Atlanta, Georgia
by Anna Collins & Carol Holmes
photos by Anna Collins
except World of Coca-Cola

I have heard only good things about Atlanta from anyone who's ever described it; a fun city, easy to get around in, lots of history, great shopping, good restaurants. And from our recent trip there, it's all true. Join as as we visit famed Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell's House, The World of Coca-Cola, The Underground, CNN, some really cool restaurants, museums and more!

 

Day 1
by Anna Collins

We arrive in Atlanta and check into the Downtown Atlanta Hilton. The Downtown Atlanta Hilton offers over 1,200 newly renovated spacious, luxurious guest rooms and suites. All floors face a central lobby giving each floor a spacious feel and a compelling view. The hotel offers some good places to eat and drink like Trader Vic's and Nikolai's Roof. Its central location in the city makes it an ideal place to stay when visiting Atlanta. For more details go to www.Hilton.com. Atlanta Downtown Hilton, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30303 Tel: 404/659-2000, Fax: 404/222-2967.

My traveling companion Carol, and I decided to eat a light breakfast in the hotel at the Cafe Express located in the lobby. This small, 24-hour fast food cafe turned out to be excellent and served up fresh croissants, muffins, and other breakfast treats along with juice and coffee, for a quick on-your-way breakfast.

Our first stop of the day would be The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, named after the famed author of Gone With The Wind. To get there we took the subway, or the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). Note: The public transportation in Atlanta is exemplary; very easy to get around on, clean and safe. It's the only subway system that I've ever experienced that plays classical music in the background. There's virtually no graffiti, but instead, various works of art.Our destination was only three stops from the hotel. (For easy access around the city visit their website at www.itsmarta.com.)

The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum is a piece of Americana that holds it's historic charm against a back drop of modern day skyscrapers. The house is where Margaret and her husband, John Marsh, rented an apartment for less than $20 a month in the 1920's. It was here Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind. She began her career as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal, but a badly sprained ankle combined with arthritis left her virtually bedridden at age 26. Her husband brought her home nearly every book to read from the local library. One day he brought her home a Remington typewriter and told her she'd read nearly all the books in the library and she should write her own novel. She did. The Pulitzer Prize winning Gone With the Wind. You can tour the house and Mitchell's apartment that has been recreated with period pieces much like the ones she owned.

On the same grounds is the gift shop where everything from calendars to Christmas ornaments to books and figurines all related to Mitchell and GWTW, can be found. This is a quality gift shop with many unique and well-made items for any collector.

The house and museum are open daily and tours are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 999 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA, Tel: 404/249-7012. Or visit the website at www.gwtw.org.

After our literary excursion we're feeling a bit thirsty, so what better stop than The World of Coca-Cola; a museum and learning ground about the world's most famous soft drink. The World of Coca-Cola takes you throughout the history of the famous beverage; from it's invention by the chemist, Dr. John Styth Pemberton in 1886, to displays of early bottling equipment depicting how the famous contoured bottle evolved. There are videos to watch and displays of every kind tracing the history of Coca-Cola, as well as over 1,000 objects, artifacts and memorabilia from the Coca-Cola Company. One of the most interesting things to see is the collection of old ads, especially those featured on serving trays that are on display in the first exhibition gallery. The second exhibition gallery, a period that spans the 1920's to the 1950's depicts the continued evolution of Coca-Cola. Here you'll find the Barnes Soda Fountain complete with a soda jerk that will answer all your questions and demonstrate how an old-fashioned Coca-Cola was made at the fountain.

On the second floor you'll experience a more contemporary gallery filled with multimedia effects that follows the international growth of Coca-Cola. You can sample this famous beverage by moving on to Club Coca-Cola and Tastes of the World, an international sampling place for soft drinks distributed by the Coca-Cola Company by not available in the US. Everybody kept telling us to try "Beverly" a drink that's popular in England.

And what high profile soft drink company wouldn't be complete without a retail store that carries the perfect mementos of your visit? The gift shop, aptly called Everything Coca-Cola, carries, just that—everything Coca-Cola. Clothing, mugs, nostalgic gifts, and everything in-between.

Even if you're a Pepsi fan, The World of Coca-Cola was well presented, easy to navigate through and extremely interesting. Don't miss it! 55 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30303. Tel: 404/676-5151, Fax: 404/676-5432.

