Monday, January 25, 2021

INTERVIEW: Janet Montgomery - From My Big Eyes

When you meet an Atlanta blogger, you can pretty much bet that you will hear some interesting stories. Keep in mind that not all bloggers are reporters, but all bloggers are indeed storytellers. And each blogger is passionate about their chosen niche. It's made for some fascinating reading since the cultural phenomenon of blogging first came about in the late 1990s.

Especially in the last 10 years, since I launched wanderlust ATLANTA in August 2010, I've had the great honor of meeting quite a few Atlanta bloggers, one of those being Janet L. Montgomery, author of From My Big Eyes.

From My Big Eyes | Janet's ensemble inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama
From My Big Eyes | Janet's ensemble inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama

I first met Janet when I worked for a company that was promoting private events at the Fox Theatre. I hosted a group of bloggers for a behind-the-scenes tour and Janet was one of the guests, and a highly enthusiastic and engaging guest at that! We've followed each other on social media over the years and I'm happy to now share an interview that she so graciously granted me recently.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Please tell us a little about you. Where are you from? What bought you to Atlanta? What’s your profession? 

Janet: I am from the small country town known as Newville, Alabama, which has a population of only about 500. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science I left historic Tuskegee University and moved to Los Angeles for job opportunities. The Aerospace industry was booming in California and I wanted to experience and gain exposure to the big city life. I earned a Master of Management Info Systems (MMIS) from West Coast University while there. 

My parents weren’t big fans of flying to California to visit me. After 10 years, I decided I wanted to be closer to my family, so I headed back South, to Atlanta, Georgia. Professionally, I'm an IT certified Project Manager with more than 30 years of IT experience.

I'm also a freelance writer. My first nationally distributed published article was in Upscale Magazine. “The Godfather Quincy Jones: The Life and Legacy of a Music Giant". I'm also a content creator, working with campaign managers to promote various Georgia brands and businesses. 

Janet attending an Atlanta Tuskegee University Alumni scholarship event
Janet attending an Atlanta Tuskegee University Alumni scholarship event

wanderlust ATLANTAWhy did you start blogging?

JanetI needed a platform to share information and things that I wanted others to know about — to inspire, inform, and influence. Blogging is a passion. It started out as a hobby, but now, it’s turned into a small business used to help fund my son’s college educational needs. I am a single mother and he’s my WHY! 

Janet on the red carpet
Janet on the red carpet

wanderlust ATLANTATell us about “From My Big Eyes”, please.

Janet: I launched the blog on May 15, 2016. It was my birthday, so it's a date I can easily remember. It's a lifestyle blog with the tagline "Sightings of People, Places, & Things". You'll find posts about celebrities, places, products, home, money, fashion, beauty, travel, and entertainment! And even more! My website just underwent a redesign to include additional topics. Please let me know what you think!

Janet meets actor Tony Cox
Janet meets actor Tony Cox

wanderlust ATLANTAYour logo is fabulous! Tell us about that? 

JanetMy logo was created from my own eyes — they're "my" eyes! I wanted something unique, different, and original. I wanted something that could help people easily remember me and my brand. I worked with a graphic designer and that's where the blog gets its name, From My Big Eyes. I write from my perspective and about my life experiences. 

From My Big Eyes | Logo

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat have been some of your favorite blogger experiences?

JanetShortly after I started blogging, in 2016 I went to New York City and was in the audience of Good Morning America (GMA). Meeting Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan, and the GMA team was absolutely incredible. Experiencing all the behind the scenes was unforgettable. 

Janet on the set of Good Morning America
Janet on the set of Good Morning America

Janet: Also, opportunities to attend amazing red carpet events in Atlanta and opportunities to meet and interview A-List celebrities, movie writers, producers from Tyler Perry, to iconic and legendary Civil Rights leader John Lewis, Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, sports figures like Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Strahan, and R&B singer Kelly Price, and so many more.

Janet with Congressman John Lewis
Janet with Congressman John Lewis

wanderlust ATLANTAYou shared with me one of your bucket list items – to be an actress! Tell us about that experience.

JanetI decided I wanted to work on the set of a television production here in Atlanta. It happened! I was an extra for two episodes of Saints & Sinners on Bounce TV and I also worked as an extra (clip) on the tv show American Soul.

Janet meets actor Mark Wahlberg
Janet meets actor Mark Wahlberg

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat’s one person, place, or thing that Atlantans must not miss? 

