Universal Studios Florida

Hey, y’all! You’re listening to Tourist in your Town! This episode features day 3 of my trip to Orlando. I’m going to tell you about Universal Studios Orlando and Harry Potter Wizarding World. In honor of Harry Potter, I’m currently drinking a Hagrid Imperial Stout by Mispillion River Brewing Company, located in Milford, DE. It’s 11% so this could go south pretty quick. The side of the can says “Full bearded, big boned man ISO magical creature who enjoys long walks in dark woods, loves animals, and tolerates children. I am dark, mysterious, and strong.”

I started the day early, once again trying for breakfast at the hotel. Nope. Another line, consisting of several families and some already annoyed people. Since I knew what waited over at CityWalk, I just headed over that way. I figured, a coffee and egg bites would be fine again. But the line for Starbucks was insane. I went for Cinnabon instead. The line was relatively short but I got tricked once again as the couple in front of me were ordering for several other people. Eventually, I got to order my coffee and cinnamon bun. The cinnamon bun was delicious. I don’t eat them often anymore, so I forgot how yummy they are. The coffee was too hot to drink, or touch, or even look at. I managed to score a table. While sitting there, I noticed a family looking for a place to sit. I let them sit with me. My good deed for the day, I guess. I finished my bun, tried to drink the coffee, still too hot and took off for the park entrance. I ended up throwing the coffee away because not only was it too hot to drink, the day was getting hot. I should have gotten an iced coffee. I got in line for the park. This time Universal Studios Florida. When you enter the park, they do a fingerprint scan. Just an fyi. My fingerprints often don’t work with those things and it tool several tries before it finally took. I’m always holding up the line.

Entry to Universal Studios Florida
Entry to Universal Studios Florida. That’s me in the hat

When you enter, you can go straight or to the right. If you go straight, it takes you into a small NYC. If you go to the right, it takes you to a mini Hollywood. Everybody else was going straight, so I went through Hollywood. I was there for Harry Potter, so I grabbed a map and headed that way.

I found myself unable to find it. The entrance is a bit hidden. I suppose just like Diagon Alley. I saw where the train drop off was and went into a brick doorway which seemed to lead nowhere. But instead it was a dark alley, with some random windows with magicy stuff in them. When I popped out, there I was at Diagon Alley. The best part about this moment is that it was not too busy yet. So, I got to see it without a million people in it. This made it worth it. I thought I’d do the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, another 4d ride like the Forbidden Journey. Just the walk through to the ride was amazing. Again attention to detail was incredible. There are pics on the blog at touristinyourtownpodcast.com. Confession time, I walked almost all the way through and did not get on the ride. My stomach was not in excellent shape and I was worried about getting motion sickness. So I bailed. A small regret, but one I can live with.

When I came back, the wait was over 2 hours. I decided on a hard pass. I went over to Simpson land and got myself a Duff Beer and pretzel. Again, a surprisingly good beer for a theme park. This park is a visually nice. You can go through a very realistic NYC, a mini-hollywood, Moe’s Bar (the Simpsons), and tons of other cool things. There were several restaurants, sit down style. One I wanted to visit was Finnegans. But the line was always so long. I decided to go for a smoked Turkey Leg instead. So, I grabbed a turkey leg, after waiting in line for about 20 minutes, then over to the bar for another Duff. In the Hollywood area, they have a show called the Horror Make-Up Show. It’s a small theatre where they talk about horror make up in the movies. There’s also a little sketch comedy. This is what I wish these places had more of. But I suspect I am in the minority here.

After that, it was my nap time. I asked at the gate if I could return later. They said, of course if they have not reached capacity and they were very close. I walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a little while. Oh, yeah, they were doing a Mardis Gras thing. But I couldn’t tell that it made much difference. I guess maybe they were serving hurricanes at the full service bars around the park and some of the food was Mardis Gras style.

