This weekend is all about doing it up in high style in Atlanta. Atlanta is a city I have been to more than any in the world and yet not really. I have connected thru it easily a hundred times but have never stepped foot in it. At the airport it was very strange leaving thru the gleaming glass doors instead of running to the B terminal.
Starting our shoot at the Georgia Aquarium. I had no idea that Atlanta has the largest aquarium in the world and holds 3,000 fish and by fish I mean sharks, manta rays and whale sharks — four of them to be exact. This is reason alone to go to Atlanta for the weekend.
I actually get to scuba in the largest tank in the world (they don’t like to call it that) we enter the room that puts you above the aquarium. Picture an entire football field of water — the size just overwhelms! You can look down and see the massive picture windows and the people pointing and staring.
I’m looking down into the water and see this magnificent shadow moving slowly like a large cloud that will block out the sun. What in the world is that?!? I ask. “It’s the Whale shark, it’s 22 feet long.”
I’m a human blob right now so mired in conflicting emotions. I am scared, really scared of going in the water — especially since my view gives me a good look at the Hammer head shark that’s cruising around. But this is an opportunity of a lifetime. People who scuba their entire lives never enter waters this teaming with sea life.
If the hammer head wants my job, he is definitely in a position to do something about it. The Aquarium is aware of my fear and they send two other divers to make sure I remain alive to fulfill my Travel Channel contract.
What a feeling!!!! Once in, I felt very calm. At one point my guide points behind me and motions me to turn around to see what’s coming behind. I shake my head vigorously no! then begin a mild panic attack that sends me up to the surface of the water.
Just then one of those 22 feet whale sharks pass under me, they swim at the surface so I literally had to grab my knees so I wouldn’t be standing on him.
There are four of these Escalade sized mammals so they come by as frequently as a city bus. Now I’m not nervous any more just thrilled.
You don’t hear them approaching underwater all of sudden they are a few feet below you and eclipse your view. I was so close that I would have to suck in my stomach to avoid its dorsal fin.
I thought I was totally in the zone and completely passed my anxiety until two 5 inch snappers zipped right up to my face and I screamed. I looked towards the big exhibition window and everyone was looking at me! The other divers told me it was the loudest scream they had ever heard.
Dinner scene is at one of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants Rathbun’s. Keith Rathbun is an intimidating large man who beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef. He’s also a total sweetheart who is excited to have some fun. We stage our own Iron Chef completion and use the patrons as judges. Watch the show to see if I win!
Next door is Keith’s other establishment Krog Bar. What a gem! Incredible wine list and tapas menu and the atmosphere made me feel like I was back in Sevilla, or Valencia. A don’t miss spot for sure and a real surprise in the city of Atlanta.
Then I spend the day with the Altanta Braves getting a pitching lesson from John Smoltz (who later went on to the Red Sox).
Its a little nerve racking when we do things like this — meeting big time sports celebrities while having to learn to pitch which is considered one of the most difficult actions in all of sports — or is that hitting a baseball? Yeah, I think I have that wrong. Hitting a baseball is more difficult than pitching … tell that to my right arm.
John Smoltz turns out to be a gentle giant and because of the camps he runs himself for kids he’s able to teach me pretty quickly.
I got a little over zealous with my throwing and nearly took out my camera man, Rory. He ducked at the very last moment. I like to keep my crew on their toes by showing ‘em who is boss once in awhile.
I find out that some of the other Braves want to know what my marital status is. Apparently they want to set me up with John who is now newly single. With both our travel schedules it would never work. That and I am married. I found this to be very flattering though. John is not just a pitcher, he’s a catch;-) Bad joke, I know.
I have done a lot of challenging activities while on this show but what I am about to do next is causing me more fear than when I competed in the rodeo.
I have to be in a fashion show and walk the catwalk. Ah geez.
The Fashion show is a part of Fashion Week in Atlanta, it’s called HauteLanta. Very clever. I am to be modeling a dress made specifically for me by the wonderful designer Maria Harper. We sent my measurements to Maria and in one day she made me a GORGEOUS black party dress, devastatingly flirty and I feel like Audrey Hepburn in it. I LOVE IT. And most importantly I get to keep it.
Back stage at the Hautelanta — CHAOS! It’s a tornado of fabrics, make-up, hairspray and models with legs for days (then there’s me — stubby) all over the floor are those boob enhancers that look like raw chicken breasts. What we women do to impress.
Thank goodness there is nothing but pandemonium backstage, there was no time for me to get nervous for walking the catwalk. One second, I’m being sprayed with hairspray like I’m a weedy lawn and the next I’m in wings listening for my cue — Billy Jean by Michael Jackson.
I got a very robust round of applause — that gave me a lot of confidence. Now I have to rock out gold lame Daisy Duke short shorts. Again, I think I would rather be competing in a Rodeo right now.
At Varsity, a hot dog and hamburger joint that’s been around since 1928! It’s a Drive in as well, just park your car and the Car Hops will come out and take your order. Some still sing the menu like they used to when Nipsy Russell was a Curb man. You may want to avoid after a Georgia Tech game. With a parking lot that fits 600 cars and a restaurant that fits 800 people, you can imagine it gets pretty crowded.
I end the night by clubbing at Opera. It’s a great space that used to be a beautiful theater with balconies overlooking a proscenium stage. We are really excited as a crew because this is a wrap of the episode. Tomorrow we just have to pack up and go home.
After everyone had a glass of champagne we all looked at each other and said – let’s get out of here. My whole crew and I are like an old married couple. We all know we are tired and just want to go to bed. The boys have hours still to pack up their gear.