Last updated: 07:22 PM ET, Fri February 05 2016

Dispatch: Oh Atlanta, I Hear You Callin'

Destination & Tourism | David Cogswell | February 05, 2016

Dispatch: Oh Atlanta, I Hear You Callin'

Photos by David Cogswell

Once you find yourself in the middle of a place like Atlanta, all the associations start flooding in. Streets named for people like Ted Turner and Andrew Young remind you of its history. Many cities have streets named for Martin Luther King, but Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Drive is named for a favorite son.

Downtown, the Coca Cola logo shines in neon over the world headquarters of the company. CNN’s logo also appears atop its original headquarters in Atlanta, where it was founded by Ted Turner. I can see both from my hotel room window at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

A few blocks from the hotel is the Ebenezer Baptist Church, an unassuming looking red brick building where King was baptized and ordained.

The house and museum of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind," is a mile and a half away down Peachtree Center Avenue, the same street as the hotel.

I’m here to attend the annual convention of the National Tour Association at the Georgia World Congress Center. When I was traveling from the convention center to the hotel I saw a street sign saying “Peachtree.” The name was catchy and stuck in my mind, and then a couple of blocks later we went past another street sign that said “Peachtree.”

I asked the driver, “Didn’t we just go by another street two blocks back that was also named Peachtree?.”

He shook his head with a wry smile as if preparing to give an explanation he had given many times.

“You see that’s a funny thing about Atlanta,” he said. “There are many streets in Atlanta named ‘Peachtree.’ It’s very confusing if you’re a driver.”

Well, you can’t take everything you read on Wikipedia as gospel, but I checked it out and it says there are 71 streets in Atlanta with some variation of the name Peachtree. So a word to the wise, if you’re cruising around Atlanta…

Four days of heavy conferencing doesn’t leave a lot of time to explore a city. But you can absorb the feeling in every encounter, every passage from one event to another. For tourism cities tend to be rated in terms of their attractions and measurable statistics: the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the U.S.; the World of Coca Cola; the Porsche Experience Center; The Delta Museum; the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site; the Margaret Mitchell House; the Legoland Discovery Center; the High Museum of Art; the Inside CNN Studio Tour; and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

But I don’t usually have time to experience even a small fraction of the attractions, I tend to rate a place in terms of the feel. Georgia is the birthplace of Ray Charles, Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown, the inspiration for the Hoagy Carmichael tune “Georgia on My Mind.” Any soil that could produce such cultural richness as that must have some very special components.

Atlanta has grown into a teeming metropolis, a world center of commerce and culture with the busiest airport in the world and people coming from everywhere to live. So it now has a rich multicultural and diverse culture overlaid upon its historical Southern culture. The best thing about Atlanta is something that can’t be measured or given a numerical value. It’s just the feeling, the easy friendliness of the people. People say “Hi” to you here. It just comes natural.

The conference hotel for the NTA convention is the Atlanta Marriott Marquis located on – you guessed it – Peachtree Center Avenue downtown. Outside it is just another hotel tower but inside it is, to borrow a phrase from Steve Jobs, “insanely great.”

The architecture is based on a center atrium with the rooms surrounding it, so the inside of the hotel is a hollow space, like a giant cathedral, with about 50 floors stacked up around the edges. You can stand at the bottom and look all the way to the top. The floor design from that view is geometrically complex and ornate as if it were an M.C. Escher drawing come to life. It’s like being in a giant hollowed out pine cone, tall and narrow like a spire.

The din of voices in the bar on the mezzanine level echoes through the whole inner space of the hotel so that when I walked out of my room on the 45th floor I could hear the buzz of human celebration far down below.

Down the street a half block from the front door of the hotel – on Peachtree Center Avenue – is Gibney’s Pub, a beautiful Irish-style pub with a front as bright red as an old London telephone booth. It’s the classic pub, the center of community and relaxed socializing for busy working people taking a few minutes of respite from the activities of making a living. The food was great and inexpensive, such things as fish and chips, pulled pork barbecue sandwiches and burgers. Mostly it was a great place to soak up that laid-back Atlanta vibe.

My time in Atlanta went way too fast. Now I must tear myself away when I felt like I was only beginning to get a taste of the city. Luckily for me I am planning to return in September for the MLT University of MLT Vacations, the operator of Delta Vacations. So God willing I will be back.

The voice of Alison Krauss plays in my head.

“Oh Atlanta

I hear you calling

I’m coming back to you

One fine day…”

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