I had a great time here! Missed my wife like crazy but I think I embraced the solo travel experience as much as I could. Looked up places on yelp and such and did a lot of solo exploration! Turns out, Charlotte’s got a lot. Not as much as other cities, but what they have is nice!
The night I arrived I hit up a Soul Food / Southern restaurant called Mert’s Heart and Soul. Had Salmon Cakes with Mac ‘n’ cheese, potato salad and corn bread. I was really blown away by the corn bread. No joke. A very delicious meal for a fair price. Then again, anything here is fair compared to SF prices…
The Hotel Sierra provided a continental breakfast and I snapped this self portrait of sorts while polishing off my eggs and bacon. Probably my favorite shot of the whole trip, though Frances insists that the others are good too. =) Supportive as always!
The morning was really freaking cold. So happy Frances suggested I bring a scarf; it made all the difference.
Day 1 of INFORMS was filled with sessions on finance. For lunch, I hit up Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and got the Turkey Tom, essentially a turkey sub with the special addition being sprouts. Was a pretty popular stop for people on their way to the Tennessee-Carolina football game. This one little blonde girl looked at me a bit curiously and said hi, almost expecting me to answer funny. I guess that’s my “racial incident” of this trip. Took it to the hotel (because I’m paying a pretty penny per night for it, darn it!), and fell asleep on the couch. Oops. Went to the last session on finance. Then I hit up Mortimer’s Pub & Cafe at the EpiCentre for a panini and some football. Good times!
Day 2 was the day of my presentation. In my session, there were five people (including me) in the 90 minute session so the talk was supposed to be quick. Going last didn’t help my time but it went well! Before my actual talk, I attended two sessions. First was the competition for the financial services…something or another, but one of Andrew’s students, Fook, was presenting, so I thought I’d support. Not sure if he won…I should figure that out. Second session was on sports analytics, and listened to the director of the amateur draft of the (champion) St. Louis Cardinals give a talk about analytics in sports. I wonder if I should see if I could get a job at the Giants’ front office when graduation rolls around. I skipped the other talk to go grab an early lunch.
For lunch, I visited The King’s Kitchen, a non-profit restaurant that benefits the community! It’s such a great idea! And they had great food! For lunch, I had meat & three with fried chicken (white meat) with spinach (SO soft and juicy), sweet potato mash (SO sweet and delicious) and mac ‘n’ cheese (the South really has this down).
After lunch, on my way back to the convention, I took this quick shot. Just liked the parabolas. Not sure exactly where this was but it was on the main banking street.
I was so impressed by lunch at The King’s Corner that I went back for dinner! For dinner, I had pot roast (the meat just comes right apart…you could pick apart individual muscle fibers) with collard greens (a first), potato salad (gotta say, Mert’s was better) and mac ‘n’ cheese again (seriously legit). This time I had sweet tea! I remember I had a Masters’ friend from my first year complain that there was no sweet tea in California (he’s from Georgia) and I was very confused. Just add sugar, right? Well, I get it now. Completely get it. Why the hell isn’t there any sweet tea anywhere but the South?! It’s just barely different than like your snapple kinda sweetened tea…but so good. Probably also terrible for you.
Too bad I didn’t leave room for dessert in any of these meals…but I think Frances would’ve imposed a month-long salad diet if I had done that…
On my way back to the hotel from dinner, I grabbed this quick photosynth panorama of the view of the skyline. Not the best vantage point, but still quite nice.
The last, and only touristy highlight of my trip is my visit to the Levine Museum of the New South. Now, as a New England elitist of sorts, I scoffed at the idea initially, though not as loudly as I did when I learned that the NASCAR Hall of Fame was attached to the Convention Center. Oops.
The Museum was actually quite nice! Their permanent exhibit, From Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers was nice and informative. Felt like a history lesson again but it was great. I loved how interactive everything was. You could feel the difference between seeded and thinned cotton, listen to old music, check out what homes kinda looked like. Below is a picture I took of soda bottles that were displayed to help you see what kind of refreshments factory workers used to deal with the warm working conditions they endured.
I also used photosynth to capture some of the exhibits because they were more about immersion. Below is my photosynth capture of the Good Samartian Hospital Church that was torn down in 1990 to make way for the Bank of America Stadium. They preserved parts of the sanctuary and set up a little exhibit with a corner featuring Billy Graham’s career. As a side note, I do regret not being able to check out the Billy Graham Library. Oh well, next time.
Next I took a photosynth panorama of a typical 60’s (I think) dry goods store. The attention to detail was remarkable! They even had clothes you could try on but…yeah probably something you do with a group of friends…
Perhaps the part I was most interested in was how Charlotte became such a financial center (2nd largest banking city in the US!). Turns out there were two main competing banks headquartered in Charlotte that grew into Bank of America and Wells Fargo, though Wells Fargo’s headquarters are in San Francisco now. Kinda crazy. The skyline of Charlotte is now dominated by buildings that were built for the banks that made Charlotte their home.
The exhibit was, as I said, really interesting and I was quite impressed with how interactive and fairly up-to-date with technology it was. The last section was quite interesting. You could film a video with your reaction to the exhibit and they played those videos on a loop. There was also a green screen photo booth thing and I took a quick shot before I left:
All in all, Charlotte was a great experience! I really enjoyed my time here. Nice people, great food, and such a clean, walkable, wonderful city. I’d love to explore more of the outskirts if I ever come back here. Definitely looking forward to going home tomorrow and seeing my wife and cat. =) Thanks to the Hotel Sierra for the comfortable (and quite fancy) lodging and breakfasts, and thank you Charlotte and INFORMS 2011 for both a fun and productive trip!
David: So Molly, what have you learned about Korean music today?
Molly: That you know everything about it, that emoness is a way of life, and that Girls Generation bring the boys out.
David: B-bring the boys out.”