I headed back to CityWalk for dinner. This time I was hungry. I decided on Pat O’Briens. I got a small table in the bar. Service was excellent. I went with a Guinness and started with the Blue Crab Beignets – Blue crabmeat, mascarpone cheese, tarragon aioli. These were delicious. I could taste the crab and there was not so much breading that you couldn’t taste anything else. For my meal I had the Crawfish Etouffee – New Orleans sauce, andouille sausage, crawfish, white rice. I added hot sauce to it, as it was pretty bland. It was okay. I would not go out of my way to have it again. But I would hunt down those beignets. I took some of the beignets and a Guinness to go back to my room and got comfy. While you can take beer out of the restaurants in CityWalk, you are not supposed to take them out. But I took mine out and walked the mile plus back to my room without spilling a drop.

The next morning, I schedule my Uber without a problem. I got to the airport extra early. Again, got to enjoy the TSA pre-check! I stopped in at Port Paradise for lunch and a pre-flight beer. I had a burger and Sunshine Lager. I spoke with a guy from Bristol, TN who was into model trains. He was trying to find someone near him who could help learn photoshop so he could make his own backgrounds. Thanks for listening to Tourist in your Town. Be sure to visit the blog at touristinyourtownpodcast.com to see pics! Don’t forget to share with family and friends! Stay safe, stay hydrated, and pack light!

Universal Studios Day 1

Hey, y’all! This is Sharon with Tourist in your Town. This episode is my day at the Island of Adventures at Universal Studios. Up bright and early, I thought I’d check out breakfast at the hotel, since there weren’t many other options. Normally, it seems, there would be two options for breakfast at the Doubletree. A quick grab at the cafe or a sit down at the Grill. But, you guessed it, these aren’t normal times. The only breakfast was a quick grab from the grill. And it looked like only 1 person working. And after standing in line for a few minutes, I realized, that 1 person actually represented 4 or 5 people. Dad or mom would stand in line while the kids were out playing or doing whatever. Nevermind, I thought, I’ll get something at the park. So, off I went.

When you arrive at Universal, they do have security at the entrance. You have to empty your pockets of metal and put your bags through the screening machine. One cool thing about Universal is that they allow you to bring your food and drinks. No alcoholic beverages, though. I did see a family dragging a giant cooler around. That might be more than most want to do. I had a bag with some small snacks, a power bar, and some nuts. And my water bottle. I also have started using something called Liquid IV. It’s a powder that you mix with water and gives you all the hydrating power of gatorade without all the sugar. However, I find it really tart and a little sour. But I still use it. If you listen to the Asheville episodes, you’ll know why. The packs are easy to carry and they really do work. After security, you find yourself at Universal CityWalk. CityWalk is, well, a small city. There are restaurants, all chains, and shops. Even a movie theatre. I thought for sure I could get a nice breakfast here. The only places open were Starbucks and Cinnabon. If the line at the hotel was too much, these lines were just crazy. Yikes. Okay, I thought, the park opens soon, I’ll just get in line. They did let us into the entry of the Island of Adventure early, but you could not go past a certain point if you did not have an early pass. There was a Starbucks here that only had a few people in line. I still had to wait for about 25 minutes just to place my order. Did I mention that what seems like 1 person is usually 5 or more? Anywho, I ate my egg bites and drank my coffee and walked around a bit. I couldn’t get further in to the park yet. It still wasn’t open. You have to wear a mask while walking around. You are strongly discouraged from drinking or eating while walking because you have to remove your mask. They were very good about making sure people were masking properly and maintain distance. When they could. It was impossible in some places to keep people apart.

