As a teacher I’m afforded a long summer break, with which I can do pretty much anything.
Because I like to torture myself, I’ve spent six weeks across each of the last three summers in graduate school. Ok, so maybe torture isn’t the most accurate word. In fact, Hollins University, where I’m in grad school, is like Hogwarts, but, at the end of the day, it is still school.
Anywho, while I was away this summer, I was particularly aware of those quintessentially Charlotte things that I desperately missed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find replacements for them where I was. Here’s my list. What’s yours?
(1) Barbee Farms
While I do have a specific fondness for this family-owned farm in Concord, what is most wonderful about Charlotte is that there is no shortage of local farms and farmers’ markets to meet the needs of pretty much any food-loving shopper.
In fact, I love Barbee Farms so much, I actually made a detour into town at the tail-end of my drive home to pick up a few essentials: peaches, heirloom tomatoes, and sweet corn. After six weeks eating in a cafeteria, even a pretty good cafeteria, I couldn’t wait for simple, southern, goodness. And I must say, it was that and then some. My lunch yesterday, a tomato sandwich with peaches and corn on the side was nothing short of perfection.
Whether you have a dog, (or several cats, Katie Levans,) or no pets at all, (Ted Williams), Charlotte is overflowing with great places to go for a walk. I live in Plaza Midwood, so for the most part I get to enjoy a route back toward the Charlotte Country Club where I can “Ooh” and “Aah” at beautiful homes and perfectly manicured lawns, or a short jaunt through Chantilly, where the homes are a bit more quaint, and I can be always on the look-out for “For Sale” signs.
But even when I’m not in my ‘hood, and instead at Freedom Park, or with friends on a walk in SouthPark or Myers Park, Charlotte streets are, more often than not, lined with big, beautiful trees. They hint at Charlotte’s history, and provide much-needed shade from the scorching sun. It’s easy to get caught up in life: to walk to the car, drive to the parking garage, walk to our desks, only to walk back to the car, drive home, eat dinner, and go to bed. With a few months left before the weather turns cold, let’s get out and enjoy the green that Charlotte has to offer. Now that I’m back, I intend to do just that.
(3) The Food
I’m not going to lie. when I moved to Charlotte from Charleston, SC six years ago, I never imagined I’d be saying this. But, since I arrived, Charlotte has begun making its culinary mark on the region, and those of us who live in the QC have had the distinct pleasure of enjoying the fruits of others’ labors.
In my neighborhood alone, I’ve seen the transformation from three or four so-so restaurants, to nearly a dozen of the hottest go-to spots in town. It’s INCREDIBLE. In the six weeks I’ve been gone, Pure Pizza and The Workman’s Friend have opened their doors, and I can’t wait to get in there and support the local folks making local food.
Plaza Midwood isn’t alone though. Driving through town one can’t help but notice the ever-changing face of the Charlotte food scene, and it’s more than a little exciting to be a part of it.
Speaking of the ever-changing scene in Charlotte, it may be more than just restaurants doing their part to boost Charlotte’s economy. There doesn’t seem to be a street in Charlotte that doesn’t have some kind of new and exciting change taking shape. And I admit, I’m not always the person who’s in favor of this kind of development. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t like change all that much.
But having been away for the past few weeks, I can’t help but get excited about all of the wonderfully fabulous new spots I get to check out now that I’m back. There are restaurants to dine in, stores to shop in, apartments for new friends to live in, a street car to ride in, and more. Charlotte is growing, and though it can be overwhelming at times, and the traffic can be frustrating all the time, it’s exciting. Bring it on, Charlotte. Bring it on.
(5) The people
People in Charlotte are great. And people in Charlotte care. They care enough to say hi when they walk past me on Central Avenue. They care enough to ask my dog’s name, and they tell me their dog’s name while they give my Abbott a belly rub. They care enough to speak up, to make their voices heard, and to affect change.
People in Charlotte are enthusiastic and engaged, and they’re ready for Charlotte to be all they know it can be. Some of my best friends in the world are here, and I am constantly making new, cool friends as well. People in this city are wonderful, and I’m happy to be back in their midst once more.
(6) That unmistakable “something”
It’s hard to explain this last one. I haven’t lived a ton of places, but I have been in a few, and I know that when I go back to some, it’s not there. Whenever I drive back into Charlotte though, I feel it. It starts to bubble up the moment I see the skyline, proud and beautiful, signaling I’m almost home. And that’s a big part of it – that feeling of being home.
When I moved to Charlotte, my husband and I did so with the intention of being here for two or three years before we’d figure out where we really wanted to be. We never expected to actually find our home here. But that’s what we’ve done. And with each passing day, I love Charlotte a little bit more. I’ve listed six reasons for loving Charlotte, but I know if I gave myself a bit more time, I could come up with 60 or so more.
Charlotte is many things to each of us. It has the perfect neighborhood for each person, if only you’re willing to find it. It’s growing and changing in awesome ways, and people, both within and outside Charlotte, are starting to take notice. It’s that quintessential Charlotte “something” that brought me here, and it’s that same “something” that will keep me here for many years to come.
Again, it’s easy, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life to forget why we love this city. Your list of six may not match mine, but I bet if you live in Charlotte and you love Charlotte, you do have six. So maybe this week, while you’re sitting in the office, or sweating profusely walking a block for lunch, take a moment and remind yourself of those six things you love most about Charlotte. I bet they’ll bring a smile to your face, and who doesn’t love that?