Friday, March 31, 2017

We Drank Beverly and We Lived To Tell About It

You see all these photos of us in our coats on this trip? That's because it was FREEZING in Atlanta! In the middle of freaking MARCH! My hopes of spending Spring Break in the warm sunshine were dashed every single day of our trip, but at least we weren't back home, where it snowed that week.


My hopes were dashed again on this final day in Atlanta, when the temperature made it clear that the afternoon that I'd wanted to spend at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, romping around and earning Junior Ranger badges, was just not going to fly. We'd muscled our way through an unseasonably cold national park experience before, and that is an experience that I NEVER want to repeat.

With the original plan of the morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the afternoon on the Chattahoochee, leaving from there to head southeast to Savannah, in shambles, we decided to instead sightsee in walking distance of our hotel for the morning, then pick up the car, spend the afternoon with Reverend King, and leave from his house for Savannah.

Next problem: what to see? My vote was stoutly towards the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Ties in perfectly with our visit to Martin Luther King Jr., and it's super educational! As a plan B, I reckoned that we could maybe do the CNN Studio Tour. But on the way home from the aquarium the night before, we had walked past a place that looked like a candy-colored wonderland to the children, and they and Matt had their hearts set on it. I was vastly overruled.

And so we went to the World of Coca-Cola.

I admit that I had kind of wanted to go to this when I was planning our trip, but the same things that turned the kids on about the place turned me off. I mean, yes, I knew it was going to be basically a Coke commercial, but wow. This place was really, really, REALLY a Coke commercial!

Ah, well. Mustn't spoil the children's fun.

When we arrived, the first thing they did was hand us a souvenir Coke, and then give us a lecture on the history of Coke, and then make us watch a really long Coke commercial in which a soldier's homecoming and some frat boys' successful Spring Break stunt, among other life events, are tied to Coca-Cola.

OMG, I just found the trailer for it! It even has the bros!!! We reference those bros often.

And then we were given permission to enter the museum:

The museum's high production values were used to mask the reality that there was little content. The galleries that showed off Coca-Cola artifacts and told the history of its production were interesting, but the many interactive displays were just silly games, not hands-on opportunities to add enrichment to the experience, and there were a lot of even sillier hoops, such as a pretend security screening or a Kinect-style wall projection game, to jump through to access different galleries.

The bottling factory display was pretty cool, until I spoiled it for the whole family by pointing out how the freshly bottled bottles get taken along a conveyor belt at ceiling height back to the front of the exhibit, where the soda is dumped out and they're re-used.

We declined to get our pictures taken with the Coca-Cola polar bear, or to sit in the movie theater and watch Coke commercials, but we spent ages at one one redeeming feature of the entire World of Coca-Cola, the one thing that made the visit worthwhile, the one reason why I didn't simply wait outside while the rest of the family went in:

The sampling gallery!

Oh, my gosh, this room was so fun! I'm putting more of my images at full size than the unflattering lighting in them deserves, just so you can see the varieties of soda up for tasting. The gimmick is that it's a selection of Coca-Cola products from most of the continents of the world, and you get a little plastic up and free reign to taste them.

Reader, I tasted them ALL!

Asia and Africa had most of my favorites, with South America having some dicier flavors and most of the North American flavors being WAY too sweet for my taste:

And Europe? What the heck is WRONG with you, Europe?!? I guess I'd drink that lingonberry-flavored soda again, but all of those teas were nasty, and do you see there on the far right of the below photo, mostly cut off? The drink that came out of that dispenser comes straight from the hellmouth.

Seriously, Beverly was SO bad that I thought that there was something wrong with it, like the syrup had gone rotten. There was a group of tweens there on a field trip (what on earth kind of school field trip takes you to the World of Coca-Cola? Marketing class? Home ec? Georgia history?), and they were playing an elaborate game whose rules mainly consisted of tricking each other into tasting Beverly, and then videotaping it.

This drink was so bad that we later Googled it, and discovered that yes, it's officially bad.

The tasting gallery is set at the very end of the museum, right before the exit through the gift shop, but I was so excited about it (and only it) that I insisted on doing it before most of the other activities.

This was a HUGE mistake, because our next activity?

A movement-based 3D film:

I did not vomit up my stomach full of high fructose corn syrup, food dye, and caffeine only because I closed my eyes. And it wasn't just me, because Matt also agrees that the film wasn't correctly focused and that the chairs were crazy bumpy, and Will says that the glasses didn't fit her face well, either. Sydney was fine, though, which was crazy, because she was the one who'd been making suicides of all the drinks of an entire continent and then downing it. That kid has an iron stomach.

Still, though, the movie gave us hours of fun making fun of it for the rest of our vacation, and we still will turn to each other, apropos of nothing, and say, "Hey, you know what the fourth "u" is? YOU!!!"

 OMG, I just found a bootleg copy of it on Youtube! It's soooooo bad!!!

I was still slightly nauseated as we finally, FINALLY left World of Coca-Cola, hiked back to our hotel, picked up the car, and wended our way through downtown traffic to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. And of course my tummy was completely forgotten as soon as we got there, because it was exactly where I wanted to be and there was no need to sulk!

I really liked this museum's explanations of segregation. It thoroughly answered the question, both for kids and for potential non-believers, of why exactly segregation was so harmful, and why separate simply cannot be equal.

The birthplace was closed for tours due to some renovation work--good thing that we've toured it before, then!--so we were only able to hike over and see it from the outside:

And then I took a photo of my kids standing in the same spot, with the house taking up the same space in the background, as they were in the photo that I took of them here five years ago:

To get their heads in the right spot this year, I had to have them stand two steps lower than they stood back in 2012. They were only just beginning to learn about Civil Rights then, and I like to think that now, five years later, they're coming back to the same site with so much more understanding of Reverend King's legacy, with so much more history and context and so many more insights to bring to the experience.

Even if we did go to the World of Coca-Cola instead of the Center for Civil and Human Rights...

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