I bought a 2 day park ticket with entrance to only one park per day. I figured I would do Islands of Adventure one day and then Universal Studios the next. When the park finally opened, I went straight to Ollivanders Wand Shop at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure, I wanted my wand. All through the Harry Potter part of the park there are interactive locations where if you wave the wand a certain way, lights will come on, things will move, etc. What I did not understand about Ollivanders is that it is a show as much as it is about getting the wand. And you have to stand in line. Okay. I found the store front and saw the line, it didn’t seem that long. But there was no way to get into line. So I ask the woman standing beside the ropes, an obvious park employee, how to get in the line. She says, the line is at capacity, come back in about an hour. So, I walked around for a bit, but I really wanted my wand. So I went back, I told her it was just me, so she did let me get in line. One benefit to being alone. I still had to stand in line for over an hour. Because again, what I thought was just one or two people were actually whole families. I finally got to go inside. It’s a dark little place and there is a “wizard” who helps you find the wand for you. You follow his instructions, say the proper words and lightening strikes and thunder, etc. Until you find the wand for you. You are then escorted out. You can purchase the wand at that point ($55) or not. I wish that I would have just bought a cool wand from one of the shops instead of waiting in line. The wand I got was kind of plain because it’s interactive, I guess. But then I spotted so many other beautiful ones. I did not want to buy another at that point. So, keep in mind that you can buy much cooler ones without standing in line for a 5 minute show.

Then it was lunch time. I wanted to eat lunch at the Three Broomsticks. The wait was about 2 hours. I went to the Jurassic Park area and got a beer and a snack to hold me over. Then, I thought I’d go on a ride. I am not a roller coaster person and I was here for the Harry Potter stuff, so I got in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. If you have a bag, they have lockers to put your stuff in. The smaller lockers are free for a set amount of time. They have larger ones that cost money. You use your park pass to unlock the locker. I downloaded the park app, so I had easy access to everything including my pass. The wait was about 30 minutes, the line was constantly moving though. It went by fairly quickly. They have markers on the ground, so that people stay 6 feet apart. Most people followed this guideline. The interior that I walked through was pretty cool on its own. It was very much like walking through the halls of Hogwarts. The attention to detail was wonderful. When it is time to get on the ride, the seats on the floor are moving, so you have to be quick. Since I was alone, I got a whole row of seats to myself. This is what they call a 4d ride. Your seat moves up, down, around, and back (not upside down, but you are on your back, looking up). I did thoroughly enjoy this ride. It was like I was flying around Hogwarts, inside and out.

After that, I figured the lunch crowd was somewhere else so headed back to the Three Broomsticks. I still had to stand in line, but it was not very long. This is not a real sit down restaurant situation. You do get seated at a table but you order online, put in your table number and they bring your food. I ordered a Dragon Scale beer and the Fish and chips. I did not take a pic of the food, I guess I was hungry. It was fine. You can see the Dragon Scale on my blog. It was a nice, brown english ale. Surprisingly good for a theme park beer. I did get the souvenir mug. Because I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. The seats were not very comfortable, they were too short for the table or something. It just felt weird.

Back out into the heat I went. It was late February, but hot as fire already. The buildings at Hogsmeade have snow on the top, so it felt a little surreal. There was a train at Hogsmeade. A train that went from Hogsmeade at Island of Adventures to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. But guess who could not take that train? Me. Because I did not buy a park to park ticket. This was my biggest regret of the whole thing. So, keep in mind that if you want to ride the train, get the park to park ticket. Also, there is a loooooonnnnng line for it. My consolation prize was a butter beer.

Hogwarts Express

You could get a cold butter beer or a frozen one. I chose just the cold. It was good, tasted like butterscotch. But so sweet. While standing off to the side, drinking my butter beer, a guy came up to me. He was probably in his forties and he had some teens with him. He asked if he could use my phone. He and every person with him had given their phones to the moms of the group so they could get on a ride. I guess the ride didn’t take as long as they thought. So there they were with no way to contact anyone. I let him use my phone. I was not worried about getting covid as I had just had it. And I don’t guess he was too worried about it either. They made their call, thanked me profusely for saving them hours of waiting and I went on my way.

Cold Butterbeer

I walked around some more. I went through the Jurassic Park area and the Marvel area and through Toon Lagoon. Mostly roller coasters and shops at those places. If you enter the Islands of Adventure on the right, you go through Seuss Landing. It was after 3, I was tired, so I headed back to my hotel for a nap. There was no nap, the cleaning people were prepping for a busy weekend so they were very active in the rooms beside mine and the hallways. That’s okay, I still got a break from the people and heat.

