North Carolina Spring 2021, Part Two

June 3 – 14, 2021

Heading out of the airport was like returning home; hard to believe that just 11 years in a place can make it seem like somewhere you spent most of your life.  This trip for us would be different than the many we usually we take, in that we’d be doing little if any sightseeing and spending almost the entire time visiting with friends and eating and drinking at our favorite places.

Amelie's Pastry Case

Amelie’s Pastry Case

Our first stop was to grab a bite to eat at one of our favorite venues, Amelie’s French Bakery.  First opened at this location in 2008, their high-quality pastries and baked goods, staying open 24/7, and unique interior decorating provided a formula for success and expansion as they now have three other locations in the Charlotte region.  We ordered a big Latte, Ham and Swiss on a baguette (their breads are genuinely good) and their famous salted caramel brownie, we carried it all to an outdoor seating area (no indoor dining just yet) and demolished the food in short order.

Ham and Swiss on Baguette

Ham and Swiss on Baguette

After a short stop at a local supermarket for supplies we drove to our lodging for the duration, a nice one bedroom condo in upper NoDa (Ryan’s Place), just a short walk to some of the best restaurants and bars nearby.  We dropped our bags and quickly made our way to the Wine Vault to catch up with a group of our long-time friends from UNC Charlotte, Jim, Keith and Diane, Doug, Kathryn, and John.

I reported to Jim at UNC Charlotte (UNCC) from 2008 to 2014, when I retired and then upon our return from six months in Europe, would work for Keith twice on an interim basis, once as the Director of Parking and then as the Director of the Business Auxiliary (Food Service, Bookstore, Licensing, Vending, and the Post Office on campus).  Doug now runs Parking, Kathryn was the architect who designed the Student Union that Jim and I built and now is the Director of Facility Planning on campus, and John was our project manager for the Union project on the university side.  These are truly gifted people in their fields and in was my honor and pleasure to work with them all.

At the Wine Vault

At the Wine Vault

It goes without saying that multiple bottles of good red wine were consumed, various falsehoods and dubious claims were proclaimed, and it just felt good to be back in their company.  The next day, Friday, we met a good friend of Doug’s, Garin, who worked for the Marriott chain (he has since been laid off) and moved to Charlotte just as we were leaving in 2019, at a Famous Toastery for breakfast.  It was fun to see him as the last time we did it was also for breakfast as we were with the other Cisco’s preparing to drive across the country to Los Angeles.

Famous Toastery

Famous Toastery Matthews

Our next stop was in Concord for haircuts with Katie, the owner of the hair salon on campus at UNCC (she had responded to our Request for Proposal (RFP) when we were opening the Union and became the long-time tenant) who had opened a second shop, Pomades and Pinups.  As she cut my hair for nearly ten years, it was a joy to see her and in the short time it took for the cut, we got barely caught up, knowing that Joanna’s much longer appointment would take care of any fuller details.

Pomades and Pinups

Pomades and Pinups

Knowing that Joanna would be occupied for some time, I’d connected with Neil, who used to work for me as a maintenance technician in UNCC’s Cone University Center and he agreed to meet me at one of his favorite watering holes, Lil’ Roberts Place.  Occupying a deep storefront in historic downtown Concord, when I got there Neil was partway through his first cold one.

Lil' Robert Interior

Lil’ Roberts Interior

Three beers later, one a Stone Liquid Poem limited release double IPA, the only time I would encounter it on draft.  It is based on one of their classics, with citrusy-piney Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops, plus a dash of ‘new classic’ Citra for good measure.  At 9.4% abv, I only needed the one and it was the one I finished with, just about the time that Joanna joined us after her haircut.

Our final stop for the day was dinner with a former neighbor, Nancy, and her husband Wayne.  I served with Nancy off and on our HOA board for nearly ten years on and no better person can be found.  We sat on their screened in porch overlooking the greenway along Clark’s Creek drinking good white wine and enjoying a masterful dinner of halibut piccata.

Halibut for Dinner

Halibut for Dinner

On the way to Nancy’s, we stopped briefly at our former house and spoke with George, our next-door neighbor, one of the best we’ve ever had.  We apologized for having to run and promised him we stop by the next morning and get caught up.  And that is what we did.  So, check out the next post for that and the activities that followed.

Joanna on the Porch

Joanna on the Porch



Ryan’s Place:

The Wine Vault:

The Famous Toastery:

Summit Coffee:

Pomades and Pinups:

Lil’ Roberts Place:

Liquid Poem:


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