Janet: The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View! The view is the perfect place to really capture 360° of Atlanta, and also the Jackson Street Bridge for Atlanta’s picturesque Skyline.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Immediately after my book was published, "111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss", Janet and I partnered on a giveaway of a copy of my book and one of her "From My Big Eyes" t-shirts, which come in at least 26 colors!

Janet on Jackson Street Bridge | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Janet on Jackson Street Bridge | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat pearl of wisdom would you share with someone considering starting a blog? 

JanetConsistency is key, so show up everyday. Brand yourself.

Janet on the red carpet
Janet on the red carpet

wanderlust ATLANTAWhen you have spare time, what’s your favorite Atlanta tourist destination and why? 

JanetThe National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Such a great place filled with history that every American needs to visit just to see how far we have progressed and also to help understand how much work there is still to be done in terms of Civil Rights in America. 

Janet on the red carpet
Janet on the red carpet

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat’s something I’ve not asked that you would like to share? Something Atlantans don’t know about you.

JanetIn my early twenties, I attended the John Robert Powers Acting and Modeling School in Pasadena, California. My dream was to become a fashion model one day. Now, I model outfits at home using my driveway as the runway for fun and to showcase fashionable styles.

Janet Montgomery - From My Big Eyes
Janet Montgomery - From My Big Eyes

Janet Montgomery has big eyes and big dreams. She treats life as an adventure, enjoying so much of what life has to offer, and then shares her experiences with us! Check out her blog, From My Big Eyes, and like and follow her social channels as her adventures continue...


Monday, January 18, 2021

Hot Dog Pete's

The BEST hot dog in Atlanta is at Hot Dog Pete's in the increasingly bustling Summerhill neighborhood. This is not your childhood hot dog experience! Actually, I can't tell you the last time I had a hot dog that wasn't at a cookout or a baseball game, but that has officially changed for me. I'm now on a mission to make my way through Hot Dog Pete's menu, which means numerous returns to this awesome spot on Georgia Avenue, which boasts not only delicious dogs, it also offers beautiful views of Atlanta's downtown skyline.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Hot Dog Pete's is owned by Nick Pihakis, of Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q (also amazing!). Nick named Hot Dog Pete’s for his business partner, and co-owner, Pete Graphos. Pete is the mastermind behind the Alabama-based chain Sneaky Pete’s Hotdogs, founded in 1966, and sold by Pete in 1986. The Atlanta shop pays homage to Sneaky Pete’s 50-year hot dog legacy in Alabama.

If you can't tell by the last names, Hot Dog Pete's has decades of Greek-American food culture behind it. If you know me, you know that I lived in Greece for more than two years and absolutely loved (and still love) the food and the people. Of course I had to dine here!

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'm thrilled to see Summerhill coming to life again. It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, formed in 1865. It gained lots of attention as home base of the 1996 Centennial Olympics and the Olympic Stadium, which was immediately reconfigured as a baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, the expected development in the neighborhood did not happen after the Olympics. It wasn't until the Braves left for Cobb County that Summerhill began experiencing a resurgence. 

I was upset when the Braves left downtown, but now that I see Summerhill growing into a popular destination, with numerous restaurants, shops, and a brewery, it's become obvious that the Braves' departure was a good thing for the neighborhood. Win-win!

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

On this particular visit, my first time here, I enjoyed Pete's Special Dog. This one has Pete's original meat sauce, diced onions, and mustard. Sounds pretty basic, but it takes hot dogs not only to the next level, but a few levels beyond that. 

The wieners are custom blended by Fritz’s Smoked Meats and Superior Sausage–Kansas City’s oldest smokehouse, founded in 1927. Those wieners (and sausages) are cooked over charcoal, totally creating a sense of hot dog nostalgia. Also in the present, there's a vegan dog offering, too. 

The buns are brioche buns that are are baked fresh at Atlanta's own Alon’s Bakery and Market, founded in 1992. Alon's is also where I get my birthday cake and cakes for other special occasions when celebrating at home. The best! 

Check out the menu and I think you'll find Hot Dog Pete's on your must-visit list.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

You can get fresh Waffle Fries, but why do that when you can get Loaded Fries! We're talking waffle fries, Pete's famous meat sauce, cheddar, pico, and mustard! Yes, I had the Loaded Fries on my first visit and I'm not sure I can go back to regular. 

