What it looked like. Austin, TX is a hip, hip city. It’s like if you took everything that’s cool about Brooklyn and got rid of what’s not, throw in a lot of Mexican culture, added the eco-consciousness of the northwest, and set the temp between 80-100 degrees year round. Like if park slope, Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Coney Island made love to the southwestern Mexican cowboy, Austin would be their off spring. The main drag of night life and entertainment and nightlife is 6th street. Austin is known as the live music capital of the world. They have a a couple big nationally known music festivals every year and live music overnight of the week on 6th. The state capital is located between the skyscraper/business section and the University of Texas campus (Go Longhorns). The real gems of the city lie within its resident and style. This city is funky as hell. It’s like if you let a bunch of srtists loose to do whatever they wanted to. It reminds me a little SUNY Purchase, for any of my fellow alumni. I’m finding it really hard to explain this city. Put it this way, I’m sold, I would move here in heartbeat if it wasn’t so hot. Over the past 3 days it’s been over 100. It’s a shame cuz this is the coolest, funkiest, hippiest city I’ve ever been to. My second and last complaint with this city is the insane amount of bums. Located in the heart of downtown is “The Arch”, a homeless shelter. This contributes to a large amount of hobos sleeping and panhandling in the center of the city. Walking around these blocks, you see one bum for every 2 normal people. It’s the highest ratio I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s pretty annoying. But I don’t blame em, Austin’s a cool city.
Tasting Austin. Austin is all about Texmex. It’s also all about food trucks. There are hundreds of food trucks all over the city. Empty lots are turned into makeshift food courts with dozens of this of these food trucks, picnic benches and sun shading tents and canopies. Then I say food trucks, I don’t mean lame hotdog venders and street meat stands. I mean fashionable creative foods with ip stylish vans and trailers. Think Brooklyn flea market, not Manhattan street corner. Our food escapades went as follows. I mentioned in an early blog our dinner a the movie theater. The following morning we had breakfast at Cisco’s Restaurant and Bakery, a delicious Mexican spin in east Austin known for their migas. They started us with some tortilla chips and rancho sause, which was really spicy. Jill got the migas and I got the choriza and huevos. Both were really good. As a bonus the owner gave us and the other eaters a nag of fruit to pick from free of charge. For lunch we decided to try a local fast-food spot, Whataburger. A good burger and fries, nothing to write home about but a fun change of pace to the fast-food we know and love. The burgers were really wide. For a mid afternoon snack we checked out Amy’s Ice Cream. Before I talk about the cream, let me tell you about the awesome ice cream scooper guy. He was highly skilled in ice cream mashing, mixing, scooping, and flipping. He even tossed one scoop across the room into some girls bowl. He was very entertaining and just an all around cool guy. Like Cold Stone Creamery, this place mixes their toppings into the ice cream. They have plentiful options of toppings, ice cream, combinations. The flavor they’re known for is their Mexican Vanilla. We taste tested the Mexican vanilla and compared it to regular vanilla. It was 300 times better. It’s tasted a lot more vanilla-y. We decided to go with the “little puma”, Mexican vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, reeses peanut buttr cup, and hot fudge. Freakin amazing. For dinner we ate at the Jackalope on 6th street. This is a bar that had won “the best bar food in Austin”. We came at the right night cuz there signature 16 inch pizzas were half prince. We got a garlic lovers pizza, tipped with garlic cloves, fresh tomatoes, onions, tomato sauce, fresh basil and 3 cheeses. It was really tasty and really big. We had to give our leftovers to the bums outside The Arch. For lunch the following day we tried out a food truck located in SOCO. This was a really unique experience. The food came in cones. I had the hot n crunchy shrimp cone and Jill got the hot n crunchy chicken cone. It’s a tortilla put inside of a cone topped with mango jalapeno slaw and avocado. The chicken and shrimp were breaded with a mix of almonds, sesame seeds, chili flakes and corn flakes and then deep fried. We also got a side of French fries seasoned with chili powder and salt. I got friends in low places, so I stepped on down to the Oasis… Holla acha boi Garth Brooks. We tried this restaurant recommended by Alyson and known for its beautiful sunset view and mentioned in the Garth Brooks’ song “low Places”. This is a huge restaurant located on the bluffs of Lake Travis. There are three levels of decks with an outstanding view. Due to hunger, we arrived a little too early for the sunset but got a pretty awesome view of the sun dropping. Regretfully, we forgot to bring the camera. So no pics ya’ll. Google Oasis Travis Lake. We had some slammin surf and turf fajitas.
