Things to do in Charlotte (Part 2)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I'm not good at sitting around.
Me + Boredom = not friends.

It's so easy to keep my free spirit happy where I currently live. Between the never ending Greenway and the Charlotte sky line you can see from my apartment, I've got plenty to do. Not to mention the mountains 2 hours West and the Coastline 3 hours South. I may or may not have a post about the South Carolina Coastline coming up here in a bit.....  


Last week I got out of my apartment every evening after dinner and just walked aimlessly around the Greenway. Trust me when I say there is nothing more uplifting than a walk during a peaceful evening while the bright orange sun sets over miles of peach trees. Sprinklers start to spew water over fresh strawberry fields, bringing out the aroma of summer. and you get the urge to run through the sprinklers barefoot with 4 strawberries stuffed in your mouth, screaming like a little kid. Then, you stop dead in your tracks because you hear a rustle in the woods... you slowly look to your side and see a family of deer prancing through a flowered meadow while crickets chirp and lightening bugs light up the sky.

I can't make this up.

That's really what happened (minus running through the sprinklers) when I took a sporadic walk through the Greenway the other night.

In photos, it went a little something like this:

Has anyone ever seen a blue tractor before? I haven't. Until now.... My jaw dropped and I clapped my hands when I saw this bad boy. And the red barn in the back? Come on. If this isn't the most classic Southern photo you've ever seen then I don't know what is.

Now picture this photo with deer prancing through a field of these flowers and throw some lightening bugs in that vision as well. Heaven, right? Can someone pinch me?

We had some decent storms over the weekend too. Some people smoke weed, others like to chug beer. Me? I get high off thunderstorms.

Do you see that cloud? I had such a hard time photographing this because I was speechless, just sitting there with my camera lens closed and my jaw wide open. I'll never forget this night.

And then after sitting there for 3 hours a few minutes or so, the clouds morphed into this....

Absolutely stunning. My fascination with storms has been a lifelong thing. I was 6 years old when I spotted my first tornado in Indiana. Badass, I know. I just love it!


So Sunday comes along and I decide we need to go explore big Charlotte.
And let me tell you, the BEST way to see a city is not my car, not by train.
No, it's not even by foot..............


Ok let's be real though these things are scary dangerous.

We went on this fun tour via Charlotte NC Tours and they were awesome. Our tour guide was Rod and the man sure knows his stuff about Charlotte. He also saved me a few times from getting run over by my own Segway.

We took the 2 hour Markets, Museums and Parks tour and wow, what a great way to learn almost everything about this city.

The tour started bright and early at 9:00AM I was tired as shit and it was perfect. No one was out on the streets so we didn't have to worry about dodging humans. On Segway tours you begin with 30 minutes of safety training outside the office. Safe to say I could have used 3 hours. While we were doing this, our tour guide Rod told us to look up at this old, kinda rugged looking building. He pointed to the tall windows on the third floor, the top floor, and said 'See that couch with all the pillows and the tall lamp? That's Michael Jordan's Condo.'


After we rolled out of the office we stopped every few blocks to learn almost everything there is to know about Charlotte's history.  I could fill a couple hundred blog posts with that, so you'll just have to go for yourself and see. (AKA I'm too lazy to type it out)

We then toured a park downtown which reminded me so much of Central Park in NYC. So quiet yet so close to everything...

We rolled our way through lavish neighborhoods with eccentric, Southern style homes, past some of Charlotte's top restaurants, and on to the Carolina Panthers stadium. It was a blast! I can't wait to go on another Segway adventure - next time I'm doing the ghost tour ;)

And just in case you're wondering what those little yellow things on my tank top are.....



With a recommendation from Rod, we stopped for some iced coffee and yummy treats at a famous French bakery in downtown Charlotte called Amelie's.  Such a cool vibe inside. Eccentric art lines the walls and the staff is very welcoming.

