1996 Weekend Review
Jan 6-7, (Atlanta, GA) Corporate Audit Dept. (CAD) conference in Atlanta.

Jan 13-14, (Miami, Fl) Conference continued in Miami. Nice sunny weather. Got a round of golf in at the Doral Golf Resort.

Jan 20-21, (Key West, Fl) Drove to the Florida Keys with 6 other new CAD members. While there, we visited the southern most point of the continental USA and tried get a tan on the beach. There simply wasn’t enough time for that. We also chartered a 20 foot catamaran and went snorkeling and island exploring.

Jan 27-28, (Drogheda, Ireland) My first audit assignment! Landed in a flurry of snow and ice. Very cold! (15 F). Drogheda is the site of one of Coca-Cola’s mega-concentrate plants. There we make about 15% of the worlds Coke supply.

Feb 3-4, (Adare, Ireland) CAD team traveled to Adare which is located 15km south of Limerick. We stayed at the Adare Manor which was built in the 1800’s and is now ranked 4th in world by Conde’ Nast travel magazine. On the trip home, we went to the west coast to the Cliffs of Moher and took a peak over. It kind of reminded me of Cape Town, S.Africa.

Feb 10-11, (Belfast, Northern Ireland) Visited Patrick & Jenny Hurst (Friends of a friend.) Pat took me on tour of Belfast which included a stop at the Crown Pub which is the oldest pub in the city. Good Guinness and Irish Stew were to be had. I also got a tour of West Belfast by a taxi driver who was definitely an IRA sympathizer. He showed me the sites of many of the bombings and killings. (It was needless to say - a one sided tour.) The next day I took the coast road to Giants Causeway. It is a unique formation of rock pillars formed out of lava, millions of years ago. It was quite interesting to look at.

Feb 17-18, (Essen, Germany) Found my way back to Germany to participate in the Karnival celebrations. There was much dancing and drinking in the streets of the Dusseldorf Altstadt. I was able to meet up with my good friends, Jan, Olin, Detlef, Michaela, Kerstin, & Petra. It was typical German weather. (It rained most of the weekend.)

Feb 24-25, (Cong, Ireland) Stayed at the Ashford Castle on the west coast of Ireland. Ashford, which was built around the 1300’s, and later owned by the Guinness family, is the most famous and luxurious hotel in Ireland. (That was confirmed upon checkout.) The weekend was spent driving around the coastline near Galway and Clifton enjoying the coast and scenery.

Mar 2-3, (Dublin, Ireland) This was our first full weekend in the city. Coke managed to get us tickets to the sold out Rugby tournament. We watched the Irish National team play against Wales and took part in all of the pre- and post-game celebrations. Many pints of Guinness were consumed. This was a great lead-in to my birthday. The team decided to buy me shots of whiskey and then proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to me in the lobby of the Shelbourne Hotel. It was a riot!

Mar 9-10, (Cork, Ireland) Went by train and toured the southern coast this weekend. I have now hit all parts (North, East, South, and West.) We hit all the great spots such as Killarney, Kinsale, Bantry, and even Blarney Castle. We all kissed the Blarney Stone (backwards and upside down) which supposedly gave us the gift of gab. (Something that we definitely needed!?!)

Mar 16-17, (Marrakech, Morocco) Before going to Peru, I was diverted for a week to Morocco. We spent the weekend in Marrakech which is in the middle of the country. At the SUK (Grand Bazaar), we saw snake charmers, acrobats, and other entertainment. We, of course, spent most of the time shopping. Then at the restaurant, we were served some interesting food which included lamb’s brain, rat, and pigeon. To me, it tasted just like it sounds. I don’t want to make any further comment.

Mar 23-24, (Casablanca, Morocco) I didn’t do too much this weekend other than explore Casablanca a little. The only thing that was interesting was the Mosque. It is the largest in the world. The artwork was simply fabulous. Sunday, I flew to Lima, Peru.

Mar 30-31, (Lake Titicaca, Peru) The lake is the highest in the world lying at 13,000 feet in the Andes mountains. It borders Peru and Bolivia. To give you an idea of size, it is twice the size of Lake Tahoe and 5 times the size of Lake Geneva. Near the town of Puno are some floating islands. The Eros Islands, inhabited by the Incans, are made of floating reeds. Some lie in water about 50m deep and the islands themselves are about 6m thick. Each week, new reeds are added to the top due to the reeds underneath rotting. On one island, over 70 families live there. I had to fly home early as I got a bad case of altitude sickness.

