Monday, July 28, 2014

Ice Cream...And So Much More!

I finally made it to the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival in Piedmont Park. I'd wanted to go just for the ice cream, but ended up enjoying so much more!

Carlton and Alyssa, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Carlton and Alyssa, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

That's Carlton and Alyssa above, one of the couples we met while in line to partake in the exhilaration that is the "Human Hamster Ball".  That was sooooooo much fun...exhilarating AND exhausting, but sooooo much fun!

When we were in line, there was a couple in front of us (Curtis and Meagan) and a couple behind us (Carlton and Alyssa), all in their early to mid-twenties. Overhearing each other's conversations, we all discerned a high level of excitement about the forthcoming experience.

It didn't take us long to figure out that we wanted to play human bumper cars! So we let a few folks go ahead of us so that the six of us could engage in what was for me a highlight of the afternoon.

The guy running the attraction told us that we would have only two minutes [What?! Two minutes? C'mon!], but that that we would find that to be plenty of time. He warned that it was hot inside--not a surprise, especially given it was a scorcher of a day--and that adults tire more quickly than kids do, on this particular 'ride' [Really?].

He wasn't kidding! It was so much fun, but for someone like me who hasn't darkened the doorway of a gym in forever...well, let's just say, it's two days later and I'm crazy sore! But I'd totally do it again. And again. And again. Great fun! 

Thank you Carlton, Alyssa, Curtis and Meagan for making  "Human Hamster Ball Bumper Cars" such great fun!

Atomic Ice Cream, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Atomic Ice Cream, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Ice Cream Festival is one of the smaller festivals I've attended in Piedmont Park, but what fun! [I know, I keep saying "fun", but it really was!] There were ice cream vendors (although I missed seeing King of Pops, High Road, and Jeni's...Where were you guys?!), the expected festival food vendors, clothes, jewelry, crafts, publications, educational institutions...but I couldn't find a single ATM. 

Fortunately, many of the ice cream vendors accepted plastic. Yay! 

Being the sci-fi enthusiast I am [Or I should just go ahead and just admit to being a "sci-fi geek", with DragonCon coming up so quickly?], as soon as I saw Atomic Ice Cream Sandwich, I knew that was the one I wanted.

Atomic Ice Cream, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Atomic Ice Cream, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

What I didn't know at the time is that Atomic Ice Cream Sandwiches are made here in Atlanta, from local ingredients! I love that!

You can't tell it from the camera phone pic above, but yes, that's an ice cream sandwich and "Wow!" was amazing! Ginger cookie with peach ice cream...every bite a palate-pleasing piece of heaven. If I took my time, I could probably be a connoisseur of ice cream, but I just enjoy it too much. However, this one I did savor...I took my time--amazing control on my part. I want more!

Medieval Times, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Medieval Times, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

I was so excited to see Alyson from Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Atlanta Castle. She's always been incredibly sweet and Medieval Times is a totally awesome fun time! 

I loved seeing them at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (where I'm a docent) last summer. It was great watching so many young professionals get excited to make photos with the princesses and knights [Okay, so was I.] and learn about the Medieval Times's so much more than dinner and a show! [My last visit was awesome!

In the photo above, that's my friend Michele on the left [Smile, Michele, we're having fun!]  and me next to the princess. My apologies to the princess and knight for not getting their names, so, glorious and gallant I'll call them..."Thank you" for the photo op! See you all soon.

Strayer Race Car, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Strayer Race Car, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

I mentioned Curtis and Meagan earlier, two of the folks we did the Human Hamster Ball with...they were with the Strayer race car! Now, I'm a far cry from a James Bond (although I was a Wyoming cowboy for a short time), but I do love cars.

Curtis and Meagan were fantastic...and how fun to travel with a race car! Michele, seeing my excitement, asked Curtis if I could get 'in' the car for a photo. Even if that were an option, we'd just finished the Human Hamster Ball experience and I was exhausted and my muscles were already tightening up...I wasn't climbing into anything! [Laughter]

"Thank you," Curtis and Meagan for your hospitality...and the cold water!

Park Tavern, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Park Tavern, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

So, with ice cream in hand--I'm going a little out of sequence here--we headed down to the Human Hamster Ball experience, but when we got in line we overheard that they were only accepting cash. We had only six dollars cash between us. 

Well, we didn't venture down there for naught. We kept on going and headed on over to Park Tavern (corner of 10th & Monroe), sat on the porch and enjoyed a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. 