All the running around is making us hungry! We opt to pay a visit to The Vortex, a restaurant recommended to us by the manager of the gift shop at the Margaret Mitchell House. His recommendation turned out to be excellent! This eclectic eatery features a wide variety of hearty fare from burgers to quesadillas to classic reuben sandwiches. The interior is done in "early insanity" with objects d'art covering every inch of wall space that includes such unusual fare as a skeleton on a toilet, old motorcycles and vintage nudes. It's a great atmosphere and the food is outstanding and served in a timely fashion. I got the original vortex burger and fries. Meaty and cooked to perfection the burger came with onion, lettuce, tomato and may and an order of fries all for $5.75. My companion had the same, only with cheese. We were happy. 878 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309. Tel: 404/875-1667. Or visit www.thevortexbarandgrill.com.

 

Underground Atlanta is a popular shopping spot in Atlanta that is well...underground. It's conveniently connected to MARTA's Five Points rail station. This is the spot where Atlanta sprouted up around the railroad and where it rose again after the Civil War. Underground Atlanta continues to be the most popular visitor attraction in the city. With a vast variety of stores, kiosks, specialty food shops and restaurants along with a spacious food court, Underground Atlanta can be a great place to spend the day.

In one particular store called Art by God that features all things from the planet, we saw fox penis bones for $4.75, a triceratops skull for $132,000 and a peach tree all carved in jade for $17,800. Try putting that in the overhead compartment.

Besides stores like The GAP and Victoria's Secret, there's lots of unusual ethnic stores and several kiosks throughout the area where you can pick up everything from watches to hand-crafted items.For more info visit www.underatl.com.

After out shopping spree, we decided to crash at the hotel and have dinner there. Sadly, it sucked. We ate in the Garden Terrace Restaurant. Our waiter, Babou, looked skeptical when I ordered the fried chicken, but I was really in the mood for southern fried chicken. When it came, it was so oily I was tempted to throw sand on it to keep it from sliding off the plate. I sent it back, nauseated. Carol ordered a vidalia onion omelet, that was "ok" but on the greasy side as well. We kinda picked at it. Then we ordered a peach cobbler, which was great. We both wished we had gone to the Cafe Express instead!

But tomorrow is another day...

Day 2

By Carol Holmes-Coloyan

We decide to eat at Cafe Express at the hotel again this morning. It's quick, reasonable, and the food is good. My travel companion, Anna, orders a sticky bun and coffee. I decide on a bran muffin and hot tea. Our total? $5.25! Not bad for a fast and delicious meal! While we eat, we plan our day. How does a visit to the CNN Center and shopping sound? Perfect!

What's not so perfect is the weather outside. It's rainy and cold. Oh well, there goes our plan to walk. We get a cab instead, and we're on our way! We're there in a matter of minutes. Smack dab in front of this amazing building. It's even more amazing inside of the CNN Center. The large atrium is set up like your local mall food court with plenty of restaurants and shops. If you're hungry, there's Arby's, Taco Bell and McDonald's. You'll also find Jocks & Jills Sports Grill, Le Petit Bistro Express and Gorin's Famous Sandwiches. If you're in the mood for shopping, you can check out Waldenbooks, The Turner Store or The Clubhouse Store. We decide to shop later. Better to get our tickets for the studio tour now.

We're lucky. There's only about a 20 minute wait for our tour to begin - just enough time to dash into The Turner Store. After a quick browse, we're back in line 10 minutes prior to our tour, as instructed. First step is walking through a metal detector and having our bags checked. Next we proceed up the eight-story escalator, the largest freestanding escalator in North America. Our long escalator ride takes us to the CNN Exhibit Area. We meet our tour guide here and are given a few minutes to look around at the timeline in pictures from 1989 to 1999.

Our first official stop on our tour is the Control Room Theater. As we settle into comfy seats, our tour guide explains that The Control Room Theater has 37 video monitors. We are amazed to learn that an actual CNN control room has 99 video monitors! Our guide explains the uses of the various monitors. The largest screen is called CNN Air. This is what you and I see at home. There are also 20 routers. These routers show camera shots in the studio, live reports from the White House, and reports coming in via satellite. Our guide also points out two larger monitors, called CNN Program and CNN Preset. CNN Program is actually CNN Air without commercials, and CNN Preset shows the image that will be broadcast next. Four other monitors in the room show the studio cameras in the main newsroom. Other monitors in the room are broadcasting the other CNN News Group networks and even CNN's competition. ( I always wondered whether the networks watched each others broadcasts, and the truth is they do!) On an average day, it takes 4-6 people to staff the control room. During breaking stories or major news events, more than 15 people may be needed!

