WHAT BETTER INTRODUCTION TO THE SOUTH, than to arrive at Charlotte Airport in North Carolina, and be greeted in the Arrivals lounge by rows of white wooden rocking chairs!
These weren’t rocking chairs for the elderly! All ages including teenagers were curled up in them and busily interacting with their iPads and earbuds.
Everybody loves a Southern accent – warm and smooth as caramel – like a warm embrace on a summer’s day. I arrived very early in the morning of what stretched into a gorgeous hot summer’s day. While back home Sydney froze in winter woollies, I was applying sun screen. No complaints there!
I only had 4 days to fit a lot in and in the heat and such a short space of time I was doing well to fit 3-4 interviews in each day all over town.
I ate my first Peach Cobbler at Simmons and I heard staff and customers do ‘the Nines’ banter for the first time. All the while, cicadas buzzed loudly American-ese in the trees outside.
At Mert’s restaurant I ate Fried Green Tomatoes for the first time and chose a slice of Red Velvet Cake from among the row of tall delicious cakes on display. Who’d have thought to put the words popcorn and shrimp together, let alone create the concept that is ‘Popcorn Shrimp’? I also ate more catfish while in Charlotte … but had given up on any thoughts of espresso coffee. 😉
Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and an important financial centre – and the second largest by assets after New York City. The skyline is full of pretty shiny pink-grey glass buildings built in the financially fluid 1980s.
A lot of people also travel here for the famous NASCAR races held at the ‘Nascar’ stadium nearby. As it happened, I travelled around town in a black SUV, as I soon realized that private car hire was more reliable and affordable than a taxi, when travelling any distance out of town.
Nicknamed the Queen City, Charlotte and its resident county are named in honour of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become queen consort of British King George III the year before the city’s founding.
Charlotte is also the home of one of my favourite artists, the late ROMARE BEARDEN. I saw more of his collage work as part of the fabulous John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art held at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American arts and culture.
The Gantt is named after architect Harvey Gantt who became the city’s first black mayor in 1983 – a remarkable institution both architecturally and historically.
Across the road is another architectural milestone on the skyline – The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The Bechtler is a giant orange shape than seems to lean on one slim orange pirate’s leg, and standing outside it is the large mirrored Firebird sculpture you can see in the picture. For an Australian, it was hard to look at that sculpture and not imagine a cockatoo. Don’t you agree?