Well, here we are in North Carolina where NPS owns some land (at the beach) but can’t vote and where the idiots in state government pass absurd laws about bathrooms. This is not where I would choose to spend my travel dollars. But work is work, so, well, here we are.

The flight down on American Air was very nice. Great equipment. Expensive wifi. Good seating.

Nice parking lot view from 424

Nice parking lot view from 424

The Ballantyne is 20 minutes from the airport away from the city and is one of those luxury compounds where you just get stuck and maybe play some golf or have a “spa day.” NPS does not play golf. This property is part of the Starwood family of hotels who seem to have suburban luxury down pretty well—lots of recently planted trees, over manicured lawns, the whole shebang. It is a gorgeous day.

Coffee and water pod

Coffee and water pod

We are assigned cubicle 424. Which means we have the usual hamster cage design but with a much better bathroom pod than usual, and enough room to work (and to eat it turns out, but more about that in a minute). I arrived in a huge rush 4 minutes before a critical phone call. The room key failed to work. So back down to get that fixed, and back up with 30 seconds to spare and no net authenticated yet. Argh!

424 bed land

424 bed land

424 working and eating penensula

424 working and eating penensula

Style = generic

Style = generic

With the call over, it was time for a very late lunch (after 2), but strangely you can’t get any food at the compound between 2 and 5 unless you are in your room? That’s just weird. So anyway, you can eat in 424.

The bathroom is very nice if not a bit rococo. Lots of marble.


With a huge tub.


And a glass shower, which we must absolutely approve.


The porch outside by one of the golf holes (replete with Canadian geese) is a great place for writing blog entries.

Dinner at Baku was very nice indeed. Reasonable cocktails, outstanding sushi and wagyu beef cooked at the table.

Anyway, that’s about it. Once you know what real luxury is, it is hard to experience the suburban kind and be all tail waggy. But this hotel beats the heck out of a Courtyard by Marriott or a Springhill Suites. Four showerheads and a free golf cart ride for the Ballantyne Hotel.

Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, NC

September 8, 2010

I stayed at the ritz in Charlotte as recently as this May; and I am happy to report it is the same. There are still TVs in the bathroom mirror. The showers are exceptional. The staff is friendly and nice. All is well.

Here’s a picture of the showerhead just for fun.  Pictures of the bathroom palace itself can be seen in previous entries.

During this trip the strap on my bodacious bosca bag broke, and when the front desk people noticed at check-in they volunteered to have engineering see what they could do. They fixed it! Stellar.

United denied me an upgrade again on the flight down. Maybe I should not travel around the Labor day holiday? Hopefully this trend is nothing more serious than that?!

No need for new pictures or a new score (four showerheads). If this hotel were not a gigantic chain, I would rate em higher.

Charlotte tip of the day: Cutters is a great cigar bar in town.

I worry a bit about hotels that call themselves luxury hotels as a marketing tool. Must appeal to some other demographic than mine?! In any case, the Ritz in Charlotte sure beats the heck out of the Courtyard by Marriott just down the street!

The room is (dare I say it) generic luxury, with marble and wood and very nicely appointed. The bathroom and shower rooms are sizable and have many separate cubicles. And a new thing for me, though I had heard of it before and never seen it…a TV built into the mirror in the bathroom. In case you want to, um, watch gomer pyle while you shave??

As always, it’s a challenge to get the feel of the marble palace of a bathroom across with my simple digital camera.

Here’s the TV.

Perhaps one day there will be a boutique hotel in Charlotte. In the meantime, I definitely prefer self-proclaimed luxury over hamster cage plastic. Four showerheads for the Ritz.

It is somehow fitting that the first hotel covered in the new blog is an example of all the things I try to avoid in business travel.  Without further ado, here are three shots of the hamster cage bathroom design found in Courtyard Marriotts throughout the planet.  This one happened to be in Charlotte, NC.


Note the fake granite plastic shower built on top of a bathtub.  At least there is a nice cloth design covering the transparent plastic shower curtain.

plastic shower curtain charlotte

A classic view of the plastic shower curtain being supported by a “doublewide” shower curtain rod (it bends way out!) designed to fit obese people into the shower.

awful sink area

And the coup de grace…the utterly tasteless sink cubicle area complete with a coffee maker. Note the shocking fluorescent lighting and unstealable hair dryer.  The hair dryer goes hand in hand with the hangers in the closet designed with tiny hooks so that they only work with the hotel’s tiny closet rod.  Come on…I don’t want your dang hangers.  Honest.

This hotel deserves its rating of zero shower heads.