I'd not been there in much too long. I'd forgotten how much fun it was, even after my friend Bethany talking about the great times she's had there. I'll definitely be back soon.

Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

While I didn't see an ATM at the ice cream festival, there's one at Park Tavern, so on our way out we grabbed some cash and headed back to the Human Hamster Ball field! 

Check out that skyline view...that's one of the things I love about Piedmont Park, aptly dubbed "Atlanta's Favorite Green Space". When I lived in DC, one of the things I missed most was a skyline. In DC you can't build taller than the Capitol Building...or is it the Washington Monument? Either way, I missed the majesty of an amazing skyline.

Human Hamster Ball, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park
Human Hamster Ball, Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Ice Cream Festival may have appeared to be modest, and I foresee it being even bigger for its fifth year in 2015, but there was an awful lot of great fun to be addition to having ice cream!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sally Smith is "Margaret Mitchell"

It's my honor and with gratitude that I have the great pleasure of introducing Sally Smith, the personality behind "Margaret Mitchell" of Atlanta Movie Tours. Sally will grace the stage of The Fox Theatre this coming weekend to introduce two showings of Gone With the Wind, part of the 2014 Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival

A few days ago, Sally and I dined and talked for 3.5 hours at Livingston Restaurant + Bar in the Georgian Terrace, which of course has a significant role in Margaret Mitchell's and Gone With the Wind's histories.

I'd like to frame this writing around a recent "Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Tour", through Atlanta Movie Tours. Sally was of course Margaret, it was my second time enjoying the tour, but my best friend Barry's first time—I was sure he would like Sally AND the tour. And that he did! It was great to see him fascinated and laughing so much.

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Oakland Cemetery
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: Sally Smith as "Margaret Mitchell" at Oakland Cemetery, where Sally works and volunteers, when she's not giving tours for Atlanta Movie Tours.

Many "Windies"—uber fans of Gone With the Wind—know that Margaret Mitchell wrote the final chapter of her novel first. Ironically, I decided that I want to do the same in introducing you to Sally. The most important thing I learned about her was in her answer to the final question I posed, and it's the one thing that will likely define her for all of her days. 

Sally arrived at the Georgian Terrace as Sally Smith. I'd only seen her as "Margaret Mitchell", but there was no mistaking that smile. 

And I quickly noticed she was wearing the button that she wears on her tours, one that reads, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." That totally speaks to Sally's wonderful sense of humor, but mind you, she's incredibly sensitive to her audience and wholly respectful.

[Author's Note: Sally's quotes are my recollections from our interview. I brought my laptop to the meeting to capture her exact words, but quickly decided that enjoying her company would be considerably more indelible. And indeed it was.]

Starting with the question I asked Sally last...

wanderlust ATLANTA: What message or sentiment, that you share with Margaret Mitchell, would you like to share with your fans?

Sally: "I'd love to share one of Peggy's mottoes—Peggy was the name Margaret adopted when she went off to college—one that I share with her... 'Never give up'. 'Never give up on yourself or life'. There are certain things one should give up, of course, like toxic relationships, but stay the course. The storms don't last forever."

Sally went on to say, "Life has too much to offer to give up. Of course you have to take the bad with the good, but you have to make the best of the bad." As soon as Sally mentioned Auntie Mame, we quoted in unison, "Live, live, live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" [ understanding.] "Life is out there, you just have to get up off the sofa and be a part of it!"

Sally is full of life...she's living life! That's one of the things I adore and admire about her.

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Margaret Mitchell House
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: One of the desks on display at the Margaret Mitchell House, the one pictured above, is the actual desk that Margaret worked on while employed with the Atlanta Journal. She went by the pen name "Peggy Mitchell" while working there. The cool thing about the desk is that at a mere 4' 11" tall, the standard desk was considerably too high for Margaret, so they had to cut the legs down on this one to accommodate her stature. You can see in the photo above the desk just how diminutive she was in height, however she made up for it in personality.

wanderlust ATLANTA: You are fascinating! Please share with us some of your background. Where are you from? Where have you worked? What do you do for fun?

Sally: "I was born in the same hospital as Margaret Mitchell, St. Joseph's Infirmary. Today it's St. Joseph's Hospital, part of Emory Healthcare, and I was raised right here in Atlanta."

