Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blogger Brunch at The Cook's Warehouse

I've been cooking since I could reach the stove, so I naturally have a special love for kitchen and culinary stores. I used to get in trouble for using so many groceries in failed cooking "experiments". I've learned a lot since then and, to my delight, culinary technology has advanced quite considerably. And I'm happy to share that my cooking these days is more expertise and less experiment, although I still find myself often trying something new.

Having never taken a cooking class, outside of a Home Economics class in school approximately a bazillion years ago, I learned most of what I know of cooking by watching my mother and grandmother cook...some of those memories go back to before grade school. I don't remember a lot of my childhood, so that tells you a little bit of how special those particular memories are to me.


Mary Moore & Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse
Mary Moore & Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse

Since I've been back in Atlanta, I've had the awesome pleasure of meeting quite a few of our celebrity chefs and culinary celebrities, including the  Mary Moore,Founder and CEO of The Cook's Warehouse, Atlanta's premier gourmet store and cooking school. Mary recently invited me to a Bloggers-Only Champagne BrunchLet it be known that Mary knows how to throw a party!

In the photo above, that's Mary on the left with Chef Jennifer Hill-Booker, who was there to not only prepare brunch for us, she made the whole experience a cooking demonstration! Many of the dishes we enjoyed were from her cookbook, "Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent."


Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

Before I go much further, I wanted to let you know why I'm blogging about a gourmet store and cooking school, not an obvious tourist destination, but I think it should be!

As much as I'm a lover of all things tourism, I'm also a foodie--no surprise to those who know me or to those who have read wanderlust ATLANTA for a while. To tie the two together, I want to offer The Cook's Warehouse as not only a destination, but also as a magnificent source for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home, wherever that might be.

I'ts definitely a destination when it comes to treating yourself or gift-giving for ANY friend or loved one...their selection is brilliant!

When I travel, "the" souvenir I get for myself is a book about the city I'm visiting. They not only make for an awesome collection, they allow me to revisit that city any time I want. Some in that collection are also cookbooks, which makes for a whole other way of reminiscing a vacation. I love that The Cook's Warehouse stocks so many cookbooks written by local chefs, and we have some awesome chefs in Atlanta! 


Black-Eye Pea Hummus | The Cook's Warehouse
Black-Eyed Pea Hummus | The Cook's Warehouse

One of the dishes we enjoyed early on was Chef Jennifer's Black-Eyed Pea Hummus. Having lived in the Mediterranean for more than two years, I have a special relationship with hummus. I'm not a hummus snob mind you, but when you've had the real thing, it's ridiculous to eat something sub-par. There was nothing to fret on this occasion...Jennifer's hummus is magnificent!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our other hosts, David Dunford, Corporate Sales and Events Manager at The Cook’s Warehouse, and Jim Brams, Public Relations for The Cook's Warehouse. Both were and have been awesome to work with...thanks, guys!


Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

I love spicy olives! But the best thing on this hors d'ouevres plate—we made our own plates from dishes Chef Jennifer had prepared earlier—was her homemade pimento cheese! That's another dish that can be worst-in-the-world -or- make you want to grab the bowl and leave the other guests to fend for themselves. I was of course in polite company, so the bowl snagging wasn't an option, but based on comments I heard from other bloggers, I wasn't the only one who entertained the notion.

Part of the program was a presentation of new or popular in-store products, quite a few of which caught my attention. I've never mastered the art of grilling, but a Big Green Egg might encourage some experimentation—or I could take a class! They also showed us a bowl-at-a-time ice cream maker—love that one! While I've never met a cool kitchen gadget that I didn't like, I'm particularly fond of a good cast iron skillet, thanks to all the amazing dishes my mother created with hers, which belonged to her father.

One of the features that make The Cook's Warehouse such a popular destination is its cooking classes. And there are a LOT to choose from. I seem to remember that the knife skills class is the most popular. A quick scan of their class listing reveals that some sell out, so plan ahead. Then again, there are so many to choose from you're sure to find one you'll enjoy, even when planning last-minute.  


Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

This salad (above), as simple a salad as it may appear to be, is one of the absolute best that I've had in...I don't know how long it's been! I love arugula and oranges, but the vinaigrette Chef Jennifer made in real-time was perfection. In case you're wondering, I do believe it was this early in the meal that I knew without a doubt that I'd be buying her cookbook that day. She autographed it and included a lovely inscription. Thank you, Chef!

Chef Jennifer's "Orange & Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette" is truly brilliant! I want more! More, more, more! I could eat that dish every day.


Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

I love eggs. Always have. So I've had a lot of them in my lifetime. One of the greatest, and fun, challenges with liking a food so much is coming up with new ways to enjoy it. I can honestly say that I've never had my eggs quite like this...Chef Jennifer's Spring Omelet Roll. And again...delicious! This was also a recipe from Field Peas to Foie Gras.


Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse


In Chef Jennifer's cookbook she says that Blackberry Cobbler (recipe in the book) is her favorite, even though when she was in Paris, she mostly made cobblers with strawberries or raspberries, which were more readily available. I've shared before that my personal favorite dessert was my mother's Blackberry Dumplings—I could eat my weight in that dish!

I hope to soon be recreating that recipe with my mother (that's going to be a special day), but in the meantime, I'm going to give Chef Jennifer's Blackberry Cobbler a try...I know it'll be amazing! There's also a recipe for Coconut Cake, which was my grandmother's favorite, so I'll be trying that one as well.

There was a LOT packed into this two-hour event, and "delicious" doesn't even begin to describe the food and drink and camaraderie with fellow bloggers and the presentation of what's newly available at The Cook's Warehouse. This was our menu for the brunch:
  • Black-Eyed Pea Hummus
  • Black Pepper Biscuits with Pimento Cheese
  • Roasted Olives with Preserved Lemons
  • Spring Omelet Roll
  • Orange & Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
  • Roasted Gazpacho Soup
  • Chocolate Brownies with Georgia Pecans
And our bubbles were Private Label Guyot Choppin Brut from Sherlock's Wine Merchant...quite delightful!

Cookbook Author Signing Events | The Cook's Warehouse
Cookbook Author Signing Events | The Cook's Warehouse

The Cook's Warehouse is one of the most incredible gourmet shops I've ever been to, and I've been a customer of their Midtown/Ansley Square location for years! I've yet to attend a cooking class, but understand that their Knife Skills class is the most popular. 

When it come to gift-giving, when the recipient, I'm all about Star Trek and/or kitchen gadgets, or kitchen counter appliances...I'm not that picky, but a top-grade mixer would be awesome! Especially in laser red. Actually, my friend Mike, who has an awesome singing voice, has ALWAYS gotten the Star Trek gifts exactly right. He knows I'm a foodie, but indulges the Trekkie in me.

One thing about The Cook's Warehouse...allot yourself ample time to browse. They have an incredible amount of inventory! And whoever is doing the purchasing for the stores (there are several locations around town), they're sourcing only top quality, cooking gear that you'll actually use. 

If I recall correctly, Mary started the store after going to numerous stores to find a particular item, but couldn't find it...and it wasn't that rare a cooking item. I seriously doubt that's going to happen to you at The Cook's Warehouse...they have everything!   


Travis with Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse
Travis with Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse

I first met Chef Jennifer at the event when she was inducted as a Georgia Grown Executive Chef. Georgia Grown is a program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Grown Executive Chefs are ambassadors for buying and using Georgia-grown and Georgia-made products. I personally have great admiration for the program.

Chef Jennifer is also a relatively new member of Les Dames d'Escoffier International - Atlanta Chapter (LDEI), an invitation-only nonprofit organization of professional women in the hospitality and culinary arts. They're also very active in philanthropy.

I knew that Mary Moore was also a member, but it wasn't until this brunch that I learned that Mary was Chef Jennifer's sponsor—the member who nominated Chef Jennifer for membership. It's a small world we live in!

I'm a HUGE fan of LDEI, and will be writing more about the wonderful work they're doing and the opportunities they afford Atlanta tourists, visiting and local.

Chef Hugh Acheson, Book Signing Event | The Cook's Warehouse
Chef Hugh Acheson, Book Signing Event | The Cook's Warehouse

Chef Hugh Acheson, you know him if you're an Atlanta local and you know him if you'rea fan of Top Chef, was at The Cook's Warehouse for a book-signing event (The Broad Fork) immediately after the Bloggers-Only Brunch. He graciously let me make a photo. "Thank you, Chef Hugh!"

You can have your own photo of Chef Acheson by picking up one of his cookbooks and/or getting a free copy of the official Georgia Travel Guide for 2015—he's on the cover! You can also view the Guide online. It's an excellent resource for planning vacations and finding things-to-do in Atlanta and throughout Georgia!

Speaking of vacations and sightseeing, I wanted to remind everyone that foods, cookbooks and and kitchen gadgets make great souvenirs, for yourself or friends and family back home. So, skip the cheesy shot glass and t-shirt that they'll never wear, and get them something that they can cook from or cook with for a lifetime or savor for a special occasion.

The Cook's Warehouse is certainly a perfect stop for such a thoughtful and fun souvenir. I'll be talking more about The Cook's Warehouse in a future post when I'll be sharing ideas for an Atlanta Culinary Vacation!

In the meantime, you can sign-up for their newsletter at their website (lower left corner).

Thank you again, Mary Moore! I've long been a fan of The Cook's Warehouse and am so glad to get to know your store better. See you around town!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!

