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More in Amtrak Travel. Falling for North Carolina in Charlotte and Asheville!

More in Amtrak Travel. Falling for North Carolina in Charlotte and Asheville!

Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 10:48 AM
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*Charlotte-the Queen City*

Before returning to Virginia, I had about a day and a half in Charlotte. I unfortunately discovered that on my main day there, Tuesday, a number of museums I wanted to check out were closed, including the Levine Museum of the New South and the Bechtler. I arrived on the Monday in Uptown Charlotte mid-afternoon and unfortunately opted to take a nap (was a bit tired from the travel from Asheville and the weekend excitement). When I “came to” and started researching the museums I wanted to visit, I quickly saw that the museums were either closed on the Monday or closing within. So, I very randomly & groggily picked the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art; I arrived at 4:30 and they closed at 5pm. Better than nothing and I thought at least I’m supporting the arts. They had an exhibit on 20th Century Women in Art and Josef Albers. I find I prefer classic art but it was a nice way to spend half an hour. Seeing the museums were closed, I was happy to at least be able to book Queen City Rides, a 6-seater golf cart for the next day.

The tour guide was very knowledgeable. Most of the tour was downtown, with comments on the history of the city, the tall buildings, the Court House and the stadium. Here I learned that the name Hornets for Charlotte’s basketball team comes from the Revolutionary War. When British general Cornwallis arrived in the Charlotte area, he said it was like a hornet’s nest of revolutionary sentiment. A wonderful treat was when we stopped in front of Mert’s, described as a soul food restaurant, the owner brought out some cornbread, piping hot from the oven that was delicious!

Other than the cornbread, my favourite part of the tour was going into the neighbourhood known as the Fourth Ward. I loved the colourful homes and parks in this area of town so much; it is no exaggeration when I say that I do believe that I can add the Fourth Ward to my favourite US urban neighbourhoods, so much so that I opted to spend the afternoon taking pictures of the Fourth Ward Park and houses after the tour ended.

In summary, I think Charlotte is a great city, with a contagiously fun energy about it and some delightful parks. I was expecting a small Atlanta, but actually ended up thinking that I preferred the feel of Charlotte, with its Fourth Ward and its concentrated Uptown giving to my mind a vibe different from the Georgia capital. Mind you, I’ve only scratched the surface in both cities, have many neighbourhoods to explore in both, plus I’ve only been in Atlanta in winter, so I feel that any comparison made is working with a limited data set. And I did have a nice visit to Atlanta back in 2016, so even feel sort of ungrateful writing that I preferred Charlotte even if true .

All in all, Charlotte & Asheville could not have been a more delightful first getaway post-vaccination. This trip made me want to explore the southeast US more; there seems so much more yet to see!

Thanks for reading! Daniel
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 10:55 AM
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Fourth Ward home from Fourth Ward Park


Fell for Fourth Ward from Queen City Rides


Fourth Ward
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 11:02 AM
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So glad you enjoyed Charlotte. It is a REALLY nice town--and I use that term advisedly. It is a big city with a small town feel. There is a lot of corporate support and civic pride. Beautiful neighborhoods of all income levels.
The Bechtler is an interesting phenomenon. The Bechtlers came here for a business center and the scion has stayed on, housing his family's extensive art collection here. At first the idea was that the city would build the museum to house it but then Bechtler stepped forward and did it himself!! The family lived in Switzerland and collected the artists of the day. Andy Warhol did all the children's portraits--not too shabby.
You should have at least had someone take your picture in front of the Firebird! And do come back--the exhibits are small and intimate and world class.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 12:22 PM
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Baldone—How neat you went to Fryingpan Tower also! Seems there are plenty of other great hikes to be had in that area too, according to my friends, so cool coincidence we both went to Fryingpan. Given the sheer terror I felt when I looked down at one point and then the stunning views, it was an experience I will not forget!

schmerl— Thanks as always for reading. I’m envious you got to see Biltmore with tulips; that must have been stunning! Biltmore decked out at Christmas according to my friend is quite a sight to behold also!

Gretchen— Thanks again for the advice when planning. When I come back, I’ll want to check out more neighbourhoods and expand beyond Fourth Ward and Uptown.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 12:24 PM
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Very attractive area, Daniel. Looking forward to your next trips.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 12:35 PM
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Biltmore decked out at Christmas according to my friend is quite a sight to behold also!
I once visited Biltmore at Christmas, attracted by the promise of candlelight. Sadly, the candles were electric....
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 01:49 PM
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Indeed! Thanks tdudette!

Thanks thursdaysd for the extra info on Biltmore at Christmas!

Sorry all about the disappearing punctuation (apostrophes and hyphens in particular seem to disappear), but thanks for sticking with it and reading anyway!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2021, 06:01 PM
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My recollection was that we went to Fryingpan early but that it was foggy so we explored the area a bit until the fog mostly burned off. So the fog turned out to be a good thing. I also recall that we tried to stay at the Village Hotel on Biltmore since the Beach Boys were playing live there on the grounds. The dates didn't work out, but we weren't huge Beach Boy fans anyway, but it would have been a fun experience.
While we dont often visit mansions of the rich and famous, the Arbor Lodge of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Morton Salt & Arbor day, had a bowling alley too. South of Omaha about an hour. But nowhere near the grandeza of Biltmore.

