A glorious day in Midtown

Midtown skyscrapers

In my post about second homes, I mentioned that I hadn’t quite made that special connection with Atlanta yet. This past Tuesday, I realized that’s not exactly true. I do have strong feelings…for parts of Atlanta.

It only makes sense. Atlanta is huge. The sprawl just keeps going and going. Much of the city is strings and clusters of strip malls, businesses, and homes that are only accessible by car. Of course I wouldn’t find that homey, walkable, or natural.

But there are places where I can stroll around happily for hours and find plenty to do and see. As I rediscovered Tuesday, one of those places is Midtown.

Midtown skyscrapers

My friend and former coworker Stephanie just moved back to the Atlanta area–we met in Augusta, but she grew up here. We’ve been trying to get together and do something for awhile, and finally this week things came together. She and her baby Landon, who is just about to start walking but for this day spent most of the time in his stroller, met up with me at the High Museum of Art.

High Museum of Art with signage for Frida and Diego exhibit

Stephanie hadn’t been there since she was in school; as for me, the last time I’d visited was for the Picasso to Warhol exhibit a year ago. I acquired a photography permit (something I don’t recall them doing last year) and signed a statement agreeing not to post my photos online (alas), then we got to exploring.

We started in the Stent Family Wing, heading up the ramp to see European Art from the 14th to 19th centuries and American Art from the 18th to mid-19th centuries. We took a short break so Stephanie could feed Landon; I was impressed with how organized and thoughtful a mom she is. After a quick diaper change, we were able to take in the first part of the visiting Frida & Diego exhibit before Landon became too fussy to continue. All the while, Stephanie and I chatted about the art, and travel, and cutie Landon, and it was a lot of fun!

I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet, so after walking Stephanie and Landon down to the lobby, I headed back up to finish out Frida & Diego. I hadn’t heard of Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera before this exhibit came to town, so it was an eye-opening experience. They both had such fascinating lives, their relationship with each other a pivotal point. One of Frida’s paintings in particular, “The Broken Column,” so strongly resonated that I had to fight burning tears. Frida suffered crushing injuries in an accident when she was 18. Her spine was broken in multiple places and her uterus was impaled. These injuries left her in a lifetime of pain and unable to carry a pregnancy to term. She died young, at 47. “The Broken Column” is a self-portrait. Frida gazes at the viewer, standing tall despite the exposed, fractured column that represents her spine, her body riddled with nails, her face streaked with tears.

All of the Frida & Diego exhibit is amazing and informative; I highly recommend checking it out before it leaves Atlanta in May.

After Frida & Diego I went up to the Skyway Level to see Gogo: Nature Transformed, a temporary exhibit of jewelry based on designs found in nature. Much of it was cast from molds of animal bones, and I didn’t really care for it. After that I wandered through the Modern Art exhibits, which were far more to my liking. I especially enjoyed the furniture designs; the High has pieces from Frank Lloyd Wright (instantly recognizable) and pieces that were sold by Herman Miller in the mid to late 20th century. One thing I also appreciated about the Modern Art exhibits, and the others that incorporate furniture or sculpture, is the way the museum has arranged all the pieces. Designing an exhibit is an art unto itself.

After Modern Art I skipped Folk Art and went straight to Contemporary Art. I remembered many of the pieces–Anish Kapoor’s untitled reflective dish, for one–but new items had appeared as well, and other exhibits and pieces that were on display last year are now gone. Then I went down to the Third Level and looked at American furniture, paintings, and sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries. Items I found especially fascinating were an ornate cabinet, an intricate piano built for its looks rather than its sound, a group of face jugs from Edgefield, South Carolina, and two separate still life paintings featuring dead fish.

Finally I went down to the Lower Level, where I strolled through the Works on Paper exhibit and the African Collection. I found myself drawn to three paintings by Will Henry Stevens in Works on Paper and a display case filled with intricately detailed metal curios in the African Collection. And with that, my wonderful five and a half hours at the High were concluded.

