13 Weeks of Wandering: Charlotte

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver


Where To? Charlotte, North Carolina
How long? 2 days
Mode of Transport? Bus


13WoW – Charlotte

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The megabus was packed to the brim with men, women and children. I had decided to catch it from Washington DC as it was cheaper and easier to get to. It appeared that I was the only one on the bus backpacking, with most other passengers seeming to be moving or visiting friends and family. Certainly, this bus didn’t have the same safe and cosy feel as the ones in Asia had done, I was painfully aware of the reputation of greyhound and megabus as to being the go to method of transportation for prisoners recently released from jail.

Some men heavily tattooed, heavily built and obviously high piled onto the bus with families and lone travellers alike. One of the heavily tattooed, but less heavily built (also probably not high) lads came and sat next to me wearing the typical youthful low hanging tracksuit with boxers on show. “It’s fine,” I reasoned to myself, “Definitely not an ex-inmate, too young!” I tried to ignore the 18 – 20 year old, like all us Brits do on public transport, but the loud music started blasting from his headphones. Now, I am partial to a bit of rap when the mood hits, but not for the whole 5 hour journey. I considered asking him to adjust the sound levels, then thought better of it.

I thought, instead, I’d pass the time with writing, but the poor wifi connection meant that most of the journey was connecting and disconnecting from the megabus wifi.

 

Motel 6 Charlotte

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At first sight, doesn’t look awful…

What can I even say? This motel left me… speechless. And don’t even dare to think that I meant it in a good way! Literally, I have no words to describe the dire, drastic, unfortunate, importunately disastrous, cataclysmal, repugnant and abhorrent condition of this… place. This Motel. At $46 for one night.

So I’ll start with how I ended up with this place. In the true free-spiritedness of my backpacking, I had not booked a place in advance- not knowing exactly where I would end up in each state. So I went with the same attitude I had in Asia, turn up, find a location you like and then scan the area for hostels using the booking.com app. The only problem being that there were no hostels, not on that app or any other app! There were only hotels, and if you want to majorly downgrade, motels. This I would find to be all the more true the further I travelled within the US.

Being significantly poorer a month into my world travels, I could only afford the cheapest – but it couldn’t be so bad could it? Even the cheapest hostels in Asia had been bearable. Oh but I was SO wrong. Don’t forget the price, $46 for ONE night.

Okay, so this place doesn’t come with breakfast or anything – fine by me, I don’t need breakfast. But it did advertise “Free Wifi” which I expected anyway but it was good to know they definitely had that. I arrived and was met by an immediately rude front desk man who clearly couldn’t give a f*ck about his job as I overheard him arguing with someone on the phone then hanging up on them. I tried to show him my booking reference and he scoffed at me demanding my passport as if I should know this already. After checking in I made my way to my room on the ground floor, I did not feel safe in the area at all. Scanning my room, I breathed in the fresh smell of wet dog and cigarettes which was deeply permeated within the sheets and pillows, carpets and curtains, and anything else the stench could attach itself to. I found moth eaten holes in the curtains, pee on the toilet seat, holes in the chair with foam sticking out; it all added to the old and outdated decor that seemed to be the theme. The aircon worked, though, I knew because the sound was so loud that I had to turn it off if I needed to hear anything else. I guess the moment I realised I had to say something was when even the wifi, advertised as a selling point to the room, did not work.

Bravely, I headed back to the front desk to ask why the Wifi wasn’t working, my confidence weakened as I stepped in amidst another argument he was having with some customers. You see, they were complaining because their sheets did not appear to have been changed since the last customers (and come to think of it, had mine??!?). His solution was simple, he said, and I quote, “This is a budget motel, if you want something good, you can go elsewhere!”

Can you imagine?!

Nevertheless I confronted him about the wifi, he had a solution for that one too, he said “I don’t control the wifi, you aren’t going to get good wifi here!”. Well, glad we cleared that one up, phew! I mean I was confused, I chose this place because it advertised “Free Wifi” not “free lack of wifi” but as the Americans would say, Psych!

After a not-very-delightful night, I hopped on a bus downtown and was told by a local, in hindsight, that this was not the place for “a nice girl like you” and that Motel 6 is the place that dodgy people bring their prostitutes… To think I paid for a night when someone could have been paying for… JK! So needless to say, I felt rather uncomfortable in that room.

Add fuel to fire, I returned to find a cockroach in the room and was moved to another room, upstairs this time, equally smelly, equally unsafe feeling, few less roaches.

Now of course I reviewed on booking.com etc. but Motel 6 is still on there as a supposedly viable option, so I’mma warn you now; don’t stay in Motel 6. Anywhere.

 

Charlotte, North Carolina

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So, I didn’t have much time because I was desperate to get out of that Motel, so I crammed as much into two days as possible.

