I was in Charlotte for work this past week. It was my first time in North Carolina and it was really cold! One day it was only 16 degrees, and on the day when I had to step out of the hotel, it was 21 degrees...I couldn't feel my hands.
I took a red-eye and got in Saturday morning. After a nap, I went on a city tour. Here's the first look at downtown Charlotte. It was raining and sleeting.
I found out that the ACC Championship game between Virginia Tech and Florida State was taking place in Charlotte that day. Lots of people came in town wearing team colors and tailgating in parking lots. It was very exciting to be around.
I learned a lot about the city. Mainly, Bank of America and Wells Fargo (who acquired Wachovia) pretty much run the place. Here's the Wachovia Center.
A statue of Queen Charlotte, where Charlotte got its name from.
Being a huge sports fan, I learned that Charlotte is the only city that has both the NFL and NBA teams owned by ex-athletes. Here's the Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the Bobcats, owned by Michael Jordan.
A look at downtown Charlotte. The tallest building is Bank of America. The top of the building resembles a crown because Charlotte is also known as "Queen City."
The tour took us to a cemetery with a confederate burial site.
I learned on the tour that the city of Charlotte requires all new buildings to have either an artwork or a fountain in the front, so I saw lots of great contemporary art pieces throughout the city. They were a nice touch.
The tour took us to a neighborhood where some pre-Civil War homes are still being occupied.
The Duke Mansion.
The NASCAR building with the museum on the first floor. If I remember correctly, the guide said NASCAR brings $4B revenue to the city each year.
The Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, owned by ex-NFL player Jerry Richardson.
We stayed at The Ballantyne Hotel. I found out the hotel has an excellent restaurant called the "Gallery" and they have a chef's tasting menu. I went for it. They brought out this amazing thyme and cheese air bread/muffin.
I liked these crab and corn fritters.
The shrimps tempura-style with spicy banana puree were very creative.
The scallop on cornbread was OK. The scallop was great, but the cornbread was bland...it would have been perfect if it were a bit sweeter.
My favorite course was the smoked duck with beet salad. Very tasty!
I liked the veal stuffed with mushrooms wrapped in Italian sausage garnished with mushroom mousse and truffle potatoes. The truffle potatoes had amazing truffle flavor, but unfortunately they were a bit too salty.
I finished the meal with this heavenly gingerbread cake with eggnog cream filling topped with candied apples, raisins, and a white chocolate star. I was a happy gal!
Nice Christmas decoration at the Ballantyne.
The hotel also sent me a complementary s'mores fondue. I enjoyed these while watching the ACC Championship game in my room.
Work started the next day. On Thursday, we took a field trip to Hendrick Motorsports in Concord. Hendrick is not opened to the public for touring normally. We visited their engine department, chassis department, the body shop, and the 24/48 shop. We learned a lot about NASCAR and racing in general. We were amazed at the technologies they incorporated into making these race cars to not only be lightweight, go fast, comply to NASCAR's ever-changing rules, but most importantly, keep the drivers safe. I learned that when these cars crash at 165mph, the impact could be up to 65G. It's amazing how so many of these drivers walked away from these crazy crashes unharmed. Many attendees, including myself, now have a new found appreciation and respect for the sport.
The 24/48 shop. Home of Jeff Gordon (24) and Jimmie Johnson (48). Jimmie recently won his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Ken Schrader's crashed car from 1995 at the museum. The car rolled multiple times, and Ken escaped with only a few bruises and sore muscles.
It was extremely hard to climb in and out of the cramped driver's seat. I learned that these race car drivers, like horse jockeys, are physically small. I felt claustrophobic sitting in this!
On our way to the airport, we passed by the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And the dragway.
Before coming to Charlotte, I didn't know what to expect. After touring and learning more about the city, I wished I had more time here to visit the Biltmore House, the Billy Graham Library, and hang around the city center to soak in the charm.
View the photo album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplejoy/sets/72157625459800147/