Big cities are always a little harder to figure out than small ones with one main street and Atlanta is no exception. We hotwired a hotel and ended up in a pretty nice and higher end neighbourhood, Buckhead and thought all would be cool. We read somewhere about "Little Five Points" being a hip neighbourhood and figured that's where we'd start after walking around Buckhead. First thing we saw was Lennox mall, there was valet parking. . .need I say more? We exited there quickly for a little more dirt and grime and less chain stores.
So we entered the MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system and took the train to where we THOUGHT we should be going, Five Points. Well, Five Points is NOT Little Five Points and we ended up downtown in the middle of every homeless person off their meds, yes we found the grime we thought we were looking for but this was a bit too grimey for us. . . I mean the “stores” we went in even had the socks security tagged. It was all a bit eye opening and definitely not the side of Atlanta we wanted to see by any means. We ended up walking about 10 blocks over to a crazy change into a “Disney-like” area where the “World of Coca-cola”, Aquarium, and Peter Pan show after walking through the Olympic Plaza (the entrance to the plaza was guarded by a bunch of uniformed police on motorbikes and I am sure it is to keep the crazies out of the park the tourists and kids visit.) We figured we had to get out of there and visited the Atlanta Vistor Center to find out that no we were not in Little Five Points at all and were given directions to get there on the MARTA.
So back on the train we went, choosing a different station and walking through the area of the Georgia Convention Centre. Considering there was a Hair Show, Circus, and Cheerleading competition going on the cross section of people were interesting to say the least. A few stops on the train got us to the station closest to this up and coming neighbourhood, and nice locals gave us directions to get there, if you didn’t know .. . .you’d be completely lost. Interestingly enough there were lots of historical plaques about the wars fought in the area during the 17 and 1800’s so we caught up on some history. As we came down Morehead into Little Five Points we could immediately see that this was more our speed, little shops, no chains (except American Apparel, weird) and cute bars and restaurants. The neighbourhood however was only a few blocks. A tiny little area but very cool in all of its few blocks.
Our first stop was a cute little designer owned and operated shop, Rene Rene. A little pin up and I found some great unique pieces in a hat and necklace. We continued along checking out the cool graffiti and stores along the way. A lot of small businesses with very little stock but friendly young shop owners. There were several co-op type spaces where many operators worked together, each with a little piece of their own stock. A very eager salesman tried to push Akaline water onto us, he won the award for ugliest sweater on the trip. . Wish I had taken a picture!
We saw a few great stores, Bill Hallman, and Abracabra, and the coolest was Wish, a hipster urban spot with a “shoe vault” in the basement. I got in trouble for trying to take pictures! Oops! We then had the plan to get back on the train to take in another neighbourhood we had heard about, The Virginia Highlands. Well, we had to pee, so no harm in stopping for a quick beer at a cool place we had passed, “The Porter” LOL. Well this place was the coolest and we ended up finishing our night there after a few hours! A 14 page beer list with beers from all over the world, tons on tap and friendly and informative bartenders to keep us entertained. The pub had also won best pub food for the last 3 years. Anytime you see “truffle oil” on a bar menu you know there is some sort of gourmet in the kitchen! Finding me a beer that I liked.. I figured out that I don’t really like beer after trying 3 and making James drink them, was a bit difficult but I ended up liking a Florida Brew with bees, oranges and honey on the label. This beer menu read like the most flowery wine list. . And they all SOUNDED delicious but reality was they all tasted like BEER to me. . .LOL
Although our bartender Mike, when he heard about our “diner and dive” roadtrip suggested we try the “cardiac arrest” burger (a all dressed burger add eggs, bacon, and instead of a bun 2 grilled cheese sandwiches to hold it all together) at Vortex down the street, we opted for the gourmet pub food served right at The Porter. Our food was delicious and cheap, fresh bread they make daily using the leftover beer malt/yeast $3, gourmet mac n cheese $5.25, beet salad $5.00 (still trying to get in those veggies) and mussels and frites $9.75. We made our way through almost 10 new beers and finished off with a Mint Julep while we learned some of the neighbourhood history. Apparently the hood used to be run by a gang of neo-nazis, but not prejudice/racist neo nazis, they let everyone in, just a gang of tattooed people who like to dress like skin heads. The guy beside us with the tattooed and pierced face told us he was one and Sharp apparently stands for skinheads against hatred and racial prejudice. . . . Or something like that. It has been gentrified over the last few years and lot of shops have popped up. It is still easier, according to our bartender, to get a job in the hood if you are tattooed and pierced rather than clean cut. You just fit in there better.
Mike also kept us entertained with stories of interesting gun laws in the US, For example one county over from Atlanta, you have to own a gun to buy a house, its the law! No gun, no house. We also discovered that we would be visiting all the confederate states where it is perfectly legal to carry a gun. UHHH this is weird to us Canucks for sure. We are now noticing the signs outside government buildings where it says perfectly clearly that you must not have a concealed weapon. . . But a unconcealed one is fine. .. WEIRD!
A hour long trip back on the MARTA brought us back to the hotel and I got to see so many fashion faux-pas I stopped counting. One thing about that city is that all the crazy stuff I see at the American fashion trade shows. . .that I can never imagine anyone buying. . .well it ends up in Atlanta in size 6xl on somebody!
We figured out a few things: Atlanta, like Calgary, is a driving city, the trains and buses do work but take forever. Ask someone where to go, the cool neighbourhoods are small and not together and not on the train routes directly. . .and avoid getting off at Five Points unless you want some serious culture shock and to hold tightly onto your purse!