In 1984, on everyone's lips was, "Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!" It was the same last night.

Part of this year's Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theatre, I just saw Ghostbusters! Awesome, awesome time! Even as I was walking up to the Fox, I heard from across the street, "Travis!" I turned around and from her car my friend Jan yells, "Who ya gonna call?!" I already knew it was going to be a fun night, but that totally set the tone for a definite fun night!

Ghostbusters at the Fox Theatre | Georgia Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters at the Fox Theatre | Georgia Ghostbusters

Adding to the festivity, there were quite a few members of Georgia Ghostbusters in attendance...in costume! It totally made the whole experience all the more exciting. They graciously posed for photos for me and my friend Perry, and immediately we checked-in at the Fox on Facebook (of course we did). I'm totally looking forward to seeing Georgia Ghostbusters again at Dragon Con!

As you can see, I wore my slime green shirt for the occasion! I only told a few people that it was pure happenstance, due to the fact that my pressed shirts were at the cleaners and I didn't want to iron that morning. Thank you, my friend, Serendipity!  



One of the things that I love most about seeing a classic film with a large crowd is the mutual understanding—and the collective laughter—of punch lines, oftentimes with a more grown-up understanding making them even funnier than they ever were before...particularly the jokes about politicians, which are timeless. Sorry to my friends who are elected officials, but even you get it.

The Fox has such great fun with their film series. Coming up soon they'll be screening "Braveheart", starring Mel Gibson. Although perhaps best-known for Mad Max, one of the first films I saw Mel Gibson in was the 1979 "Tim", which of course I saw many years later, because I'm so young. He won an Australian "Best Actor" award for it, which as I recall was very deserving.

For Braveheart, the Fox is hosting a costume contest AND they've partnered with local brewery Monday Night Brewing (one of my personal favorites) for a tasting event, featuring their Drafty Kilt brew. 

Being a Star Trek fan, my personal MNB favorite (based on name alone) is Nerd Alert...just sayin'. I've met a number of the staff, and at least one owner, at Monday Night...they're AWESOME! I highly recommend their Tour & Tasting events, and if you're visiting Atlanta, they're a very short ride from downtown.




Before the movie started, they held the customary pre-show program, which includes a sing-a-long. One of this particular evening's selections was "Peachtree Street" by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. She was a rather famous singer and actress, and you may have seen her nephew in a movie or two—George Clooney

The organist in residence at the Fox, Larry-Douglas Embury, added a line to the end of the song that speaks to seeing a show at the Fox. The audience loved it!

"Strollin' along Peachtree Street, I'm as happy as can be..."

Speaking of strollin' on Peachtree Street, honoring my typical pre-Fox-show tradition, I visited Livingston Restaurant+Bar for a pre-show libation and dinner, and my friend Perry met me there (we've not attended a Fox show together since The Lion King!). 

I enjoyed one of my favorite dishes there, the Seasonal Roasted Beets, which is AMAZING! A visitor from London sitting a couple of seats over asked about the dish. I described it and he ordered it as well. For my main course, I enjoyed another favorite, their Shrimp & Grits—so incredibly good! 

That was the first time I've had their Shrimp & Grits since my excursion with Peachtree Food Tours...and it was even more delicious than I remembered! I meant to take photos of dinner, but was too distracted by the anticipation of jubilee my belly was about to experience.


The Fox Theatre, Atlanta
The Fox Theatre, Atlanta

Did you know they're making a new Ghostbusters, with women Ghostbusters? I'm so excited and the cast is looking awesome! So far they've cast Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth! It's slated to premiere in July 2016.

Ghostbusters was the first movie in this year's Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival I've seen, which is unfortunately almost finished. There were quite a few others I'd wanted to see (and a couple more that I want to see), but I just got busy. 

I need to make more time for fun.

Speaking of more fun, there are still a few movie events remaining in this year's Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Check them out here and then go make some memories at the Fox Theatre!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Paradise Garden is a Folk Art Paradise

Many have seen Howard Finster's art at the High Museum of Art or the World of Coca-Cola or any number of other venues, but until you experience Howard Finster's Paradise Garden in Summerville, Georgia, I don't think you've truly experienced Howard Finster. At least I hadn't.


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden | Travis & Summer Loftin

I and my best friend Barry were guests of my beautiful friend and brilliant interior designer Summer Loftin, whom I first met in 2011 and interviewed in 2013. The sponsor of our Atlanta Bus Tour group was Jim Thompson of the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. "Thank you", Summer and Jim! What a wonderful day of making incredible memories.

The day—and it was a full day—was magnificent! Here's a quick rundown of the day's events and then I'll share more about the Paradise Garden experience.