Apr 5-8, (Galapagos Islands, Equador) For the long Easter weekend, a colleague and I decided to do something exotic by visiting the Galapagos Islands. The Islands are of volcanic origin and comprise of 13 major islands, 6 smaller islands and over 42 islets. They sit directly on the equator about 960 miles off the western coast of Ecuador. The islands are abundant with wildlife that include Giant Turtles, Iguanas, Sea Lions, Penguins, and Blue Footed Boobies. The animals were not afraid when we approached and some even allowed us to touch them. The highlight of the trip was snorkeling and swimming with about 30-50 sea lions. They were playful and curious and came right up to us. After looking us in the eyes, they would dart off. They were the funniest creatures. The Islands are definitely on my list of places to return. I just hope it will be soon.

Apr 12-14, (Machu Picchu, Peru) Two great weekends in a row! After a short flight to Cuzco, the team (and collegues from the local office - Chio, Juan, & Patty) took a 4 hour train ride which wound its way through the valleys and mountains of the Andes. We then boarded a bus for a harrowing half hour ride up the mountain before we finally reached our destination - the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Viewing the ruins and learning about the old Inca culture was facinating. Since we were there for 2 days we took our time and really got to know the place. The highlight was climbing to the top of Wynapicchu which gave us a spectacular view down on ruins below. Though it took an hour to climb (almost straight up), our whole team made it. We relaxed and took pictures from the top. On the way down, it started to mist. It was the first time in my life that I ever looked down on a rainbow and not up at one. Grab a pen and paper and put Machu Picchu on your list of places to visit!

Apr 20-21, (Lima, Peru) Relaxed in Lima for my final weekend before my flight out. Went to the Royal Gold Museum to see all the gold treasures that were collected from different Inca civilizations which included those from the Machu Picchu era.

Apr 26-29, (Royal Majesty Cruise Ship - Miami - Nassau , Bahamas - Key West) My good traveling friend, Mike Cheney, finally decided to get married to his long time girlfriend Lisa. They got married on the ship with 80 of their friends. A lot of drinking took place from the time the boat sailed until the time we docked back in Miami. A good time was had by all.

May 4-5, (US & British Virgin Islands) Four of us chartered a 49 foot sailboat out of St. Thomas. We hired a captain to guide us. He ended up taking us to St. Johns, Jost Van Dyke, and Tortulla along with many other small islands and coves. We took in snorkeling, swimming, and tanning, along with watching the sun set while sipping rum runners.

May 11-12, (Bavaro Beach, Dominican Republic) The team flew to Punta Cana and enjoyed an all inclusive weekend. The resort situated on a white sandy beach with clear turquoise water offered us diving, snorkeling, wind surfing along with huge breakfast and dinner buffets. Also included were unlimited Pina’ Coladas and Margaritas. No more explanation needed!

May 18-19, (Las Vegas, Nevada) A colleague of mine, Jeff Perkins and I flew out to Vegas for a week to investigate a small sales company that Coca-Cola maintains there. We stayed for the weekend before flying back to Puerto Rico. While there, we were able to take in four shows which included Sigfried & Roy (& the white tigers), EFX, Cirque du Soleil - Mystere, and Starlight Express. All were wonderful but Mystere was the best. I highly recommend it.

May 25-27, (Aruba) Went by myself to this small island just north of Venezuela. The island, beaches, and water were fantastic. I managed to get in 5 dives which include 4 wreck dives. On one of the dives, after descending 100ft, we found sea turtles and huge moray eels. Another dive, we came across a large 70 passenger airplane that crashed and sank 50 years ago. I was able to go inside and sit in the cockpit. It was exciting. We also dove the German freighter Antilles that was sunk during W.W.II.

Jun 1-2, (St. Martin, French West Indies) Had a very relaxing weekend in the French West Indies. We rented mopeds and toured the island. Other than that, we basically just sat in the sun, drank Bacardi and enjoyed the warm turquoise water.

Jun 8-9, (Rome, Italy) Flew on to my next assignment in Italy. After a uneventful trip, I toured the city and took in the some of the sights. Two points of interest were the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. It was relaxing to just sit and people watch.

