“Sweet Home Alabama, Where The Skies Are So Blue”

And not just Alabama: blues skies in Atlanta, Georgia, too where we were up until this morning. Our train had been replaced by a bus replacement service due to engineering works, but we were given compensatory snaks so the worlds not ended. We’ve hurtled west along Interstate 20 into the central time zone (now 6 hours behind all you British Islanders) and over the state boarder into Alabama and the city of Birmingham. Birmingham here is pronounced Bir-ming-HAAM and not Bir-ming-UMM as the bus conductor kindly pointed out to me, you should hear what actual Brummies call it mate! We arrived in Atlanta on the overnight sleeper from DC, which was very comfortable, we had an identical little cabin to the sleeper we caught between Charleston and New York But this time, owing to us boarding the train at dinner time, we were served an evening meal before tucking ourselves up in our bunks for a nights sleep while we rolled back down south to the blue skies and warmer weather. 

Amtrak dining car

Our last day in Washington DC gave us the chance to visit a few more sites we wanted to but hadn’t got to yet. It was also a Saturday morning and in Washington they have two parkruns, that’s 2 out of the mere 8 they have in the US, so we headed over to Theodore Roosovelt island to take part. We’ve come along way from the Great Ethiopian Run and not done too much training, that coupled with a bit of gastroenteritis neither of our runs were fast enough to write home about (so I won’t) but Suzanne did manage to snag first female, a nice little jewel for her power of 10 profile. Once we had gotten home, had breakfast, packed up, checked out of our room and headed over to Union station to check our bags for the over-nighter. We went across the river into Virginia to visit the Pentagon, it’s 9/11 memorial and Arlington Cemetery. There wasn’t too much to see at the Pentagon as the tour doesn’t run on Saturdays (you need to get one 6 weeks in advance anyway) and it’s so big that when your as close as the front door, it just looks like a regular shaped building. We walked round two corners, that vaguely resembled a Pentagon shape, to the memorial gardens. It’s a touching tribute, showing the birth year of those killed. Each of the dead was represented by a bench, because of that it almost felt more real than the New York memorial, I guess the sheer number of victims in New York made it hard to comprehend. Up the hill from the Pentagon, overlooking DC is Arlington cemetery which is the national military cemetery home to many many military personnel. It was starting to get close to our train so we didn’t have long to explore the cemetery. However we were able to climb up the hill that gives great views of the Mall and the rest of DC, the top of the hill also has the grave of the Kennedy family and the eternal flame to honour JFK’s life. 

Arlington Cemetery

Our overnight train arrived over 30 mins early so we disembarked in Atlanta before 8 am. Being unable to check into our accommodation until the afternoon we left our luggage with the lovely people at Amtrak and headed to downtown Atlanta. There were a number of option to fill our day, ranging from a tour of the CNN studios to the civil rights museum. We went for the world of coca-cola, I figured it was typical American culture! The drink was invented in Atlanta and still houses the secret recipe. In a vault. Which they show you the door of. Teases. The “museum” was pretty interesting and chronicled cokes past as well as giving you the chance to taste various versions of the drinks from across the world. After spending longer there than anticipated we headed for our accommodation, back to Amtrak to get our bags. We decided to walk to the Airbnb as it was only just over a mile and we were feeling reasonably strong. What we’d failed to realise was we were now quite a way in land, and so the flat coastal land had been replaced by hilly terrain. The seemingly easy mile walk to the Airbnb became quite a tough fitness test up and down the hills, but we managed to get there without doing any serious damage! We’ve been selecting our accommodation based on price primarily but also location. So when we saw “cozy queen sized bed” listed a mile from the station for a very cheap price we thought it was win win. What they meant by cozy was a peice of foam with sheets on it placed in a walk in wardrobe. Interesting. It was no longer than 5ft 8 so we couldn’t lie straight, however it was wide enough for us both to lie in the foetal position and clearly comfortable enough for us to get two nights sleep on without any real trouble. 

Various Coke Santas at the coca-cola world.

On our second day in Atlanta the sun was shining and we had lovely blue skies. We went to check out their Olympic park. Pretty nice, although it’s no Stratford it does have a cool interactive fountain in the shape of the Olympic Rings that possibly just out does London’s and various statues to look at including one with a list of all the medalists. To be fair to the park, it never hosted any sports, it was just a venue for fans to congregate during the games so it’s not really comparable to The Queen Elizabeth Park. It is the only remaining original structure for the Olympics of 1996 which is a shame, but it’s a nice park for the city to have. After finishing up here we headed to the Martin Luther King Jr Historical Site, it’s the birth place of the great man, where he worked as a minister and where his funeral was held after his murder. It was facinating to learn more about segregated life and the struggles he went through. His family home where he lived until he was 12 (which still stands in homage) is very grand, as he was actually born into relative wealth. Something that apparently fuelled his sense on injustice for others less well off. Outside the church where he used to preach his tombstone is next to his wife’s and overlooks another eternal flame, like JFK, symbolising their life and death. 

We’ve now had one afternoon in Birmingham, it’s a lovely city and perhaps the newest town we’ve been too (it wasn’t formed until after the civil war when the rail road boom took place). We’ve had the chance to look around the neighbourhood where we are staying (in a proper bed!) and the surrounding areas, there are many English country style homes which is interesting to see, particularly as they are larger than we might expect, but I guess we are in America! We have a few more nights her before heading to out last stop on this current trip down south: New Orleans. Then it will be time to head north, again. 


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