I've had loaded fries before, but nothing quite like Hot Dog Pete's Loaded Fries. I'm one of those people who usually drown my fries in ketchup, but Hot Dog Pete's drowns theirs in hot dog toppings! Seriously...look at those! There are waffle fries under that glorious mound of hot dog toppings. And they're not just topped with toppings, there are toppings mixed throughout the fries, so you get toppings with every single bite. I even had some left to scoop up after the fries were gone.

Some of the other sides are chili, onion straws, collard green slaw, cucumber and feta salad, and more. Portions are generous, so if you leave here hungry, it's your own fault.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The patios — one covered and one with umbrellas and bistro lights — are spacious and nicely appointed with comfortable seating.

Beverage-wise, they have soft drinks and iced tea AND milkshakes and ice cream floats! Next time I'll have a strawberry milkshake, but this time I opted for a beer. They have several local beers — Yay! — and some domestic selections, too.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

If you enjoyed your Hot Dog Pete's experience and want to tell you friends, why not tell everyone by sporting a hat or t-shirt

In case you didn't know, that's a Georgia State University Panthers helmet on top of the merch shelf. Hot Dog Pete's is supporting their local team — Center Parc Stadium next-door (the former Olympic Stadium turned Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves before they moved to Cobb County) is home of the GSU Panthers football team.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Hot Dog Pete's has its own free parking lot behind the restaurant, accessible from the front, and there's additional free parking nearby. This is the awesome view from the parking lot (Olympic Cauldron, Georgia State Capitol Building, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Georgia-Pacific Center, and 191 Peachtree Tower) and you also see the skyline from the street level patio seating. Quite the view, right?

If you have room for dessert when you're done here, pop in next door to Hero Doughnuts and Buns. I'm hoping to blog about Hero soon! Hero and Pete's are both part of Pihakis Restaurant Gruop.

Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Hot Dog Pete's | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Did you notice that "Pete's" is spelled with hot dogs? Clever, right? You'll notice that everything here, every detail is done with thoughtfulness and for the purpose of creating a unique, totally fun experience for the customer. The service is awesome, too.

I can think of 100 reasons to go to Hot Dog Pete's just off the top of my head. In their own words, this is the perfect reason to visit: "Hot Dog Pete’s is a celebration of flavor, history and people—a delicious story told through an iconic food." Hope to see you there soon!

(This post is NOT sponsored. The opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by anyone else.)


Thursday, December 31, 2020

wanderlust ATLANTA's 2020 Photo Review

This is my favorite annual blog post because I'm reminded of all the wonderful things that happened over the last year and yes, even as horrible as 2020 was there were a number of happy happenings, which is what I'll focus on. This is a photographic look back at wanderlust ATLANTA throughout 2020.

Travis Swann Taylor during an Instagram Takeover of @111Places
Travis Swann Taylor during an Instagram Takeover of @111Places

Have I ever told you that I'm allergic to the cold? It's not really an allergy, but I'm not a fan of cold weather, however I'm gregarious and extroverted enough that I don't let weather, of any kind, slow me down. The photo above was such a fun day but quite chilly! My book editor, Karen Seiger, gifted me the opportunity of hosting an Instagram Takeover of the @111Places channel to help promote my book.

For more than 10 hours on November 17, I was out and about in Atlanta — on a sunny but face-contorting cold day — visiting 10 places in my book posting videos and photos of those places. There's a special guest appearance by Lawson Wright of My Parents' Basement Comic Book Bar! Not intentional, but totally fun, there were a couple of bloopers during the day. Enjoy!

Here's a quick summary of some of the awesome things that happened in 2020 and then I'll get on with the photo review...

  • Officially became an author when my first book, 111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss hit shelves on August 10, 2020! 
  • Did a number of book interviews, all of them fun! Some of them are linked below (look for my book cover image).
  • Completed my first hardcover wedding book! One of my best friend's sister was married in Jekyll Island, Georgia, and I got to be their photographer and make the 200-plus pages keepsake book.
  • Created a photo website for a friend in Mississippi who lives on a huge rural estate, using photography that I'd made over two visits. The second visit was my only travel this year, and included a day in New Orleans!

Now, let's have a look back. These are in chronological order and this year, in addition to blog photographs, I'm including some photos from wanderlust ATLANTA's and 111 Places Atlanta's social media channels.

Fashioning Art from Paper - SCAD FASH - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Fashioning Art from Paper - SCAD FASH - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Fashioning Art from Paper was my first SCAD FASH exhibition. The museum had been on my list for some time — and I'd been to art exhibits at SCAD prior to the museum opening...I should have been going from the beginning. This museum is a must-visit! 