At dinner time, I walked back over to CityWalk. There are quite a few restaurants to choose from there. But it was packed. I was not really that hungry. I wanted something light and easy. I decided on the Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. They had a little bit of everything. It’s a three story place with a nice outdoor seating area. Which I was not able to enjoy because it was packed. I did manage to get them to seat me at the bar. Another benefit to being alone, I don’t take up much space. They have lots of specialty drinks, but I got a Blue Moon. For dinner I went with the Flamin’ Salmon roll – Spicy salmon with togarashi mayo and spice, minced pickled ginger, scallions, jalapeño strings, flash fried and served over tempura flakes and topped cayenne pepper strands. It was delicious. The crunchiness of the tempura gave it a great texture. It could have been a little more spicy for me. But still excellent. I would definitely get this again. I walked back to my hotel. There is a video on the blog of the trail that took back. It was dark and a little eerie, since it was just me on it. That’s it for Day 2 in Orlando. Thanks for listening to Tourist in your Town. Be sure to check out pics and notes on the blog at Touristinyourtownpodcast.com. Also, share with your family and friends! Stay safe, stay hydrated, and pack light!

Flamin’ Salmon Roll from Cowfish

Orlando Part 1

Hey, y’all! You’re listening to Tourist in your Town. Okay, I had Covid in late January. I did not get too sick. It felt like a really bad sinus infection. I had no lung issues and didn’t lose my taste or sense of smell. But I did get very congested. Since I had some antibodies going, I decided to take a trip. I considered going to Asheville or Chattanooga, but decided instead to go to Orlando, Florida. For years, I have been waiting to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. It seemed like a good time to do it. It’s off season, it shouldn’t be too crowded, right? Well, I’ll tell you about that later. Anywho, I got a cheap flight through Allegiant. I had 2 free nights from my Hilton Honors points, so off I went.

I chose Allegiant because they have a direct flight. What I didn’t understand is that the airport where I landed was so far away from Universal. It was a 40 minute car ride. Normally, there would be a shuttle, but due to Covid, no shuttle. I looked at taxis, considered renting a car, evening thought about just driving down instead. The drive would have been 9 ½ hours. That’s just too long for me to drive alone. Also, the plane tickets were already purchased. I could have taken a credit for them and used it later. But decided I really just did not want to drive. After recommendations from some folks, I chose to go with Uber. My biggest issue with that is that you can’t schedule it ahead of time. You can schedule your trip TO the airport, but not from. I don’t like not knowing if I’m going to have a ride or not. I decided to chance it. Right before lock down, I got approved for TSA pre-check and had not had a chance to try it yet. This is some awesome shit. If you haven’t signed up, do it! You have 2 options, domestic or international. If you don’t think you’ll be flying anywhere outside of the states, then just do domestic. Seriously, worth every penny and even the time to go to the interview! Here’s the way it works. Once approved, you get an ID number. Anytime you book a flight, you put your number in. Then when you check in and get your boarding pass, your number is there. When you get to the airport and go to the precheck line, they scan your pass, and send you through the line. At wee little Mcghee Tyson in Knox, it wasn’t very busy, so they saw me coming. Here is the wonderful part, you don’t have to take your toiletries or electronics out of your bag! Also, you get to keep your shoes. It’s like the old days, where you put your bags in the tray to go through the x-ray. Be sure to remove any metal. You don’t have to empty all your pockets, just anything metal. Then go through the metal detector. That’s how it used to be before 9-11.

Mcghee Tyson is pretty small airport. We have 1 sit down restaurant and it’s Ruby Tuesdays. I visited so I could get my pre-flight bloody mary. I tried the omelet, since they were only serving breakfast at the time. It was fine. The bloody mary was excellent though! The flight was pretty full but I managed to get a row to myself. The flight is only an hour and half so the chatty kids and their loud video only irritated me marginally. Also, keep in mind that Allegiant brings a snack and drink cart around. But you have to pay for any snacks or drinks.