"I went to school at Woodward Academy and then went on to earn a Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Economics at the University of Georgia. I retired from Fulton County government after 30 years. Like Margaret, I didn't work for the sake of making a career, I just wanted to be independent."

"Chasing that independence was difficult for Margaret. She was born into a world where a woman stayed home and cared for her family. That she went to college and took a job at the Atlanta Journal as a reporter was unheard of at the time. She struggled with her 'role' as a woman. Margaret lived in a very different Atlanta."

"Today I manage the Visitors Center at Oakland Cemetery, where I still give tours. I'm the president of Fulton County Retirees Association and of course I'm "Margaret Mitchell" for Atlanta Movie Tours. Yes, I'm a busy woman!"

"You asked me about hobbies. I go to yoga practically every day...I miss it when I don't. I love reading and gardening. Oh, and I'm going to see Aretha Franklin at The Fox Theatre! And I remember seeing Tina Turner in Atlanta when it was 'Ike & Tina'!"

Sally wouldn't admit it, but it was shared with me by another source that at Sally's retirement party, Fulton County made an official Proclamation—"Sally Smith Appreciation Day"—well deserved after 30 years of dedicated service.

Noted in the Proclamation:
"Sally Smith is an exemplary public servant who is known among her colleagues for her dedication, knowledge, kindness, sense of humor, and willingness to help."
The Proclamation goes on and on, and for the short time I've known Sally, I see all of those things to be wonderfully true.

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Margaret Mitchell House
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: There are several areas within the Margaret Mitchell House complex where visitors can view exhibits that include original artifacts, photography and video, as well as the apartment where she and husband John Marsh lived when she wrote Gone With the Wind. The above photo includes the portrait of Scarlett O'Hara used in the movie.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Margaret Mitchell was a deeply private person, yet did so much for the community at large, volunteering in the public eye. But much of her most impactful philanthropy was anonymous. You're a volunteer, too. Why is volunteering important to you?

Sally: "When I retired I knew that I wanted to keep busy. My love of gardening drew me to Oakland Cemetery—it's a garden cemetery. Volunteering was so much more than I expected; I didn't realize how rewarding it would be."

"It opened me up to the world of Hospitality in Atlanta, I met a whole new group of Atlantans, and I was all of a sudden meeting people from all over the world! I recommend it for anyone. You know, if you want to make a difference in the world, volunteering is a great way to do it."

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Margaret Mitchell House
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: "In her personification of Margaret Mitchell, Sally captivates and immerses her audience in 'Peggy' Mitchell's Atlanta with the mellifluous ooze of charm expected of a Southern debutante, and the hilarious tongue-in-cheek humor of a rebel. You will either be on the edge of your seat hanging on every word or rolling in laughter," said Barry Holland, pictured above with Sally having fun at the Margaret Mitchell House

wanderlust ATLANTAI've had the honor and privilege of meeting and talking with you several times now. I, personally, see distinct Margaret Mitchell qualities in you. What qualities do you feel you most personify in Ms. Mitchell?

Sally: "When you look at life, on a global scale, we're on top. We have life pretty good. But, as we know in looking at Margaret's life, 'Life can change in an instant'." That sentiment was a common thread in our discussion throughout the evening. 

"My life has changed, more than once, and I've kept on going. Margaret never let anything stop her...not being blackballed by the Junior League, not being roadblocked by the male-dominated journalism industry, and not sustaining a debilitating injury...she kept on going! You have to admire her for that!"

"I love to read and of course Margaret was an avid reader. It's said that she devoured the local library. Well, everything except for the reference section, as the story goes. My son reads a lot, too."

"Margaret wanted to be a travel reporter before she landed at the Atlanta Journal. Me? I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up."

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Central Library
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: Central Library in Downtown Atlanta, across from Margaret Mitchell Square and the Georgia Pacific Tower, which stands where the Loew's Grand Theatre once stood—the theatre where Gone With the Wind premiered in 1939. The Library has a fascinating collection of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind memorabilia, including the one millionth copy of the novel and Margaret's library card.

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat about Atlanta Movie Tours have you enjoyed most so far?

Sally: "That they like me so much." [Laughter] "Like Margaret's mother told her, 'Life can change in an instant.' That's pretty much what happened with Atlanta Movie Tours. I'd been working at Oakland Cemetery and every Halloween they host tours led by different personalities whose final resting place is there. One year I portrayed "Margaret Mitchell". 