Liberty Plaza at the Georgia Capitol - Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Liberty Plaza at the Georgia Capitol - Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

All the years I've lived here and I never knew we had a replica of the Liberty Bell. It's in Liberty Plaza directly behind the Georgia Capitol Building, definitely worth seeing.

#DidYouKnow The real Liberty Bell traveled to Atlanta and was on display during the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. On "Liberty Bell Day", which was October 9, the Bell drew 30,000 visitors to the Expo!

Red Phone Booth - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Red Phone Booth - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

For my birthday this year I went out on the town for a whirlwind dining and libations experience! My friend Barry and I started at Lumen Bar inside the Ritz-Carlton in downtown. I stop in here from time to time for a diversion and martini. We got downtown a little early so it was the perfect spot to start an evening-long blowout birthday celebration.

From there, we headed to Red Phone Booth, a wholly unique speakeasy experience in downtown Atlanta. This place is magnificent and you actually enter through a red phone booth, the kind that you've seen in London. We had the BEST bartender ever! The cocktail program and experience here is phenomenal. A must-do! Then...

Amalfi Pizza - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Amalfi Pizza - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

...we went upstairs to Almafi Pizza for dinner. With the same owners as Red Phone Booth, this dining experience did not disappoint! We had wine, calamari, pizza, meatballs, and dessert was the creamiest tiramisu and perfect cannoli...and champagne! 

To cap the night off we went to one of my favorites, 5Church Atlanta! The owner, Ayman, with his wife Valerie (both are dear friends), treated us to a birthday champagne toast with Roman candle-sized sparklers! It was the perfect way to finish a birthday and a great start to 2020.

Orchid Daze - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Orchid Daze - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Orchid Daze is one of my favorite wintertime excursions! The Atlanta Botanical Garden is beautiful year-round and their Orchid Daze exhibition is one of their most spectacular annual exhibits! In addition to the largest orchid collection in the Southeast they bring in thousands more orchid blossoms for a magnificent display.

Orchid Daze 2020 - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Orchid Daze 2020 - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Another absolutely spectacular annual exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is Atlanta Blooms! which is a grand welcoming of spring in Atlanta. This year was a little different. I'd visited and made photos just before the COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March. I did the post a couple of days later and then went into isolation. I didn't blog again until May.

Providence Canyon - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Providence Canyon - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

When I started blogging again, I was still isolating so I pulled from a visit to Providence Canyon State Park — to see Georgia's Little Grand Canyon — which I'd visited the year before, but had not yet blogged about. This post is the one that got me outside again. It started fostering a strong desire to be outdoors again and it worked!

Alice's Wonderland Reimagined - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Alice's Wonderland Reimagined - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The Atlanta Botanical Garden continued its summer exhibition for a third year, but this year it was updated as Alice's Wonderland Reimagined...so much fun! These larger-than-life living sculptures are by a Canadian company in Montreal, Mosaiculture.

Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

With extended hours and limited visitor numbers the Atlanta Botanical Garden had re-opened in late spring. It was fantastic to see the beauty of this place once again, having practically been a recluse for so many months. Most visitors were great about masking up and observing social distancing and as the months wore on they got even better. We were/are living in history and a strange time it has been. Grateful for respites of beauty like the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Silk & Stitch - DeKalb History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Silk & Stitch - DeKalb History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'd visited the DeKalb History Center's museum before the lockdown, to do some photographs for my book, and got to see this magnificent exhibition. Silk & Stitch celebrated fashion from the 1860s to 1960s through the lens of fashion embellishments

The exhibition was up for much of 2020, but eventually had to make room for the next exhibition. Hopefully it may return one day so that more can see what an excellent exhibition it was. The DeKalb History Center is currently open by appointment only.

New Echota - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
New Echota - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Still hesitant to go out and about very much, especially anywhere indoors, I again reached into my  collection of photos of places visited but not yet blogged about. This post was about my visit to New Echota State Historic Site, former home of the Cherokee Nation capital, where the Cherokee written language was created, and where the Trail of Tears began.

Frank Smith Rhododendron Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Frank Smith Rhododendron Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor 

One of the summer's projects that really got me out of the house and some much needed exercise was a series of blog posts covering each of the nine individual gardens within the Atlanta History Center's Goizueta Gardens. I learned a LOT of fascinating history in the process. This post was about the Frank A. Smith Memorial Rhododendron Garden.

Arabia Mountain - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Arabia Mountain - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

July was my busiest blogging month and the most exercise I've had in years...it felt great to be outside again! 