Our next stop is CNN Special Effects Studio. Here we're given a demonstration of how a TelePrompTer works. Some people think that the anchors actually memorize everything that they are going to say before they go on the air. With so many news stories to report, this just isn't possible. The anchor reads a script directly from the TelePrompTer screen. This creates solid eye contact and establishes intimacy with viewers at home. There are only three or four words per line on the TelePrompTer so that the anchor doesn't have to move his or her head or eyes back and forth. You may wonder about the papers that the anchors are holding. Are they just a prop? Well, actually, they're not. These papers are called hard copies, and they contain the same script that is on the TelePrompTer. As the anchor reads from the TelePrompTer, the anchor turns the page every time he or she comes across a certain symbol. Should the TelePrompTer fail, the anchor can read from the correct page of the hard copy.

Not every anchor uses a TelePrompTer. Weather anchors use something called a blue Chroma-key system. Many people think that the anchor actually stands in front of the map that you are seeing on your screen. In reality, the anchor stands in front of a blue wall, and the graphics are inserted. The weather anchor can see what map is being used by looking at the monitors. Next time you're watching a weather forecast, watch your weather anchor carefully. You'll find that he or she will never point to a specific city. Broad, non committal gestures will be made instead. Another thing you'll notice is that the weather anchor never turns fully around to face the wall because he or she wouldn't know what map is being displayed. The last thing you'll notice about your weather anchors is that they never wear blue because body parts covered in blue would look like they simply weren't there!

Next stop is the CNN Newsroom Overlook. Here we are looking down at the main newsroom and global headquarters of CNN. It's hard to believe that CNN's first broadcast on June 1, 1980 was seen in only 1.7 million US cable households. Today, CNN is available in 80 million households in the US and Canada. CNN has been broadcasting from this studio since 1987. The newsroom operates 7 days per week, 24 hours per days with approximately 100 employees. During major news stories, CNN may have more than 200 people working. If you watch CNN often, you may notice that the studio is not soundproof. This allows you to feel the immediacy and energy of the newsroom environment. The news anchors do wear unidirectional microphones that pick up mostly what they are saying and cut down on background noises. Occasionally, you may hear voices or phones from the newsroom. The newsroom itself is divided into two main areas: News Gathering and News Production. The News Gatherers summarize a potential story and send it on to the News Producers who decide which stories will make it on the air and how much time each story should be given. Each story is assigned to a writer, who writes the story, and then passes it on to a copyeditor who proofreads it. Once the story is approved by the copyeditor, a hard copy of the script is printed and routed into the TelePrompTer. Next, video footage must be put together for the story. CNN's satellite feeds department then records and edits video footage. This entire process can be performed in minutes or hours.

Our last stop before we head back to the lobby is the Headline News Newsroom. Headline News began in 1982 as CNN2. One year later, its name was changed to Headline News. It is currently broadcast to 70 million US households. If you've watched Headline News, you know that it differs from CNN's regular broadcast with its unique 30 minute programming format. During each 30 minute segment, the first 13 minutes consists of the day's top stories, weather and additional news stories of interest. This is followed by a brief recap of of the headlines, after which the news shifts to Dollars & Sense, Sports and Lifestyles. News stories and features are updated 24 hours per day as needed.

Back in the lobby, our tour guide tells us about other CNN networks They are CNN International, CNN en Espanol, CNN's Airport Network, CNN Interactive (AKA CNN.com) and CNN/Sports Illustrated. The only CNN network not found at CNN Center is CNNfn, the financial news network, which is headquartered near Wall Street in New York City.

The last stop on our tour is Turner Today Theater. Ted Turner narrates this short video which introduces the four other networks that make up the rest of the Turner Broadcasting family. They are TNT, TBS Superstation, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies. The exit out of the theater leads us (amazingly!) into The Turner Store. I buy a tee shirt and a hat for my husband, but Anna is nowhere to be found! I finally find her over near the faux anchor desk where two women dressed in realistic CNN anchor jackets are reading a story from the TelePrompTer. "Don't you want to do that?" I'm not so sure, but we pay our $14.95 so that we can make a tape of our reading. Our "producer", Chip Oster, is friendly and helpful. He asks, "Do you want to practice?" No, we're professionals. Although I am a little nervous (especially as the crowd gathers), this is soooo much fun. We watch ourselves on tape. Mental note: I need to smile more. We can't wait to show our tape to the folks back home! CNN tours are available 7 days per week between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The tour is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter. Admission prices are $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for senior citizens, and $5.00 for children. VIP tours are $25.00 per person. Children under age 6 are not permitted on any of the tours. Reservation phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. Same day reservations are not accepted. Walkup tickets go on sale daily at 8:30 a.m. For reservations call 404-827-2300 or 1-877-4CNNTOUR. Reservations can also be made by email at cnn.studio.tour@cnn.com. You can also visit the CNN Studio Tour on-line at CNN.com/Studio Tour. The CNN Center is located in downtown Atlanta on the corner of Techwood Drive and Marietta Street. ,

