State Eight: Georgia

Starlight Drive-in
At the Drive-in

The Peach State is home to world-renowned icons: famous sons like Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter and the fizzy sugar-laden pick-me-up Coca Cola. It’s welcoming, warm and waiting for your visit.

We flew into Atlanta, negotiated the Orwellian nightmare of a transport hub that is the airport (it’s easy to see how it’s the busiest in the world) and drove downtown to our hotel the Marriott Marquis. The 52 story skyscraper is often referred to as the “pregnant building” due to it’s bulging base and catching one of the glass elevators which whizzed us up through the giant atrium was an exhilarating (terrifying) experience.

But we couldn’t hang around in the hotel for long. There was so much to do.  Our first night in Atlanta we did a Drive-in double.  Before heading to Starlight Six theater to watch a movie under the stars, we visited Varsity, the World’s Largest Drive-In Restaurant.  To cries of “What’ll ya have?” and “Have your order in your mind and your money in your hand” we didn’t even have to stretch our legs and get out of the car as the bell-hops came to our window to take the order.  Deciding between “Walk-a-dogs” (hot dogs), “gussied-up-steaks” (hamburgers), and a “bag of rags” (fries) was pretty tough but the greasy fries, pimento cheese burger and a frosted orange did the trick.

coca cola dispensing machine
Coca-Cola World

Stretching out in our hire-car and listening to the yawn of the 7-lane interstate outside of the window we chowed down on our dinner smiling all the time before tucking into fried pies in apple and Georgia peach varieties.  Cheap, fast and wholly unique, we can see why two miles of hot dogs, 2500 pounds of potatoes are fried, 5000 pies and 300 gallons of chili are made from scratch daily!

The next day we headed to Coca Cola World – where we watched adverts in seemingly every language, saw mountains of merchandise and very nearly bought on Type 2 diabetes whilst sampling hundreds of coca-cola products. It was fun. A few steps away is the  world’s largest aquarium; home to amazing whale sharks, beautiful beluga whales and enough fascinating creatures to paint a massive grin on your face.

Civil Right Movement
I am a Man

That afternoon we visited Sweet Auburn the neighbourhood in which Martin Luther King Jr was born, preached and laid to rest.   Ebenezer Baptist Church where King (and his father and grandfather) served as Pastor was solemn and a perfect place to reflect upon the courage and the faith of the Civil Rights giant.  The Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Site commemorates the life and legacy of the man and the movement and is incredibly humbling. The mural outside depicts the marches where activists held “I am a Man” placards and peacefully agitated for equality.

That night we drove to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack where we smelt the sweet, smokey BBQ before we even got out of the car. Fat Matt’s was everything a rib shack should be: a grizzled cool-ass band were playing blues inside the shack and we sat out front in the warm evening sun where for about $5 we got ourselves a chopped pork sandwich with a side of chips.  The pork was soft, juicy and drenched in the finest BBQ sauce we’ve ever tasted. Simple, unfussy but uncommonly good, topped off with a chewy, sticky pecan pie for pudding.

Thundebird Inn Motel
The very cool Thunderbird Motel sign

From Atlanta we motored to Savannah, described as “a pretty girl with a dirty face”  the historic city drips with Spanish Moss and the air is humid and sultry. The town heaves with gorgeous mansions, cotton warehouses and is studded with 22 beautiful green squares.  We wandered from the Thunderbird Motel from square to square and then straight to a punk bar where we drank craft beers and rum at the Jinx Bar and got tipsy like a true Savannah-ite.

Dinner was the perfect mix of Southern Hospitality and delectable local produce at B Matthews Eatery and we enjoyed fish chowder, pulled pork and sticky English pudding with a bourbon glaze: all ridiculously tasty. We ended the night with a few indulgent cocktails at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar (the manly among you may wish to try the “sparklebomb”) before walking back to the Motel in a surprise thunderstorm.

In the cemetery
Spanish Moss at the Cemetery

Just outside of the town are both Bonaventure Cemetery and the Wormsloe Plantation with its tunnel of trees where the Spanish Moss drips and you can take a languid walk before your next mint julep. Further away is Tybee Island with a sleepy beach and a very old lighthouse.

Georgia is such a wonderful state, with friendly people, joyous food, a rich (and sometimes shameful) history and architecture that will hold onto you long after you’ve left. As Ray Charles found, all this will keep Georgia on your mind.

Rate the State:

Good for: Juicy barbecue, antebellum homes, civil rights history, Coca-Cola addicts.

Bad for: those on a diet. Also Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport was pretty horrible.

Overall: 10/10

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