… is what I said to my boyfriend as we left North Carolina. As mentioned earlier, we’ve been on a five-day tear through the South. Our purpose was a wedding in Charlotte, but we tacked on stops in Atlanta, Winston-Salem and Columbia, South Carolina.
We spent less than 24 hours in Charlotte, but it struck me as a very modern city. It’s the largest city in North Carolina and the city has experienced a lot of new building since the 1980s. The downtown was sparsely populated, but not under used. My friends and I got around the city’s light rail, and it was always packed (unlike a lot of public tranporation systems in the south.) I wasn’t moved by the built environment, but I have a feeling that there is more to Charlotte than the slice I saw. I look forward to seeing more.
I was more charmed by Winston-Salem. It has maintained a lot of its older buildings or built newer buildings that fit into the context of their surroundings. The friends that we visited took us to Misty Creek vineyards, in nearby Mocksville. I have spent time in western North Carolina, in the Smoky Mountains, but I didnt know what to expect in the central part of the state. I was surpised by the area’s green, rolling hillsides. It also helped that the weather was beautiful and our friends drove us around in their Mini convertible. I’m going to insist I always experience the area this way.
There are a few southern stereotypes that I haven’t experienced strongly in NOLA. I have yet to spend a lot of time in the rest of Louisiana, so perhaps it’s just the city.
Overall, North Carolina seemed very religious. It is known as part of the bible belt (does the “bible belt” include Louisiana?) and it seemed that people we encountered spoke more openly about religion and everyone wore religious jewlery. I have noticed that New Orleanians sprinkle their language with the word “blessed,” and openly bless the aspects of the city (“Bless You Boys” is often said about the Saints). However, to me it feels like a term that has been secularized. There are certainly religious New Orleanians, but being a part of the city fabric is what makes the community– not shared religious beliefs.
I also heard a few people in North Carolina make comments that made me feel like a fancy “city folk.” A waitress at a diner outside Charlotte teased one of our friends for eating a salad for brunch because it was healthy. And, yeah, not to rely on stereotypes… but the people at this diner didn’t look so healthy themselves.
A woman at a bagel shop in Winston asked me if I was carrying a dead body in my overstuffed puma shoulder bag. Schlepping around a big bag filled with everything I need for the day is a holdover from commuting on the metro each day in D.C.
I know New Orleans is more cosmopolitan than the rest of the state, so I look forward to visiting the rest of Louisiana to sample its southern-ness. I’ll be sure to order salads and put my computer in my over-sized bag so I can report back.