7/25/2014, Friday – It is always fun to load your car trunk with your baggage and hit the road, traversing through scenic landscapes, infinite blue sky, boundless highways and roads, and also witnessing sunset/sunrise over horizon. Some long drives exceeding for more than 8 hours are usually strenuous. However, a 6 hour road trip to Atlanta with two drivers alternating for three hours is absolute fun! Having returned from work at 6PM on 7/25/2014, Friday, we loaded our BMW X5’s trunk with our baggages, dinner boxes, snacks, water bottles and camera kit. Sitting in the driver’s seat, and buckling my seat belt, keying in the destination address on the car’s GPS, I turned on the ignition to drive the first part of the destination: BIRMINGHAM. We decided to take US 78 and I 22 to Birmingham. Since Birmingham was just 3 hours drive from our hometown and en-route to ATLANTA, we decided to sleep over at Birmingham on Friday night. It was a great drive spanning the picturesque mountains, valleys, lake, outstretched blue sky, never-ending long roads, wide spread stretch of trees, and beautiful sunset. We reached Birmingham at 9:30 PM. Famished and tired, we checked-in to our hotel “Comfort Inn”. It was a spacious room with two queen size beds, including amenities like television, microwave and fridge; and was large enough to comfortably accommodate our family of four. We relished the dinner that we had brought from home. Setting the alarm for next morning, we hit the bed to get good night’s sleep before the 3 hour journey from Birmingham to Atlanta, that was ahead of us the next day.
7/26/2014, Saturday – Our alarms went off at 6 AM. We woke up after a great good night sleep that had removed our fatigue. We got ready and hit the hotel’s breakfast area to gorge on continental food that included waffles, pancakes, muffins, cereal, bread toast and fresh fruit juices. We started at 9 AM on I 20 to our next destination – a 3 hour drive to ATLANTA. Thankfully, we found rest area halfway through our journey to Atlanta. Rest areas are usually located mid way to your destination, to enable the travelers to relax, stretch and also have food at picnic benches. We stopped there for few minutes to stretch our muscles and resumed our journey. Atlanta runs on EST, and is 1 hour ahead of our time, so we reached there at 1 PM. It was past lunch time and we were extremely tired and hungry.
Our first stop was Patel Plaza for lunch and shopping.
Patel Plaza – Address: 1711 Church St, Decatur, GA 30033
Patel Plaza extends over a vast area and houses plethora of jewelry stores (selling gold, silver jewelry), restaurants (few of which are Thali Restaurant, Chopaati, etc), Patel Brothers (a departmental store where you can buy all Indian vegetables, fruits, groceries, novelties, spices, idols, and everything you find in India).
- Chopaati – 1711 Church St, Decatur, GA 30033. Open from 11:30 am – 9:30 pm – My parents preferred to relish some South Indian food, so we visited Chopaati. Food is pretty decent here. You can relish hot and delicious south Indian food items like variety of idlies, dosas, poori, upma, pongal, desserts, chats etc.
Thali Restaurant – 1709 Church St, Decatur, GA 30033. Open from 11:30 am – 9:30 pm – Hubby and I wanted to gorge on some yummy Gujarati food, so we visited Thali Restaurant. The ambiance of this restaurant is marvelous. It has a “cottage” feel built with hay and wood, low raised cushioned diwans (benches/cots) for seating, wind chimes clinging, artistic wall paintings and a miniature well. You get the aesthetic feel of typical Indian Village. Our appetite was small, so we ordered Mini-Thali which came with chaas( butter milk), an appetizer (Dhokla), 5 rotis, 2 types of vegetable curries, khichdi, dessert (gulab jamoon), pickle. Food was lip smacking. I would give this restaurant 4.5/5 stars. If you happen to visit Patel Plaza, don’t miss having food at Thali Restaurant.
- Patel Brothers – 1709 Church St, Suite #F Decatur, GA 30033. Open from 11:30 am – 9:30 pm – It is a must-visit place for shopping INDIAN groceries, novelties, soaps, shampoos, hair oils, food items, spices, idols, games, et al. We spent around 2 hours here and bought items enough to fill our BMW trunk. I was even excited to find “Carrom Board” on sale for just $49. Reminiscing my childhood days spent playing carrom with my cousins and family, I happily bought one here.
Swami Narayan Temple – 460 Rockbridge Rd NW, Lilburn, GA 30047. Open from 9AM – 6PM. – Having eaten to heart’s content and shopped until we dropped, we later headed to Swami Narayan Temple. The exteriors and interiors of this temple has intricate marble carvings so stupendous that you will be awestruck by its enchanting beauty. Photography is strictly prohibited inside this temple. Truly, the interiors are feast to your eyes. We sat in the sacred shrine savoring the beauty and serenity. It was time to leave the temple.
