Charlotte: The Paris of North Carolina (Part I)
When I refer to any town as ‘the Paris of’ any state or country, it is important to keep in mind how I feel about Paris, France.
I hate it.
Paris is the one city that has beaten me. I’ve been a great many places, and I’ve loved most of them. I’ve liked the rest. I hated Paris.
And I hate Charlotte, North Carolina.
So here’s the thing: I regret spending two weeks in Paris hating it. And one of my travel goals is to return to Paris and do it again with a different attitude. But I have so many other travel goals–and getting to Paris costs a lot of money or miles–that I’m not sure when that’s going to happen. Which is why I’ve decided to never again let a city beat me. And which is why I’m giving Charlotte a second chance.
I have spent the last thirty hours hating Charlotte. It started as soon as I left the airport rental car lot and was forced to drive through the arrivals lanes in bumper to bumper traffic. It continued as I made my way to my corporate park Residence Inn, also in bumper to bumper traffic. Nothing got better at Food Lion, where the selection of, well, anything, forced me to ‘enjoy’ a cup of easy mac for breakfast and a bag of beef jerky for lunch–I assure you, nothing fresh at the Charlotte Food Lion was any better. After work–and after post-work work back in my really gross hotel room–I decided to find a real dinner. It took me twenty minutes to leave the parking lot of my hotel (again, epic traffic), and the first restaurant I reached handed me a slimy, mass-produced menu that was half ripped in half. When I discovered they only served beer–bottled beer, nothing else–I walked out. I finally found some semi-acceptable food at what bills itself as a biker bar but is most definitely not a biker bar. But they had a better drink selection and the pulled pork was kind of amazing. So were the ribs. But ribs can only make up for so much.
In the past six weeks, I’ve driven in DC, on the Cross Bronx Expressway, in Chicago and in Los Angeles. So I can say with some authority: the traffic in Charlotte is worse than any of these know-to-have-shitty-traffic cities. Not because it is longer or slower, but because it is just as long and just as slow–but there’s nowhere good to go. At least in New York or LA, you’re sitting in traffic for a reason. You are heading towards somewhere with mountains or museums, Disneyland or Central Park–or at the very least, somewhere you can get a decent meal or cocktail. At least in DC you can park your car and take world-class mass transit. And at least in Chicago, there are Italian beef sandwiches (and amazing architecture, friendly people, and the Art Institute). Charlotte has nothing but traffic. Which is why I hate it here.
But after Paris, I refuse to let a city beat me. Which is why I’m spending tomorrow (and my two days here next week) attempting to love Charlotte.
I’m writing this now, before my attempt at a day of fun in Charlotte. The plan is this:
1. sleep in (to improve my attitude).
2. get out into the sunshine.
3. find a tour guide (I have a local friend).
4. locate some good food.
5. find some holiday cheer.
I didn’t do any of these things in Paris–though to be fair, I was in Paris in July not December, so the holiday cheer thing wasn’t an option. But still. I sincerely believe that with the right attitude and approach, I can love any city. Even one that I hate.
Stay tuned for the results.