Jun 15-16, (Rome, Italy) Stayed in Rome for the weekend to catch more of the sights. We were able to visit the old Roman Forum and the Coliseum. It is amazing to see buildings and ruins which were built 2000 years ago still standing. Climbed the Dome of Saint Peter’s and had a great view of the city. The Pope gave his weekly sermon on Sunday but instead of fighting the crowds, we decided to go to the beach instead. At the beach, a powerboat race was underway. Halfway through the race, one of the boats shot up in the air and flipped over. Helicopters were on the scene immediately and luckily no one was hurt.

Jun 22-23, (Sardinia, Italy) Flew a short hop over to this Italian island with 3 other colleagues to the Smeralda coast. The Bottler had arranged a condo right on a cliff over-looking the bay. We had the greatest view down on the open sea and the many 40’ yachts. On the Saturday we explored the northern half of the island in search of rich Italian women. We found some but they weren’t interested in poor Coca-Cola auditors. Despite this, we all had a great time talking to them.

Jun 29-30, (Essen, Germany) Got to see some of my former colleagues and friends such as Jan, Steffen, and Johannes. For most of the weekend, it was typical German weather - RAIN! We were able to fit in Rollerblading during on of the dry moments.

Jul 6-7, (Chicago, IL) I was in this great city for a week of Audit Training. I spent Saturday at the Taste of Chicago street fair and on Sunday I went biking along the shores of Lake Michigan with my cousin John who works in the city as an architect.

Jul 13-14, (Atlanta, GA) Spent the weekend with my loving parents who are enjoying their new home.

Jul 19-21, (Atlanta 1996!) In Atlanta to experience the Olympics. This weekend was the Opening Ceremonies and I was one of the 85,000 people who had a ticket. The Opening was simply great! During the games, I had a number of tickets to such events as Gymnastics, Beach Volleyball, Diving, Horse Jumping, and a great final soccer match with Nigeria beating Argentina.

Jul 27-28, (Atlanta 1996!) I helped Coke out with its hospitality program. During the 3 weeks, they rented out the whole Hilton Hotel and entertained over 9000 customers and guests. It was interesting to meet so many people from around the world who all have something in common - Coca-Cola! We showed them a little southern hospitality and how to have a great time.

Aug 3-4, (Atlanta 1996!) I was again one of 85,000 people to have Closing Ceremony tickets. When the athletes came onto the field, the scene turned into just one big party with everyone dancing on the field and in the stands. It was a sight to see. Though Atlanta got a lot of bad foreign press, the place wasn’t anything what they made it out to be. (I think they were all jealous that it wasn’t in their own country, and that we were having all the fun.)

Aug 10-11, (Jacksonville, FL) Visited Frank Talbot, a fraternity brother of mine who is with a law firm there. (I managed to sneak in some free law advice.) We went to his uncle’s beach house and enjoyed the sun, beach and the surf. Flew to Russia.

Aug 17-18, (Moscow, Russia) I don’t remember much of this weekend as most of it was spent drinking and sleeping. Went out with some other auditors to the “Hungry Duck” both nights. The “Duck” is one of the most fun bars I have been to in a long time. We did however manage to tour the Kremlin, the Armory museum (with the Faberge eggs), Red Square, Lenin’s tomb, and of course St. Basils (the colorful church with the onion shaped domes). All were interesting especially Lenin’s tomb which is an 80 year old dead guy lying in glass casket in a dark underground mausoleum with his head and body lit up. The other famous guys (Stalin, Breznev, Andrepov, etc.) are all buried outside in a wall behind him. So much for their importance.

Aug 24-25, (Helsinki, Finland) After two weeks in Russia, I had to get back to modern civilization and good food. We were auditing the St. Petersburg Bottler which will pass P in sales by the end of the year. That is great for only having the bottling line in operation since Jan. this year. Helsinki is a pretty nice place. Took a city tour and boat tour around some of the islands. One other note about St. Pete. The mafia runs wild here. A month before we moved in, 3 were killed in the hotel cafe’.

