Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Keep Austin Weird!

That is the city's adopted slogan.

Chelsea and I took a much-needed one-on-one trip together to Austin, TX, from March 23rd through the 28th. We did a lot of walking around and got to know the city pretty well. It's an obvious college town, University of Texas, complete with more bars than you could possibly imagine, all with concrete floors that were spray-washed early each day making ready for the next beer-spilling crowd.

Chelsea gets a bit on the nervous side on planes so I told her to just put her head back and relax. We managed, somehow, to get first class there and back so it made it a bit easier for her, I think. First class is always easier for me!
We stayed at the Radisson on the corner of Congress and First St. (Cesar Chavez), right along Town Lake, now known as Lady Bird Lake.
I wouldn't recommend staying there as I ended up with bedbug bites! It took a day or two to figure out what exactly it was but as soon as I checked it out on the Internet, I knew. I did call and let them know; they responded with a nice offer to come back and visit them in order for them to make it up to me. I don't think so, though. I was tempted to call room 916 a day or two later to see if they were still allowing guests to stay in it but I didn't bother. I get 'itchy' just talking about it! Of all the times I've stayed in hotels, this was the first bug experience.

We arrived at night; this was our view from our hotel room. The street you see from the left corner is Congress with First Street hidden at bottom.
And this is how it looked during the day. Notice the crane. There is a lot of new construction going on in Austin. In this space they are building a W hotel. W's are pretty nice, contemporary hotels, part of the Starwood (Westin) family. I'll stay there next time. Chelsea thought that Austin would probably be a great city to visit in another 5 or so years when all the re-building is complete.
Austin has a mass transit system that includes these trolley-looking buses called 'Dillos' that are free to ride. They only run until 8:30 in the evening and are heavily traveled by the students attending University of Texas. Chelsea and I rode it for a complete loop which ended up being a bit grueling as the suspension on the buses is almost non-existent. But we had to experience everything Austin!

Inside the dillo.While we were on the dillo we passed a famous theatre, the Paramount. Aww...gee... We have to miss Kris! Nice building.

The first morning, Monday morning, we tried to get breakfast but were just a few minutes too late. Surprisingly there weren't a lot of little restaurants right around us at the hotel. We ended up here:
A shot of the inside:
It was a cute diner that, of course like all of Austin, had a Mexican-food menu. We weren't able to have an all-American, eggs and toast breakfast but enchiladas instead. I guess I had my share of bad luck in Austin as this gross picture of chicken bones (in my enchiladas) shows:
Needless to say, we only ate there the one time.

On our first day, we did a lot of walking. Chelsea wanted to check out the three bars that 'the bachelor' owns in downtown Austin. Two of them are on the famous Sixth Street where most of the college bars are. One, MarQ, is located on the west side of Congress Street which is where, I was told, the older set like me go. Here is MarQ.
It did look a bit nicer than the other two. And we DID see the bachelor's brother through the window as he was inside cleaning.
Here's the Chuggin' Monkey.
And The Thirsty Nickle:
One evening we went into the Thristy Nickle and had a drink. Here is a picture from the inside.
One of the best things about Austin is no matter what night it is starting around 8:00pm you can find music everywhere. It's really easy to 'bar hop' because everything is so close together, one bar after another. My favorite place was called Nuno's. We slipped in there two different nights to hear really good blues.

Of course you can't visit Austin without a trip to the capitol. Austin boasts that their capitol building is taller than the US Capitol. I liked the fact that it wasn't bone white.
As in every capitol building I've been in, there is a rotunda. Note the wording on the floor here in Austin:
They'll never let that die, will they. And a look up...
I thought this room was interesting. This was the treasury office. According to a plaque on the wall these bars have been there since the building was built.
On Tuesday night we went to a theatre on campus to see 'Menopause the Musical.' It was hilarious! All you ladies out there who have not seen it yet need to put it on your list. Chelsea, all of 22 years, thought it was funny, too. It had me laughing so hard that twice I found myself with tears streaming down my face. On our walk in from the parking lot we walked behind a group of ladies belonging to the Red Hat Society. These women were having a fabulous time together. If you are not familiar with what they are all about check out their website here. After the show we ended up walking out behind some of them and when they stopped to have someone take their picture I asked if they would mind if I took their picture, also. They kindly obliged.
The most famous tourist attraction in Austin is the famed Congress Bridge bat display. Our hotel was located right next to that bridge. I took this picture out the window of the elevator.
From Wikipedia: The bridge is currently home to the world's largest urban Mexican Free-tailed Bat colony, which reside beneath the road deck in gaps between the concrete component structures. The bats are migratory, spending their summers in Austin and the winters in Mexico. Up to 1.5 million bats reside underneath the bridge each summer.
Chelsea and I did the touristy thing and boarded a boat that takes you out underneath the bridge to the east side (that is the side you see in the picture above) to watch the bats making their way out for the night. We took this boat out (not the paddle boat but the pontoon in front):
It was quite amazing to see tons of these little creatures flying out from under that bridge. Here you can see a cloud of them.
The guide sent around this baby.
People gather on the bridge to watch.
After the bats all disappeared out guide took us for a ride on the lake. There are a lot of rowers seen practicing.
Another shot from the boat.
Here is a video from that bridge. It's really cool! Sorry for the choppiness in the video. Notice the boats down below. One of those is the same boat Chelsea and I went out on a few days previous. Wild bats, eh?