I started seeking out parks, state parks, and other hiking trails, and I found a lot! Some of them had been on my list for some time (I always have a list!) and others I found in Hiking Atlanta's Hidden Forests by Jonah McDonald.

This particular post was about Arabia Mountain! I climbed to the top and explored the base...for hours. Could have walked/hiked all day!

Swan Woods - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Swan Woods - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Continuing my coverage of the gardens at the Atlanta History Center, I trekked Swan Woods, adjacent to Swan House. My Goizueta Gardens series afforded me a wonderful research opportunity. I did a deep dive and learned more than I expected. For example, I knew that the elephant in this garden was named Ambrose, but wow, what a story behind it! 

A Bamboo Forest on the Chattahoochee - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
A Bamboo Forest on the Chattahoochee - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'd been on the West Palisade Trail the year before and finally made it to the East Palisades Trail. This was a 4-plus mile round trip, but worth every single step! 

The sizable grove of bamboo on this trail, along the Chattahoochee River, is magical! The fallen bamboo leaves are so thick it feels like you're walking on pillows. At the far end of the loop is a highly-perched river overlook. It seems a lot of Atlantans found this trail this summer...I saw a LOT of social media posts about it. I highly recommend this trail to any and all lovers of the outdoors.

Sims Asian Garden - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Sims Asian Garden - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'd visited the Sims Asian Garden at the Atlanta History Center many, many times, but I never knew the history behind the large turtle sculpture. The "Turtle Tent" was mass produced in the 1950s and 1960s, but few have survived into the 21st century. And just wait until you learn how it's connected with Tyler Perry!

Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden at the Atlanta History Center might be one of the least visited (based on personal observation), but one that is highly deserving of experiencing, especially for all of its "hidden" treasures.

Yellow River Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Yellow River Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

By time I discovered and explored Yellow River Park, it was disheartening how COVID-19 had affected the upkeep of our parks and trails — the worst of it being litter being left behind by visitors seeking a respite from isolation. It took me back to the Crying Indian commercial by the Keep America Beautiful campaign of the 1970s. 

Our parks were having a difficult time keeping up with the exponentially increased number of visitors and the same or fewer number of staff. This park's saving grace was their lovely river vistas and friendly Park Forman, Danny. There are miles and miles of trails...exercise galore!

Smith Family Farm - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Smith Family Farm - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I've visited the 1840s Smith Family Farm many, many times, as a tourist and as a special event guest. There's a lot to see here and the farm animals are a special treat, especially the Angora goats!

Panola Mountain State Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Panola Mountain State Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Panola Mountain State Park, with its more than 1,600 acres, majestic trees, and vistas of Stone Mountain, is an exhilarating adventure. Unlike its neighbors, Panola Mountain has never been quarried, so its a pristine example of Georgia nature.

Dogwood Bench by Martin Dawe - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Dogwood Bench by Martin Dawe - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I've done a number of interviews over the years, but this year, with fewer places to visit in-person, gave me the opportunity to conduct more interviews than usual. 

This photo is from my interview with Martin Dawe, whose work is in my book. This one is Dogwood Bench in Piedmont Park, a gift to Atlanta on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Here are the interviews I did this year...

I have some others lined up for early 2021, so stay tuned!

Swan House Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Swan House Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I've heard it said that the 1928 Swan House at the Atlanta History Center is the most photographed home in the city, which is easy to believe given its beauty and grandeur. If that's the case, just imagine how many photographs there are of the Swan House Gardens! They're splendid and even magical! If you saw the elaborate party scene in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you've seen part of the Swan House Gardens.

South Peachtree Creek Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
South Peachtree Creek Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

In my research for hiking and walking trails, I was super excited to find South Peachtree Creek Trail...it's only minutes from my house and I never knew! It's now one of my favorite in the city, but not just because it's convenient, it's also varied and beautiful.

Three Creeks Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Three Creeks Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

A trail within a trail, Three Creeks Trail is an offshoot within South Peachtree Creek Trail. It's also the site of the historic Decatur Waterworks and a favorite spot for graffiti artists. Oh, and yes, there are three creeks on this modest-length trail.

Olguita's Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Olguita's Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The second newest garden at the Atlanta History Center, Olguita's Garden, named for Olguita Gouizeta — the namesake for the collective nine gardens at the Center. The Gouizeta family is among Atlanta's most generous philanthropic families, through The Goizueta Foundation. Olguita's Garden is a formal yet comfortable garden, perfect for a small wedding or other intimate special event.

