2020, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to North Carolina Day 4: Charlotte Monday March 2, 2020

We had a lazy morning this morning, because we didn’t really have any fixed plans this day. Eventually we packed, checked out, got the hotel to store our luggage and walked back to near the stadium.

What we found was a whole world we had missed the day before, just “west” of the stadium. (Charlotte is no an axis, so “north” streets are northeast or even east northeast, west streets are northwest, etc.) by not walking a block “west” of the stadium we had missed the actual downtown of the city. So our impression that Charlotte was just “big Regina” (at least downtown) turned out to be totally wrong – it was just the area we stayed in that was devoid of life. (Also, it’s now Monday, which helps with foot traffic.)

Redeye Diner

We went for brunch at a ’50s style diner in this open air mall in downton. The sweet tea was bottomless (but of course) and the food was good, albeit extremely heavy (because it’s the south). I ordered the “Bubba” which was a biscuit and egg sandwich drowning in southern-style white gravy (i.e. sausage gravy) with the butteriest grits I’ve ever tasted on the side. I still can’t quite believe I ate the whole thing.

After brunch we headed to a “Public Market” which turned out to be a downtown version of the Optimist Food Hall, only much smarter and with more stores and fewer restaurants. We figured we would be finding something like a farmer’s market but it absolutely wasn’t that. There was a pretty interesting wine store, though.

We walked from there across downtown to “The Green” a literary-themed park across from the major art galleries (which were closed because Monday).

At the centre of the park is a sign identifying many Charlottes:


I had to see it.

From there we walked to “South End” so Jenn could go shopping. I keep putting quotes around these things because I was pretty confused most of the time. (Though now I had a map from the hotel, which made everything make more sense.) “South” in Charlotte is roughly southwest but closer to west southwest so, for someone like me, who often orients by the sun, it can get a little confusing.

Anyway, we walked to the South End, through some construction – there was a lot of construction in Charlotte – and eventually to a chichi shopping mall in old warehouses. Jenn finally got to go to Anthropologie as well as a few other stores. Afterwards, she got a coffee and I got a matcha latte, which was as close to a hot version of the matcha milkshake I had in Vietnam as anything else I’ve tried.

The next step was to go to a brewery. But it was Monday and we soon found that some of them were not open and most would not open until it wold be too late. Eventually we settled on going to Heist – the only one about to open – but it was on the other side of town.

So instead we did what we often do when he have some time but not quite enough, we found a rich neighbourhood and walked over to it to stare at expensive houses. This neighbourhood is called Dilworth and is very much the Old Money part of downtown Charlotte. (By the way, downtown is called “Uptown” in Charlotte because it’s on a hill. I have forgotten to call it that because it’s clearly the downtown.)

The funny thing about this neighbourhood was how much it looked like the Kingsway in Toronto or the rich part of Saskatoon along the river. The architecture was so “northern” for lack of a better world, tons of brick, some mock tudor stuff, that kind of thing. You could have plopped just about any of these houses down in a rich Canadian city and nobody would notice. (The same probably goes for a northern American city.) It was weird.

On our way out of the neighbourhood we stumbled upon a massive religious complex called the Convenant Presbyterian Church, which includes a school among other things, and which takes up what feels like multiple city blocks. It was made to look much older than it actually was because of course it was.

From there we walked toward a mall so Jenn could go to Target. We entered the Little Sugar Creek Greenway to make it a bit more interesting. At this point we didn’t quite have enough time to go to Heist any more but Jenn spotted a sports bar block or so before the mall. We went inside and were pleased to discover a wide variety of both North Carolina and American craft beers. And it was a really generic sports bar. How things have changed. (For the better.)

After the bar we went back to the Greenway and walked to Target. I spent a while looking at the weird food things they sell, such as Cups o’ Pancakes. (That’s not the brand name, but it was a Cup o’ Soup with pancakes instead of noodles and soup mix. I am not making this up.)

We walked back to the Greenway until it was time to cut under the Beltway. We found our way back to the hotel and got a car to the airport. “Cartier” they call it here. I don’t know why. It’s the same price as a cab.

Donald Trump Delayed My Flight

The ride to the airport was faster than the lady at the hotel said it would be, and we allowed for rush hour traffic, meaning we got to the airport more than a little early. We made it through security only to find out our flight was delayed by over half an hour.

We did our usual thing: we scoped out our gate and started wondering. Eventually we realized Wicked Weed has a bar in the Charlotte Airport so we went looking for it. It was almost on the other side of the airport but we had even more time now.

We both ordered farmhouse ales with adjuncts – which were both good, though mine was great – and sat down to wait. Jenn got the alert about the flight delay – though we had already seen it on the board – and mentioned it to me.

“Trump” the bartender said. He then explained that flights were grounded or prevented from landing while Airforce One delivered The Donald to the airport so he could attend his rally.

I understand the US has a stupid system for electing their President, which now lasts two years. And I understand that people have to campaign. But Trump is the sitting President and the election is 8 months out. He is, to the best of my knowledge, the only President to hold rallies throughout his time in office. To what end aside from assuaging his fragile ego, I’ll never know.

So our flight was delayed because the government is worried about someone hijacking a plane and flying it into Airforce One. Wonderful.

As a result, we couldn’t pick up our dog tonight, and had to pay for another night at the boarder’s. I’m sure many other people were inconvenienced way more than us and have been every other time he has done this.

But seriously, fuck you asshole.

You have to be a certain type of narcissist to run for President of the United States, but it’s a special one who interrupts air traffic so he can throw himself parties just so he can pretend people like him.

Otherwise our trip home was great: I had a sandwich for dinner because I had eaten way too much. Once our place actually landed and unloaded and we got off the ground – after a luggage delay – we had incredible luck: we got to Toronto faster than we thought, we had no crowds making it from the far part of the airport to customs, there were zero (zero!!!) people ahead of us in line for customs and our bag was waiting on the carousel when we went to look for it. We left the airport just about the time we should have had the flight hadn’t been delayed and, had we made an Up train, we might have even had time to pick up the dog. Instead, we still had great travel karma the rest of the way, getting a fast subway home.

If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, I highly recommend North Carolina. I also highly recommend the Asheville area – or the Blue Ridge Mountains in general – though maybe not in the winter. Asheville is pricey, but it’s appealing. And the mountains themselves are spectacular and have the added benefit of being warmer than the northern parts of the Appalachians.

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