Aug 31-1, (Rovaniemi, Finland) Got the urge to find reindeer and Santa Claus, so I went back to Finland and took a 12 hour train ride to a city north of the Artic Circle. There I found both. I went to a reindeer farm and also to Santa’s official mailing address and sat on his lap. Thank me for all those great presents you get this year. The wilderness up north was great. While hiking through the woods, I came across wild reindeer. It really reminded me of Alaska. I would like to see it in the winter.

Sept 7-8, (St. Petersburg, Russia) Stayed in St. Pete for the weekend. Coke arranged a private tour of the Hermitage Museum. It is one of the largest in world with over 3 million art objects. The museum occupies the former palace of Catherine the Great. Not only was the museum incredible but the palace was also. We also took a jetfoil over to Peterhof which was another home built by Catherine for her husband. This palace is mostly known for its fountains and the gardens surrounding.

Sept 14-15, (St. Petersburg, Russia) Larissa, one of the local accountants, took us out in the countryside. We drove to Puskin’s Palace and to Petrovsk which is yet another palace. All of these palaces were destroyed during the war, but the Russians have managed to restore them to their original style. One could spend weeks visiting all palaces in the surrounding area.

Sept 21-22, (Munich, Germany) For the 7th time, I have managed to make it to Munich for the Oktoberfest. As an American, I feel it is my patriotic duty to attend on behalf of those that couldn’t and drink a few for them. Stayed with old girl friends from Dusseldorf - Petra and Michaela. They were great fun and were able to down just as much as I could.

Sept 28-29, (Atlanta, Georgia) Back in Atlanta for the rest of the year to help the domestic based audit team complete their schedule of audits. Stayed in Atlanta for the weekend as my friend Scott Moeller came to town on business and plus my parents wanted to see me. Other than that, I didn’t do anything but watch TV the entire weekend. Ohh-good ole American TV.

Oct 5-6, (Blueridge, Georgia) Spent the weekend alone in the North Georgia mountains in a secluded lodge. Used the time to relax in a Jacuzzi and catch up on much needed rest. It was a great place to get away from it all.

Oct 12-13, (New York, NY) If you can believe it, this was the first time I had ever been to New York City. I have flown through Kennedy airport many times, but never visited the city. Spent the weekend with Keith and Bernardine Maddox both of who participated in Ski Trip ‘95. Took in most of the tourist sights such as the Statute of Liberty, Ellis Island, World Trade Center, and Times Square. The weather was great and gave us the opportunity to eat lunch in Central Park and people watch.

Oct 19-20, (Austin, Texas) Visited more of my old ski fanatic friends. Dave Calder took me to a Texas A&M football game. Though there were over 70,000 screaming fans, they still manage to lose against Kansas State. (By the way, where is Kansas?) After the game, we did a little sipping at a tailgate party in the parking lot. I also got to meet his fiancée - Pam.

Oct 26-27, (Atlanta, Georgia) Georgia Tech Homecoming! Great weekend with friends and fraternity brothers who came from far and near. Watched the Ramblin’ Wreck parade before we went back to the KA house. It was a good day in Tech football but a bad day in Atlanta baseball. The Braves lost to the Yankees in the 6th and final game of the World Series.

Nov 2-3, (Atlanta, Georgia) Another GA TECH football game weekend. Its great to be back in town and to relive some college memories. This week was against FSU and they killed us. (Nothing new for Tech Football.) My twin Steve, and I did manage to brave the cold with other college friends and we grilled hamburgers at a pre-game tailgate party. Again - more sipping.

Nov 9-10, (Dalonega, Georgia) Went camping and mountain biking up in the North Georgia mountains with a group of friends. My good friend Trip Eberhart organized the weekend get together. We braved the cold and rode both an 11 mile and a 5 mile loop. That evening we camped out and grilled hamburgers over a roaring fire. It was great to be out in the fresh mountain air. During this week (Nov 5), my other good friends Kelly and Mary Kay had their first baby - a boy - Andrew Kelly. It was definitely the highlight of the day as none of us were too happy about the election results.

Nov 16-17, (Auburn, Alabama) Attended with a colleague of mine one of the most exciting SEC football games in recent years. Georgia caught a TD pass in the final seconds of regulation play. The game went back and forth between the two teams as each battled it out. In the end, Auburn lost to Georgia (49 - 56) in the fourth and final overtime. The game was great!


copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Hopkins - all rights reserved
revised NOVEMBER 2008