Road Trip!


Road Trip!

I have received feedback from my family about posting my blogs about our October road-trip in the wrong order. I will therefore start at the beginning:

Saturday 28th October

Flew from Heathrow to JFK, New York. We were using airmiles, and as it was a treat, we were in the business section. This was comfortable but fairly boring, as everyone else seemed to be working (hence ‘business section’ I guess). I have no idea who the man in the photo is, my selfies often have random people in them.

  We picked up the hire car (not the one we had actually ordered—are they ever the same?) and drove to Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey. We used to live in New Jersey, when my children were small, and we planned to spend the first few days visiting old friends, looking at places we remembered and generally being nostalgic.

I should tell you first about breakfast. We ate in a diner. Diners are one of the best things about America. They are generally privately owned, and they have booths, and endless coffee refills, and food which is amazingly delicious and arrives in super-huge portions. The service is always friendly and efficient in a sort of laid-back, we have all day, sort of way. There is often a bar, where a group of ‘regulars’ sit each morning, eating their breakfast and chatting, and the waitress knows everyone by name and what their order will be. There is an overhead television, with the sound turned off, showing the news of the day.

We were still on vaguely UK time, so we arrived at The Ridge Diner at about 6:00 am (many diners are open 24 hours). We sat there, in a booth, feeling like we had properly arrived, we were back in the US. I ate banana and pecan pancakes, which arrived with a side of creamed butter and maple syrup. Husband ordered corned beef hash, fried potatoes and eggs. You could have fed a whole family in England with what arrived. It was perfect.

   Another stop was to Ramsey TJ Maxx. This is a shop I visited lots when we lived there, as it was a good place to buy clothes for the children who shared my dislike of shopping and who were not, it should be said, the best-behaved children in the world when it came to shops. In fact, it reminded me of the time when the boys discovered that if they went to Customer Services and said they were lost, it would be announced over the tannoy, and they took great pleasure in hearing: ‘Could the mother of Emm and Jay please go to the service desk. . .’ We would be in a shop, I would look at a product for one second, glance down, and they would be gone. I would sigh with resignation and shut my eyes, waiting for the announcement: ‘Would the mother of. . .’ You get the picture.

Anyhow, this visit was stress-free, and I replaced my ski-jacket, which I had bought there 22 years earlier and the zipper has now broken. (It had a good innings!)

   We also had a quick look, for old-time’s sake, at ShopRite in Ramsey, where I did the weekly shop. They used to have tiny shopping trolleys for the children to push (you can imagine how that went—an idea from someone who did not have children! The shop was full of children filling trolleys with stuff they fancied, or racing up the aisles and bumping into things). They now have much more sensible child trolleys, where they sit in a pretend car in the front of an adult-controlled trolley.

Ah, lots of happy memories.

We visited friends, and went back to look at our old house, and ate way too much food. Then we set off, Pennsylvania next stop. I will tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a happy day.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link:

Here

 

US Link:  Here

Stone Mountain


Stone Mountain

During our trip to Atlanta, Georgia, we visited Stone Mountain. I have visited it before. When I was 9 years old, my family visited relatives in Atlanta, and Aunty Pam took us to Stone Mountain. I remember that there were deer (which must have been very tame, as there are photographs of me trying to stroke them) and that we went for a trip in a paddle steamer, the Robert E. Lee, across the lake in Stone Mountain Park. I cannot remember whether or not we walked up the mountain.

This time however, I was travelling with Husband and there were no handy children to accompany him up the mountain, so I decided that I must ignore my general fear of heights and walk up with him. Sort of wifely duty. We arrived in October, so there was an area set out as a children’s pumpkin/Halloween activity. We avoided that, and I could see Husband was wondering why, exactly, I had suggested that we visit the mountain. But it’s a good mountain, a sort of odd one, because it is really a giant pebble just sort of thrown there and completely out of place with the rest of the area. In the park below, as well as a pumpkin trail if you visit during October, there are some 1793 buildings (which might be of more interest).