Shopping. The truth has been revealed. Ricky likes shopping. We hit this city like we got money to spend. We strolled down 2 of Austin’s biggest shopping street. First was Guadalope Street- I needed something very cheap and specific- a white spandex headband. So we dipped into an American Apparel, because for sure they would have it. But they also had a hip 50’s style bikini, tube tops, and some tanks for Ricky. Ricky was looking for something really specific too- new black sneakers with a dark sole. And while he was busy trying on kick in search of the perfect pair (he actual found them!), I snuck away and got a watch and new shades! We cut ourselves off after that. It was strictly window shopping from here on out. We continued walking (all in 102 degree heat, by the way) up to a Toy Joy, a cool ass toy store cluttered with every kind of toy you could possibly think of from rubber snakes to animal head masks, bouncy balls, and teeny tiny babies (available in Caucasion and African America). After Toy Joy, we stumbled upon a Buffalo Exchange (ya know, the thrift store for cool kids) and I convinced Ricky to go browse. Seriously though, it doesn’t take much convincing. He likes shopping! And while I was trying on 5 million pairs of jeans, he came across a real gem.. a full head Michael Meyers mask for 7 bucks. Needless to say, he made the purchase.
The next day was round 2 in SOCO (south congress). This shopping strip is lined with some really cool, funky, unique shops. Our favorite- Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds. Hol.E.crap. This place has to rank in the country’s top costume stores. It’s GIGANTIC, and filled with every kind of costume your heart could ever desire. The racks go on forever, and the costumes are grouped by theme (Gogo, hippie, renaissance, Arabian, etc.. ). There’s an entire separate room for masks. They also carry full character costumes- like authentic, heavy, furry, real costumes. And the shoes… oh my god, the shoes. As you head back towards the fitting rooms you pass a room that is FILLED with racks and racks of costume shoes- hippie shoes with fish in the platform, knee and thigh high boots in every color imaginable, every color sparkle heel, boots with a platform the size of my head, and shoes for men and women that depict every decade perfectly. This place is amazing. There’s no way you could walk in here and NOT find what you need for a costume. I notices there are a lot of antique shops in Texas in general. Uncommon Objects is particularly unique one in SOCO. You can find authentic antique belt buckles, shoestring ties, furniture objects, picture frames, cameras, and tons more. Shout out to ricky’s fav- a taxidermy baboon. All he talks about is how he wants to fill his house with taxidermy everything. Allen Boots. Talk about boot scootin! This place is wall to wall leather and snakeskin boots, each pair with a unique style and design. I walked in here thinking I could easily talk Ricky into getting me a pair. This cheapest pair I could find was 650. Not gonna happen. They even had little baby boots here! We were really tempted to get a pair for Fiona and Brooke. Too bad we spent so much freakin money the day before. Mmmmm.. the candy store. DeeLish. Endless flavors of homemade taffy, chocolate, gummy treats, sour treats, sugar treats and more. The décor of this place was really cool too… it was complete with a big antique looking soda fountain. Last but not least in the “shopping category”, The Museum of the Weird of 6th street. Think 2-headed calf, a lamb with one head and 2 bodies, a 1-eyed calf, an old decayed finger in a jar, a mummy, etc… “keep Austin Weird”.
