Onward to Charlotte NC

Sunday morning had us up early hoping to have a bite to eat at the motel before heading down the street. Emm, Sunday was the kitchen’s late start, so it was a very quick bite, but a bite none the less, and with that we headed off into the main street to walk up to the bus terminal – a bit less than 1.5 miles. Sunday had dawned fine (around freezing point), but it was certainly colder as we walked up the street, but the effort involved warmed us up. We arrived at the bus terminal to find it a mass of people waiting to get on buses so some queuing was involved to get our tickets – somewhat fortunately, and as we’d come to expect with Greyhound, the bus was delayed by 45 mins so as it turned out we had plenty of time. On the bus we finally started to pull off and make our way out of Atlanta – which took some time as it is a very large city (the central population of Atlanta might only be ½ a million, but wider Atlanta has a population of almost 6 million – now the scale makes sense). The bus had to make a number of scheduled stops – first up was Gainesville on the outskirts of Atlanta. After a couple of stops we finally crossed out of Georgia and back into South Carolina – our route today following Interstate 85 on a north eastly course to Charlotte.

After enjoying our ride across South Carolina we pulled into Charlotte around 4.15pm – sun shining. Our accommodation was only about a mile from the bus terminal down in the area of the university, so very handy (plus they greeted us with fresh baked chocolate chippie cookies on our arrival – nice touch). By the time we got to our room, evening was closing in on us so we settled in for an easy night. Monday dawned sunny so we were up and away early to walk up to the Amtrak train station in Charlotte to get tickets for Tuesday over to the housesit in Durham. The walk to the train station was a descent hike of a couple of miles up and through a couple of areas of Charlotte (the Uptown area is the commercial centre of Charlotte with some stunning high rise buildings and a nice vide, with the train station to the north of the city in the Noda area – a much more industrial type area with a lot of homeless people trying to keep warm). With train tickets sorted we wandered back uptown – the main streets are Tryon Street which runs north to south, and Trade Street (which the motel was off) running east to west. The Uptown area of Charlotte was very nice – stunning buildings, loads of nice sculptures, loads of different vistas to take in – very nice for a big city (population of Charlotte is almost 900,000). We went into a gallery / building lobby that had a collection of stunning glass works – very nice. Amongst The sculptures are the Sculptures at Independence Square – a series of 4 sculptures named Transportation, Future, Commerce and Industry – standing for the 4 facets of the Queen City (that’s another story – Charlotte was named after Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of King George 111 back in 1768).

Charlotte is the home of NASCAR with the NASCAR Museum / Hall of Fame taking pride of place in downtown Charlotte. I was undecided about going into it (cost and time), but things were decided for us when it turned out the museum was closed for a week for renovations – obviously not meant to be. From the Convention Centre (NASCAR backs onto this complex) we headed up to Spectrum Centre – another great ‘downtown / uptown’ facility in the heart of the city (in addition to the Spectrum Stadium, the NFL and Baseball Stadiums are all in what we would call the Uptown area – very central to the city). Spectrum is where all the concerts are held and also the local NBA Basketball team the Hornets play when at home. As chance would have it the Hornets were playing today so we picked up tickets – being budget conscious we went for the cheapest seats. With tickets in hand we wandered back to the motel to freshen up before heading back uptown to be at the stadium as it opened its doors at 6pm for a 7pm game tip off. With school having gone back today after Xmas break, we were told the game wouldn’t be busy and it wasn’t but despite that our seats placed us in the stratosphere of the Spectrum Centre – about 4 rows from the very top – a bit crazy when there were so many empty seats below us. Thank goodness for the big screen TV’s. Despite our vantage point the atmosphere was good, and whilst we didn’t entirely understand the game, we did enjoy the experience – we had some young kids sitting along from us in their supporter gear chanting ‘defence, defence’ on a regular basis.

Unfortunately the local team (Charlotte Hornets) went down to the visiting Indiana Pacers 104 – 95. The whole game – which is played over 4 12 min quarters is a bit stop start with atleast 2 timeouts per quarter, so it was getting on for 9.30pm by the time we climbed down and found our way out of the complex. We wandered back up the road stopping for a bite to eat at a roadside food caravan – which was doing some good post game trade. Attending an NBA game now ticked off, we enjoyed the night time vistas that Uptown Charlotte offers and made our way back to the motel – receiving fresh chocolate chippie cookies for our troubles – bonus. On Tuesday morning we had an easy start not having to check out until 9.30am. We arranged a taxi to get us back up to the train station – the weather closed in on us and it started raining, and would do so for most of the day. Charlotte was a real nice experience for us – both Carol and I felt good about the city, the vibe and what it offers. I was really impressed by how the sporting complexes have all been strategically located so central to the heart of the city – a good touch I think. More time to explore some more would always be a bonus, but not to be this time – we had a train to catch to Durham.

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