Tuesday, July 19, 2011
It is not down in any map; true places never are.-Herman Melville
I have had some beautiful experiences traveling in the last ten years. From noshing on goat cheese pizza in Paris, to photographing a herd of elephants in Kenya, to eating a scorpion on the streets of Beijing, it's been a whirlwind blast. I dedicated most of my 20's to planning, executing, and dreaming of overseas travel. Seeing the world was magical, and my wandering is far from over. However, as any amateur explorer knows, you need two things to make travel happen: energy and money. I find myself having more energy than ever before, but sadly, less money! So, I made the decision to stay put for a while, and to discover what's around me, here in North Carolina...namely the nearby metropolis, The Queen City.
Losing one's primary hobby and source of enthusiasm seems devastating, especially when you add a divorce into the mix. Sound like a recipe for the ultimate bummer? Yes, it was...at first. However, I quickly realized that I have an amazing world just "outside my door" (well, not literally) in the city of Charlotte. I actually live outside of the city, but find a good excuse to visit at least once a week. Charlotte's not the only chocolate chip in the muffin though! North Carolina as a whole is filled to the brim with rare restaurants, quirky shops, outdoor fun, and interesting folks. I've discovered so much in the last year, and I only hope that you, my readers, will too! And if you do, please share and comment.
Here are few tips for getting your feet wet in the Charlotte scene:
1) Print: I've always been a fan of the free publication, Creative Loafing. You can find this magazine outside of many local eateries, including Mr. C's Chicken in Concord, On the Border at Concord Mills, Dish in Plaza Midwood, etc. I've been picking them up and perusing for many years, but I decided to make CL my road map for Charlotte fun, including concerts, neighborhood events, and festivals. It's a great resource, and you can have it delivered to your home if you don't have an opportunity to get out much...of course, if that's the case, this blog might be a little depressing :( But you can always plan for later.
2) Net: In addition, I used the trusty Internet (Thanks Al Gore) for further exploration. One of my favorite finds is the website www.urbanspoon.com/charlotte, which breaks down the city's restaurants into lists and categories, such as "Best Brunch" (and who doesn't love brunch...pancakes or french fries or both!). I've tried so many scrumptious and delightful spots thanks to this site! It breaks down cost, provides a rating system, and usually gives hours and address as well. I've also used Facebook to "like" various restaurants and events, so that I can get frequent updates and ideas for fun outings. If you have some time for surfing, you can really rack up a restaurant "to-do" list and keep yourself busy with a hectic eating schedule (make sure to slip in that workout, or it can add up!) For the budget-minded, you can get some great deals on www.restaurant.com or other coupon sites. Try hitting up happy hours or lunch, so you can still say you tried it without breaking the bank.
3)Foot: One other measure I've taken is to explore on foot! One of the greatest ways to discover and explore is to walk. I've found this to be true in both local and foreign aspects. Walking, while a terrific source of exercise, allows you to spot those hidden treasures and spots that you might otherwise overlook. For instance, while walking up East Boulevard the other night, I realized that I'd overlooked several eateries in Dilworth (the neighborhood I frequent the most). The walk also helped jog my memory...I remembered that the Greek Festival will be coming in September, and that I want to try a Yoga class (Be Yoga).
4) Friends: Finally, the best way to explore Charlotte's offerings is to talk with friends. Everyone knows that word of mouth is key in spreading good (and not so good) information, news, etc. Don't have any friends? Strike up a conversation with a co-worker or service provider. I was talking to a man I work with the other night, and he ended up giving me the history, review, and directions to a BBQ joint that I would never have discovered on my own. Plus, I got some inside scoop on the spot since he'd been going for thirty years!! By the way, it's Keaton's BBQ in Rowan County. I've relied on friends for ideas, such as happy hour hot spots, drink specials, concerts, shows, etc.