Back to the Carolinas -- May 2019 Trip to Charlotte

This May my company had a conference in a new location - Charlotte, North Carolina. I was really excited to travel to a new city! Originally Tommy and I had discussed that he would go with me and we would take a week-long road trip through the Carolinas and stop in Charleston (I've been wanting to go back ever since I went to my first conference in 2012). However things didn't go as we wanted - plane tickets were too expensive (about $800+ round trip!), plus hotels, car rental, and food would easily add up to $2,000+ over Memorial Day week alone so we decided he wouldn't go this time. We were bummed but that's how it goes sometimes πŸ˜•

Skyline evening view from the Farenheit restaurant where we had one of our networking events.

Whenever I fly somewhere, I like to travel early around 6:00am-7:00am from my favorite airport, Ontario International (close to home, there's hardly ever traffic, its easy to get in and out of, plus it supports the local economy). When I got to Charlotte I didn't expect it to be so warm (a 20 degree difference), and I forgot about the east coast humidity, but it was bearable.

You can see the difference in the landscape - so nice, green and so many trees in NC! 😁 When I left California you can see how brown and dull it looks compared to all the beautiful greenery. I love looking at the different landscapes when I'm up in the airplane. 

View from my early morning walks to the convention center. My hotel room is usually within walking distance. Depending on the day and activities going on, I start between 6am-7am. I actually like the early morning walks in the city. It's a nice change of scenery and I love the fact that I get a break from driving for a week. I often imagine what it would be like to be able to walk to work and live without a car, something that's not really possible with my current lifestyle and where I live.  

View from backstage where the Opening Keynote address takes place. This is where the speaker walks up to the stage. I love all the lights and colors for this year's theme and it's such a unique experience getting to see the show from this perspective. This really takes me back to my HS days where I worked in technical theater producing all kinds of events backstage for the school's performing arts department - plays, choir shows, talent shows, awards shows, etc. I've always loved planning and producing events since my first experience way back in 2003. Although there can be a lot of pressure, there's something so satisfying about making a huge production from start to finish, and seeing the final show come together.

Producing a conference and trade show gets very busy, requires a lot of physical stamina and energy for the 9-12 hour work days, so it's easy and so tempting to order room service at the end of the day (or pick up food to take back to my hotel room). I've made a commitment to myself to go out and explore the city at least one of the days I'm in town. I took a Carolina History & Haunts walking tour where the tour guide shared local history and haunted stories. I learned that Charlotte is called the Queen City because it was named after the queen in England, and that there is no downtown, instead its called Uptown. Also, the first U.S. gold rush happened in Charlotte and there are still tunnels and mines that run under the city. This is why Charlotte is one of the top three banking cities in the nation due to the original gold rush.

One of the haunted hotels in Uptown Charlotte. The city is a mix of really old historic buildings and new skyscrapers. It's very interesting to see.

The tour guide showed a lot of haunted locations throughout the city. I didn't get as many good pictures as I wanted since the sun was setting and most of it was in the night time. It turns out that a lot of the really old haunted buildings are now apartments or condos! We concluded the tour at the Old Settler's Cemetery, and the tour guide said that the city of Charlotte loves tearing down old buildings so the only way they could preserve this landmark was by designating it as a dog park!

After the tour ended I decided to walk back to my hotel since it was several blocks away. It was an enjoyable walk (on a hot night!) through such an old city and I had to stop to take this picture of this cool old red brick church. A lot of the historic buildings are in this red brick style. You don't see anything like this back home.

Some of my favorite things about working conferences is getting a break from my regular routine (which includes cooking), and of course the food I get to eat! It’s so easy to eat a lot of junk or fatty food while traveling, so during my lunch breaks at the convention center I try to eat something light like a sandwich or wrap. On the last night I was exhausted so I ordered room service. Those puffy meat brisket things at the bottom were from the Fahrenheit rooftop restaurant. They were small appetizer sized but I filled up on some of the local beers. By the end of the week I'm usually craving vegetables and fruits, something fresh!

This year, on the last day of the conference we offered plant tours to our attendees and I got to be a chaperone. The facility I visited didn't allow photography (due to proprietary reasons) but it was about a 20 mile drive that crossed into South Carolina, which I didn't expect. So that was kind of a nice surprise to see more of the surrounding area besides the city. 

View from the front seat of the charter tour bus. I've always enjoyed being a passenger and looking out the window to see everything passing by.

I guess technically I did make it back to South Carolina. I promised myself will go back there again. It's on my bucket list to take Tommy to Charleston. We learned that he has a lot of ancestors that originally settled in NC in the 1700s so we definitely need to go there.

View of the local neighborhoods outside Charlotte as you get closer to the airport. This is probably one of my favorite parts of traveling and taking vacations, just seeing the surrounding communities and small towns. It's so different from the suburban neighborhood I live in. In the future Tommy and I would love to move to a more rural, remote area but at this stage in our lives it doesn't make sense. 

My entire trip lasted 5 nights and almost 6 days. It was an enjoyable conference but I was so happy to come home to Tommy and Mr. Gold. That's the hardest part about traveling is saying goodbye and missing them both, especially on the first night away. But I text frequently and call, sometimes even FaceTime Mr. Gold. (We do that when we go on vacation and my sister watches him.) And of course, when I come home Mr. Gold will follow me around for hours and hang out in my luggage to reclaim me as his property πŸ˜‰ 

He's not impressed that I was gone for so long.

Coming home is nice, especially when my guys  make me delicious food and we get to enjoy a nice breakfast and coffee on weekend mornings. πŸ˜‹

One of the best parts of coming home! Getting back to our weekend routine - a nice breakfast with Mr. Gold. That custom built cat house/tree he's laying on was gifted to us by my brother as our wedding gift. My brother makes really awesome dog houses, cat houses, and other custom woodwork.

Lately we've been making our own version of Chinese food. Tommy has perfected his recipe for Orange chicken. In this pic above we forgot to buy oranges but it was still really good - spicy, tangy, delicious chicken!

Recently we upgraded our homemade pizza night. I made some homemade Buffalo and BBQ chicken wings. We tried making homemade JalapeΓ±o poppers once but that didn't turn out so good, so we decided its best to use our energy in other areas so we've stuck to buying the frozen ones at the grocery store. 


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