We parked the car, and began to walk.

   Stone Mountain is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite (like I said, a giant pebble). For the geologists amongst you, it is actually a quartz dome monadnock which rises to 1,686 feet above sea level and is 825 feet high. In 1958 the State of Georgia bought it (not sure who they bought it from, or how much they paid) and the Civil War generals have been etched on one side.

You can still see giant carvings of Robert E. Lee (who the paddle steamer was named after) and Stonewall Jackson, and President Jefferson Davis. They are dirtier than when I visited when I was 9. They also are the source of much controversy, which came to a head after the racial shootings in Charleston in 2017 (when people in a black church were shot). The people etched on the side, as leaders of the Confederates, were also fighting to retain slavery. Many people think that all Confederate monuments should be destroyed (in this case, it would take a year of blasting the images from the mountain). Other people think that it is part of history, and should remain. Plus, of course, it’s a popular tourist attraction. I think, as a tourist from another country, I probably have no right to comment—but I preferred the monument when I was 9 years old, and it was simply an engraving of giant men.

Instead, I shall describe our walk up the mountain, as this is firmly etched into my mind as a never-to-be-repeated experience.

The walk started pleasantly enough. The park has helpfully painted lines on the mountain for hikers to follow, and the slope was gradual, up through pine trees, past some flags. It’s not an overly long walk, and all was fine until the very last section, when there are bars to cling on to, and you sort of haul yourself up to the peak. It was so far out of my comfort zone—a near-scrabble up towards the end, a concentrate on not looking down, or sideways, and don’t think about the stumble-sliding bone-crashing slide that awaits a slip on the shiny rock. Just walk—step, then step, then giant step—right to the top. Ignore the shaking legs, the ‘what if I slip?’ the ‘how will I get down?’ Just keep walking, forwards, to the cafe at the top, to a seat, where I can drink a coke. . .

Husband kept suggesting poses for potential photos, but I was concentrating too hard on not dying. The walk down was, of course, more difficult. I adjusted my cap, so that I could literally only see one foot ahead, and then I followed Husband, very closely, back down to where it was safe. We didn’t die.

There are, I am told, amazing views of the city from the top. There is also a cable-car if you don’t fancy walking/scrabbling to the top.

We then set off to find the paddle-steamer I had been on as a child. Husband reminded me that I am now quite old, and the steamer was probably long gone—so I was delighted when I saw it, hidden behind some trees. It was being refitted, for a Netflix series (Ozark) and there was a film crew building a casino set. But I was glad I had found it.

We spent October on a road trip, driving through America.
It was fabulous!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share it too…
anneethompson.com

I hope you have a safe day. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link: Here

 

US Link: Here

 

Pondering the Martin Luther King Jr, Memorial. Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


   Having failed to reach the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Park due to a fear of being mugged, we decided to approach it via a different route. Husband assured me it would be safe, and we would turn around and abandon the walk if it wasn’t. As we hurried under urine-stinking flyovers and passed a burnt-out house, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. But we survived.

We were in Atlanta, one of the places we visited on our road-trip through Eastern America. In the Southern States, there are echoes of the slave trade, the plantations, the civil war. I was keen to visit the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr, a voice shouting for freedom and equality.

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Martin Luther King Jr. was baptised here, and later was the pastor. (His father was the pastor here too for 40 years.)

Opposite the memorial is a modern Ebenezer Church (King preached at the smaller, older, church, across the road). Outside is a statue of a slave. It’s the sort of sculpture that you want to spend a long time looking at—it speaks very clearly.

However, my thoughts were interrupted by a more audible voice speaking, booming over the road from the memorial. As we approached, I thought perhaps there was a rally in progress, but only a police woman stood there, guarding the monument. The voice came from speakers, and the voice was, I assume, from the past.