They are famous for their Salted Caramel Brownie. With my first bite I realized why. I could have stuffed down at least 8 more, easily. I also tried a macaroon for the first time! Make sure you check this place out when you're in town :)

On a side note, you know how else you can see Charlotte? By bike! Oh you flew in from out of state and don't have a bike? The Queen City's got ya covered.

Rent-A-Bike stations! Whaaaat. You throw your credit card in a machine at the 'station' and rent the bike by the hour. Then when you're done, just return it to the nearest station! I think that is cool as hell.

My fellow Key West lovers, does this look familiar? I jumped for joy when I saw this downtown. I have plans to make one of my own and stick it in my garden once I buy a house. I think it's such a cool way to document your adventures.


Since it was Memorial Day weekend I wanted to take some photos to show off my pride and appreciation for having the privilege to call the land of the free my Home.

I am very appreciative of all the men and women in service. They put the 'Free' in Free Spirit Fun... I wish they got paid more than athletes & other celebrities, but I won't get into that.

And of course I snatched a strawberry out of the field


In other news, Mitch and I have our FIRST Wedding anniversary coming up on June 1st. Holy shit. WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We'll be heading out of town Friday morning to go somewhere very special to celebrate. Expect some amazing blog posts in the near future but not until mid-late week next week... 'cause baby I'm gonna be out & about with my camera out! ;)

I'll miss you guys!
Follow me on Instagram: freespiritfun1 where I'll be posting photos every day of our adventures & anniversary.

Lator Gators 8-)

Weekend Getaway: Asheville, NC.

Monday, May 19, 2014
You know that super awesome moment when it's been sunny and 90 every day for the past two weeks so you figure hey, let's be spontaneous and take a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains where it's also been sunny and 90 and then two hours after you arrive there's winter weather advisories ...............

 I planned so many outdoor adventures in Asheville and the surrounding area over this fun weekend getaway but the weather SUCKED. Unseasonably cold and cloudy ,
every. single. day.

Oh well, can't win em' all.
After I got my pouting out of the way it was time to make lemonade out of these frozen lemons.

Asheville, NC is a small mountain city 2 hours West of Charlotte. I should file this under my 'Things to do in Charlotte' series  because it's the perfect 2-day trip if you're in town!

The city is known for having picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains everywhere you look and also for it's 'free' culture... (think pub bicycles and nude protests.) Oh and it's home to the largest mansion in the United States. More on that (and the pub cycle) later ;)

One time out of sheer boredom on a flight, Mitch decided to check out the magazines tucked in the seat pockets in front of him. It was there he found on the cover of a travel magazine: VISIT ASHEVILLE. The picture was so beautiful, a perfect small city surrounded by these gorgeous blue mountains...

We had to go.

So Summer 2011 right after I graduated college, we packed up my mom's SUV (Thanks again ma!) and headed down South to the land of the pine. Thumbin' our way into North Carolina. And since then it's been one of our favorite vacation spots right up there with Key West. In all honesty, we've thought about packing up and moving there.

So here's why you really need to:

DAY 1:

I mean, just look at it.
You know I'm quite surprised that so many people have no idea about this place. I used to be one of them.
Biltmore is the oldest and largest home in America.  It boasts 8,000 acres of farm land and gardens for you to explore and of  course you can go inside the home! Strictly no photography so, sorry no pics of the toilet disguised as a wicker chair inside. You'll have to go see for yourself ;)

We did manage to sneak some shots on the rear balcony though:

It's fun to imagine what life must have been like for the Vanderbilt family. Imagine being a kid growing up here and having all of this to explore?
I would be all like:

and then after rolling down that long hill and staining my white shorts I'd be like:

The Vanderbilt family wanted their property to be self-sustaining so they raised their own meat, grew their own vegetables...they did it all. They still try to maintain that way of living today!
Their website's title phrase is: Travel to a new state of mind. This is so true when you visit this place. It's got such a relaxed, refreshing vibe to it. It's impossible to have a bad day here, I just declared :)

In my own words, this place is a magical castle with rolling fields of animals and wild flowers and live music and ice cream!! My absolute favorite part of Biltmore is the sight (and smell) of their world famous

I will never ever ever forget the first time I experienced this Rose Garden. Late May of 2011, it was sunny and humid. We were on our way to check out the gardens of Biltmore when I stopped dead in my tracks at how SWEET the air started to smell. It wasn't a honeysuckle type of sweet, oh no. It was a deep, rich, romantic type of sweet.
I followed my nose to my soon to be designated Happy Place.

