February 19, 2008

Georgia Aquarium

Our next stop in Atlanta was the Georgia Aquarium - the largest aquarium in the world with more than 8 million gallons of water. They had two prime attractions - the whale shark and the Beluga whales. Security was crazy in the aquarium - luckily we did not have to wait long owing to the City Pass, but people were not allowed to even take in chewing gums.

Anyways, we spent about 4 hours in there, and we were really excited about the whale sharks - the largest fishes in the world and these are only ones in an aquarium outside Asia. There were supposed to be 4 of them, but we could make out only 3 and here is one of them:

This California Sea lion was all set for his meal, and could not stop himself from peeking in through the glass in the door, may be watching his food being prepared. It was very funny to see him keep doing that. An impatient one!

Here is the star of the aquarium, one of the Beluga Whales - these are the only whales with a flexible neck! This whale can also swim backwards, though we didn't see it. The aquarium is hoping to breed the Beluga Whales in captivity. The aquarium maintains a webcam for both the whale sharks and the beluga whale. Please take a look when you get a chance.

The most fun we had was watching these curious Garden Eels, poking their head and attempting to come pout of the sand, though even after 5 minutes, we never saw one leave the sand completely.

Another awesome exhibit, was the Lake Malawi Cichlids. They are the classic example of Sympatric Speciation - formation of new species in the absence of a geographical barrier, for example within a lake (I know this sounds geeky :)). It was neat to see many species of Cichlids in the same tank! I wish there was some write up there on the significance of these fishes.

February 9, 2008

CNN Tower

The CNN Center in Atlanta is also a tourist center, where we can take a guided tour on the news giant - get a glimpse of the newsroom and how they work. After a late start, mostly because of me chatting with Ramya and delaying her too, we made it to the CNN center, also across from the Centennial Park around 11 am.

The tour was 55 minutes long, and it was pretty interesting for us to learn more about how news is processed & delivered to us. Only disappointment was pictures were not allowed. Oh, and even though we go up an escalator, we have to walk down like 13 flights of stairs - so not for the weak legged.

From the CNN center, we went to SbyDee, a new Thai restaurant near Georgia Tech. The place was recommended by our friend Goutham, and he also joined us for lunch. The place was nice, not crowded and the food was excellent. We had vegetable tempura and a cashew curry. Today's good Thai food helped us alleviate the disappointment of the Thai restaurant we stopped at on our first day of this trip.

February 7, 2008

World of Coca-Cola

The World of Coca-Cola is the largest museum for Coke and all the products of Coca-Cola. The museum has moved to a new venue at Pemberton Place, across from Centennial Park in Atlanta. Given the Holiday season, the place was so crowded and thanks to the city pass, we did not have to wait for a long time.

I have to mention that tourist spots in Atlanta had the most security I have ever seen other than airports. We have to walk through a metal detector, leave my tiny swiss army knife outside and can't even have chewing gum on you. That seemed a little too much. So anyways, after a long line to pass the security check, we were let into the lobby (below).

Then at some specified intervals, all of us were herded into a corridor - called the loft, which has coke ads from all over the world. We had to stand here for another 15 minutes, trying to read these ads and watch little facts about coke on big flat screen monitors. Again we were all herded into the Happiness Factory Theater, where you get to watch a lame animated shameless self promotion movie. Opening from the theater, is the hub, with few exhibits and the Coke Polar Bear (not a real one).

The place got interesting after this, you can see a working bottling unit, and video feeds from real factories. Adjacent to this is a milestone gallery and a display of coke products. There some pretty neat coke bottles, some from China & nearby countries and those that were made specially for night clubs. I would like my coke in such a bottle. On level two, there is a pop art gallery with works by Andy Warhol and other coke fans, and more coke products from around the world.

The last stop was the tasting room, where they had tasting stations from all over the world, with 70 different products. We each tasted about 12 products - it was the place to spike your blood sugar. There were also stations where you can sample products that are in the making, a Christmas special peppermint flavored drink and a coffee flavored one. The entire experience ended in the gift store (of course), with so many coke products that you never want to see in one place, unless you get high on coca-cola. They were also very expensive, that our only souvenir was the sample coke bottle that they give out. Well, something for all the lines and waiting I suppose.

We had another long walk back to the car and headed to Alpharetta, to see our friend Ramya, who is behind our detour to Atlanta. She made Poori & Masal for dinner, Strawberry delight for delight - it was loaded with nuts & an instant hit. I was super tired and hit the bed early. However, Amy had declared herself the center of everyone's attention and kept everyone busy with petting her.

February 5, 2008

Lunch in Atlanta

After a long walk in the zoo, our stop was at Underground Atlanta - a mall and also where we thought the Coke Museum was. After we got there, we realized that the Coke Museum has moved, but it was a good place to grab some lunch. The Atlanta information center located in the Underground, was very helpful and pointed us out to Tringali's - an Italian restaurant above the mall.

The place was wonderful, with a fine dine atmosphere. We were way under dressed for the restaurant, but still enjoyed the service and the food. We started off with a Caprese salad, and then the Eggplant Parmesan. The serving size was plenty and the meal was delicious. And don't miss out on the bread and real butter. We even took some bread for Amy :)

We were a running short on time, since most of the tourist places closed around 4 pm (except the Coke Museum, which we later found was open till 6 pm) and didn't have any time for shopping. We had bought the City Pass, on which you save some money by buying tickets to at least 6 places at once and didn't want to waste it. Parking was plenty near the Underground and hence we decided to walk to the Coke Museum, called World of Coke now. We crossed Centennial Park - in memory of the 1996 Olympics. They had a huge Christmas tree (above) and a skating ring that was crowded. We had a good walk after a big lunch!
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