There were steps, with ML King quotations etched into them, a long pool of water flowed through the central area, with the tomb of MLK and his wife, Corrie, in the centre. The crypt is made of Georgia marble, and Dr King’s remains were placed there in 1970 (he was shot in 1968). I wonder what he would have thought about it.

 

To one side is The Eternal Flame—a metal firepit with a plaque explaining that the flame represents the eternal quest for freedom.

Behind the long pool, was an information centre/bookshop.

I was not expecting such a large, sophisticated, monument. I had thought we would happen upon the grave of Martin Luther King in a cemetery, a large stone, perhaps a statue. This memorial was big and flamboyant, certainly costly. If it represents the fight of the people, the hard-won struggle of black people in America to be treated as equals, then I understand. It needs to be significant. But if it is merely a monument to a man, even a great man, then I cannot help but feel that perhaps the money should have been directed towards the living, not the dead.

As we walked away, past the black man (colour matters here) in his wheelchair begging at the corner, past the numerous black men sleeping on the streets, I felt sad. Society has moved to a better place since we thought owning slaves was an okay thing to do. After slavery was abolished, segregation was also a horrible, unfair, system. But whether the changes have improved life for those individuals, whether all races are treated and see themselves as truly equal today is still uncertain in my mind.

We walked back, past the burnt-out house with the boarded-up neighbours, under the smelly fly-over, to our hotel. I was left feeling unsure about what, exactly, I had been to see.

We spent October on a road trip, driving through America.
It was fabulous!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share it too…
anneethompson.com

I hope your day is interesting too. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link:

 

US Link:

 

The World of Coca Cola, Atlanta, Georgia — A Place of Sugar and Caffeine


Ran to Olympic Park and back to the hotel. We’re in the US, on a road trip, and trying to run every morning, to counter the vast quantities of food we’re eating. Atlanta is very hilly!

Decided to visit World of Coca Cola. Read the reviews. Decided to not visit World of Coca Cola. I wasn’t sure the descriptions of: ‘Basically just one long advert for Coca Cola’ sounded like a morning well spent. Decided instead to try and find the Martin Luther King Memorial on Auburn Avenue.

Auburn Avenue, or Sweet Auburn as it became known, was an area in Atlanta where black people were free to own businesses, use transport, and live normal lives, even before desegregation. We began to wander along the avenue, looking at the historical buildings. Gradually realised that other people in the street were looking at us. We seemed to be the only tourists there, and lots of the people were homeless or had mental issues. Felt uncomfortable. Ahead was a large flyover, and the pathway underneath was dim and full of shadows. We decided that we didn’t really want to continue walking along this road. Went back to hotel.

Decided to visit World of Coca Cola. At least we wouldn’t be mugged.

  We were greeted by a large statue of Dr. John Pemberton, who invented Coca Cola way back in 1886. We then paid our $17 each, and went through security. Security more interested in the drinks in our bags than whether we had weapons (though we didn’t have weapons, if you’re wondering). They do not allow any Pepsi products into the building. Our water was, apparently, part of the Pepsi empire, so we had the labels removed.

Directed to a waiting area, and offered complimentary drinks (various flavours of coca cola) but no seat. It’s off-season, and very few people were there, so we did not have to wait as long as some of the people who wrote angry reviews on Google. There was a timer, with big red numbers, and a guide appeared and excitedly counted down the numbers to when the doors would open. She tried, but I’m not sure her heart was in it.

Went into next room. Still no seats. Our guide told us his name was ‘Divine’. He told us his family history, and where he lives. He then asked us, individually, where we lived. I realised that this was another ‘holding room’ and we were waiting for the tour ahead of us to move. To be fair, there was lots of interesting stuff on the walls—mainly old adverts for Coca Cola, but I quite like looking at them, they’re very cheerful. So was our guide, who reminded me of a dodgy TV evangelist. While we waited (though we weren’t ‘waiting’ we were in the first room) we were given a brief history lesson. Coke was invented in 1886. I’m SURE he said that it was first invented as a cough medicine. Husband says I imagined this. Pemberton was a pharmacist though, and his other inventions were medicinal.