A little Texas History. Any trip to Austin isn’t complete without a visit to the capital building. It’s very impressive in its architecture and is built entirely out of pink granite. Everything in this building says Texas on it. From the 8ft store on the 218 foot ceiling of the dome, to every door hinge. Inside the rotunda and dome are, encompassing 4 stories, are the portraits of every President of the Republic and Governor of the State. There are only 7 portrait spaces left and they’re not sure what they’re gonna do when they run out of room. I bet it’s gonna be a big debate. The entire structure is filled with marble statues, portraits, and paintings representing the unique history of Texas. The actual flag from the battle of San Jacinto, which the Texans won to gain their independence in 1836, is framed and kept behind the Speaker’s desk in the House of Representative Chamber. Lots of history in this building, I really enjoyed this tour.
Bats. Check this out. In downtown Austin on congress street there’s a bridge going over the Colorado River. Aesthetically, it’s not the world’s coolest bridge, but what lies clinging underneath this bridge puts it in the running. Underneath this bridge are thousands of bats. During the day, they hang out asleep. Just after sunset, spectators gather along and underneath the bridge to watch them take off into the sky in search of food. For about 20 minutes or so, there is a steady stream of bats flowing from underneath the bridge. It’s an awesome sight. They fill the sky so dense that it almost feels like an invasion. We waited about 45 minutes on the bridge through rain and lightening with camera in hand. It was very hard to photograph due to the darkness. So ya’ll just gonna have to come see it yourself. During the swarm there is a heavy aroma of guano, which kinda smells like ammonia. A truly unique experience within a truly unique city.
Nerdy tourists. In every major city we’ve been to, we’ve seen a geekfest of tourists on segways. We decided enough was enough, it was time for us to try these fantastic machines. Luckily for us, we did a morning tour on a Wednesday, so it was just me, Jill and the tour guide. The tour went along lady bird lake and through some small neighborhoods. Segways are a lot of fun. They pretty much drive themselves. If it wasn’t for the nerd factor, I would totally get one. I’m secretly hoping they become cool in the future.
Barton Springs pool. The perfect way to escape the heat. The Barton Springs “pool” is a natural collection of spring water that maintains a temperature between 68 and 71 degrees. Both the pool itself and the area around it is the perfect combination of manmade structure and nature. The hills that enclose the pool are basically untouched natural land consisting of soil, grass, and trees. Below the hills, concrete floors immediately surround the spring, giving it a kind of public pool-ish look and feel. There’s even a diving board built in at the deepest part, which is 8 feet. The water and the floor of the spring, although it is up kept, are completely natural and home to plant life, little fish, and salamanders. The water felt awesome. On the far end of the pool, after it’s walled off, there’s a little section of shallow water that seemed to be a designated dog area. There were like 10 dogs there with their owners, swimming and fetching sticks and balls. I wanted to go play with all of them. Side note- Austin is very dog friendly I noticed.. We even passed a restaurant in SOCO with a sign that said “eat with your dog here”.
Fancy Time! On top of a hill, tucked away in acres of quiet dry Texas land is where we spent the night. We needed a hotel room near Lake Travis, which is where we spending the evening, and we impulse-booked a really fancy hotel without researching it. Turns out, it’s actually a resort with all kinds of activities included in the “package” we bought. They offered tons of shit we didn’t need, like horseback riding, water yoga, water fitness, cooking classes, sunrise hiking, etc. Interestingly, they didn’t really have anything we did need, like a laundry room or a free continental breakfast. The activities would have been kind of nice, but they were all things that were happening at a certain time and you had to sign up for them. If we could have just gone and took a riding lesson on our own, I totally would have done it. Things that were rad about this hotel: balcony attached to our room, infinity pool with a really great view, hot tub, air conditioning, snuggly comforter, complimentary cotton robes, and complimentary pecan pie snacks. Oh- just to give you an idea of the fancy-ness, someone came to the door around 8pm and asked Ricky if he wanted the room turned down. Ricky’s response “what? What does that mean?”. Love.
Next Stop: Enchanted Rock