There were these other birds that were in abundance around the city called grackles. It was strange because at night as we walked around the city we could hear these birds' loud cackle as they talked to each other. They were quite bold, too, as we sat and ate outdoors.
Oh, and drank, too. :) That drink was Chelsea's but she shared. It was yummy!

Somehow Chelsea and I found out about a restaurant in Austin that is owned by Sandra Bullock. I don't remember if I found it on a web search or if someone at the hotel told us about it. The name of the restaurant is Bess.
We checked it and had a late lunch there one day. There was only one other booth occupied with people at the time. It had a great atmosphere and a very comfortable feel. The waitress and cooked goofed on two items; I received an iced tea when I ordered coke and Chelsea received a variation of a skittle pot pie instead of a mac and cheese appetizer. Doesn't it always seem that those things happen when the restaurant isn't busy? Here are a few more from inside Bess.
We got the waitress to take one of the two of us. This is the ONLY picture Chelsea had taken of her where she is not making distorted, silly faces...
Like this one (sorry Chels, but this is your payback for being such a brat!):
On the evening that we took the boat tour to watch the bats we arrived early so we took a walk along the lake. Oh, my gosh! Everyone in Austin runs! As we walked the path along the lake and into a park, we were run over by a continuous flow of runners. The city supplies huge plastic jugs filled with water and paper cups for the runners to stop and replenish. Those are located just as they enter the park. And this park has a few other things going for it. It is an 'off leash' park where dogs can run and play with each other. And they do.
The city even put in concrete step down to the water to make it easier for dogs to jump in and play fetch with their humans.
This is the park where you can see the famous statue of one of Richard's and my favorite blues musicians, Stevie Ray Vaughan. I only wish there had been continuous 'Stevie' music being played at the sight. Here's Stevie with Austin in the background.
You can't just shoot one picture!
A very well-done statue, I think.
One day Chelsea and I spent some time wandering through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There wasn't much in bloom yet but we had a nice hike around the grounds.
On our way out we happened upon some turtles in the creek that runs through a part of the center. And they were quite active!
Wednesday evening we decided we would go to the dueling piano bar. When we arrived they were not playing yet so we decided to do another real touristy thing. We took a ride around the city in a horse-drawn carriage. We took the route that passed by the capitol.
By the time we finished our ride the music had started in the piano bar so we joined the fun. Here are some pictures taken at Pete's. These were taken on a special setting that my camera has. It can take pictures in B&W but also pick up one color that you tell it to. Here it's picking up anything it sees that is red. Everything else it sees as B&W.
After we left Pete's we walked a long way to find a restaurant that was serving food. It took a while but we found one! The service was mediocre and so was the food but, hey, it was late and they were open.
The tallest building in Austin is the Frost Bank Tower building. It is 515 feet with 33 floors. People claim it looks like an owl and I would agree. Here is a picture of the top of the building at night. Whooo! Whooo!
I liked the reflection of one building with blue neon around the top descending tiers onto another building's windows.
Austin has a lot of very nice restaurants but up until our last evening we hadn't had the opportunity to eat at any of them because we were lazily sleeping in until 10 each morning, eating a late lunch and finding that we were not hungry again until 10 at night. But the last day I told Chelsea that we were going to time our meals so that we could dine at an Hawaiian fusion restaurant, Roys.

It turned out to be so delicious that I wanted to pick up the plate and lick the rest of the scrumptious sauce off my plate. I ordered Roy's classic roasted macadamia nut crusted Mahi Mahi with lobster cognac butter sauce. Oh, my! What a mouthgasm! Chelsea ordered a filet that she loved equally as well. We finished by sharing their signature melting hot chocolate souffle. Double Oh, my! Here are a couple pictures of the interior but they don't show off the atmosphere too well. You can see the kitchen in the second picture.
To finish off, here are a few other pictures I took on the trip. This one is of a window of a Mexican art gallery/trading company.
As readers of my England posting remember, I like to take pictures of silly signs.
Just experimenting with the B&W/one color function of my camera.
And I'll end with a couple silly pictures of my silly sweetie. I love you, Chelsea, and I had a great time with you. I can't wait until we can do it again.

1 comment:

Rosie the Riveted said...

WAY COOL! Loved the b/w shots with the hint of color.