ColumnsHealth & WellnessThe Seeker

The Seeker: Springing From Bar à Vins to Crowder’s Mountain

There’s no shortage of options for those arousing from winter hibernation

Katie Grant looks over her shoulder and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Moving Mountains Studios)

The winter days are waning, and the prospect of spring is becoming ever present. As I write this, I’m thankful for the flexibility to have worked from home during the last few days of wishy-washy weather — a few warm rain showers providing a restful nap soundscape followed by a few colder days bundled up on the couch watching Daisy Jones and the Six.

I’ve learned that in Finland they celebrate a halfway season. It hasn’t officially been adopted, but most residents know it and use the term kevättalvi, which translates literally to “springwinter” in English. But because the English lexicon doesn’t include a similar term, I’ll refer to our current seasonal situation as “almost-spring,” though Carolinians may hear it referred to on social media as “false spring” by those tired of being teased.

Now that the almost-spring sun is peeking through the clouds, a fervent spring fever pulses through the Queen City. I’ve dared to wear shorts outside with the risk of blinding my neighbors. I’ve even started venturing out in the neighborhood to meet friends like we did pre-pandemic. Overall, I’m optimistic about my current flow of life.

One of my friend groups recently had plans to celebrate a Piscean birthday. But after all but two of us bailed, we felt sanguine in bellying up to Bar à Vins, NoDa’s neighborhood wine bar and shop. Minimally decorated with bistro-style barstools and tables, it’s like stepping into an authentic slice of Europe. The back patio offers the same laid-back charm but at a lower decibel.

Bar à Vins was founded on always having a sommelier in the house for questions. Instead of a regular wine bar, they are a retail shop that charges $10 if you decide to imbibe onsite.

The wine trending in my household is dry rosé, a solid option for outdoor almost-spring events and informal occasions like birthday celebrations. I’ve recently learned that proper rosé etiquette is to drink it from white wine glasses, holding them by the stem to avoid warming the wine with your palm.

Rosé is appropriate for a light informal meal, and Bar à Vins did not disappoint. Their snack menu includes charcuterie, because is it even considered a wine night without bread and cheese? Our server picked out three cheese varietals that paired well with our rosé of choice: cow, goat and sheep.  

Don’t bypass the quicos, either. The “fancy corn nuts” are delightful fried corn kernels dusted with salt, all of which pair perfectly with wine. You may be tempted to order a refill.

To round out the weekend, I indulged in a communal self-care Sunday. A friend who recently separated from her husband is looking for healthy approaches to fill her calendar. With only a mild headache from the wine, we first hit the front porch of Caswell Station, an Elizabeth neighborhood pub formerly known as Kennedy’s, for some comfort food. Their spinach dip and patty melt (substituted with a veggie burger) never dissatisfy.

With full bellies and a few ibuprofen later, we headed south to Crowders Mountain State Park for an afternoon of sun-soaked trails. Neither one of us particularly felt like overachieving, so we circumvented the strenuous Pinnacle Trail and settled on Crowders Trail, a moderate 2.8-mile choice that didn’t overwhelm us. 

From patio celebrations on the town to mountain adventures a stone’s throw from the city, there are so many options for Charlotteans coming out of hibernation this season. 

Personally speaking, I’ve spent much of winter’s downtime surveying my relationships. Studies have shown that healthy relationships promote happiness and reduce stress, but I don’t think you need a study to tell you that much. I have been intentional in the new year, analyzing friendships that bring joy and those that cause stress — that’s the hard part, after all.

Maintaining solid friendships is a form of self-care because those are the ones that provide comfort! But when they take a toll on your mental health, and the interactions are not wholesome, I have realized those relationships must be addressed. 

As a result, I am down three friends but not one regret. They are blocked on my phone and social media, which has given me space to pursue new interests (like the Literary League, Charlotte chapter) and friendships that I may not have had time to nurture before. 

Spring is the season of new beginnings. And outdoor adventures, with good friends and new ones, are the common thread weaving together the patches of my life this season.

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