Monday, November 8, 2010

Sharks and Pandas!

After leaving Alabama we made our way through Georgia to visit Atlanta. I had a few activities in mind to keep us busy for a few days before we had to start getting ready for "The Best of the Best" Invitational and the Open competitions at the National Barbecue Festival in Waycross, Georgia. Atlanta is a large city, so we booked ourselves in to a hotel across from Turner Field which is close to downtown and most of the major attractions that we were interested in visiting. Of course first on the list was the Georgia Aquarium. Last year I visited it by myself and went swimming with the Whale Sharks and rays and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. This year I was going to do it again, but with Melissa. On Monday afternoon we drove down to visit the aquarium and to go swimming with the sharks. At 4:00pm we went for our swim briefing and then after that our equipment selection. At 5:00 pm when the aquarium closed we geared up with oxygen tanks, wetsuits, masks and fins and proceeded to enter the 6 million gallon Ocean Voyager tank filled with Whale sharks, Hammerheads, Tiger sharks as well as Manta Rays and over 4000 more fish! We swam and became part of their world for thirty minutes, having several close encounters with the big Whale sharks which will swim right into you as they circle the football field sized tank. Having twenty foot long sharks that swim into you from below is exhilarating to say the least! After our swim, hot shower and debriefing we were on our way home with memories never to forget.

Melissa would soon be swimming with this guy!


Tuesday afternoon was our day to visit CNN. I really wanted to do this tour, but Melissa did not share my enthusiasm, at least until we actually got to the studios in downtown Atlanta. CNN takes up a whole block and even has a high-rise building inside it. Yes there is a hotel in the middle of the courtyard inside the large complex that houses CNN and Headline News. Food, shopping and lots of security fill the vast area making up the main floor. We signed up for one of the tours which took us through eight floors of the network where we got to see the studios of CNN and HLN as well as the people and news rooms behind the scenes. This place is an IT guys nightmare.. The main news room has over five miles of cabling under the floor connecting hundreds of computers, monitors etc.! They would not let us take pictures inside the building and they have pretty stringent security policies in place but nonetheless it was a very interesting tour that even Melissa ended up enjoying.

Our next major stop was to be the Atlanta Zoo. The Atlanta Zoo is only one of four institutions in the North America that has Giant Pandas on loan to them from The Peoples Republic Of China. Our visit to see the Pandas was even more special because the female, Lun Lun, just gave birth to her third cub that morning! As much as I liked the Pandas I have to admit my favourite part was the Mountain Gorillas and the monkeys. It never ceases to amaze me at how similar we are. Watching the gorilla cleaning his fingernails was so human like it captivated me.

Mom and baby!

The father, Yang Yang.

On our way back from the zoo we drove by an old cemetery called the Oakland Cemetery. It was so old looking it caught my eye and actually made me turn the van around to take another look. As we got closer we saw some signs and read that Margaret Mitchell, the author of "Gone With The Wind" was buried there. I also realized that this cemetery had all kinds of old tombstones and crypts from around the time of the American Civil War which both of us found interesting. One thing to remember about this part of the country is just how much history is here. We walked around for about half an hour looking inside the grounds and it was absolutely fascinating. Nothing creepy or dark about it, just interesting to see the plots of families from a time long, long ago. The Confederate Memorial with all the small tombstones of the soldiers was just like the memorials you see in other Veteran cemetery's but just real old.

Next stop Waycross, Georgia for The Best Of The Best BBQ Competition!

1 comment:

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