  If you know your Coca Cola adverts, you will know that a large polar bear features in many. He was introduced when the company were trying to rebrand the drink as suitable for cold weather (previously it was sold as a refreshing drink for summertime).

While Divine spouted facts, television screens scrolled through adverts from around the world.

After ten minutes, we were allowed to enter the little theatre, and another sing-song evangelist voice introduced a film. We sat (at last!) and stared up at the big screen. The big screen was VERY big. Like one of those massive televisions that people have in a tiny sitting room. Actually, more like a massive telly in a cupboard.

The film showed emotional scenes of families around the world. It was like watching one of those Christmas adverts that make you cry. It ended with everyone drinking coke (no great surprise there). I like Christmas adverts, there are worse things to watch.

   We were then led into a corridor, and told we could visit the different rooms. The staff were all very intense and bubbly and over-enthusiastic. I imagine they are all force-fed copious amounts of Coca Cola every morning when they arrive at work. No one remembered to mention that Coca Cola is so named because it contains extract from the coca plant (where cocaine comes from) and the Kola fruit (which was used in a Spanish drink before the invention of Coke). Coca Cola apparently denies that it still uses extracts from the coca plant, but there is a company, which imports vast quantities of the plant each year, and if you look closely, the company is owned by a subsidiary of Coca Cola. Or so I have been led to believe. But sshhh, don’t tell anyone. . .

One room had signs that lit and faded when you read them—all very Harry Potter. We decided to visit the Headache Room (actually, I believe it was called The Vault of Information but my name is more accurate). Lots of flashing lights, images shine into our eyes, snippets of films jumping on the walls. Managed to not have an epileptic fit, and walked to next room.

The last room was the Tasting Room. Here, we could take one of the plastic cups, and help ourselves to a variety of drinks from around the world (all made by Coca Cola, of course). There were seats, and I was ready for some caffeine, so this was my favourite room. There were lots of hyperactive children helping themselves to sugar and caffeine.

The only exit was through the shop—full of Coca Cola merchandise. How do you manage to tempt people to pay inflated prices for goods that will advertise your brand for you? I wish I knew. Coca Cola have some deeply impressive marketing techniques.

We left, full of caffeine, with slight headaches. The World of Coca Cola would not be my first choice of things to do in Atlanta, but it wasn’t terrible. We did, however, decide that we would have one more attempt to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial. I’ll tell you about it in my next blog.

I hope you have some pleasing drinks today. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link:

 

US Link:

 

NFL Game One (Or, American Football through the eyes of a novice).


NFL Game One (Or, American Football through the eyes of a novice).

In Atlanta, Georgia, USA (this is the first blog from our road trip). Husband very keen to watch an NFL game, so I feign enthusiasm and we buy tickets. Cannot take a bag over a certain size into stadium unless it’s transparent. Spent a few stressful minutes deciding what was essential and stuffing pockets. Decided I would wear my cardi, with many pockets. Might boil.

11am. Left hotel room.

11:20 am. Gradually met more and more people heading towards the stadium. Most were wearing the blue/green/grey of Seattle Seahawk fans. They seemed a jolly crowd. Discussed jay-walking laws at traffic lights with one of them, who assured Husband a ‘quick nip’ across road was usually ignored but depending on the state, might incur a fine. We did a ‘quick nip.’

Dropped into a Starbucks for a pre-match refuelling. Husband offered further tuition on rules/players but I felt I had it covered, and had sufficient knowledge to fully enjoy the experience. (See, “fully enjoy” — I was being optimistic!)

Joined the throngs bound for the stadium. There was a level of excitement in the air, people were laughing, greeting other fans, discussing past games. Was I the only person thinking: hours in sun, potential terror threat, way too noisy, not enough washrooms?

There were more Atlanta Falcon fans now, dressed in red and black. Police were in place, but they were smiling, pointing out directions, part of the carnival. There were no horses, no riot gear, no segregating of different teams. This was a family affair, most people were in couples or family groups. No one was looking for a fight.