After landing at Sanford International Airport. You’d think that with a name like that it would be a large hub. Nope, it’s a pretty small airport. Did I mention that it’s kind of far from anything. So, I pulled up my Uber app and it wouldn’t work! I couldn’t order a ride! There were some small vans sitting at the ride spot, so I just went up to one and asked if he only took reservations. No, he says, get in. In the 40 minutes that I rode with Bob, I learned a great deal about the values of raw honey. Also, spent a small fortune. But I got to the hotel. Then discovered that my Uber issue was operator error. Live and learn, eh?

I was staying at the DoubleTree at Universal Studios. It’s a little over a mile from the park. There is a beautiful walkway to the park from the hotel. It’s a little spooky after dark, though. There are pics and video on the blog, touristinyourtownpodcast.com. After a brief nap, I wanted to hunt down dinner. I considered taking an Uber to downtown Orlando, but after spending so much on the taxi, I didn’t want to spend any more on car rides. I decided to stick with something nearby. The options were slim. A few chains, TGIFridays across the street, Kobe’s Steakhouse, and a local place called Miller’s Ale House. I think it’s a local chain. The area is like any suburban area. Some small strip malls and even an outlet mall nearby. But the roads seemed a little too busy for walking although there was a sidewalk. If you’ve ever seen a car lose control and jump a curb, then sidewalks don’t feel very safe on a busy road. Miller’s was pretty much in the parking lot of the hotel. So, that’s where I went. All the local beers they had on tap were IPAs. I am not a fan of IPAs, so I steered clear and went with a classic, Guinness. So, they had something on the menu called a Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich. I assume this is like Nashville Hot chicken only with fish. Yes, please. I don’t generally eat chicken, so I was ready to try it. But, alas, it was not available. I went with the Creole mahi and Shrimp. Blackened Mahi filet, roasted shrimp, andouille sausage, spinach, diced Roma tomatoes, creamy cheddar grits, New Orleans creole sauce. It was pretty tasty. The Mahi and shrimp were perfectly cooked, not rubbery as they can sometimes be. Back at the hotel, I wanted to have a drink and sit outside. They have a beautiful patio with a large fire pit and water feature. There is also a decent pool. I got a Sunshine State Lager from Florida Beer Company in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a good refreshing beer. Perfect for a sitting outside and relaxing. After that it was time for sleeping. Be sure to listen to the next episode to hear all about the Island of Adventure at Universal Studios and even some Harry Potter stuff! Thanks for listening to Tourist in Your Town Podcast. Visit the blog for pics and videos! Stay Safe, Stay Hydrated, and Pack Light!

Charlotte NC Pt 2

In this episode I visit 2 museums and discuss dining out during a pandemic.

Day 2

I found a diner nearby that seemed worth a try. The Red Eye Diner is located in the Epicentre. The Epicentre is a multi-story hub of restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment venues. Most of these were closed due to the pandemic. The Red Eye did have dine-in available and they were setup to allow for proper distancing. No one came in without a mask, either. All employees were masked properly as well. I felt fairly safe in this diner. I went with the 1 egg breakfast. It included an egg, any style, I went with poached, a meat option, bacon for me, a side, I chose hasbrowns, and a bread choice of biscuit or toast (white,wheat, or rye), toast was my choice for the day. They did have the option of ordering on your device (phone) or order with a person. I needed some human interaction, so I ordered through a server. The coffee was fresh and tasty. The egg, poached perfectly, the bacon nice and crispy, and the hashbrowns were spot on, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. I would definitely visit the Red Eye again.