I secured my motel room and headed for the bus stop, I didn’t have to wait long (thankfully) before the bus picked me up. The bus driver was friendly but also tough, I had a feeling she didn’t take shit from no-one but she also had a soft spot for those she cared about. Somehow, we got chatting, along with an older gentleman on the bus. They were both utterly unsurprised to hear of my experience with Motel 6, and the older gentleman explained why it wasn’t the place for “a nice girl like you”. The bus driver, Tee, and I got on instantly and we exchanged social media details before she dropped me off at my first stop; AT&T.

I had to pass the time somehow, I was at least an hour early before the shop opened, but thankfully Panera came in clutch with their toasted wholewheat bagels and a side of avocado. I got a smoothie to start the day and did some blogging whilst I waited for the store to open. Yeah, I was literally waiting by the door when they finally opened the store and stepped straight in; first customer of the day!

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What had happened was that my unlocked phone (which I had borrowed from my ex’s parents) was no longer working with the AT&T sim card and I sort of really needed it to work. After hours (okay may half hour) of waiting around watching one of the biggest TV screens I have ever seen with shark attack documentaries, the verdict was that my phone was pretty screwed. That’s when they directed me to my next stop, to either get my phone fixed, get my iphone unlocked or exchange for a new one.

 

SouthPark Shopping Center

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It was a couple of blocks from AT&T and a pretty sizeable shopping centre with all the fancy brands that you definitely can’t afford to shop at when you are backpacking. Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Nordstrom, Pandora, Apple… Oh wait actually I needed them. It was a stunning shopping center and quite frankly, I could have spent longer in there collecting the free samples from shops I could never afford to buy full sized products from but Apple couldn’t unlock my iphone (seriously?!) and the borrowed android was beyond repair. So I head back to AT&T and bought like the cheapest android I have ever come across; the ZTE by AT&T – $40. Does the job pretty well, I just needed an android to download my key apps; google maps (to be used as a sat nav when I got my hire car), whatsapp, facebook & insta!

This area of  Charlotte, the SouthPark Neighborhood, seemed to be majority businesses with a lot of skyrise buildings and not so many people out and about. Aside from the fancy shopping center, a short walk lead me to Piedmont Town Centre. Immediately, the garden and fountain that made up the roundabout reminded me of a perfect holiday, with cafes and restaurants on each corner of the divided roads. Clean, new-looking flats with glass balconies lined each side of the street ahead and a large sign welcomed me to the town centre.

Pretty as it was, I couldn’t stay long as I would soon be grabbing an Uber to my next location.

 

The US National Whitewater Center 

a recreation area holding the world’s largest manmade whitewater river which is the site of the official Olympic training waters for whitewater canoe/kayak racing. You could spend an entire day here doing any of the 20+ activities that are available from whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing & paddleboarding to rock-climbing, ziplining, canopy-ing & mountain biking. Expect to pay upwards of $50 to get involved in some activities and be prepared to get wet if you do!

I personally preferred to do the free stuff which meant following a series of trails that followed the Catawba River. For when you are starving after all the activities, there is a restaurant on site that sell very decent burgers (I can certainly recommend the Blue BBQ Burger).
Up and Downtown Charlotte

In the evening I headed to The Epicenter, where I was told everything is happening. But in reality, not much was happening where I was because it began to rain heavily. It seemed to just be another shopping center which had many levels and mostly clubs at the top level. I enjoyed a tasty Insomnia Cookie whilst I waited out the heavy rain.

When things calmed a little outside, I went for a wander and came across the BB&T Ball Park with a game on, I think the Charlotte Knights may have been playing. A young man came chasing after me when I passed the stadium, “excuse me, I have spare tickets to the game if you want to come with me?”. I don’t usually pass up opportunities like this but this boy looked around 18 or 19 and I just didn’t trust him, and rightly so. He didn’t have tickets at all, he just wanted me to go back with him. No. Thank. You.

The Romare Bearden Park is right by the BB&T, and it’s a beautiful place to sit, relax and think. The gardens are well kept and the fountains are crisp and cool. A perfect Nature-meets-City spot so reflect in. Once a week, the park offers free live music to those enjoying it’s grounds.

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As I continued to explore Charlotte, I came across a number of museums such as the Mint Museum of Art (where I nearly gatecrashed a wedding being held there), or Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. My eye caught the Wells Fargo History Museum, mostly because of the history of gold mining in North Carolina.

Finally, I very much enjoyed The Green. This park is around an acre and a half in uptown Charlotte but is surrounded by offices and shops. A frequent lunch spot for those who work locally, this beautiful area has many iconic landmarks and hosts a number of public events such as movie screenings and plays. Particularly notable is the “Charlotte” signpost and the literature themed sculptures.

So that concludes my time in Charlotte, North Carolina. Keep following, because after this I will be heading to Atlanta, Georgia!

 

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