Date: 6 June
Location: waiting for my southern breakfast with ‘grits’, Highland Bakery, Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia.
Notable sightings: the famous Peachtree Street.
I’d remarked to our Liberian cab driver in Nashville that I thought the city was beautiful. He’d vehemently disagreed but told us that there was one beautiful city in the USA: Atlanta, Georgia. Lucky for us, that was already the next stop on out itinerary.
At this juncture you may well be thinking that aforementioned itinerary is not particularly logical from a strictly geographic perspective. And you may have a point. It had previously been rather more so — Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Nevada then California — but we’ve taken a sharp detour.
See, Bunky is considering moving to the States, if the right job comes up. In this I am trying to strike the right note between supportive pal and clingy bestie (the ‘dont ever leave me ever’ reflex). Long story short, the US offshoot of a Melbourne-based property company was having a party in Atlanta on 5 June and she’d been invited — and us too, as her +2s. So, here we were.
What I knew about Atlanta before yesterday could fit in a Dixie cup: the capital of peach-growing Georgia, home to the Braves (unsure on what sport they might so bravely play) and to the How Stuff Works offices and host to the 1996 Olympic Games, the first games I really remember. I haven’t added that much in the last 24 hours but I can now tell you that the city was one of the epicentres of the American Civil War, that Gone With The Wind was written here by Margaret Mitchell, it has elaborate Botantical Gardens, that both CNN and a Coca-Cola are based here, and that the city boasts the worlds largest indoor aquarium (the world’s largest outdoor aquarium being… the ocean?). Oh, and that our cab driver was right: this is a truly beautiful city. Art Deco buildings arc up into the blue sky along wide and well-manicured lime-tree-lined streets. The people radiate Southern hospitality and the pace is quicksand slow.
However, just like all the other American cities I’ve seen (New York aside) this one ain’t very pedestrian friendly. Yesterday we walked from our hotel in Midtown to Downtown. Then ran out of time and had to turn around and come back. Other guests at last night’s party were appalled: “You know there’s a train for that!”, “That must have been over a half hour walk!”. Americans, it seems, do not love to wander.
The all important party itself was lovely. Hosted under the lantern-lit trees, along an abandoned rail line in what seemed to us to be an enchanted forrest, it gave us a chance to mingle with a hot and sweaty mix of Melbournians and Americans while drinking Coopers and Fosters and sampling from the Australians v USA barbecue-off. The former had on offer prawns (not shrimp), lamb and snags — literally a taste of home. The latter: brisket, ribs and collard greens with jalepeno biscuit.
A thunder clap overheard signalled the arrival of those southern rains and it was time for the main event: the poker tournament. We were prepared, having workshopped our skills back in Nashville. However, we were the only girls in attendance save three wives and we were separated at different tables. When the dealer rolled out the chips I have to admit I was entirely intimidated but I’m now incredibly proud to report that none of us were anywhere near first out.
Last night was actually pretty good practise for the city we’re off to today…