Entered stadium. Made it through the ‘no bag’ check with our stuffed pockets.

Then we had the most nerve-wracking part of the day, would our mobile tickets open the barrier? It wasn’t possible to print paper copies, or save them, we just flashed the phone under the scanner — and hoped. All good. We were in. However, when activated, the ticket disappeared. Needed to remember seat numbers.

Climbed stairs and escalators and more stairs. Found seats. No danger of being hit by a stray ball where we were sitting (but low-flying aircraft might be a problem!) It was similar to sitting on the peak of a very high mountain, with no safety gear. Considered tying myself to seat for security. Decided that might look odd. 

Looked down to the pitch. A band arrived, and a giant drum. Screens flashed details about Lock Down Locket and Matt Shabb, and there appeared to be 8 different referees. Cheerleaders skipped in a line of sparkle. A chicken arrived, to play the drum (I cannot explain the chicken, but it seemed significant). Drumming was very rousing, and a line of people ran on, did a short keep-fit routine, ran off. Boys ran on with giant flags. Three players ran on. Just three. Did they get their cue wrong? They sort of stood there, awkwardly throwing a ball back and forth. Bless.

The band, cheerleaders, keep-fitters and the chicken, left. The three players remained. There also were a LOT of people standing round the edges of the field (but it was quite tricky to find your seats).

Giant banners arrived, and the US flags, smoke, noise, lots of cheering and some rather irritating dance music blasted from the tannoys; the cheerleaders formed two lines (some buxom lasses there!) and the players ran between them, onto the field. All very exciting. There were several balls being thrown around, which I felt might cause problems later. The national anthem was sung.

Then, everyone but the players left the pitch (the unseated people still loitered at the edges, hoping no one would notice). The teams took their positions, everyone was very still, the ball was kicked, it rolled to the end. . . and. . . everything stopped again. People cheered, teams rearranged, it started again.

After two minutes, someone got hurt. He lay still, medics arrived, team members knelt down, we all worried. Hurt man got up. Game continued.

After three minutes — three minutes —there was a time-out. Did someone need a rest? I guess all that armour must be heavy. Or maybe he forgot to use the washroom (they are all boys).

After fifteen minutes, I was told we’d had five minutes of play. Obviously don’t include the washroom breaks. I felt afternoon was going to be long, settled down with a pretzel. We paused for a lucky draw based on seat numbers (the helmet shuffle game). Words escape me.

Teams returned. They start from where they finished, the place kept secure by two people with orange posts. 

To explain the rules (briefly, and as I understand them): two teams take it in turns to try and move a ball down the pitch, to the very end. The defensive team has to stop them by grabbing them. The game pauses when the ball touches the ground. They then have another go, from that spot. There are more rules, but I think that’s sufficient. When there’s a foul, the referee throws a yellow flag on the floor, in a sort of angry teacher tantrum, and blows his whistle, whilst keeping his distance. He is probably the smallest person on the field, and he has no armour, just a white cap — I guess he doesn’t want to take any chances. The crowd boos and shouts angry comments. When a team gets near to a touch down (ball nearly reached end of pitch) everyone gets very excited, stirring music blasts from speakers, sparkly cheerleaders have minor epileptic fits, audience leans forward on seats — all very moving.

At quarter time (45 hours into game) the seats at the front of the stadium fill up, as fans move forwards into empty seats. In-between play (there is a lot of in-between) big screens show close-ups of the crowd, who play simple games like ‘the T-shirt throw’ (it is what it says). Kinda fills the time.

Game ended about 4pm. The last five minutes was very long and lots of people left as soon as it was clear the Falcons had lost. We, however, stayed until the very end. There was music, we filed from the stadium, everyone seemed happy. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Thank you for reading

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
Why not sign up to follow my blog?

If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary&qid=1572600807&sr=8-1