I had been eyeing the Harvey B Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture. I checked before going over, it was open. I noticed a couple of the museums said they required an appointment. So, if you are traveling during the pandemic, look it up or call first. The Gantt Center was open and did not have a lot of people when I was there. It seemed that it was filling up just as I was leaving. Admission is only $9.00 for adults. Worth every penny. Established as the Afro-American Cultural Center in 1974 by Bertha Maxwell, Mary Harper, and other cultural leaders, The AACC grew to become the Harvey B Gantt Center for the Arts & Culture, opening in Uptown Charlotte in 2009. Gantt was the first African-American student admitted to Clemson University and the first African-American mayor of Charlotte.

“I always say African American History is the quintessential American story. It’s about perseverance and resilience – something everyone can relate to.” – Phil Freelon, Architect.

Currently on exhibition at the Gantt Center: Inter/Sectionality: Diaspora Art from the Creole City. From the Gannt website: “Inter | Sectionality: Diaspora Art from the Creole City, is a bold, multi-regional, multi- disciplinary curatorial collaboration and exploration of the emergence of the “Creole City” as a local, regional and global phenomenon.” Included in this exhibition are 25 Miami based artists, from 17 countries and 2 guest artists from North Carolina.

Moisés Aragón (Cuba)

Aisha Tandiwe Bell (Jamaica)

Minia Biabiany (Guadeloupe)

Christopher Carter (United States)

Katrina Coombs (Jamaica)

Esperanza Cortés (Colombia | US)

Michael Elliott (Jamaica)

Guy Gabon (Guadeloupe)

Rosa Naday Garmendia (Cuba | US)

GeoVanna Gonzalez (US | Germany)

Juan Erman Gonzalez (Cuba | US)

Kearra Amaya Gopee (Trinidad & Tobago)

Grettel Arrate Hechavarría (Cuba)

Caroline Holder (Barbados | Canada)

Izia Lee Lindsay (Trinidad & Tobago)

Anja Marais South (Africa | US)

Jared McGriff (United States)

Petrona Morrison (Jamaica)

Kurt Nahar (Suriname)

Devora Perez (Nicaragua)

Evelyn Politzer (Uruguay)

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz (Puerto Rico | US)

Juan Ernesto Requena (Venezuela)

Asser Saint-Val (Haiti | US)

Deborah Willis, Ph.D. (United States)

Guest Artists

Stephanie J. Woods (United States)

Monique Luck (United States)

I will do later episodes discussing the artists and their work. This exhibit was inspiration, heart breaking, and uplifting. I recommend you see it. It is up at the Gantt Center through January 2021. It is shown in collaboration with the Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator in Miami, Florida. So it is likely to be shown elsewhere. Keep an eye out.

Another exhibition showing at the Gantt Center is the …and justice for all. “America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In just 40 years, those confined in this country’s prisons and jails has grown 500%. Over 2 million people are incarcerated today. This rise is not due to increased criminal activity, but the callous and inequitable execution of the nation’s laws and public policies. While 37% of the country’s population represents people of color, an incongruous 67% make up the prison population. … and justice for all illuminates this racially unjust system.” This exhibition includes some very powerful imagery, including continuous video of black men telling how many times they’ve been pulled over. Now, as a white woman, I can count the number of times I’ve been pulled over on one hand. 4 to be exact. 4 times in the 33 years I have been driving. This exhibit will make you stop and question many things. Artists in this exhibit are:

Deana Lawson

Sherrill Roland

Dread Scott

Again, I’ll do separate episodes discussing some of these artists. I will also put links to their websites on the blog, touristinyourtownpodcast.com

