Charmed by Charlotte
July 6, 2012
To get our Starbucks fix this morning we stand in a very long line of well dressed banker types, all busily interacting with their cell phones while waiting to caffeinate themselves. We take our lattes and pastries to Thomas Polk Park, where we sit at a table on the tree-shaded plaza, a peacefully plashing waterfall behind us and the bustle of morning rush hour at the park’s periphery.
The park’s namesake, Thomas Polk, was one of the key authors of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the first Declaration of Independence from England issued by any citizens in the colonies, predating our national Declaration of Independence by over a year. The courthouse where it was signed is long gone—now a plaque marks its approximate location on Independence Square, an expansive brick plaza that lies below our hotel room. Today vendors are setting up a large open air produce market on the square, and a flower vendor is arranging his wares beneath a canopy across the street as we finish our coffee.
|(Taking pictures reflected in windows is fun.)|
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is just a few blocks away. But, we can’t resist stopping along the way at what looks like the city’s newest cultural offering, the Wells Fargo History Museum. The exterior still has blue tape and plastic around the edges, but a sign in the window proclaims it open, and we peek in. Expecting crass commercialism, we are surprised that it is actually a very interesting museum with cool well-designed exhibits, interactive experiences, and artifacts that celebrate gold, currency, banking, and the great job Wells Fargo has done throughout history in using advanced methods to foil robbers and make banking safe and convenient. (Okay, so that last part was pretty commercial.)
We both have the same favorite exhibit—a case with simulated chunks of copper, silver, lead and gold mounted on rods that you can lift to compare the relative weights of each To our surprise, gold is extraordinarily heavy—we learn that a solid piece of gold the size of a gallon milk jug would weigh 194 pounds!
It’s free, it’s fun, and there are no limits to photography inside—we give it two thumbs up, and are on our way to the main event, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
The museum is not just named for the Bechtler family—its collection is their collection, beginning with Andy Warhol’s individual portraits of multiple generations of family members prominently displayed in the soaring four story rotunda. Reciprocal visitation privileges with Savannah’s Telfair Museum bring our total admission charge to $6, and acoustiguides are free with admission.
The Museum’s architecture presents a bold and engaging artistic statement inside and out. (Yesterday's post has our shot of the entrance to the museum with the firebird standing sentry, but we have no more pictures--they don't allow phots in the galleries.) We love the way the museum design complements the artwork it showcases. Unexpected features make us look at spaces more mindfully—the stairwell made with industrial materials redefines its space as art, huge glass sections in walls facing the rotunda frame views of art in galleries afar and invite us to savor interesting perspectives of deceptively simple architectural features below. Giacometti, Miro, Picasso, Calder, Ernst--the greats of modern art are well represented, and we linger longer than we thought we would (and not just because the Director’s accoustiguide commentary is entirely too long-winded).
After a couple hours of aesthetic bliss, we are ready for lunch at Halcyon, located next door in the Mint Museum (which we will have to come back to visit another day). Halcyon is passionately committed to locavore dining with a contemporary flair. Google the menu for artistic inspiration—I wish I could figure out how to copy the peach, watermelon and corn gazpacho I had for lunch.
After lunch we retrieve our car and drive to IKEA, where we spend more than three hours, and emerge with more furniture and accessories than I can imagine will ever fit in our car, but Dick is confident in his packing ability, and he is, amazingly, right. This is what he stuffed into the car (unassembled): a six foot wall storage unit, a five foot wall storage unit, a six foot kitchen island (which will be the base of my sewing studio cutting table), nine storage baskets, a bunch of glassware and a huge stainless steel bowl. Add to all that our suitcases, tote bags, and camera equipment, and here is how the car looked when we left the hotel the next day to drive home:But before we leave, we have one more fine dining experience--at Carpe Diem, a perennial Charlotte People’s Choice award winner owned by two sisters since 1989, famous for its gourmet take on fried chicken (best we have ever tasted) and other creative contemporary Southern cuisine. Carpe Diem—Seize the Day—we most certainly did.