We arrived at ADAC and were greeted with leis made of Jim Thompson fabrics, which we immediately donned and then joined our new found friends in a champagne toast to our sponsor and host, and to what we already knew would be a fantastic day!

We enjoyed a Victory Sandwich Bar lunch on the bus on the way up to Summerville (the onboard activities were so well planned that the drive went very quickly).

We arrived at Howard Finster's Paradise Garden, where we spent a few hours (I'm totally going back to explore more!) and just before left, we installed the projected we'd worked on on the way up.

We then rode to Finster Fest! The festival has grown so much since its inception in 1992 that it's now held in Dowdy Park. In previous years it was held in Paradise Garden. Finster Fest, which was great fun, is an art and music festival—a fundraiser for Howard Finster's Paradise Garden.

From Dowdy Park we walked to the Couey House, built in the early 1840s, where there were a number of fantastic music groups performing. We sat in the shade with Summer and others from our group and relaxed and listened for a while.

Now evening time, we went over to the nearby Summerville Depot, built in 1889 and now fully restored, where there was yet another music concert—"Tunes on the Tracks"...and Barry and I ate our BBQ on railroad tracks! That was awesome. 


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden | Prayer Flags on the Folk Art Church
One of the things that we did on the way to Finster Fest and Paradise Garden was to make prayer flags, something I can honestly say I never thought I would do. What an amazing opportunity to honor departed loved ones and recall beautiful memories while doing so. 

Our group made hundreds of them, which were installed on the World's Folk Art Church at Paradise Garden while we were there. 

I made flags in memory of my grandmother, Evelyn Dockery (my mother's mother); my recently departed Great Aunt Kathy Burrell (my grandmother's sister and an award-winning poet); and one for one of my best friends who passed away in 1993, Todd Cleveland. Thank you, Summer and Jim, for the opportunity to memorialize family and friends I love. 


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

Finster's famous Cadillac, which I've shown only the front of in the above photo, features drawings of a number of well-known stars, so even as a Baptist minister, Howard was versed in pop culture. 


Why did Howard Finster build Paradise Garden? It was started in 1970 and originally called Plant Farm Museum. Here's what Howard himself said about the reason he did it:
"I built the park because I was commissioned by God. I started the Garden in 1970 about one hundred feet into the backyard, built a cement walk and put up a haul shed and started to display the inventions of mankind. My park is a memorial to inventors. The inventors don’t get recognition. They don’t have an Inventor’s Day. To represent them, I’m trying to collect at least one of every invention in the world."
As it turns out, roadside museums were an influential part of Howard's childhood. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, so they were a favorite distraction for me as well. They might even have influenced my own love for tourism. I wouldn't be surprised to make that connection, however I've never had a desire to create an attraction such as Howard's. Although this blog has become a collection of experiences, a collection I treasure.


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

You can imagine how excited I was to discover that Howard had incorporated the Millennium Falcon, from Star Wars, into one of his works, right along with a "KEEP ON TRUCKIN" belt buckle from the same decade we first met Han Solo.

When you visit, I think you're going to make many, many memory-eliciting discoveries. I can't imagine there's anyone who can't find something that is personal to them, whether it evokes a memory of childhood, life experiences, faith, or even seeing a painted face that resembles your Aunt Mildred.


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

Speaking of Aunt Mildred, I do have one, but, I didn't see her likeness in any of Howard's paintings. But his people paintings are certainly distinct. Once you've explored his work, you'll recognize it anywhere. In his lifetime—starting at the age of 59—he created nearly 47,000 works of art, so it's quite possible that you've already seen some of it. 

Howard was one of 13 children, as was my Aunt Mildred (on my biological father's side) and my own mother was one of 13 children that my grandmother raised. That's a LOT of kids. I sometimes still don't know how mother raised a grand total of three children!


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

My first glimpse into the Mirror House, seeing all the green and gold, immediately evoked memories of The Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery of Art, a magnificent Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. The Mirror House is considerably smaller and it's folk art, not the majesty that the Freer offers, but it's still mesmerizing. 

If you've ever seen "fun" mirrors at the county fair—the ones that make you skinny, fat, big headed, etc.—you know that they really are fun. They do not, however, prepare you for the experience of the Mirror House at Paradise Garden. I'm not sure what its intention was, except maybe to let you see things in a different way...it's spectacularly dazzling. 

Warning, LADIES in dresses: The mirrors reflect to/from every direction!


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

The Giant's Shoe is a visitor favorite. It's in nearly all the reviews of Paradise Garden that I've read and even when I was there, it was a popular photo-op locale. 

When we first arrived, I didn't know just how large Paradise Garden really is. I had assumed it didn't go beyond the Folk Art Church, but I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover that it goes on and on and on. I actually panicked a little when it started dawning on me how much there was to see and we only had a few hours to see it. This can totally be an all-day excursion, and a great place to bring a picnic!


