It’s been a week and I’m still thinking about my trip to Atlanta. Most cities and states have a definitive culture — an ambience that’s solidly its very own invention. The last time I was in Georgia was two decades ago and I was only passing through for the strangest wedding I ever experienced but that’s another story. Here are some of my thoughts on Atlanta, in no particular order to amuse those who live there or enlighten those who are thinking about going.
- The wedding I just mentioned was actually in Alabama so our trip to Atlanta in the ’90’s was a literal pit stop. In 2018, I sense that Alabama is still a pit stop for many people on the way elsewhere. I got this impression first because of the size of its airport. That place is huge. Two decades ago you got around it on people conveyor belts and shuttle buses. Seems the airport had an upgrade since I saw it last and now you travel through the six terminals on what appear to be high-speed mag lev trains. The trains are fast, quiet, and present well but side note: don’t get in the way of any airline personnel when boarding or getting off one. They will unapologetically knock you on your ass to get to their flight. I wouldn’t have mentioned it if I hadn’t personally seen it happen twice.
- The second reason I know Atlanta is a pit stop, was how many calls my daughter got from friends, when they found out where she was, as far away as Texas and Florida who were trying to get her to come see them while she was there or meet up halfway. That idea of easily being able to meet up with someone one or two states away is not a new concept to me. In New York, meeting up with people who live in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts is not uncommon but the terrain still feels smaller and easier to get to because much of it you can do on a 30 to 90 minute train ride. In Atlanta, driving is the linchpin to life. Public transport is considered a waste here. And since most things you might want to get to are far apart from each other there’s the definite feeling that people spend anywhere from 30% to 50% of their waking lives driving.
- Luckily for me since I eschew driving, the mobile taxi craze is also alive and well in Atlanta. Ms. Z and I were carted off by Lyft taxi drivers to various parts of the city, which isn’t so amazing. What was amazing is how often it happened with female drivers. In New York, even after the Lyft and Uber craze, you still see very few women drivers. Maybe one every few months, if that. In Atlanta, we met three women drivers in less than 36 hours. They were all Black women and all noticeably filled with that legendary Southern charm and hospitality even or maybe especially, the one who was seven and a half months pregnant. If you see this Mercedez, Ms. Z and I are rooting for a healthy, beautiful girl!
- One of the other things I noticed tooling around in automotive vehicles is something I’m really surprised I hadn’t read about or that someone who knows me didn’t already tell me about. Atlanta is a mural city. They are all over and they are gorgeous. By the time, I saw the fourth one I began realizing this was a real artistic occupation there. Beautiful, funny, majestic, interesting, dynamic and plentiful. The adjectives just dropped out of my open mouth every time I saw one. I took few pictures as Z and I only had time to barely catch sight of them as we drove by but when I come back to this city I may just try to find a mural or public art tour. The city has to have one if they don’t already.
- Atlanta’s weather is fickle. It reminded me a lot of weather in upstate New York where you can see four seasons in a day. But let’s get this straight Atlantans, if you come from the Mid-North or Northeast states, Atlanta is balmy even on a bad weather day. Y’all do realize you have fabulous cherry trees blossoming in the middle of March, right?
- Since I’m a foodie I did look for a quintessential gastronomic experience there but didn’t have the time. I suspect it’s also super difficult to find that in the South when traveling with a vegetarian. Z and I did manage to find two wonderful restaurants though. One a friend of ours told us about. It’s called Serpas and it’s on Auburn Avenue. We had the perfect brunch there with friends and the best, most beautiful baby I’ve seen in years (Yael, we heart you!). They serve beignets, excellent coffee, and have an eclectic menu that includes Short Ribs Eggs Benedict and a cheesy Scallop and Shrimp grits. Z had a veggie omelette and declared it delicious. The second was Ribalta on 11th Street off Peachtree St. NE. This was an Italian place offering specialty pizzas and delicious homemade pastas and sauces. We went on a Sunday night so the place was practically empty and bottles of wine were half priced. We were pretty hungry so we went with no frills favorites here that included a delicious pesto gnocchi for Z and Chicken Milanese for me. Next to us a couple shared a gigantic and amazing looking seafood pizza that included mussels, squid, and clams. But best of all, was the service. Our waitress (wish I’d gotten her name was pretty, brown, and slim, with long thick hair) was friendly and adorable in her efforts to make sure we had a great time. With her recommendations we had an appetizer (I highly recommend the Rice Balls), two entrees, and an excellent bottle of Prosecco but we only spent about $62 not including tip. Made my night. And they have one in NY too? Yowza!
- Last but not least, I want to talk again about Southern hospitality. My friends who live there, Rae and Jacinta, are filled to the brim with it. And on the real, I met so many awesome and charming women during the Wine With Writers book event I was down there for. I adore readers as much as I adore writers so meeting that many terrific loving and supportive people at the event wasn’t really a surprise for me. A welcomed joyful, humbling, experience — yes. Surprise — no. However, what was a surprise as well as an awesome experience was how many women (and a few men we encountered too) I met elsewhere in Atlanta, mostly in hospitality — the industry that can literally make or break a tourist’s experience — who were warm, friendly and generally AMAZING. Made us want to go back and soon.
So, I’ll just say cíao for now Atlanta. Now that I know you better I sure won’t wait another decade to return.