Capturing the charm of Atlanta, Scarlett O’Hara’s heartland

Atlanta, Georgia has always fascinated me. It was the setting for Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”, an epic story set around America’s Civil War. Atlanta today is far from the Atlanta of Mitchell’s 1936 novel, but somehow, the city exudes that esoteric charm and classic sophistication mingled with the cutting edge and contemporary … and a cryptic tinge of the southern ways.

I visited Atlanta, the second in two years, spent a week’s vacation with my daughter, her husband and their three big German Shepherd dogs. This time, Atlanta held a new fascination for me. It’s called the BeltLine.

The BeltLine is Atlanta’s 22-mile project designed to loop around the city and aimed at redefining and reviving the economy of the communities. The loop is based on the city’s old railroad pathway. Business and residential construction and development abound. Both sides of the BeltLine feature modern commercial and housing structures. The BeltLine rolls out between rows of new upscale apartments and townhouses and scores of fine restaurants. The pedestrian trail attracts walkers, hikers, joggers, bikers. The path is off limit to cars, though scooters are allowed. I was amused by the parade of mothers and fathers pushing baby carriages, while talking on their cell phones. The culture of modern civilization pans out right before your eyes on the Beltline. Rhet and Scarlett of Gone with the Wind, if here today, may relate to the charm of the environment, though definitely not recognize the accoutrement surrounding it. But love the nuances, maybe.

In two directions, the BeltLine starts a few blocks from my daughter and son-in-law’s home in Inman Park. The proximity is a motivation to walk. The first walks on the slight incline made me pant, and I tried to camouflage the panting (this Lola isn’t old) – but it slowed me down. The goal of reaching the restaurant provided the push. So, I quickened my steps knowing that a few minutes soon would come the reward of delicious food. As you may have guessed, we made several walks for a primary purpose — dine at what I consider among the best restaurants I’ve been to.

I brought California to Atlanta on my week’s vacation in May. And I brought California back to the Bay Area when I returned to Palo Alto. Silly, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what the weather was in Atlanta when I was there – warm and not so humid, blue skies and bright sunshine the whole time. In California? I was told that it was rainy and chilly most of the week, until the Tuesday I got back.

The truth, I didn’t cause the weather, though I hoped and prayed for a pleasant one in Atlanta for my mini vacation. The delightfully warm climate enticed us to spend Saturday and Sunday by the poolside at the Atlanta country club. Not a swimmer, but to my surprise, I found myself hours in the pool. With water up to my shoulders, I worked the routine of jumping up and down and treading the waters slowly back and forth. Most interesting was chatting with others who dipped in the pool to enjoy the feel of warm water, or watch their children swim, or teach their toddlers to float. The gentle movement of the waters felt like a soft massage interrupted only by occasional splash from frolicking kids. I climbed up for barbecue lunch at the poolside, and went right back in for another 2-3 hours. This Lola felt like a nymph of the water. Playing in the pool is an activity I had not done in years.

It seemed to me, however, that more than half of those that went to the pool chose to lie on beach chairs and get tanned. In fact, some never even dipped in the water. The turquoise waters were certainly inviting, but not enough to draw sun bathers off their seats. Mischief lurked — I felt the urge to splash the tanners with water from the pool. Trust me, though tempted, I didn’t.

Not everything I did during my vacation was food-centric, whimsical or playful. I did some serious touring of the Museum of CDC (Center for Disease Control). While charged with overseeing the general health of the American population, CDC also seeks to improve the control of diseases around the world, and achieve better and advanced ways of preventing, detecting, diagnosing and treating infectious diseases. It has also led efforts to study and promote vaccines to prevent the onset of disease, as well as monitor, guide and lead policies for the health welfare of the population in this country and globally. Very important in CDC’s work is its role in the prevention of bioterrorism.

At the museum, I spent almost two hours reading and viewing write-ups, pictures and graphics demonstrating the start and evolution of CDC. Its beginning was prompted by the outbreak of malaria toward the end and after World War II. Since then, it has spearheaded efforts in research aimed at discovering, diagnosing and curtailing diseases as polio, influenza, HIV, Ebola, zika and other viral epidemics. Quite an attraction at the museum was the exhibit of the heart lung, a big cylindrical machine used to contain and treat patients before therapeutic advances were made.

Not to forget – I saw the home of the highly celebrated civil rights proponent, Martin Luther King. His home, now a museum, somehow stirs awe for a legendary hero who to this day inspires the conscience of society.

During my first visit of Atlanta, my daughter accompanied me on a tour of CNN headquarters and center of broadcast operations, definitely an educational experience.  She and my son-in-law also drove me around the campus of Emory University.

There’s more to explore in this historic city – perhaps, at my next visit.

Linda P. Jacob

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