"When Patti and Carrie—the owners of Atlanta Movie Tours—approached Oakland about it being a stop on their new "Gone With the Wind Tour", my colleague asked who was leading the tour. They named a few personalities, but not Margaret. She suggested to them that she knew someone they might consider. I later found myself at lunch with Patti and Carrie, which turned out to be sort of an interview."

"When they asked, I said to myself, 'I'd be crazy not to try it.' And the rest is history, so to speak."

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Central Library
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: There were many Gone With the Wind premier events hosted at the Georgian Terrace, where the main actors stayed during the premier activities. The menu in the photo above—on display at Central Library—is from The Main Dining Room at The Georgian Terrace. The most expensive entree offered was "Filet Mignon with Green Peas and Asparagus Tips" for $2.25. For dessert, an "Ice Cream Mold 'Gone With the Wind' Open Book" was an offering.

The Georgian Terrace | Livingston Restaurant + Bar

Our 3.5 hour dinner and discussion took place at Livingston Restaurant + Bar, in The Georgian Terrace Hotel—the restaurant was originally the hotel lobby! We had a Peachtree Street window seat with a splendid view of The Fox Theatre, where Sally will introduce the film Gone With the Wind this coming weekend.

The staff and management treated Sally and I like VIPs...they were wonderful!

The hostess was pleasant and kindly accommodating. I wanted a window seat, that also had access to electricity—for the laptop, which I ended up not using. Sally is so captivating, writing notes made it much easier to enjoy the process of getting to know her better.

Justin was our server and provided superb service. We never wanted for anything! We both enjoyed a cold beverage and began with an assortment of appetizers. The Fried Green Tomatoes—delish, the Cauliflower Popcorn—a brilliant interpretation, and the Crispy Smoked Chicken Thighs with fresh sliced apple and red cabbage slaw in a blue cheese vinaigrette—amazing...I could eat those all day!

Ashley Dulgarian, Business Development Manager at Livingston, stopped by our table and bid us a delightfully charming welcome! She shared some Georgian Terrace history with us, and us with her, and she bestowed upon Sally good wishes for her Fox debut. She later brought us both a souvenir book of Georgian Terrace history—I can hardly wait to get into that one!

Later we were surprised again when Justin stopped by with two glasses of champagne and a virtual dessert buffet! Ashley had arranged for us to be treated. We enjoyed Carrot Cake "Twinkies" and a flight of ice cream that included the flavors of white peach, blood orange, and pomegranate—the latter being my favorite. Wow! 

What a wonderful treat. The Livingston staff and the deliciousness and presentation of the food that evening just reinforced all the more that it's my favorite Atlanta restaurant. And I've been saying that since long before they ever heard of me. Our experience at Livingston was the epitome of Southern Hospitality and I'm thrilled that they were so kind to Sally.

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Central Library
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: Part of the Central Library collection includes a wide array of foreign language editions of Gone With the Wind, as well as part of Margaret's reference library that she used when writing Gone With the Wind.

wanderlust ATLANTA: You will soon be on the stage of The Fabulous Fox Theatre! You give such a mesmerizing performance as "Margaret Mitchell" on the Gone With the Wind tours, I have to you have acting experience?

Sally: "No, not really. Of course we had to take Public Speaking in college, but it wasn't until years later that I spoke in public. When I was the Greenhouse Manger for Fulton County—I worked in several departments over the 30 years—various garden clubs would invite me to speak at their meetings."

"Well, the first one included a potluck dinner. Later when I got up to the podium, and I'd brought my husband, I started with, 'That's the best dinner my husband has had in ages!' The ladies laughed and laughed and I've been hooked on public speaking ever since."

"I later adopted the philosophy that if you can't do anything about your situation, then laugh. We all have rough times, and laughter can be quite a powerful thing." 

Sally and I laughed a lot that evening. She has a wicked sense of humor, but with a generous dose of discretion. 

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Oakland Cemetery
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: Sally, as "Margaret Mitchell" sharing with the tour group the symbolism of some of the grave stones and plot designs.

On a personal note, Sally is one of those people that you can't help but to immediately admire—you've met those people in your own life—and I knew I wanted to get to know her from the onset. If I forget to thank her later for the amazing interview and for being so much fun, let me say it here. "Thank you, Sally! You're a wonderfully brilliant and inspiring human being. I'm so grateful and fortunate to know you."

