Monday, December 12, 2011

Atlanta -- Day Four

My last day in Atlanta started pretty much the same as the last three.  Only difference being today I had to check out.  I left my luggage with the able-bodied concierge and off I went.  My goal was to be at the zoo at opening and hope that my panda pals were awake and entertaining visitors.  I would not be disappointed.

Once again I walked to the Civic Center bus stop and ran for the #32 bus, only to find it was going to sit there for about 20 minutes before leaving.  That always makes me feel silly for running for it, but hey, I burned off half a waffle doing that run.  Maybe.  The bus ride out only took about 20 minutes this time and now I  knew where to pull the cord to request the stop.  I was an old pro at this.  I walked over to the gate of the zoo and realized it opened at 9:30, not 9:00, so instead of being 20 minutes late, I was 10 minutes early.  I spent that time shivering in the cold (41 degrees) Atlanta morning.

After relinquishing my last CityPass ticket (I had used all five), I did some speed walking right to the panda area.  In the first outdoor enclosure was a male panda, but I wasn't sure who, either Yang Yang or Xi Lan.  It turned out that it was Yang Yang, who had very little interest in anything but munching bamboo much of the day.  Xi Lan was such an utter flirt and camera hog on Friday, it was sort of a bummer to learn his dad isn't the same.

But my reward was in the next outdoor enclosure, where I found mom Lun Lun and baby Po out and about.  Lun was eating and Po was wandering around.  For the next 90 minutes, I had these two all to myself, with the exception of a very nice and chatty volunteer.  I moved to the enclosed part of the panda area, and sat up against the glass of the outdoor enclosure.  When Lun and Po started walking around, they were literally on the other side of the glass.  I was lucky enough to have them pass close by (close enough to touch...well, but for the glass!) and both even stopped to look at me looking at them a couple times.  It was fabulous.  I learned a lot from the volunteer about this particular panda family and shared some of what I learned in China.  Finally around 11 or so, Po settled down for a nap, then Lun did too, so I moved on to visit other animals.

The tiger cubs were up next and they were really putting on a show.  As I approached their enclosure one of them was right at the glass and was licking it.  I caught him mid-lick and he put his paw up against the glass like he was saying hi.  He let me get pretty close before running off after his sister.  I am thrilled with my photos of them as well.  For a non-photographer, I did pretty well.

At 12:45, I ascertained that most of the other animals were inside and even papa panda Yang Yang was asleep.  There was no sense standing out in the cold waiting for animals to wake up, so I returned to the downtown area.  I was cold and hungry with lots of time to kill, so decided to have a big meal now and something smaller at the airport.  I got off the metro near Fox Theater and walked to Mary Mac's Tearoom, which Frommers calls and Atlanta institution. 

Mary Mac's is is a bit dated in decor but also in menu prices.  My meal was a whopping $11.  I had meatloaf with fried green tomatoes and sweet potato souffle and sweet tea.  I'd read about the sweet tea and decided to try it despite the fact that I don't actually like iced tea.  It was quite good, very sweetened (sugar!).  The meatloaf was fairly good, the fried green tomatoes were a bit weak but the highlight was the sweet potato souffle, which had marshmallows and brown sugar on top.  NICE!  My dessert choice (peanut butter pie) had just run out, but I was full, so I paid my tab and moved on.  I'd pass on Mary Mac's if I were to return to Atlanta.  It just paled in comparison to the other meals I'd had on this trip.

I really struggled deciding what to do with the rest of my day.  I had about 3 1/2 hours until I had to head to the airport.  Ultimately I paid another $26 to return to the aquarium.  I spent half my time watching the whale sharks in the big tank and the other half watching the belugas.  I stored up mental images for those times I need to relax and think of something zen.  These underwater beauties will do it.

At 5:15 I took the Metro back to the airport and was all checked in and eating a salad at my gate by 6:30.  Take off was at 7:30 and we had an early arrival back in Boston at 10 p.m.

All in all it was a great trip.  I'd definitely return to Atlanta for the zoo, the aquarium and the food.  Had I only visited the zoo and the aquarium once, the CityPass would have been a huge savings (I paid $69 for admission to sites that would have been $96 individually).  Sure, I may not have visited World of Coca Cola otherwise, but sine it was nearby and essentially free, why not?

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