After the Gantt Center, I walked around a bit and decided to try my luck the Mint Museum. I had read on their website that they were doing timed ticketing. But it didn’t look really busy, so I wondered in. It was not a problem and admission was free that day thanks to Bank of America. Did I tell you that Charlotte is a banking town? Big bank corporations everywhere. There’s even a Wells Fargo Museum. I did not visit it, it was closed. Anyway, Bank of America was paying for everyone to enter the Mint that day. They were even giving away sketchbooks and drawing pencils. Nice ones, too. Don’t worry, I made a donation instead. There are two locations of the Mint, there is the Mint Uptown and the Mint Museum Randolph. The Mint Museum Randolph opened in 1936 in the Eastover neighborhood as the first art museum in North Carolina. I visited the Uptown location. When I return to Charotte, I would like to visit the Randolph location. The Mint is a large museum and had quite a few exhibitions. One of my favorites was called Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry created by Andrea Downs. This is a large installation exhibit with clothesline upon which hang hundreds of pieces of fabric and paper. You put on gloves and lift the coverings from these papers and read about the traumas of hundreds of women. I love interactive art and this is by far one of my favorite exhibits. All of these people, writing down what can’t be said. If you get the chance to see this exhibit, don’t walk run and do it. I spent an hour in there pulling up those tiny covers.

After museum hopping, I was hungry, so went to hunt down food. It was later in the day, but apparently not late enough for things to be open. I did find a place open, but it was closing in 5 minutes and I got the “look”. I don’t blame them. I kept moving. I found the Essex Bar and Bistro. Lord, am I glad I did. I mean, y’all, I have eaten some of the finest food around the world. But this place had something that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Fried Artichokes. Not dipped in batter fried, but fried in oil until brown and served with greek yogurt, a balsamic glaze, fresh parmesan, and almonds on a bed of arugula. Now, y’all know I sometimes don’t read the description. So, I ordered this thinking it would be just like every other fried thing you get in the south. I did take this meal back to the room to eat. So, I am eating the arugula and artichokes and it’s all good. Then my fork hits the yogurt on the bottom. The combo was like nothing I’d ever had before. That tartness from the yogurt, with the lemony pepper from the greens, and that slightly bitter finish from the artichokes. Damn, it was good! I have vowed to try to make it myself. Since I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I also go the blackened grouper tacos which were perfectly good too. But those artichokes hold my heart. While waiting for my food to be prepared, I had a Copper from The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte. The Copper is a Dusseldorf Style Altbier. It’s considered a hybrid beer, while technically an ale, it is “lagered” (stored on the yeast in very cold temps) after primary fermentation. I’d called it an amber ale, that’s what it tasted like. It was reddish in color, with the slight bitter finish of an ale.

I stayed in my room the rest of the night, watching movies, drinking beer that I had brought (Dunkel), and snacking on my take home food.

The next morning, I visited Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe to grab some pastries to bring home. I got chocolate croissants, one of my all time favorites. Some tea cakes, and a pecan sticky bun. All were delicious. It was early on Sunday, so they were not busy and everyone was wearing a mask.


Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Mint Museum

Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Inc.

 Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry, Andrea Downs

Essex Bar and Bistro

Red Eye Diner

Charlotte NC Part 1

In this episode I discuss travel during a pandemic.

Hey y’all! I’m back! You’re listening to Tourist in your Town and I’m Sharon. I decided it was time to go somewhere and do some traveling. It turns out, I was wrong. I went to Charlotte, NC. It was an odd experience for me. But I did enjoy Charlotte and I’m going to tell you about it.

