Dropping the rental car off at the downtown branch meant we only had a walk of around a mile up to the main street area and along the road to our accommodation – the Inn At Peachtrees. We’d expected to just drop our bags and head out but the lady at reception looked after us and had a room available that we could go straight into so that was a bonus. As we were walking to the accommodation the weather started to pack in, so it was out with the raincoats as we headed on out from the motel to have a look around the downtown area. Around 3 blocks down from us is the Coke Cola International Offices and associated Coke Museum. We didn’t do the museum tour but had a look around the merchandise shop – as you’d expect, they had some nice bits and pieces. The Coke Museum is in part of a larger museum hub locally – across from Coke you have the Georgia Aquarium – the largest on the eastern coast, if not the US by volume of water they display. You also have the Centre for Civil and Human Rights Museum in the area – all of which can be accessed as part of the promo Atlanta Pass if you want to pay that much (each museum was on average $17 to enter). We settled on having a walk around the area and then heading on over to Centennial Olympic Park – yes, scene of some of the cities celebrations attached to the 1996 Olympics staged in the city (interestingly when we were in Savannah there was a monument there on the waterfront celebrating it as the scene of the Olympic sailing venue in 1996). We didn’t see the fountains ‘perform’ – if was wet enough without them. We called at the local Visitor Centre and armed ourselves with some local info before setting off again in the pouring rain.
Downtown Atlanta has a Street Car that runs a 2.5-mile loop and for $1 a ticket you can ride it for 2 hours, so we did a full loop and then a part loop around again to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market – a popular food-court area. With the holiday season, a number – maybe half, of the operators were closed, but we still found something nice and warm to partake before heading back out and onto the Street Car for the run back up to the main-street. From there it was a short walk back up to the motel where we dried off and settled in for the evening. On Friday the rain didn’t let up much at all, so we spent a good part of the day just hunkered down in our room, catching up on blog duties, and jotting down some ideas for our pending build back home. Mid-afternoon we decided we wrap up and head out and took a good walk further up town – we would consider Atlanta a big city – yep the stats suggest the population is only around ½ a million – we thought it might have been more. Maybe it’s jus that the city is quite spread out – broken up into different parts / quadrants – you have Downtown, Midtown, Uptown etc. Interestingly the local airport – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest airport, and has been so for the past 21 years. Supposedly something like 107 Million passengers flew through the airport in 2018 – crazy numbers. Anyway, we walked a ways towards the Midtown area – admiring the architecture along the way. One of the standout buildings is the Bank of America Building – it stands at over 1000 feet and is in the top 10 tallest buildings in the US. On a day like today, the upper third of the building was shrouded in low cloud which gave an interesting visual experience. That said, a number of other tall Atlanta buildings were also playing with the clouds / in the clouds today. Atlanta is / has been a popular film backdrop and with the buildings and architecture of this city you can see why. Supposedly Atlanta is the backdrop for Gotham City – we didn’t see the Bat Light though.
We found ourselves a little supermarket and picked up some supplies and made our way back downtown to our accommodation – all the better for getting out and getting some fresh air. The forecast for Saturday was for improving weather, so I braved it and donned my shorts again today. We got up earlier and headed down for some breakfast ahead of the masses (the previous mornings breakfast sitting had been crazy noisy with kids and families staying in the motel). It seemed that almost as soon as we left the motel to head out that the heavens opened up again – so we had to hunker down under some verandas waiting, and hoping that the weather would lift – as per the forecast. After sheltering for maybe 30 mins the weather started to lift and we set off proper again. Carol was keen to explore the Martin Luther King Jnr memorial, so we hiked up the main street until we found the Street Car tracks and then followed them down Edgewood Ave – along past the Sweet Auburn Markets. Along the way we passed some nice pieces of sculpture – some of the big buildings have nice pieces displayed in front of them, and then there are pieces and waterfalls in and around the part areas. Unfortunately it looks like the city of Atlanta has quite a high homeless rate. We’ve passed numerous people sleeping rough on the streets the past couple of days – looks like they try and sleep during the day, and then are active / up and about at night – most likely just to keep warm at this time of the year. One of the parks down near Sweet Auburn Markets looked to be a central location for atleast 50 people living on the streets – or so it seems.
This area of downtown is the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jnr – the Sweet Auburn area of Atlanta being his home and the home of a lot of African Americans in this city. To recognise his contributions and I guess we can say, sacrifice, there is a National Historical Park named after Martin Luther King Jnr here in the downtown area – run by the National Parks Service. We had a good look around the complex – which traces the life and struggles of not just Martin Luther King Jnr, but all coloured folk across the USA. It detailed the protests, and retaliations that occurred. I have to say I didn’t want to get into all the detail on display – for me it just seems incomprehensible that such division could exist / did and does exist across this country. For me this must go down as one of the US’s darker periods in history. The complex which covers several blocks acknowledges the contributions Martin Luther King Jnr, his wife and family made in US history. Across the road from the main Visitor Centre is the King Centre which has the tombs of Martin and his wife with an external flame burning close by. Down the street, some of the original homes of the era including the house that Martin Luther King Jnr was raised in, are all restored and maintained by the Park Service.
Somewhat stunned by this experience, we headed uptown towards the Midtown area. We’d heard about the Ponce City Market and had been told it was the place to go for shops and foot so we set off on foot to reach this area. The Ponce Markets building (opened in 1926) was at one point the largest building in Atlanta at over 200,000 m’s square. It was used up until 1987 by Sears, and then around 2011, the city started renovating and restoring the building complex to form the large upmarket retail and food area that exists today. We had a bit of a wander around – the retailers were mainly high end, and there seemed to be an endless supply of food vendors to choose from. From there we took a fix on the Bank of America building which today was basking in all its glory with the cloud at bay, so we got a nice view of the top of it, and used that to get our bearings on where we needed to head to, in order to get back to the motel – which after a good hike, we did. Obviously there is a lot more we could and probably should have seen in and around the city of Atlanta, but time and money curtail that for us this time round. We were just happy to finally be out of our rain coats and enjoying some sunshine, albeit on a cooler day here in Atlanta. Sunday has us on the move again early – heading back up the road to the Greyhound Bus Terminal, for us to head further east again – this time we are off to Charlotte, so I’ll update from there.