Finally, it was time for Sara to go to her conference. I was sort of dreading this part of the trip, because it meant handling both kids in a strange city by myself. Although it was exhausting, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The main thing was to keep out of the hotel as much as possible, since keeping them quiet for any length of time was out of the question, and having a routine certainly helped a lot.
Every day we would eat breakfast at the hotel, and then go to Discovery Place for 3 – 4 hours (for FREE — thank you reciprocating MSI membership!). We would eat a delicious lunch of PB&J (every day), and then Oliver would fall asleep in the stroller just when we were almost home. We’d get him into bed, and then Evie and I would play a few games of cards
and read books until I fell asleep on the floor. At this point, Evie would do “exercises” for 20 minutes or so (don’t ask me, I was asleep), and then wake me up to ask if I had slept long enough. In the afternoon, we’d find something to do such as go to ImaginOn, a fantastic children’s library. Finally, we hit up a delicious restaurant for supper, and go to bed.
Evie's gift to the children's museum
The hotel we stayed in was very nice. We specifically chose it because they had a suite with a separate bedroom, so Sara and I could stay up after the kids were in bed. It was really more of a business hotel, and there weren’t really any other kids staying there. Consequently, we were very recognizable (especially with all of our comings and goings throughout the day), and all of the front desk staff really enjoyed interacting with the kids.
The one snafu with the hotel was the parking. When we first pulled up, we found out it was valet, which we were unprepared for. It makes you feel a little flustered when you have to spend 20 minutes cleaning out everything from your car while a pair of valet guys look on and wait. Sara kept insisting we’d have to pay for parking and it would be expensive, but I kept denying it because the whole city seemed to be made of parking lots, and parking didn’t really seem to be at a premium. Well, she was right and I was wrong (first time for everything I guess), since after they took the car they informed us it was $22 a night. Yeowza!
Imagine my surprise when I got up to my room and opened the window to take in the view, only to see a parking lot literally across the street that was advertising $5 parking. Seriously hotel? I called down to the front desk immediately.
Me: “Excuse me, I just paid $22 to park in your garage, and now I see it is $5 to park across the street?”
Lady: “Well actually, it is $5 for only 12 hours. So really it’s $10.”
Me: “That’s seriously your argument? It’s still less than half the price!”
Now, they ended up being sort of right, because parking there ended up being something of a headache. We were right next to the arena for the Charlotte Bobcats, and twice they had a game while we were there. When that happens, the price of the lot shoots up to $10 for a couple of hours during the event. This lead to a couple times where we had to drive around a little to find somewhere else to park (we ended up finding a free spot just down the street), and then going and getting the car later at night and moving it back to the lot. So this did cause a little bit of a headache.
Maybe I was just being cheap, I don’t know. But when you consider that we were staying for 4 nights, and that you have to tip the valet every time you get your car, I think we conservatively saved around $60. And really, it was the principle of the thing, you know?
Aaaanywho, we continued our string of delicious restaurants while in Charlotte.
Midwood Smokehouse – After just eating at 12 Bones, we were desperate for more barbecue. Unfortunately for Midwood Smokehouse, we had just eaten at 12 Bones. Midwood Smokehouse was perfectly good, but it was more “polished” or chain-y somehow and just suffered in comparison. They did have bacon wrapped jalapenos, which certainly helped their case, but overall it just couldn’t compete at the end of the day, especially in the side dish arena. The barbecue was more than adequate, and on any other trip it probably would have ranked up there with some of the best meals of the trip.
Fern – Fern was a place that we just happened to see after leaving Midwood Smokehouse, so we ended up giving it a try. BEST. STUMBLE UPON. EVER. Fern was possibly better even than 12 Bones, but it is so hard to compare a vegetarian restaurant to a barbecue joint. We ordered so much food that we thought we would never be able to eat it all, and then we proceeded to eat it all. If I lived in Charlotte, I would go to Fern every day and eat Buddha bowls with forbidden rice until I puked, which I would never do, because I wouldn’t want to waste it. My only regret is that I didn’t take them up on their half priced wine night.
Cook Out – This was the one place that I actually had plans to go to while in North Carolina. I became acquainted with Cook Out while Sara was going to school in Greensboro. It’s a fast food place, but the burgers really do taste like you cooked them out on the grill. They have cajun seasoning for their fries. They have over 40 flavors of milkshakes. And if all of that wasn’t enough, their burger sizes are “Small”, “Regular”, “Large” and “Huge”. You can legitimately drive up to the speaker and say, “I’d like a huge burger,” and you will get your wish my friend. I had plans to go to Cook Out multiple times, but it didn’t really work out, so we ended up having to go without Sara. However, the kids and I enjoyed it thoroughly without her.
Afterwards, it was time to head home. I mentioned the night we stayed in Asheville, and we also stayed at a place in Louisville that had an *awesome* pool. It was indoors, heated, and featured both an enormous shallow end where Evie could touch, but also an extremely deep end that was over my head. Finally, on the last day, we met Rachael in Indy and ate a very improvised lunch at her apartment.
And then we were home! Evie did fantastic in the car all the way down and all the way back. Oliver did great on the way there, but by the time we got to the end of the trip, he had pretty much had it with the car. There was a lot of howling. No matter how much fun we had on the trip, we were all glad to be back on dry land as it were, and ready to get back into our regular routines.