Thomas Wilson Talbot - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Thomas Wilson Talbot - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

This is one of those hidden-in-plain-sight treasures that you've seen a bazillion times, but never knew what it was. This bronze bust of Thomas Wilson Talbot has been in Grant Park since 1948! Talbot was the founder of what is today the International Association of Machinists (AIM). The bust was placed on the 60th anniversary of AIM, one of the first union organizations formed in the United States and one of the few formed in the South.

111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss, by Travis Swann Taylor
111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss, by Travis Swann Taylor

On Monday, August 10, 2020, my first book — as author and photographer — was officially published. I'm the author of 111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss! Part of a global series, 111 Places Atlanta is written first for locals — so it's places that even locals might not know about — and then for seasoned tourists. It was a lot of work, but oh so much fun! And I'll always treasure the new friendships gained while working on the book.

Here are some of the interviews and articles I'd had the pleasure of being a part of since my book was published...

Veterans Park - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Veterans Park - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The cast eagle in Veterans Park is a gift from Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker, who were also instrumental in supporting the move of the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting from Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center. The round structure behind the eagle bears their names.

Monastery of the Holy Spirit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Monastery of the Holy Spirit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Also on my list for a long time, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is splendid! Although the Abbey Church, welcome center, gift shop, and other buildings are currently closed to the public (due to the pandemic), the expansive grounds are open and all are welcome to explore. My personal favorite spot here is the Magnolia Lane Meditative Walk.

Atlanta History Center's Entrance Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Atlanta History Center's Entrance Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I completed my 9-part series of the Atlanta History Center's Goizueta Gardens with its newest garden, their Entrance Gardens. The gem of this garden is a 60-foot-long "Tree Table". It was made from a white oak tree, which sprouted around 1880 — when Atlanta was barely more than 30 years old — but had to be taken down because of a decline in health. It's a beautiful example of thoughtful, meaningful repurposing. It's a piece of art!

East Point Historical Society Museum - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
East Point Historical Society Museum - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

One of my few indoor museum visits this year was my first time to the East Point Historical Society Museum. When I went, I was the only visitor there so certainly a safe visit. This museum is fascinating! I especially enjoyed learning about East Point because I lived there for a year in the early 1990s. There's also a locomotive on the property. Go visit!

Jimmy Carter Statue - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Jimmy Carter Statue - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The only U.S. president from the State of Georgia, Jimmy Carter is immortalized in bronze on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. The rendering is quite remarkable and designed with purpose. Enjoy the read about the Jimmy Carter Statue.

Neil Armstrong Spacesuit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Neil Armstrong Spacesuit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'm a total space geek and even worked in aerospace for a number of years. When I made this photo of Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit at Fernbank Science Center, I didn't realize the significance of it. Turns out, it's one of only a few in the world. It's an exact replica of the suit that Neil Armstrong was wearing when he became the first human to step onto the Moon.

Louis Armstrong - The Breman Museum - Photo: Herb Snitzer
Louis Armstrong - The Breman Museum - Photo: Herb Snitzer

Virtual programming was the order of the day in 2020 and The Breman Museum doesn't disappoint. On the contrary, their current special exhibition, "A Jazz Memoir", is one of if not the best virtual art exhibitions I've seen. Extended through Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the exhibition features Herb Snitzer’s photography documenting America’s jazz scene. I'm grateful to The Breman for allowing wanderlust ATLANTA to see this phenomenal exhibition in-person.

Miller Union Takeout - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Miller Union Takeout - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Takeout was also a reality in 2020, and what I've had has been delicious, especially when I and a few friends enjoyed a socially distanced, outdoor Miller Union takeout dinner! This photo isn't their typical presentation — I composed it with the ingredients they'd packed up. It was the best chocolate tart I've had in years! Can hardly wait to go to the restaurant in-person again.

The Phoenix in Woodruff Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
The Phoenix in Woodruff Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

2020 had us see our Olympic Cauldron lit for the first time since 1996 during the 2020 Olympic Running Trials. We saw the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds perform a flyover of Atlanta, a salute to first responders. And it showed us a way of life that we'd not seen since the 1918 pandemic, resulting in countless random acts of kindness.

I leave you with a photograph I recently made of The Phoenix in Woodruff Park. The phoenix is the unofficial symbol of Atlanta and the statue's actual name is Atlanta from the Ashes. I'm feeling hopeful, even excited that we/Atlanta will rise from the ashes of 2020 and make 2021 one of the best years ever. Happy New Year!