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

One of the surprises that I found shocking, remarkable and delightful was the discovery of so many cultures being represented in Howard's art. Having had certain conversations with Baptist ministers when I was a kid, this was the last thing I expected to see (the shock), but it gave me hope (the remarkable). It was indeed a true delight to see that perhaps Howard truly was inspired by ALL of the world.

I even saw dinosaurs, spaceships, Elvis and Santa Claus! What Finster did with other people's junk and trash is beyond astounding...and curiously mesmerizing. (There's that word again..."mesmerizing"...because it truly is!)


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

The story is that this (photo above) is Howard Finster's casket. A local funeral home had asked him what they could do for him and his clever answer was to give him his casket. Howard, being the man he is, invited people to write a note on a 2" x 2" piece of paper, sign the other side, and he would put all of those in the casket with his cremated remains (his reasoning for cremation are quite profound. I encourage you to look it up.).

Unfortunately, his wish for his corporeal remains were not honored—having wanted to be cremated. Instead, he was buried in a nearby graveyard, later exhumed and moved to Alabama, where he was born. What a shame what he wanted for his remains wasn't respected.

That's not the only nod to earthly remains you'll see at Paradise Garden. There's a crypt that Howard himself made that supposedly has the remains of an "unknown body" of Chattooga County, which is the county you're in when visiting Paradise Garden.

The experience can't compare, but having visited the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" in Arlington, Virginia, Athens, Greece, and Moscow, Russia, this wasn't a new experience for me, but a rather unexpected one. But you'll get a lot of the unexpected in Paradise Garden, of the pleasant sort.  


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

I'm a major proponent for recycling, but perhaps Howard was one of the greatest recycling and repurposing masters of our time: 

"I TOOK THE PIECES, YOU
THREW AWAY AND PUT THEM
TOGATHER BY NIGHT AND DAY,
WASHED BY RAIN, DRIED BY SUN,
A MILLION PIECES ALL IN ONE."
There was also live music when we were there! A younger man and woman were playing for visitors. He was playing guitar and drinking from a mason jar and she was playing violin and had silver toenails. They were quite charming...I wish I knew if they have a CD or play for a band. They were fantastic and I enjoyed listening to them.

The restoration and preservation efforts of the Paradise Garden Foundation is in its infancy, but you can already tell that there are many great things in store for the increasingly popular Georgia tourist destination.


Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster's Paradise Garden

Paradise Garden is a place to relax, reflect and explore...lots of exploring! It's also a place of fun. That's Andrea and Teresa who we had the pleasure of chatting with later at the train depot just before the Tunes on the Tracks concert.

This post may sound like a lot, but it's a mere fraction of what we did on our excursion to Paradise Garden. I think you'll enjoy the experience when you go.

Howard was an interesting man, to say the least. Some might say he was a "divinely inspired artist and devoted man of God". Howard called himself "Man of Visions", and I'll leave that research to you. Personally, I have enjoyed his artistic legacy and find myself lost in the awe of it all. I can hardly wait to get back to Paradise Garden to continue the exploration!

If Howard Finster's message and Paradise Garden resonate with you, the Paradise Garden Foundation will, with great appreciation, accept your help in their multi-year plan to renovate, preserve and restore Paradise Garden, be it a contribution, becoming a volunteer, buying a membership, shopping in the online store, or the best...visit Paradise Garden and tell all you friends how awesome it is!

I'd like to again thank Summer Loftin for being such an awesome host (and friend) and Jim Thompson for his sponsorship of our day. I can hardly wait to go back to Howard Finster's Paradise Garden and spend a whole day exploring!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Big Zombie Tour 2: Locked Up With Daryl

I got locked up with Daryl Dixon. Let the jealousy commence.

Atlanta Movie Tours' "Big Zombie Tour 2" is overwhelmingly fun! And whether you think Daryl is sexy hot or just a total badass—and let's be honest, he's both—you're in for treat after treat after treat on this tour.


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

Big Zombie Tour - Part 2 begins in Woodbury—Senoia, Georgia—but goes to several of the other nearby towns where The Walking Dead has filmed. I'm blown away at how they condense so much excitement into a mere few hours...we saw a LOT! We even drove by the "Pudding House", which I was really hoping we'd do. No rooftop excursions, but I left with a craving for chocolate pudding. Thanks, Carl!  

Our tour guide was Michelle and this was my first time on her tour. I've been on tours with Sally, Kathryn, and Charlie over the last couple of years, so this was a new experience. She totally nailed it, of course. Atlanta Movie Tours knows how to select fantastic tour guides! And they all work in the industry...cinema and/or television, that is.