Our brains are exhausted after taking so much information in. Time for something that requires little thought - shopping! We take a cab from CNN Center to Lenox Square, a four-level complex with 250 specialty shops anchored by Neiman Marcus, Macy's and Rich's. We avoid the larger stores with the exception of Macy's, where Anna finds the cutest baby bomber jacket for a friend's one year old. We make brief stops into Crate & Barrel, Laura Ashley and Limited Too. Two stores we really like are Restoration Hardware and The Game Keeper. At Restoration Hardware, you can find all kinds of great stuff for your home. We find pull knobs for furniture in all colors and styles, ditto for house numbers, cleaning and gardening supplies and lots of Christmas ornaments. How about some gorilla glue for $16.50? (It's billed at the toughest glue on planet earth). Or how about an atomic clock for $39.95? (It receives radio transmissions from the US atomic clock in Fort Collins, Co. and is accurate up to the second.) Anna buys a beret for $14.00 and I buy a globe Christmas ornament for $6.00. If you don't have a Restoration Hardware store near you, check out their web site at www.restorationhardware.com. The Game Keeper had some great items too. Sometimes it's hard to tell what a game is really like until you've played it, and then sometimes you're stuck with a difficult or boring game. What's really great about this store is that you can try some of the games out before you buy them! The Game Keeper also has a hand held games and puzzles and one of the best selections of chess sets we've ever seen. How about an alabaster set made in Italy for $350.00? Lenox Square is located at 3393 Peachtree Road at Lenox Road. If you want to take MARTA, get off at the Lenox Square Station.

We're not shopped out yet and we're almost right across the road from another mall, Phipps Plaza. We take the complimentary shuttle from Lenox Square, and we're there in just minutes! We find Phipps Plaza to be a little more upscale than Lenox Square, but with less shops (only 100 here). The major anchors in Phipps Plaza are Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Parisian and Tiffany & Co. We spend some time browsing in The Museum Company. Here we find lots of CDs, tee shirts, art books and jewelry. We find a roll out wild flower garden for $14.95, a tie dye kit for $19.95, and a nature kaleidoscope kit for $12.95. If you know a shoe fanatic, they have decorative shoes, books about shoes, shoe puzzles, shoe sleep shirts, and shoe socks. We wander in to Gap, and admire their classic clothes and hand knit sweaters. We also stop for some chocolate at Bissinger. For a special treat, try a piece of heavenly marsh pecan. If there's not a Bissinger near you, log onto their web site at http://www.bissingers.com/ We've walked the entire mall and it's still too early for dinner, so we decide to hit a movie. The line to buy a ticket is the longest I've ever seen. (Anna says I must have never gone to a movie in New York City!) We buy our tickets at the box office, and proceed to the theaters on the other side of the mall. We settle in with our popcorn and drinks and proceed to witness an interesting occurrence. Not once, but twice, we witness people picking a seat where someone was already sitting and asking them to move! And both times the people move without even an argument! Is there a theater rule book in Atlanta that encourages this kind of behavior? Anna and I wonder how a request like that would go over in South Florida. Phipps Plaza is located at 3500 Peachtree Road. If you want to take MARTA, get off at the Lenox Square Station.

We're hungry now and we're heading for the restaurant that everyone keeps raving about. It's called Pittypat's Porch, and it's known for its Savannah crab cakes, Twelve Oaks barbecue ribs, homemade cornbread, biscuits and sticky buns, and the best peach cobbler in the south. Our mouths are watering as we have the cab drop us off right in front. Oh no.....it's closed until next week! Luckily, we're only a couple of blocks from our hotel, but where are we going to eat dinner? We spot an Italian restaurant, but it looks a bit stuffy. We could go to Hard Rock Cafe, but I've been there so many times, and I figure Anna probably has too. I am amazed to find out that Anna has never been to a Hard Rock! Anna says (and I quote), "Although I try to find unique places to eat and shun the chains, I felt I owed it to my readers to go to at least one Hard Rock Cafe. Yes, readers, I was a Hard Rock virgin!" Fortunately, it was a good first experience for her. She rated her fried chicken salad ($8.99) and apple cobbler ($4.99) as orgasmic! The Hard Rock Atlanta is located at 215 Peachtree Street. If you'd like more information on Hard Rock Cafe, log onto their web site at http://www.hardrock.com/

Day 3

By Carol Holmes-Coloyan

I know you're probably getting tired of hearing about Cafe Express for the third day in a row, but it's good, convenient and reasonable. We just never consider going any place else. This morning we have a scone, a danish, coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and bottled water. All for the grand total of $7.00! Tell me where you can get something better for less!