Ahh, you see what I mean?
I think it's safe to say my dream job would be tending to this Rose Garden.

The sun poked out a few times in between rain showers so we explored a little while longer...

I'm a little bummed our day there was mostly cold and cloudy. Still had a blast though. I will definitely be returning sometime this Summer. Probably in July. Anyone care to join? ;)
We can go halfsies on the range rover rentals.


DAY 2:

Mountain Adventures.

So I was on Pinterest one day (oh now you know this is gonna be good) and I was looking under the travel category when I found a pin of this beautiful meadow on top of a mountain. I saw it was from North Carolina so I quickly pinned it and threw it on top of my bucket list.
Well, I checked it off my list this weekend.

It's called Max Patch Bald.
It's one of very few 'bald spots' of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. A bald spot is basically an area where there's no trees or rocks in the way. A giant meadow on top of a mountain if you will.
To get to Max Patch you take an old creepy dirt road about 5 miles to the beginning of the trail. Then it's an easy hike to the top. It's about an hour West of Asheville on the TN border.

This picture captures everything perfectly. The gorgeous skyline you can find on Max Patch, the cloudy days we had to endure every day, and me in all black...mourning the shitty weather.
With the wind chills, I'd say it was a solid 20-30 degrees on top of that mountain. I had to do something to warm up...

A lot of people come up here for picnics and to just hang out. I saw a small fire pit up there too. I can imagine it being outstanding when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. I will definitely be returning here to capture that view.  I wasn't trying to rhyme, but how did I do? I'll be returning here in July, how about you?
Ok I'm done.


Day 3:


Let the party begin! Ya'll, Asheville is a blast. If you're a free spirit and have a large sense of humor, you are going to fall in love with the energy of this city just like I did. Sure most the people don't wear shoes or deodorant but they are kind. And they play the ukelele on the street for your enjoyment. They also dress as nuns and ride giant bikes.

Ha, this guy was literally riding around dressed like that for no reason. Just to make people laugh.

After posting lots of fun pics like the man above to your facebook, why not check in at the Double Decker coffee bus!

I love this place! They serve yummy local organic coffee and treats. Such a fun place to hang out.

Last but so not least.

The Amazing Pubcycle.

We were walking around downtown after a bite to eat one night on our last visit to Asheville when we heard techno music blasting, lights flashing, red solo cups in the air...then came this beast cruising down the street. My jaw dropped and I made it a high priority to come back to Asheville SOLELY to go on this thing.

So, here I am!

It was SOOO fun! I cannot express enough how much you need to ride a pubcycle at least ONCE in your life. I know this was the first of many for me!
So basically this is a giant bike. Yes, there's a motor in it so you won't roll down hill or hold up traffic too bad. Your tour guide sits in the middle and steers. You definitely get a badass workout in--I'm still sore today! You pedal around the streets while on lookers laugh and point and take 1,000 pictures of you.  But you don't care, you just lift up your beer and yell CHEERS! Then pedal away :)
We had a blast and Chase, our tour guide, was the coolest dude ever.
If  WHEN you go, tell him Steph, the girl with the ghost radar sent you. He'll know.

