Atlanta (18 cents)

We returned yesterday afternoon from a quick trip to Atlanta for the wedding of Hannah’s sister-in-law.  As expected, it was a great time.  Here are some highlights.

We drove from DC, a ten hour drive, stopping for lunch in Ashland VA.  Ashland is the town north of Richmond and nearest Kings Dominion (not yet open for the season) and a place I have driven by many times without thinking about stopping.  But it turns out that Ashland, like so many Virginia towns, is fascinating.  An old railroad town, the tracks actually bisect the main commercial district, with the older shops on each side of the track.  Just off the tracks is a very attractive old inn called the Henry Clay Inn (Clay was born in the county), which in fact was built in 1992, 45 years after the older inn burned to the ground, but built as an actual replica.  That’s interesting.  And we had lunch at a fascinating restaurant called Suzanne’s, a unique breakfast/lunch spot, where you stand in line to order your food (and a line there is) and where the menu is very complete and the servers clearly are intent to please, willing to modify your order anyway you want.  We had salmon cake and barbecue with homemade potato chips.  Quite tasty, and oh, so friendly.

Then back on the road, until we stopped for the night in Gastonia, NC, just beyond Charlotte.  We were surprised at how nice the Best Western was (for $69), and appreciative that there was a Texas Roadhouse next door, where our waitress Jennifer was working her first night (after several evenings of training).  She is a criminal justice major at Gaston Community College, and did a fine job for us – we both had salmon, which was quite good (always a gamble at a chain like this) and each had a margarita, which was delicious and strong enough that we were happy we didn’t have to drive to our room.  As to the room, it was large and comfortable, and the staff very friendly.  OK, the free breakfast left a lot to be desired, but we were told that the hotel is about to redo its kitchen, so that it will be able to offer a hot breakfast.  That will be an improvement, but I would recommend this hotel without reservation.

On the road in the morning, we reached Atlanta by early afternoon, finding our way via GPS to the Intercontinental on Peachtree in Buckhead.  I had not been to Atlanta for years (maybe 20) and all of my old trips were business trips – I remember one time being in Buckhead at the offices of one of the first law firms to move out of downtown.  Buckhead, an upscale part of the city, was much less developed commercially than now.  It is filled with very nice high rise office, residential and hotel buildings, and a large number of top class shops.  There’s a MARTA redline stop, and a large shopping mall within walking distance of the hotel, which is surrounded by nice residential areas and other commercial streets, all very suburban looking even though they are inside the city.

The hotel itself was nice, if not spectacular.  The room was large, but not perfectly quiet (we could hear the fellow next door cough and, because we were on the third floor, we could make out the music coming out of the lobby bar), and the bed was too soft for my taste.  But it was attractive and a comfortable place to sit down in.  Oh, yes, one other disappointment – we had planned on watching the Nats and Braves games on television in the room, but it turned out that, even though there were about 50 cable stations available we could not watch the games, which are broadcast on Fox Sports South (FSSO).  The hotel had no idea……..

Friday night, there was a dinner for out of town guests at Cantina, a short walk from the hotel.  The restaurant was closed to the public, and the dinner was a very nice buffet dinner.  Have no idea what the food is like normally, but Friday night it was quite good.  There were two main dishes – salmon and grouper, a number of vegetables and salads, and a wide selection of desserts.  Wine was served.  We ate at a table with our daughter and son-in-law, and his parents, the parents of the bride.  Very nice.

Saturday was our only Atlanta free day.  We had brunch with a cousin who is a graduate student at Emery – picking him up at his house, about six miles from the hotel.  GPS permitted us to wind through much of residential Atlanta, where we saw nice and comfortable looking housing, green leaves on most of the trees and fruit trees in full color.  At least two weeks ahead of cold DC, maybe more.  We had brunch at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, one of a number of local restaurants with this name.  Very trendy and informal, they have a number of cleverly (?) named egg and other breakfasty dishes.  I had the Southern Scramble.  It wasn’t bad, but I thought that all of the dishes appeared to be a bit overdone.  In my eggs, were mixed turkey bacon, onions, collards and cheese.  The collards were a bit too spicy and overshadowed everything else.  Plain scrambled eggs probably would have been better.  But we had a very good time, very good conversation, and I don’t mean to be too critical.

We then went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden (after one false start, thinking we had found a great parking place, but later realizing we were at the park but not the Garden.  We did get to walk through some farmer’s market type vendors, before going back to the car.  I was surprised that we had to pay $18.95 per person to get into the Botanical Garden, and while we had a nice time walking around (we saw everything), I can’t say that it was worth it.  It’s an attractive garden to be sure, but it was less colorful than the rest of the city.  There seemed to be no flowering fruit trees, and an overabundance of tulips of all shades and colors.  The vegetable garden was interesting, but just getting started.  The forest walk was not yet green.  The inside orchid exhibit was very nice.  But compared to some of the other botanical gardens, I have seen, this was doesn’t rank as highly (in my completely uneducated opinion).

Then lunch at the White House Restaurant, a diner style restaurant a few blocks from the hotel.  It doesn’t get bad reviews on Yelp, but it does from us.  We each got the tuna salad, and neither of us could eat it.  Oh, well.

Then, our own driving tour, down Peachtree to downtown (very impressive, both the extensive older downtown and the large number of well designed office and residential towers.  We saw the Georgia State House, we saw the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King Memorial (where he is buried) but did not have enough time to stop at the museum, which we have heard very good things about.  We saw the Carter Center.  We passed by the art museum.  A very nice hour or two.

Back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding (outdoors in the hotel courtyard) and the cocktail reception preceding it, and dinner/dancing afterwards.  No reason to go through everything, but the reception had very good sushi and passed food, the ceremony itself (not until about 9 p.m.) was beautiful to watch (the microphones had a hard time delivering consistent sound), and the dinner was excellent, (as was the conversations that we were able to have with the rabbi and his wife, who we know from Washington where they live, and the groom’s father and step-mother, with whom we ate), and dancing to the dj much fun.  The first dance of bride and groom was followed by a choreographed flash mob dance by the bride and groom’s friends.  A treat. 

After a filling good-bye brunch, we hit the road again (about 10 a.m.) and made it well over half the way home before stopping for the night.  On the way, for reasons somewhat unclear, we got off the Interstate in northwest South Carolina and wound up in Pendleton, thinking we were going to look at Clemson.  We never got to Clemson, because Pendleton (about ten miles from Clemson) was having a Spring craft and food fair, which we enjoyed, having a Sunday brunch at the Village Baker and Cafe, which was simple (eggs, potatoes and stuff) and good.  Then back on the road, all the way to Salem, VA.

Salem is just the other side of Roanoke.  Not knowing where we would stay or have supper, we lucked into the Holiday Inn, another well run and comfortable hotel which (who knew?) with a full service restaurant which, while not gourmet, was fine for the occasion.

Yesterday was a challenge.  We didn’t have far to go (less than four hours, assuming no delays), but it was pouring and visibility was affected, especially when the large trucks passed you kicking up more water than you would imagine possible.  But we made good time, mainly because I never wanted to be passed by a truck.  We stopped for lunch at the Apple House in Linden VA.  The food was good enough, and the place quite funky.  It appears to be the go-to place for a large selection of Virginia wines, oddly named hot sauces, and locally packed jams and jellies.

Edie told me she wanted to get home by 2, if possible.  Always obliging, we pulled into our driveway at 1:58.



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