Today we're going to the Atlanta Cyclorama. We catch a cab from the hotel. Unfortunately, our cab driver isn't familiar with the Atlanta Cyclorama. The bell hop gives him directions and we're on our way. Luckily, Anna and I are watching the signs. Otherwise, I'm not sure where we would have ended up and how much it would have cost us! What is the Atlanta Cyclorama? At 42 feet tall and 358 feet in circumference, it's the world's largest oil painting with narration and sound effects. The painting is viewed from a rotating platform. Before we experience the Cyclorama, we view a film called The Atlanta Campaign, which depicts General Sherman's march from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The film is narrated by James Earl Jones, who is a wonderful actor, but not the clearest speaker we've ever heard. The second part of the experience is the Cyclorama itself. As we sit in our seats, the platform slowly turns and we are immersed in the happenings of July 22, 1864 - the date of the Battle of Atlanta. I don't consider myself much of a history buff, but the presentation made this experience absolutely fascinating. After the show, an employee of the museum tells us more about this giant painting that weighs 9,000 lbs. It seems that the painting was began in 1886 with 11 German artists. It took them 22 months to complete it. In 1979, it was restored, made fireproof and the platform was installed for a grand total of $2.5 million dollars. At one time, cycloramas were very popular. In the 1800's, there were approximately 300 cycloramas that traveled around. There are only about 20 cycloramas left in the world today, and only three in the United States. (You can visit the other two cycloramas in Gettysburg and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.) The painting was last appraised in 1979 at $11 million dollars. There are other things to see at the Atlanta Cyclorama, including Civil War artifacts, weapons, displays, maps and photographs. The small gift shop has some interesting items, such as Civil War bullets, uniform buttons, Atlanta history books, and paper dolls. The Atlanta Cyclorama is open 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. June through September. It is only open until 4:30 p.m October through May. The Atlanta Cyclorama is located in Grant Park at 800 Cherokee Avenue. For more information on the Atlanta Cyclorama, log onto http://www.bcaatlanta.org/

How many people go on vacation and visit a cemetery? It's not that uncommon really, and that's what we decide to do. It just seems appropriate for such a rainy, dreary day. We take a cab from the Atlanta Cyclorama and tell the cab driver that we want to go to the Historic Oakland Cemetery. Have we found another cab driver who doesn't know where he's going? He takes us down a side street, and into a run down area of town. Can this be right? Anna and I give each other "the look" just as we pull up in front of the cemetery gates. Historic Oakland Cemetery was a 6 acre graveyard when it was founded in 1850 by the city of Atlanta. By 1867, the cemetery had grown to 88 acres and was the resting place of nearly everyone, rich or poor, who died in the city. Maybe you're wondering why we picked this particular cemetery to visit. It's because this is where we'll find the grave of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With The Wind. The cemetery is deserted, but we follow the signs and easily find her grave. Next to her is her husband, John Marsh, who died less than 3 years after her. There are lots of other famous people buried in Historic Oakland Cemetery, including golf great Bobby Jones, 24 former Atlanta mayors and Rich's Department Store founders, Morris and Emanuel Rich. Historic Oakland Cemetery has a large Confederate section guarded by The Lion of Atlanta. It's also the second oldest Jewish graveyard in Atlanta. The Historic Oakland Cemetery is located 248 Oakland Ave. If you want to take MARTA, get off at King Memorial Station. For more information on Historic Oakland Cemetery, log onto www.oaklandcemetery.com/

Unfortunately, today is our final day in Atlanta. As we roll our luggage through then Atlanta airport, we recount our experiences of the last three days. We loved Atlanta, even with the rainy weather. We know that we'll be back, to experience Pittypat's Porch, if nothing else. Hey, at least we know a good breakfast place!

 

Carol Coloyan is a freelance writer and mother of two.
Anna Collins is a bestselling author, columnist and her new book "A View from a Broad" can be seen here.

 

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