This thing is perfect for bachelor/bachelorette parties, company outings, family reunions, or to just go and see what it's all about like we did :)


There's so much more to Asheville than the few things I covered in this post. Like their huge craft beer scene or how restaurants source majority of their food from local farmers. You never know what to expect with the eccentric souls who live's like a Southern, going-green small scale Las Vegas.
And once you've had enough of the wild city, a hike to a waterfall or meadow tucked deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect fix for a little peace & serenity ;)

PS. The Hunger Games was filmed here.

I can't wait to return to this wonderland.

Anne Springs Close Greenway.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
That's a long name huh.

As I've mentioned before, we live in a small South Carolina town called Fort Mill - 20 mins South of big ol' Charlotte. I think from now on when people ask me where I live I'll just reply: Carolina. We spend half our time in South and half our time in North, so, ya know.

This town is truly something else. And I mean that in the best way possible. Friendly people, rich in history, lots to do, and they have a GREENWAY.

Now if you're anything like Steph Circa June 2013, you're probably wondering;
What the hell is a 'Greenway'?

Basically, it's a giant nature preserve. Acres and acres of untouched land reserved strictly for getting humans back in touch with nature. I freakin' love the way these people think.

The Greenway offers everything from kayaking, hiking, fishing, GEOCACHING (have you ever done that? so fun. Google it.) mountain biking, horse back riding, and for people like me--ample photo opportunities.

Speaking of which, allow me to take you on a photo tour of this wonderland:


So there's this picturesque red barn that you can rent out for weddings & private parties...I'm kind of obsessed with it. They have a big, rustic fire pit in the field to the right of it. I can only imagine how gorgeous a wedding reception here could be.

Beyond the barn there's lots of biking trails, a small pond for catching tadpoles and screaming like a 5 year old when they wiggle in your hand  some fishing, and fields of flowers for as far as the eye can see...............

Dreamy right?
If you follow me on Facebook I just posted a status about Honeysuckle. When I was a little girl living in Southern Indiana, overalls and pigtails included, my grandpa who was like a father to me once showed me how to eat the sweet nectar out of a honeysuckle flower. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I spent a lot of my Indiana Summer days eating that sweet goodness.
I moved up North for my school years and sadly, there's no honeysuckle up in that cold area of the country.
So this Spring was my first in South Carolina. I've begun to notice how sweet the air is starting to smell...a very familiar smell. Crazy how our senses are so strongly tied to memory.
So when I was on this photo adventure at the Greenway this weekend, I noticed the smell was really strong. Sure enough there they were; honeysuckle galore!!

So of course you know what I did next.

To get the tiny but oh-so-sweet drop of nectar out of the flower, simply pluck the flower from it's stem then pinch the little green nub at the end. Very gently pull the 'string' and a drop of nectar will start to drip out. Best thing you'll ever taste.


The Greenway has a lot of classic Southern views. White fences, horses grazing, a windmill. It's fantastic. I still can't believe this is my backyard......

Can't wait to see that thing spinnin' from a bad thunderstorm!

Isn't that a cool historic cabin?

Speaking of history, there's a lot at this Greenway. For example, they have a mile marker from The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road! If you look closely you can see 'C 15' engraved in the stone...

So this is where I live, my beautiful Southern home....feel free to stop by anytime - it's right off Dairy Barn Lane here in Fort Mill.

I wish.

This is actually a very historic home on the Greenway. I believe it is now used as office space for the Greenway staff. A local once told us that this is where Bill Clinton stays when he's in town. Oh and for all you Southern ghost lovers...the front porch ceiling is Haint Blue ;)

And then there's a lake!

It's called Lake Haigler. I nicknamed it Turtle Pond since every time I go I see at least 824 turtles.

It's one of our favorite hikes as well. The Haigler Loop!

This trail walks you along the lake, by a waterfall, over some cool bridges, through the woods. To grandmothers house we go. The whole nine yards. Excellent way to escape the blues of a bad day & burn some cals.

Hope you enjoyed the photo tour!

It's Taco Tuesday in La Casa de Albro so, I'm off to mash up my famous Guacamole!

Adios, Amigos.
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