Last edited by baldone; Jul 3rd, 2021 at 06:06 PM.
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Old Jul 4th, 2021, 06:57 AM
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Thanks Baldone for sharing your Biltmore experience, and also that the Arbor Lodge had a bowling alley too. I didn't know that was even a thing! I would say I don't travel for the purpose of seeing homes of the rich & famous, although I do seem to end up at a number of such homes, since they are often recommended sights in destinations I choose. I do appreciate the beauty and find the history of such homes interesting. The Vizcaya Museum of the Deering fortune in Miami was probably the closest I'd seen in grandeur in the USA (with rooms with a Florentine theme, for example) to the Biltmore, although the Vizcaya Villa was nowhere near the scale.
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Old Jul 4th, 2021, 05:23 PM
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I forget that I'm a big fan of the old casonas and haciendas of Mexico. So I guess I do indeed like to visit homes of the rich and famous, lol. Couple of years ago we did the hacienda of Vicente Fox near Leon. Nice restaurant. No bowling alley, but rather a wine cellar and movie theater. Complete with popcorn machine.
Anyway, nice report. I need to dig out and review my photos from Asheville as our visit was pre-smartphone. Any time I see your name on a TR it's a worthwhile read.
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Old Jul 5th, 2021, 02:02 AM
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Thanks for the great pictures of the Biltmore and Charlotte. Your adventures by train should be an inspiration to those who can’t or do not like to drive.
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Old Jul 5th, 2021, 01:57 PM
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Thank you baldone— I was just thinking that throughout all my travels in Mexico, it’s rare I visit a mansion of a famous Mexican; I didn’t even see Chapultepec or Frida Kahlo’s house when I was in el D.F. (it was called that at the time).

oldemalloy— Thank you. I really enjoy proposing travel ideas for the car-less. I was pleased to see Asheville is quite doable thanks to that Charlotte Airport-Asheville shuttle.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 09:24 AM
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Hi,

So, an amusing follow-up to this trip report. I go to a trivia night at a local pub here in Montreal and there’s a picture round, where you’re trying to match a flag with a country, a photo with an actress or album title or movie, that sort of thing. And for the trivia last night, there was a picture of a race car driver, that I correctly identified as Dale Earnhardt, something I would not have known had I not gone to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Knowing next to nothing, Dale Earnhardt and Kurt Busch (possibly Kyle?) happened to be the two interactive display avatars I chose when visiting the museum, so I remembered exactly what Earnhardt looked like—it’s funny because I joked while at the museum that I was only there to improve our score in trivia in the sports category, I didn’t actually think it would… (Not sure why they ask for avatars, maybe the kids find it fun to imagine themselves as one of their favourite race car drivers)

Happy travels! Daniel
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Old May 18th, 2022, 09:41 AM
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Cool! I live in NC, but I've never been to that museum and would certainly have failed that trivia question.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 11:46 AM
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Fun to see this TR again. I noticed that you were expecting to go as covid. Was ending. Well that did not happen but good you got to travel during the lull before omicron and the new alphabet soup that is with us now. I am sure your parents were more than happy to see you too.

Just curious, do you use your US passport to enter the US and the Canadian one to go back to Canada? Would someone looking at your passport wonder how long you were out?
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Old May 18th, 2022, 01:54 PM
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Hi emalloy— Yes, looking at my perspective in June 2021 is kind of bizarre to see now, even for me, although sort of interesting too to read where I was mentally at the time. Yes, I enter the States on my US passport and Canada on my Canadian; for the first time, US border control asked to see my Canadian passport also this December when I entered the US last, I think possibly since there were a few country-specific restrictions at the time? I always have both ready to show when crossing a border. —Best wishes, Daniel
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Old May 19th, 2022, 03:22 AM
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Really nice followup. Thanks.
Where are you headed next? It's always so interesting.
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Old May 19th, 2022, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Gretchen
Really nice followup. Thanks.
Where are you headed next? It's always so interesting.
My next Amtrak and flying trip starts next Tuesday evening in Chemult Oregon. I hope to have a GTG with janisj in Sacramento sometime on Wednesday after she returns from SLC.
Coast Starlight Chemult to SAC. Bus from Sacramento out to SMF. Flight (first time on Sprint) from SMF to ORD (via Las Vegas), Early morning Thursday arrive in Chicago on the El. Spending most of the day in Chicago Union Station before getting on the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh. Early morning Friday get on the Pennsylvanian to Harrisburg about 1PM. Rented a car in Harrisburg to drive north for my 55th high school reunion.
Back to turn in the rental on 5/31 and get on the Pennsylvanian back to Pittsburgh and the Capitol Limited. Flying on Southwest from ORD back to SMF (also via Las Vegas) since Spirit messed up the return schedule.
I get back on the northbound Coast Starlight at about midnight so I will be back home the morning of 6/2. I just got my second booster and will carry KN95 masks in my pocket in case I need them.
Expect a trip report in early June.
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Old May 20th, 2022, 07:57 AM
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thursdaysd-- Remembering that you're in the Research Triangle area, your comment got me wondering if those who enjoy urban experiences in the Raleigh-Durham area, if they like going to Charlotte and vice-versa. Undoubtedly I'd imagine this sort of thing depends on the person and I imagine there are sometimes family ties between the two cities.
tomfuller-- I'm glad to see you have some Amtrak trips planned, as I know that you share with me an enjoyment of the rail experience.
Gretchen--Thanks! Next up is a quick trip to Ottawa to see a friend I've not seen in 30 years who is in town on business; it's very close but I'm looking forward to seeing her.
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Old May 20th, 2022, 10:05 AM
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Daniel - I have been to Charlotte, but not recently and not often. I don't recall my friends visiting, either. If I travel in-state it is more likely to the beach (two hours or so away), or the mountains (although more often I take the shorter route to Peaks of Otter in Virginia rather than the Asheville or Boone areas). I take out of state friends to Old Salem and local sites. I could take the train to Charlotte, but then I'd need a rental car, whereas when I take the train to DC I can use the metro.
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