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours, Oakland Cemetery
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: Sally as "Margaret Mitchell" sharing more about Margaret's family life with our tour group. Oakland Cemetery is also where we had our souvenir group photo made!

wanderlust ATLANTA: I suspect you're a fan of Georgia tourism. In addition to Atlanta Movie Tours, Oakland Cemetery and the Margaret Mitchell House, are there other destinations on the "Sally's Must-See List"?

Sally: "One of my retirement plans was one international trip and one domestic trip every year. I also love a fun day trip. I'll claim memory lapse for the ones I should have mentioned [shared laughter], but here are a few:
In Atlanta, I love to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden [where I, Travis, am a docent, so I was thrilled it made the list!]. And although it's been a few years, I have fond memories of rafting on the Chattahoochee. If you didn't notice, I enjoy being outdoors and in gardens."

Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours
Sally Smith, AKA Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta Movie Tours

Photo: This is part of our tour group. I made the photo back at Atlanta Movie Tours' offices. To the left is a Brazilian family—the two on the far left live in Sau Paulo and the other two currently live in Philadelphia. That's "Margaret Mitchell" (Sally Smith) in the hat and dress with Barry on the right. The other tourees had departed when I made this photo. It was a fun group!

If you'd like to learn more about the Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Tour, please see my post, "Through the Eyes of Margaret Mitchell".

Remember, Sally, as "Margaret Mitchell", will be introducing Gone With the Wind at The Fox Theatre this weekend—a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the movie. If you miss her then, you can experience Sally at Atlanta Movie Tours.

One more question...

wanderlust ATLANTAIn your experience, how vast is the Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind fandom? Why do you feel it’s so widespread?

Sally: "The fandom is global, without a doubt! Margaret Mitchell was a student of the human condition. She observed people and had a keen sense for who they were. She understood that 'We're all human'. I think that's what people connect with in her writing. And I admire her for not changing after she became famous. She didn't change her lifestyle and being a celebrity wasn't all-important to her, but helping others was, as were her friends and 'living' life."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Piedmont Park Historic Tours

I'd wanted to go on a Piedmont Park Historic Tour for years. I finally made it! Having once wanted to be an archaeologist, I've always found history fascinating...and I'm curious by nature.

Many of us already know that Piedmont Park has a rich history, from the earliest days of Atlanta's settlement to the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition to today's site of Music Midtown and the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. But there's more...

Piedmont Park History Tour, Atlanta
Piedmont Park History Tour

I'm not sure when they installed the park 'features menu' pylons (Evidently, I'm not sure what they're officially called either.), but they're a fantastic feature within the park...a great way to orient yourself when visiting and there's one at every major entrance. Look for them!

Now, a little history... Most Atlantans know about the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition, but just how much do we really know about it? 

Many are surprised to learn that it lasted 100 days, was built for 6,000 exhibits, and received 800,000 visitors (from 37 states and countries)...and that was when the local population was only 75,000! You'll learn the important role of railroads, relative to the Exposition, on the tour!

Piedmont Park History Tour, Green Market
Piedmont Park History Tour

The Piedmont Park Historic Tours begin in Green Market, the park's Saturday morning farmers market, where, for a number of years now, I've shopped and taken in a chef demo from time to time.

Don't even think about letting the summer heat keep you away from Green Market...just treat yourself to a King of Pops pop to cool down! My favorite is Chocolate Sea Salt. They're easy to find, just look for the rainbow umbrella. 

Piedmont Park History Tour, Lake Clara Meer
Piedmont Park History Tour

The first stop on the tour is the Visitor's Center, known as "Dockside". The building, which faces Green Market at the 12th Street entrance to the park, is the oldest continually standing structure in the park. You'll learn cool factoids like that throughout the tour!

The dock, where there was a fitness class taking place the morning I went on the tour, is a destination for a lot of park goers, as well as the site of many wedding's a beautiful setting! You'll learn more about Lake Clara Meer on the tour!

Piedmont Park History Tour, Playground
Piedmont Park History Tour

Now, my followers know that I'm an avid explorer. So you can imagine my surprise when it dawned on me during the tour that there's so much of Piedmont Park that I've yet to explore. I've seen a LOT of it, but there's so much more to discover! 

It turns out that the above pictured playground is the only one of its kind in the United States! It's from a 1976 project...but you'll learn more about that on the tour!

