposing and surprise birthday parties, we were free to explore the world of Coca-Cola. As well as displays of tons of old adverts, bottles and facts, they send you on a weird game of “Find the Secret Ingredient”. Of course, they have to make this child-friendly; they can’t just tell you it was cocaine and now it’s the equally addictive high fructose corn syrup, right?
There’s a 4D Cinema experience, also called “Hunt for the Secret Ingredients” or something. You can pose for a photo with someone in a polar bear suit, make your own “pop art” cola bottles, and finally – the best part – there’s a tasting room, where you can sample loads of Coca-Cola products from around the world. I was pretty happy to get some Melon Fanta in me again (I was addicted to that stuff in Japan), and after trying almost everything in the room it’s needless to say that we felt physically sick. My vote goes to the Candy Pine-Nut drink from South Africa!
Afterwards, we enjoyed an hour of slow-moving Atlanta traffic as we made our way back
towards Cumming. We met our friends at Cracker Barrel – a popular chain of shops and restaurants, mostly in the South. We got to try a lot of Southern food – corn muffins, biscuits (which are scones, even served with jam… as a side/starter! madness!!), chicken and dumplings, sugar-baked ham, catfish, grits (almost like porridge), turnip greens… I can’t remember it all, but we ordered as much as we could handle!
We had wanted to visit a drive-in cinema as part of our road trip, and after finding out that Atlanta had one, we suggested it to our friend. However, a look at the reviews revealed that it was in a very dodgy part of town. Some of our favourite reviews (paraphrased):
“A great place to drink alcohol, take drugs, and eat some barbecue!”
“Some fools were smoking weed and my kids could smell it! I don’t want that shit in my system! And then they were letting off fireworks!”
“I went to ask for some butter for my popcorn, and the sales assistant was very rude. When I came back to my car… it was gone.”
“I really liked this movie theatre until my friend got murdered after asking another car if he could borrow their jump-leads.”
So, we decided not to go, and ended our time in Atlanta relaxing under the stars on the boat.