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

This was my second Big Zombie Tour of the day. If you've not read about my Big Zombie Tour - Part 1 yet, you can read it here. Earlier in the day I'd been on Part 1, my second time doing that tour, but this was my first Big Zombie Tour - Part 2 experience and my first time to Senoia.

Doing both tours in a single day made for a long day, but it's one of those times that you're having so much fun, you don't realize just how quickly the hours are passing. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

Senoia, also known as Woodbury (photo) in The Walking Dead, is a cozy, comfortable little town with more to see and do than you might think.This quaint, quite town has been in dozens of movies and it's near some other awesome Georgia attractions, such as Callaway Gardens

On this particular tour, there were five of us from Part 1 who rode the bus to Senoia, but if you're not doing both tours on the same day, I'd recommend driving down earlier and making a day of exploring Senoia before your Part 2 tour. Ask for dining recommendations when you get there.

Big Zombie Tour - Part 2 launches from Woodbury Shoppe, which has a The Walking Dead museum downstairs. That's where I got locked up with Daryl. It's a modest size gallery, but all the artifacts were used in the series, which knocks the awesome-factor higher than you can blow the CDC! (Don't get offended...it's a reference to an early TWD season.)

There are a number of other shops also on the lower level, including a brilliant coffee shop called "The Waking Dead Cafe" that features your typical coffees (regular, latte, cappuccino, etc.), but with super-fun undead names. I'm told that they're working on a website, so I'll come back and hyperlink to it when I learn it's live, here's the link to their Facebook page in the meantime. The staff is super friendly and they were playing Star Trek on their TV, so you can imagine I was so at home...zombie AND Spock! 

I didn't have a coffee—I was already so wired from all the adrenaline from the day's zombie tours—but, was thrilled to see that they carry King of Pops...so I had pop!


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

Michonne is a badass, totally awesome and one of my favorite characters from The Walking Dead...and someone I'd very much like to keep on my good side. To visit the site where she—yet once again—proved her badass-ness was fantastic!

Now, let me ask...what's scarier than zombies coming at you when you're tied up and imminently dinner for the undead? You'll find out on the tour, and no, it's not the blood stain on #14. 


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2, Zombie Arena
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2 | Zombie Arena

You know...it's pretty awesome to be in the Zombie Arena without being forced to compete or actually being on the menu. 

I think one of the things that I enjoy most about The Walking Dead has been to watch the characters change, grow and develop as human beings. No one can know the person they would become in the face of a zombie apocalypse. If I had to choose who I would want most to be like, it'd probably be Daryl, except for the rodent-eating parts (blech).

But the character I think I'd be most like, thinking realistically, is Andrea. She gets a bad rap for making some really bad decisions, but she goes through so much...desperation, heartbreak, helplessness, but she eventually becomes another badass on the show. She's remarkable! They all are! Except for Merle...he was just bad. Great actor, but an angry and despicably mean character.


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2 | Zombie Arena

I absolutely love what Atlanta Movie Tours offers tourists, visiting and local. The opportunity to experience filming locales, to walk in celebrities' footsteps, to see in-person what you've thoroughly enjoyed on the big screen or in the comfort of your own home...being "there" is truly fantastic!

I'm fascinated by the profession of location scout. When I lived in DC, working in the Communications Department for an aerospace company, I was contacted and met with a location scout looking to film a movie about everyday items that "transform" into other things. I worked in a 1,000,000 square feet award-winning building—loved that building—and even though we weren't a match for that film, it was uber cool to be approached and to tour the scout around the building. That building had been the site for other movies, but that's another story for another time.


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

It was totally awesome to visit Morgan's apartment (above). And not far from there are the sites of the pharmacy Glenn would "shop" to and the bar where Hershel went when he was on the verge. It's amazing how emotionally involved we get with characters on a television show or in a book. I'm guilty, and happy to say so.

I remember when I was a kid and hearing my mother  talk about soap opera characters with her friends. It took me a while to discern if she was talking about someone she knew or about a television show. I totally get it now! 

I think the strongest bond I've had with a television character, that I've not met, was Captain Kathryn Janeway (portrayed brilliantly by Kate Mulgrew). As I sat watching the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager, not surprisingly I found myself crying...happy that they did such a remarkable job on the last show of  the seven-year run, and because I was going to miss Janeway so much. Thank goodness for DVDs!

I can't imagine the emotional toll the series finale of The Walking Dead will cause, around the globe! Fortunately, it doesn't look like we have to worry about that for quite some time.


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

I used to be shy at parties. Not so much anymore. Isn't it a drag when you meet someone at a party who's just not a great conversationalist? That's a major problem with party zombies, with their limited vocabulary and their being hungry all the time. Just sayin'.

