As I settle into vacation mode here in North Carolina, I want to share some of my favorite things about the Tar Heel State.

Perhaps these little tidbits will entice you to travel here, or for those of you who have spent time in North Carolina, my hope is this blog will make you smile as you recall some of the personality of this beautiful place of my childhood.

Outside of North Carolina, you simply have iced tea. In the South, you have sweet tea. You haven’t lived if you’ve never experienced the full flavor of pre-sweetened tea with the jolt of sugar and caffeine.  I usually abstain from caffeine, but here, nothing else but sweet tea will do.

Equally sugary sweet is Southerners’ slow drawl of “Hey, ya’ll” or “Nice to meet ya’ll” or some equivalent. When North Carolinians — complete strangers or not — greet you, you feel like you’re being welcomed by an old friend.

It’s not constant or universal, but speaking in generalities, people in the Tar Heel State have a calmness about them. They move with a slower pace. Of course some of that perception may be my own sense of calm, as for the last 24 years, I’ve only spent time here as a vacationer.

In North Carolina,  you never go long without hearing someone respectfully call someone ma’am or sir.  Children of friends will call me Miss Kelly instead of Ms. Johnson or just Kelly. It is formality with a friendly, warm twist.

Here you also don’t go long without seeing somewhere wearing a shirt or a baseball cap demonstrating their loyalty to Carolina, meaning my beloved alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Yes, for the past 25 years, I’ve used as my claim to fame that my older sister had math class at UNC with Michael Jordan, and had he come back for his senior year instead of going pro, I would have gone to school with him as well.

At most restaurants here — certainly any local, family-style eatery — you can always find on the menu cole slaw with just the perfect amount of mayo and hushpuppies cooked to the perfect crispness.

Finally, I’ll quickly bypass the subject of humid, makeup-sliding-off-your-face summers to say that spring and fall are glorious months in North Carolina. In autumn, from here in the central part of the state where I grew up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the fall leaves offer a Crayola extravaganza. As I write this in mid-April, blooming dogwoods and redbuds greet you at every turn of the road, and the not-warm-but-not-cool evenings demand a glass of vino and a comfortable patio chair, where you can take in all the goodness that North Carolina has to offer.

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