The tour doesn't take you through the entire park, so if you've been worrying that it'd be too much walking, not to worry. There is of course walking involved, but not as much as you might think. But I did have a coffee at Green Market and was sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Piedmont Park History Tour, Active Oval
Piedmont Park History Tour

Let me fast-forward to the present, just for a moment. Piedmont Park Conservancy is, in my humble opinion, demonstrating its mission quite wonderfully. 

Their mission reads:
To enhance and preserve Piedmont Park as a vital urban green space and as a cultural and recreational resource that enriches the quality of life for Atlantans.
Piedmont Park is home to numerous festivals, concerts, soccer, volleyball, fitness programs, jogging, two fantastic dog walk parks, Green Market, environmental learning programs for kids, a fantastic swimming pool and so much more! 

Now, back to the past... The Active Oval—where you'll often see soccer, volleyball and/or softball games taking place—was originally a driving track for the businessmen property owners, to drive and race their buggies. Remember, this was long before the popularization of the automobile. Again, you'll learn more on the tour!

Piedmont Park History Tour, Pioneer Women's Monument
Piedmont Park History Tour

There are more monuments and memorials in Piedmont Park than I ever realized. The one pictured above is marked "To the Atlanta Pioneer Women | 1847 - 1869". 

Given how short our memories are, I find myself grateful for such memorials. I mean, just imagine the excitement, as well as the hardship, of settling a new land.

Piedmont Park History Tour, School War Heroes Memorial
Piedmont Park History Tour

The above memorial, presented from two different area schools, is dedicated to soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War I (upper plaque) and World War II (lower plaque). 

I know, from personal experience, that when you visit Piedmont Park, it's usually for a specific reason—a festival, a game, to walk the dog—and it's not always easy to get away to explore other parts of the park. That's all the more reason to go on one of the Piedmont Park Historic Tours!

Piedmont Park History Tour, Angel of Peace
Piedmont Park History Tour

To our great fortune, there were those who realized that if Atlanta was to thrive after the U.S. Civil War, we would have embrace our Northern friends, we would have to unify as a country. There are those, even today, who think "the South will rise again", but I believe it rose again all those years ago through leadership of those brave souls who helped Atlanta, and the South, adjust to its future role in the United States of America.

The Gate City Guard statue, pictured above, on the Piedmont Park lawn on the Piedmont Avenue side is a can't miss. Not only because it's so massive, but also for what it represents, which you'll learn about on the tour.

Piedmont Park History Tour, Lake Clara Meer, Patrick
Piedmont Park History Tour

Our tour guide Patrick, nine years with the Piedmont Park Conservancy, was fantastic. It was a toasty day but he kept his composure, his enthusiasm, and his humor. And during the fantastic tour, he showed us some photographs of the park that I'd never seen before...they were pretty awesome!

That's Patrick, pictured above, on an observation deck overlooking Lake Clara Meer, a vantage spot that's a favorite of park visitors—my current wanderlust ATLANTA business cards actually feature a nighttime shot of the lake and Midtown skyline from that spot!

Believe me when I tell you that what I've shared here is merely the tip of the iceberg of what you'll learn on the free Piedmont Park History Tour. Go with questions, go prepared to learn a rich and fascinating history of Atlanta's favorite green space to play in. 

Piedmont Park History Tour
Piedmont Park History Tour

Back over between Greystone and the Active Oval... I find it interesting that what could be considered the "center" of Piedmont Park holds a significant piece of history. The above photo is merely a section of what is the largest single remnant of the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. 

And it's think that we get to everyday walk the same steps and pathways once walked by Buffalo Bill Cody, Margaret Mitchell, Hank Aaron, and a host of thought leaders, game changers, history makers...and millions of grandparents, parents, and the children who will shape the Atlanta of tomorrow.

Learn more about Atlanta's favorite green space on a Piedmont Park Historic Tour!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Under the Sea...

The Little Mermaid was the first full-length, animated, feature film by Disney that I'd ever seen...and I was mesmerized. A 1989 film, I wasn't a kid. We had moved around so much that I never had the opportunity to see the Disney classics. Still, what a great first Disney animated film to see!

When I received the invitation to attend the touring Broadway performance of The Little Mermaid at The Fox Theatre, there was only one answer..."Yes, please!" And what an incredible show it is!

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

I'm usually a fan of a show's protagonist, but in this case, Ursula stole the show...but then again, would you expect anything less from a Sea Witch? 