They're great, though, when you want to be the better looking man in a room. This guy (photo) still has better bone structure, damn it...but at least I have a nose!

I want to say "Thank you" to Cindy, our tour expediter, who made the above photo. We connected on Facebook after my first Atlanta Movie Tours tour early last year, but this was the first time we really got to talk. She's a lot of fun and such a gracious tour guide...and she makes great photos!


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

You know that question, "Who would you like to have dinner with, living or dead?" Well, assuming you don't want to be a zombie's dinner, "Who would you rather have a drink with, Rick or the Governor?"

This was an awesome stop on the tour...the meeting place where "terms" for peace were to be discussed, but things don't always go the way we expect, right? Unless you're watching a series about the undead, and then you can pretty much expect that there's not a fairy-tale ending. Funny how this show keeps you coming back for more, and more, and more...


Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2
Atlanta Movie Tours | Big Zombie Tour - Part 2

I've only shared a few of the awesome sites you'll see on Big Zombie Tour 2. And remember, on each tour they'll have trivia with prizes, a game of "Who Said...?", video clips of The Walking Dead scenes of sites you're seeing in real-time...and so much more, including a digital souvenir group photo! And remember to bring your camera (with extra batteries and memory card).  

Woodbury Shoppe stays open for about 30 minutes after the Atlanta Movie Tours group returns, which so many of us appreciated! I was super excited to see that they carry both of Greg Stones' zombie books! You may recall that he gave me an interview a couple of years ago. Greg is a super nice guy...his books and humor make me laugh unlike anything else on the planet!

Quick! Get your tickets to Atlanta Movie Tours' "Big Zombie Tour 2"...BEFORE the zombie apocalypse! You never know what might happen...you might see or meet a cast member, you might see a zombie, if you're lucky you might even get locked up with Daryl. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zombies, Awesome Zombies!

I've now been on four of the five tours offered by Atlanta Movie Tours and recently went on both of their Big Zombie Tours...on the same day! There's a LOT going on in the Zombie Apocalypse, too much to cover in a single post, so this post will focus on Big Zombie Tour - Part 1, which I've now been on twice!

Based on the country's most popular television series, EVER, both Big Zombie Tours focuses primarily on The Walking Dead, but you'll find yourself quite fascinated with other movie trivia—sites included—throughout the tour.


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

One of the perks of your tour with Atlanta Movie Tours is an awesome souvenir photo(s) with your fellow tourees at a site specific to the tour you're on. I love this one at Jackson Street Bridge, the iconic scene where Rick enters Atlanta on horseback in Season 1, Episode 1. 


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

The Atlanta Movie Tours brick-and-mortar shop, the originating locale for Big Zombie Tour - Part 1, is in Castleberry Hill, a downtown-adjacent neighborhood that has seen spectacular growth over the years, while keeping a neighborly feel. I've attended a couple of Castleberry Hill events, so I know from personal experience.

The shop is right across the street from many, many The Walking Dead filming sites, including the rooftop where Merle was chained in-wait of zombies. You may have heard about Captain America: Civil War also filming here recently. Lots and lots of movies are made here! 


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

There are so many scenes in movies that one never wonders about, because they're everyday places that could have been filmed anywhere. One of the awesome things about The Walking Dead is that so much of it has been filmed right here in Atlanta, and the surrounding area. 

The scene above was at the department store in Season 1, Episode 2—"Guts". I didn't crack the window...zombies did it.

By the way, do you know what word in zombie nomenclature that The Walking Dead zombies are never called? Don't worry if you don't know...I was totally oblivious! You're going to learn so much!


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

This site (above photo) is the alley, in downtown Atlanta, where Glenn rescues Rick after being caught in a tank with a zombie at the adjacent intersection. 

That zombie was portrayed by Sam Witwer, aka Crashdown of Battlestar Galactica, who I had the great pleasure of meeting at Dragon Con last year—and have a personalized autographed head shot to remember how awesome he is. I was blown away to learn how impressive his resume is!

You'll hear more about that tank when I write about Big Zombie Tour - Part 2. 

Zombieland fans...Rule #2 was filmed near here!



Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

That's our tour guide Charlie and one-half of a British couple also taking the tour. I asked for this photo because the "hospital" behind them is where Rick woke up in Season 1, Episode 1 to discover zombies—first in the form of "corpsified" fingers trying to get through chained doors. 

It turns out that Charlie's fingers were in the running for inclusion in that scene...he could have been on that t-shirt! If you're a fan, you'll know the words inscribed on the double-door scene..."Don't Open, Dead Inside", or "Don't Dead, Open Inside", depending on how you read it. 

I got to chat more with that British couple later in the day (so sorry I didn't get their names!) and a couple of ladies from St. Louis. I love that about tourism...you never know who you're going to meet or from where they might hail. Having traveled to many places around the world (London one day soon, I hope), I'm fascinated with global cultures. Always have been.


