Saturday, July 16, 2016

Animals...and Illumination

Today began with Team WestEnders going on an urban safari, of Zoo Atlanta for a visit with the wildlife. As we wandered among the park's denizens, we found ourselves thanking the Weather Gods for the definitely-muggy-yet-also-cool...ish morning, rather than the swelter we had sort of been expecting in the southland. Along the way, we took time to admire sleepy, regal lions...a mama gorilla giving her baby a piggy (or...ape?) back ride...giant pandas (including twin youngsters) munching on bamboo (of course)...and my absolute favorite: an utterly spazzy newborn monkey--so small it could fit in your hand--zipping around its enclosure, pouncing on family members like it was begging them to play (sometimes they obliged, and the resulting wrestling match was hilariously entertaining).

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, but after all the walking, Riley was fairly exhausted, not to mention developing blisters from his crutches. So we headed back to our (borrowed) neighborhood of Buckhead to regroup and refuel. In the whole "taking it easy" vein, we ventured out on a short stroll, across the street from our hotel for a late lunch at Chipotle. Then we had an Executive Decision to make: which of us was up for exploring the Atlanta History Center in the afternoon...and who was either out of energy...or less interested in the prospect?

Predictably, Riley opted to skip the second activity and rest for a while, so Husband volunteered to stay back with him. That left Derek and me to go soak up some historical knowledge...and whatnot. When we arrived, dark clouds had gathered in the sky, a few raindrops spit down on us threateningly, and ferocious rumbles of thunder warned us of possible impending...meteorological mayhem. In addition, the helpful person who sold us our tickets advised that the buildings would be closing in about a half-hour, so we hastened to tour them all before the deadline.

First up was a reproduction of a farm from the 1860s, which the guide informed us put it in the era just before Sherman came through on his famous March to the Sea...and decimated Atlanta. We did a quick spin around the main house, kitchen structure, smokehouse, and of course the inevitable slave cabin. Next we made our way over to the Swan House, a stately, gorgeous mansion featuring impressive architectural details such as soaring marble columns, intricate carved stonework, and a grand entrance staircase. (We were even more awed upon finding out that it had been used as President Snow's residence in the Hunger Games movies!) Outside, the beauty continued, with a cascading fountain leading down to a vast emerald green lawn (which Derek immediately declared enthusiastically as "PERFECT for football!")

Back inside the museum, we meandered through the intriguing exhibits, including one dedicated to the Civil War. The artifacts and displays were undoubtedly fascinating...but I had to remind myself that I was, indeed, in the heart of the former Confederacy when I read some of the wording on the signs...such as when it described the South's motivation for entering the conflict as (something along the lines of, because I can't remember the exact sentence) "to maintain their Constitutional rights to preserve their way of life". Um...yeeaaah...and we're just kind of...glossing over the fact that this lifestyle they were so desperate to hold onto...depended on owning and enslaving an entire race of people?" Reeeaaalllly? Seems a bit...shall we say "sugar-coated"...certainly to this Damn Yankee...

Anyway, the other room that we had a great time in was entitled Atlanta in 50 Objects, which attempted to sum up the city with iconic people, places, events, and things. Examples included Hank Aaron, Delta Airlines and Chik-Fil-A (neither of which did I realize began around here), Peachtree Street, Coca Cola, homages to both the film and hip-hop industries, TRAFFIC (I was actually happy to have my impressions confirmed, because until we attempted to navigate the roadways around here, I had no idea this metropolis was such a hotbed of gridlock...and crazy-ass drivers. Now...I definitely know...), Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement...and a whole bunch more really cool stuff. Then, having fulfilled our cultural needs for the day, we rejoined the non-travel squad back at the hotel to report on our adventures.

So, I'd have to say it was an altogether successful sightseeing day, covering experiences of both the natural and educational variety. Which is good, because tomorrow we'll be swerving away from the enlightening, and straight towards leisurely American pastimes, baby...bring on the Coca Cola (museum)...and (Braves) baseball!

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