Global Mall – 5675 Jimmy Carter Blvd, Norcross, GA 30071. Open from 11AM – 8 PM. – This entire mall houses numerous stores selling Indian stuffs which includes clothing – sarees, ghagras, kurta tops, salwars, , jewelry – gold, silver, diamond jewelry, artistic items, restaurants, etc and is considered a “Mecca” for all INDIAN shopping. This is the only mall in US which is entirely INDIAN. Be careful, stuffs and pretty overpriced and expensive here. We can devour decent food at restaurants in the mall. We had scrumptious food for dinner at Krishna Bhavan in this mall.
At night, we checked in to our hotel “Hilton Garden inn” at Atlanta Downtown. The night view of downtown including CNN, Coca Cola, Georgia Aquarium from 9th floor of our hotel room was gorgeous.
7/27/2014, Sunday – Our idea was to visit CNN and “World of Coca Cola”. I had booked online tickets for CNN tour commencing at 9 AM and “World of Coca Cola” tour commencing at 10 AM, days in advance of our trip. This helped us to avoid long queues/crowds in both the tours and also enabled us to finish our tours effectively on time.
CNN Tour – 101 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA 30303. Open from 10 AM – 6 PM. We were required to be present at 8:45 am (15 minutes before our tour starts). Exactly at 9AM, our tour guide Wes (a humorous guy) took us to a room which showed us LIVE preview of how the news will be covered. He showed us various screens like router, preset screen and program screen, and explained to us how the director reviews routers, preset screens, checks if everything is right and then approves the program to be loaded on program screen. What we actually see on our televesions at home is the programs from “program screens” inside the CNN studios. We could also hear director’s voice calling out “action”, “cut” and currently reviewing the LIVE program.
Studio 7 – Wes later took us to Studio 7 explaining how the news anchors read their scripts from teleprompters directly in front of them. He also showed us a huge touch screen for weather maps, which the weather reporters use to zoom in and out to report tornado, thunderstorm, rain, and weather forecasts.
Main CNN News room – This had huge glass window for us to look at people busily working on their computers on the other side of the glass, totally unaware of being watched by us. Wes explained that the people on the left were called news gatherers, who gather the news and people on the right were called writers, who come up with the scripts to be read on air by enws anchors, based on the news gathered by news gatherers. Usually, it takes up to 6-8 hours for the writers to write the scripts. However, in case of breaking news, the writers just write the script in 5 minutes, having validated their information from reliable sources and is sent to anchors directly.
- HLN News Room – This is smaller than Main CNN News room. They rely more on social media content and viewer content. They are planning to convert this to “social media news network”.
It was a an interesting and informative tour which took us “behind the scenes” of how the information pertaining to the news is obtained, scripted, processed, previewed, the various people and processes involved; and how news is finally delivered to us!
World of Coca Cola – 121 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313. Open 10 AM – 5 PM – We rushed to “World of Coca Cola” which was 5 minutes away from CNN to commence our 10 AM tour. A guide explained to the crowd about the history of coca cola, how it was accidentally discovered by a chemist named John Pemberton, how the very FIRST coke was sold few feet away from where we were standing, and also showed us various wall pictures of sports, film celebrities from different countries promoting coke, and also various coke artifacts that have been preserved. We were then guided into the auditorium where a 6 minute emotional commercial portraying “Joy of Sharing Coca Cola” was played. Then, we were let off to go on a “self guided tour”. We headed to “How its made” and witnessed how empty bottles move on the conveyor belt to a machine which fills the coke into the bottles until its brim and then, these bottles further move on the conveyor belt to be finally sealed by caps.
The most enjoyable part of Coke tour is “Taste It”. You will have the opportunity to taste various coca cola products sold in different continents like Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America. We tasted few countries’ coco cola products, but Asia’s was the best, probably, because we are acquainted to its taste! 🙂
At the end of the tour, each visitor gets to take home a free bottle of freshly prepared coca cola.
IKEA – 441 16th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30363.– At 11:30 AM, we decided to hit the IKEA store before starting our journey back home. We were really glad that we did it! It was a gigantic store where you could find EVERYTHING related to HOME- living room furniture, den furniture, kitchen furniture, kitchen appliances, storage jars, shelves, couches, side tables, coffee tables, outdoor furniture, bathroom stuffs, bedroom furniture, beds, mattresses, pillows, designer lamps, etc under ONE ROOF! The second floor of this showroom is full of model furniture to give you numerous ideas about decorating your home. Having acquired few ideas and obtained few pictures of various accessories, we headed down to first floor, which is actually a shopping place. Two hours passed by and we didn’t even realize it. We were so engrossed in absorbing a plethora of home decor ideas and appreciating the beauty of furniture and other accessories that were on display.
At 2:30 PM, we started our 6 hour drive back home.
It was a fun filled road trip and we were really happy to have perfectly planned and executed our weekend road trip to ATLANTA, as well as covered prime locations like Swami Narayan Temple, Global Mall, CNN, Coca Cola and IKEA.