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

Terminus is where we meet Gareth (in the TV series) and also where we learn just what a badass Carol truly is. We couldn't get too close to Terminus, but got the total impact of what a great filming site this was. 

It's one of the stops where we got off the bus and had time to make as many photos as we wanted...and you can ask your tour guide questions any time during the tour—except for what the answer is to an in-play trivia question, of course.


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

This is another filming site that happens to be right around the corner from my office. That's the case with a lot of Atlanta filming...you don't know how close you are! 

This is the King County Sheriff's Office where Rick and Shane worked. Just goes to show, you never know how close a zombie might be!

I mentioned trivia. During the three-hour tour (now the theme song to Gilligan's Island is playing in your head, isn't it?), your tour guide, with the assistance of the tour expediter, will conduct a trivia game—with prizes! Listen closely...they just might give you some of the answers during the tour. Just sayin'.


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

That's our tour guide Charlie at another scene that I didn't specifically remember from the show, until they showed us clips from those particular scenes on the on-board video screens. That's right...these tours are so awesome that you don't have try to recall something you saw years ago (or last week) because they're reminding you with scenes on video from the episode being discussed. 

This is also the site of another well-known Atlanta-filmed movie that also happens to be the basis of an Atlanta Movie Tours tour...their Victory Tour. You find yourself walking in the footsteps of Rick AND Katniss


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

This was the second Atlanta Movie Tours tour that I've been on twice. On this particular tour there was another British couple (there were two British couples, traveling separately) that had been on this same tour two years before, so they could probably attest to what I'm about to share...Every tour is different. And that's a good thing.


I learned things on this tour that I didn't on the first, but on the first we did go to the CDC, which of course has a fate that might not surprise you. But in case you haven't seen that Season 1 episode yet, I'll not spoil it with details. 

Speaking of the CDC and zombies, the CDC published some years ago a Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse story that blast the website's hits far beyond what they could have possibly imagined, and conveyed important emergency preparedness information at the same time. I'm grateful as a citizen that they did this.

The other Atlanta Movie Tours tour that I've been on twice is Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Tour. I've only seen the movie—the book is at the top of my reading list—and completely and totally enjoyed the tour, the second time as much as the first!


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

Speaking of things changing between tours, we visited this site on both tours, but the "A" rail car, where some of our cast spends a little time, wasn't there on one of the tours—perhaps it'd been moved temporarily, I'm not sure. It was super cool to see, and what an iconic TWD image!

PSA: Bring your camera! Bring a backup battery and an extra memory card. You're going to want to make a LOT of photos.

There's so much I want to share about this AMAZING tour, but I have to save some (a lot) of it for your in-person tour...but, if you're lucky, you'll get to see "Carl Poppa". That's all I'll say about that.


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

The photo above has so many movie moments in it. It's of course the iconic shot of when Rick was riding, horseback, into Atlanta in the first episode of The Walking Dead

The "stepping stone" building on the left is the Georgia-Pacific Tower, which stands where the Loew's Grand Theatre once stood—where Gone With the Wind premiered.

The highly reflective building immediately to the right of that one is the building that Rick saw the helicopter reflection in, in season 1. In real-life, it's named Centennial Tower—an impressive structure to be a 1970s building!

The cylindrical high-rise toward the center is where an iconic scene in Sharky's Machine took place, although the actual stunt crashed through a window of a neighboring cylindrical building, a record-breaking stunt at the time.

The filming sites of Atlanta-made movies goes on and on and on...many of which you can see on an Atlanta Movie Tours tour!


Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours, Travis S. Taylor
Big Zombie Tour - Part I, Atlanta Movie Tours

Our awesome tour expediter, Megan, made this photo (above) for me. I met Megan on one of my first Atlanta Movie Tours tours and we immediately bonded...she's quite, but amazing. Thank you, Megan!

Atlanta Movie Tours has been fantastic to me. They not only treated me to this tour as a media guest, but even more amazing is the friendship I've developed with the owners, Patti and Carrie. What they've done with Atlanta Movie Tours is nothing short of spectacular! And that they have amazing husbands, friends and fans speaks volumes of the wonderful people they are. I'm incredibly grateful for getting to know them and to call them friends...Love you, ladies! 

I haven't said much about Daryl and nothing about Michonne, but fret not. You'll hear more about them in my next post—Big Zombie Tour - Part 2!

Book your Atlanta Movie Tours' Big Zombie Tour now! Part 1, or Part 1 AND Part 2 on the same day, or different days, but know that these tours sell out quickly. I met folks on both tours recently who were only able to get tickets to one of the tours because they didn't book early enough. 

Do both! Do both! So...much...zombie...fun!