It wasn't until the day after that I read the Julie Bookman article in the program (Read it!), which featured Liz McCartney (Ursula), that my decision was confirmed and totally made sense. And it turns out that I've seen Liz perform in other shows...The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable, Wicked...she truly is a wonderful performer! 

Yes, it's true, I've seen a fair amount of theatre...but it's not until I start listing the shows that I actually realize it. I've been fortunate to lead a rich cultural experiences life, all over the world, for which I'm grateful.

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

The one thing that impressed me most about this performance of The Little Mermaid was the movement. The actors' performance in every scene made you feel like you were watching them under the sea. Graceful and convincing, every one of them were.

Jessica Grove (Ariel) was enchanting...what an amazing voice! She brought Broadway to Atlanta. Eric Kunze (Prince Eric) was beyond couldn't help but wish he would fall head over fins for Ariel...okay, he doesn't have fins, but you know what I mean.

Did I mention that there are gallons upon gallons of fishy jokes throughout the performance? And that you never tire of them? You actually giggle all night long!

There were so many wonderful performers, I wish I could note them all. The Mersisters (Loved them!), the gulls, Flotsam and Jetsam (Ursula's partners in crime, and tentacle operators)...they were all amazing. 

Christian Probst (Flounder) was especially sweet...a small fish in big pond. Would have loved to have seen his character "played" up a bit more. Then again, he was totally in character and played it well.

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

Under the Sea, performed by Alan Mingo, Jr. (Sebastian), was brilliant! It instantly transported me back to 1989. His character, one of the ones who were "grounded" throughout the performance, was quite amazing...and laughter-inducing throughout. It amazes me how a mere 'movement' can elicit laughter and emotion.

Many of the characters, including Ariel, King Triton (Steve Blanchard), and Scuttle (Matt Allen), mostly performed on wires, which contributed to the swimming visual effect that so brilliantly brought the show to life.

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

Chef Louis, performed by Brian Ray Norris, was amazingly agile and super funny..."Les Poisson, Les Poisson...How I love Les Poisson". Being the foodie that I am (Did you know that about me?), I was particularly humored by this sequence...and quite impressed with the stage interpretation. Lots of movement!

As has become my tradition when I take in a show at The Fox Theatre, I enjoy a pre-show visit to Livingston Restaurant + Bar, which happens to be my favorite Atlanta restaurant, so it works out quite nicely as a tradition. It also happens to be a sponsor of the Fox.

You know how it is when you become a "regular", you end up having favorites, whether a dish, a beverage, or a person. Shanna waited on us again and she was her usual self, the definitive professional. And I'm tremendously grateful that she found for me the blue cheese-stuffed olives I'd hoped would accompany my martini. And the Fried Green Tomatoes were amazing! "Thank you, Shanna" for the consistent wonderful service!

And compliments to chef Michael Semancik, who I've not yet met, but hope to in the near future. I'm loving his culinary creations! The restaurant has changed since I first wrote about it in 2010, and I've shared numerous Social Media posts about the restaurant since, but I think the changes have been for the better. One typically won't hang around if an establishment doesn't change for the better, right?

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

There was tap dancing...tap dancing Seagulls! Of all the performing arts, tap dancing is the one that I truly wish I had learned. It's a dying art, which is such a shame. The late Gregory Hines is of course a favorite, and I saw Riverdance at the Fox years ago...LOVED it!

Tap dancing remains on my 'Bucket List', one of the items that I truly, truly hope I make happen one day. Let's hope I can tap dance nearly as well as The Little Mermaid's flock of seagulls, also a favorite band when I was younger.

The Little Mermaid (Photo by Bruce Bennett, courtesy of Houston TUTS)

Wow! How do I wrap this up? No, no, no...not in a sushi roll. How distasteful! But I actually do love sushi...don't tell Ariel!

I'd like to offer a huge wanderlust ATLANTA "Thank you!" to BRAVE PR and The Fox Theatre for the tickets to see the show.

I also want to remind my readers that even when I'm gifted media passes, I only write about what I enjoy. If I have nothing good or wonderful to say about a performance, museum, or attraction, I just won't write about it at all. With that said, keep in mind that there are a number of places I've yet to visit...even as much as I get around!

Head on down under the sea, currently known as The Fox Theatre, to see The Little Mermaid...she's only there through Sunday, July 13. And if you have the time, stop by Livingston Restaurant + Bar and say "Hello" to Shanna.