High Museum of Art

At that point I was pretty hungry, so I decided to try and find food. I’d had a protein bar at around noon, but it was now 4:30. At first I thought I’d just go to the restaurant next to the High, but nothing on their menu sounded appealing, so I got on Yelp! to see what was available in the area. Unfortunately, the Midtown branch of South City Kitchen wasn’t open yet. I tried to go to a place called Article 14, but I couldn’t find it. (I ended up passing it later in the evening on a completely different street from where I’d been looking, but in my defense, the streets are both called Peachtree.) Eventually I decided to just keep walking around and eat whenever I found a restaurant that looked good. It took about 45 minutes, but I finally came across a pizza place called Vespucci’s, so I stopped there and had a delicious pepperoni calzone.

Pepperoni calzone from Vespucci's

Thus recharged, I decided there was still enough daylight to warrant going to Piedmont Park, so I headed off down the other Peachtree Street and then up 14th Street, all the while taking photos of beautiful Midtown. I got to the park at around 6:30 and spent about 45 minutes strolling through it, circling the pond and snapping photos of flowering trees and shimmering water. It was pretty out, though it was starting to get cold; I kept my hands in my pockets as much as possible.

Flowering tree at Piedmont Park

Flowering tree at Piedmont Park

Midtown skyline as seen from across the pond at Piedmont Park

Detail of a flower on a tree at Piedmont Park

Pavilion on the pond at Piedmont Park

Visitors Center at Piedmont Park

I took more Midtown shots on my way back to the car. The setting sun made for some nice light.

Reflected skyscraper bathed in a wedge of sunset light

Sunset light washing over 14th Street

I was headed off for home before darkness had a chance to settle in, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. (I may be the only person who likes DST.) As I found my way back to I-75, the dwindling sunset painted Midtown pink.

Pink-hued Midtown skyscrapers

I’d had an awesome day, but somehow I didn’t want to go home yet. I called Sean to see if he wanted to go out to dinner, but he didn’t, so instead of going to the apartment, I drove to our local movie theater to see if they had anything interesting. At the time, my mood was swinging toward either Emperor or A Good Day To Die Hard, but neither was playing at that location. Oz the Great and Powerful was available, but I’d read a review that had somewhat soured me on seeing it…so I went back to my car and pulled up Yelp! again, deciding to just go ahead and have dinner. A search for nearby restaurants revealed a Thai/Malaysian place in an adjacent shopping center. Given my love affair with Penang, that sounded like a plan to me, so I hopped out onto Cobb Parkway and then right off again, heading straight back to Top Spice.

The ambiance wasn’t quite as cozy as Penang’s, at least not in the entryway. I felt rather like I was on stage, as all the tables were raised above the level of the front door and there was no half wall or anything to provide a feeling of privacy. Once I was snug in my booth, though, I was quite comfortable.

Interior of Top Spice

Rather than an entree, I decided to have two appetizers. This was mainly because they had roti canai and I love roti canai, and I knew if I got roti canai and an entree, I wouldn’t be able to finish. The second appetizer I chose was called martabak. It’s made with the same Malaysian “pancake” as roti canai, but it’s a beef and onion curry wrap. Somehow the flavor wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’m not sure I liked it. The roti canai was good, but Penang’s is better.

Then I gave in to temptation and tried their sticky rice mango, and it was amazing. The plate featured three separate items: a sticky rice patty with sesame seeds, a neat pile of mango slices, and a small bowl of coconut syrup. At first I tried alternately dipping the rice, then the mango into the syrup, but I soon found that assembling bites of all three at once created the ultimate flavor. Sticky rice mango is one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted. I devoured it all.

Sticky rice mango at Top Spice

With that satisfying conclusion to my meal, I was finally ready for my day of adventures to end. I headed home in sublime contentment, my belly full of yummy food, my camera full of photos, and my brain full of happy memories.

View more Midtown photos | View more March 2013 photos