Hello! Although our winter this year wasn't nearly as severe as the previous two winters had been, we still decided to travel down south for my husband's spring break. The round-trip drive kept us on the move most days of our vacation, so this post will be more text than photos. But come along for the ride!
Day 1: we left late in the day since my husband had to teach his classes earlier in the day. Thus, we didn't get into Louisville, KY until close to 10:00 pm. (we'd stopped in Indy for a quick dinner at a Qdoba and to pick up grocery store salads to eat on the road for lunch the next day.) Before it got dark, we enjoyed the signs of spring that were evident the further south we went: more daffodils blooming than back home, and trees were just beginning to leaf out. The Embassy Suites in Louisville was very attractive, with a comfortable yet mod decor.
Day 2: very nice Tennessee welcome center just over the border along I-65. It looked like it had just opened, but the courteous man at the information desk said the building is already six years old. Sure didn't look it; it was as clean and shiny as could be! We ate our lunch at one of the picnic tables outside.
Enjoyed more springtime scenery along the way. We spent 11 years in places where spring came earlier than it does in our present location, and I miss that still.
Heavy traffic around Chattanooga. Is there any quick way through that city? We always seem to hit some back-up there.
Later on, my husband drove through more slow traffic on the surface roads approaching the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He'd gotten off the freeway well before our hotel exit in suburban Alpharetta because the traffic reports sounded bad. But eventually we made it to our Embassy Suites hotel.
We approached it with mixed feelings, since we'd had a bad time during our stay two years ago. Then, the noise from an ultra-loud Sweet 16 party reverberated up to our 4th floor room. The desk staff paid scant attention to my polite complaints that night. (I ended up emailing my complaints to the corporate office, and was rewarded with the equivalent of a free night's stay for my efforts). Fortunately it was quiet this time around!
We ate dinner at the nearby Jerusalem Bakery restaurant, where my husband and I both had felafel sandwiches. They rocked! IMO, the food at Mideastern restaurants is almost always very good, but Jerusalem Bakery seems to do it even better. Worth a stop if you find yourself in the Alpharetta, GA area sometime.
Day 3: we checked out of our hotel - and relocated to another Atlanta-area Embassy Suites, this time in the Perimeter Center region. My husband, who is our "travel agent", arranged this because the room he booked in this hotel was cheaper this night than a room in Alpharetta would be. The Perimeter Center hotel also had the advantage of being within walking distance to a Marta station. We've used the Marta commuter line during previous trips to Atlanta and have found it to be reliable, fast and clean.
This day was no exception: we hopped on at the Sandy Springs station and a short while later, hopped off at the Arts Center station in Atlanta. From there, we walked over to one of our favorite places in town, the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Some photos follow:
They always do a great job with planters here.
These tulips still looked fine, but we saw other tulip plantings already past their prime. My town has more tulip plantings than the Atlanta Botanical Garden does - but not a single tulip is blooming here yet.
The Children's Garden was closed for construction, so to please the young - and the young-at-heart - a railroad garden was set up, with several small layouts:
As you can tell, I love small-scale displays! I could have watched those trains wind their way around the layouts for hours, but by now it was lunchtime and we had a ways to walk to reach it.
We approached our lunch destination, Metro Fresh, by strolling through the urban playground known as Piedmont Park. Saw what looked like some sort of canine competition off in the distance, and a few minutes later noticed a long trail of cyclists coming down another path. We stopped for a few minutes to swing in a wooden lawn glider overlooking a pond. Lots of people just out and about, enjoying the sunny, 70's-ish day. We had lucked out; rain had been in the forecast, but the storms ended up staying to the south.
Metro Fresh is a place to eat healthily. At lunchtime, the strength seems to be deli case-style salads. I ordered a serving of a salad that included roasted Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, dried cranberries and walnuts in a coconut-lime dressing. The ingredients made this salad seem more suited to fall than to an Atlanta spring day, but it was delicious!
Walked to the Midtown train station, enjoying the sights and sounds of the neighborhood along the way. Of course, we loved the profusion of various flowering trees (crab, magnolia, pear, redbud, etc) as well. Winter has its own quiet beauty, but after a few months of white and gray, it's wonderful to see the colors of springtime again!
After the train ride back to our hotel, we eventually had another walk to our dinner destination, a branch of the local FIGO chain. This is an Italian restaurant that features a mix-and-match pasta/sauce menu. That may sound rather cookie cutter-ish, but I give FIGO props for offering pasta sauces that go beyond the usual. I don't think I've seen wild boar, lamb or oak-smoked salmon sauces atop the pastas at Olive Garden. I ordered the Siciliana, which included eggplant, basil, tomatoes, mozzarella and ricotta. There's a huge list of pasta choices too, so you could come here for weeks without repeating your pasta order.
We were beat from all the walking we'd done throughout the day, but fortunately our last stop, on the way back from FIGO, was at a plaza literally across the street from our hotel: a Goodwill thrift store. It's my idea of "souvenir shopping" while on the road! And this time my "souvenirs" of the Atlanta area included a pair of barely-worn, pricey-brand sandals, a cookbook by esteemed blogger/author Heidi Swanson, and a book my husband can use for work.
And this sums up the first half of our trip; Part Two will follow shortly.