Atlanta Day 2: Stone Mountain and Georgia Aquarium

These pictures and movies record the day's adventures. They include at least as many observations as this blog entry.

We decided to begin our visit to Atlanta with a stop by a farmers market followed by a picnic in a famous park. It was a simple plan, but events didn't go simply. Our guide books didn't have great maps so we had a little trouble getting to the highway and figuring out which highways we needed to take. Then we ran into worse trouble: a marathon closed many roads. We tried dodging this way and that. In the process, Di Yin noticed many swings on porches. Eventually we got out and walked around a bit, partially to release some frustration from running into the marathon repeatedly, partially to enjoy the perfect weather.

Back in the car, we eventually made our way around the marathon and soon drove down a lovely street, Ponce de Leon, with interesting houses and pretty "new green" trees. At some point, Di Yin commented on the radio station we happened to have chosen. "Are we really listening to Christian reggae?"

Your Dekalb Farmers Market
Once at the Your Dekalb Farmers Market, we explored, and bought a huge amount of food. It's not a farmers market in the traditional sense because all the stalls are owned by same company. Rather, it's more, as one person described it, an "atmospheric grocery store," a bit like Berkeley Bowl but bigger. It's definitely impressive; I wish we had a store like it in California. NPR's All Things Considered produced a cute profile of the market.

The market seems to be run by black muslims, judging by the quantity of middle eastern foods and spices at the market and the relatively little amount of pork. Di Yin observed many employees appeared to speak French with a Haitian accent. Perhaps this is related to the observation that nearby parts of town seem to have more Caribbean restaurants than one would otherwise expect.

I observed one fact that made me happy: this market doesn't mislabel pasilla peppers, as most markets in California do.

We also observed one consequence of being in a conservative Southern state. No alcohol is sold on Sunday.

Stone Mountain Park
We drove to Stone Mountain Park and drove around it, discovering how pretty it is, while looking for a place to picnic. We found a pleasant one where birds were chirping. We ate:

  • ham and cheese croissant - good. sharp cheddar makes a difference.
  • lamb chile - remarkably good and meaty. Also has beans and three types of peppers.
  • marinated mushrooms - I'm definitely a fan.
  • lamb samosa - oily fried skin. all meat interior. simply unpleasantly overwhelming.
  • focaccia - a little oily.
  • cheese danish - soft, sweet cheese. I think we liked it.
  • tiramisu - "wow." "wow." It was all rum and expresso, no cream.
We mainly went to the park to see its huge granite mound and bas relief carving. We walked from our picnic spot and saw them, then decided we'd seen enough of the park and didn't need to take the skylift to the top nor take the scenic railroad around the base of the mound. We also didn't feel the urge see the park's other features, such as the oldest restored home in the state, golf and miniature golf courses, boating, hiking, etc. The park holds a laser show in the evenings in front the carving but it was the wrong day of the week--neither of us would be in town for it during this trip.

Georgia Aquarium
After a short walk in the park (sneezy for some, as everything was in bloom), we got in the car and headed downtown. Once again, we drove through Decateur, one particularly nice area of Atlanta. After debating about where we should actually go when we arrived downtown and fighting a bit of traffic, we ended up at the Georgia Aquarium.

Originally, I was planning to skip the aquarium, just as I planned to skip Six Flags (which the tourist books also make a big deal about). Aquariums are usually the same everywhere--just fish--and rarely excite me. I'm glad I was traveling with Di Yin, because she convinced me to go to the aquarium. And I'm really thankful I did. Built two years ago, it's the world largest. And boy is it impressive. I realized I could make an awesome Game here, not only because of the "can you spot these fish" handouts it provided when we entered.

The pictures and movies capture most of my experience at the aquarium. Everyone was nice (nicer than in many other cities) about getting in the way of pictures -- if they did, they apologized and quickly moved on. The most awe-inspiring exhibit was the transparent tunnel under a huge tank filled with giant groupers, hammerheads, sting rays, and whale sharks. I have videos of it. Part of the awe comes from the reaction of the other visitors; when we returned to the tunnel later and it was less crowded, it didn't seem as impressive and moving.

There's many aquatic creatures I didn't photograph, including senorita, halfmoon, horn shark, rainbow seaperch, seat otters, octopus, longnose gar, and razorfish.

I'd guess the clear material the aquarium uses as walls for its tanks is six inches thick. At first I thought it was glass, but learned it's actually acrylic. When I was reading about the material, I finally realized why we had to pass through metal detectors on the way into the aquarium: so people don't bring in a weapon and break a tank open--that could be disastrous.

There's an exhibit describing how the fish get from the other side of the world to the aquarium: UPS. UPS uses uses a 747. (UPS is based in Atlanta so I guess it's natural they provide the shipping.)

One exhibit allowed visitors to touch an anemone. Another allowed touching of a cownose ray. One of these had limited times (fifteen minutes every hour); the aquarium didn't want the creatures to get stressed.

To kill some time before dinner, we headed to Buckhead. Buckhead supposedly is Atlanta's hip, trendy neighborhood, full of fancy shopping boutiques and cutting edge restaurants. The cool part of it is reportedly so crowded, so much like Mardi Gras, with so many people on the streets, that's it's difficult to drive.

We couldn't find this part of Buckhead. We found the intersection of Peachtree Road NE and Wieuca Road, which had three shopping malls on the corner facing one another. Perhaps the cool section was in the little streets by the malls?

In any case, we gave up and headed for the nearby outlet of Chapter 11 books, a small, local, supposedly good chain bookstore. We couldn't find it! We had the address, but it wasn't there. I even booted up my laptop to check the address online. It was correct. I guess that outpost of Chapter 11 Books filed for chapter 11...

Bookless, we headed to Colonnade Restaurant for our first meal in Atlanta of true Southern cooking. Here's my review. After dinner, we had a tasty dessert back at the hotel of chocolate covered crystallized ginger. Mmmm.

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