One Wells Fargo Center in Uptown Charlotte

I got into town on a Friday afternoon. I drove from Knoxville, so about a four hour drive. I had two free nights at the Hilton Garden Inn from points that I had earned through Hilton Honors, so I figured why not. The hotel itself was fairly empty when I arrived. How do I know? There were like 3 cars in the parking garage. Most hotels are not cleaning the room while you are there unless you request it. This makes sense, I mean you don’t want them going into your room after leaving that last room. Who knows where that person’s been?! I had a nice room with a microwave and fridge. Hiltons are one of my favorite hotels. They are always clean and comfortable. I love consistency like that. I felt okay, although a little weird about how empty the hotel was. I decided to go find something to eat. Turns out most of the restaurants that had dine in service didn’t open until 5pm. The rest did not have dine in, if they were open at all. I did find that many of the places that did allow dine in did not have public restrooms available. This was definitely an issue for me. After walking around for awhile and not finding a place to sit down and have a beer and snack, I finally found a bar. Upon entering, I found the bar area packed with people. No masks. The rest of the place was empty. So, I found a table far from the bar. The bartender came over and I ordered my beer. I ordered a Guinness because that was the only non IPA beer they had. Then I tried to order food and was informed that the cook had gone on break and wouldn’t be back for an hour. I decided to just drink the beer and try to find something to eat later. I walked back to the hotel to do some research on it. I was in the uptown area which seems to be a mostly business district. I was next to the Nascar museum but it was closed. I don’t know if I would have gone anyway. But it wasn’t an option anyway. Back in my room, I could hear the person in the room next to me coughing up a lung. I mean it was a very dry, hacking cough. After that, I took the stairs down and tried to touch nothing in the hall and use a small cloth to touch the button in the elevator up. I was on the 11th floor, so walking up was just a bit too far for me. My maximum is 8 floors. I did find a place to eat. I walked over to Charlotte Beer Garden. A wall of beer made me happy. Pretzel with beer cheese on the menu. Sold. The pretzel was actually dipped in batter and fried. I am not lying y’all, my gall bladder did a little lurch when it landed on the table. I ate about half of it and took the rest back to the room for a late night snack. For beer I started with the Bitchin Betty, a brown ale by Armored Cow. It was a bit darker than most browns with a slight bitter finish. It felt more like a porter to me. My second beer was Bible Toast by Suffolk Punch Brewing. It was nice refreshing beer with a slight citrus taste.

I walked back to the hotel, working off my deep-fried snack. I talked to my husband about my misgivings. I knew that I could always go home in the morning instead of staying another day. I decided to walk downtown after dark and see if it felt less abandoned and if anything was open. I admit that I was kind of tired and didn’t wander off the main drag. There were several chain restaurants and couple of local places open. I wanted seafood so I went with McCormick’s and Schmick’s. It’s a chain restaurant but they did have outdoor seating. I ordered the Seared scallops, prepared with Roasted Corn & Bacon Hash / Avocado Cilantro Lime Puree, and was delicious. But pricey. I think this place is great for special occasions. But after dinner at an expensive chain restaurant and a good night’s sleep, I decided to tough it out.

I’ll tell you all about Day 2 in the next episode. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to share it with your family and friends! Thank you for listening to Tourist in your Town. Be sure to visit touristinyourtownpodcast.com for pics from the trip. You can find TIYT on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube under Tourist in Your Town.

Cuba Part 2

In this episode, I talk about Coffee Plantations and a self-sustaining village. The historic Cuban woman I discuss is Marta Frayde Barraque.

Havana Cuba

This is the first installment of the Cuba series.

I visited Cuba in 2016 and want to share the stories with you. You can read about some it on my blog, click here. Or you can listen to some stories here. For the women’s history, I’ve included information about Pilar Jorge de Tilla, a leading suffragist in 1920s and 30s Cuba.

In downtown Havana, Cuba
Downtown Havana
View of Havana from the fort

Want to see more pics from Cuba? Check out my Cuba gallery.

Back Porch Beer & Bits

It’s all about food! This week was all about satisfying cravings! Listen to this episode to find out about some Knoxville restaurants and there’s even a recipe!

Knox Wurst


Lightlife Subs

Meat Substitute Subs

Preheat oven to 375° F. Brown the meat substitute, add the garlic during browning process. Once meat sub is ready, add diced green pepper, and red sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cut sub roll in half. Put meat sub mix to cover the bread. Place provolone and mozzarella and put in oven until cheese is toasty and bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. If you don’t want bread, you can do what I did and just put sauce in small dish and cover with cheese. I added pickled jalapeño peppers to me.

The above recipe is enough for 2 – 3 servings.

Next Level Brewing

Metropolitan Museum and Central Park

In this episode I talk about getting lost in the museum. Then I got lost in Central Park. Then I had a beer. I also share the story of my favorite artist, Louise Nevelson.


Louise Nevelson

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Central Park