One of the great things I love about our temporary US home is how diverse it is. Last fall we went on a road trip through pelting rain and evergreens, forests of yellow and green Aspens, geothermic landscapes, the view from 11,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, red sandstone for days, ancient Pueblos, more than one amazing canyon (and one Grand one), the suburbs of Las Vegas, from 230 feet below sea water to the hot desert heights of Death Valley, the cool granite and forested landscapes of Yosemite and finally back to the rain and evergreens. We saw moose, a Grizzly, a herd of Pronghorn antelope, a whole lot of Elk, deer, chipmunks, Bison, and met a lot of cool people. And that was only in the west. With my birthday coming up I wanted to do a quick city break with my sister and we narrowed it down to Savannah, Denver again, or Austin.
Since Savannah was a bit too far for a weekend and I had just been to Denver, we were soon on our way to Texas (which you already know, based on the title of this post).
Austin is adorable and so fun. I knew it from Slacker and SXSW and from my friend Mel who lives there now, but America has a thing that Canada does not, which is a relatively even spread of people and culture across the country, and inhabitants that move around between cities. So even a college town can seem larger than life when in fact it is about the same size as Ottawa. In a matter of hours we had seen the lake (actually a river), the grassy knoll that rises above the town, the party district and well, I don’t really remember anything after that.
If someone asked me what there was to do in Austin, I would have to be honest and say “drink” with maybe some eating thrown in for good measure. We did walk up to the Capitol building one day and Mel suggested stand up paddle-boarding on the lake but from the time we got in to the time we left, we were basically going from dinner to cocktail bar to another cocktail bar to jazz club to late night food truck to bed to boozy brunch… If Austin had a theme it would be “cocktails and music” which are basically two of my favourite things and it kind of blows my mind that what I consider real jobs seem like an afterthought here. We had an AMAZING time but this was definitely a case of needing home for a rest.
Our weekend started off in East Austin with dinner at Qui. We were late because our taxi driver didn’t speak French and so took us to Key Bar, a raucous divey looking thing on the party street. My sister looked alarmed and the taxi driver asked me if I was sure when I said we weren’t in the right place but soon we were speeding off in the other direction and sitting down to an amazing dinner. I would go back to Austin just to go to Qui but from there we walked back to the hotel through cocktail bars and food trucks, ended up at the East Side Show Lounge where a trio featuring an incredible vocalist was playing. I adore live music and I know that Seattle has a lot of it but there is something about just stumbling upon it happening that makes it even greater.
The next day we went for brunch and I tried to untangle the local vernacular for bodies of water (lake, river, swimming holes, etc.) over a Caesar and then a series of patio bars for the afternoon. Our dinner plans at Wink turned into a whole evening affair when the sky opened up and a thunderstorm took out the power. We were one or two tiny courses into a tasting menu so we finished our wine…and then a second bottle and I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening except that it involved dessert I didn’t like, hanging out with a staggette party at Peche, dancing at the Handlebar and giving my number to someone who was going to invite us to a party at the power plant. This is why it’s important to eat a good dinner, kids.
Sunday we spent on Rainey Street at the recommendation of one of the barmen. It’s a street of converted houses where each house has a different theme – one is a sports bar, one is a cocktail bar, one has a crazy amount of sausages, one has hammocks to chill out in…many have live music. It’s a great place to spend a day and Austin was a great place to spend a weekend – especially as I don’t get to see my sister nearly enough these days and spending days listening to music and drinking cocktails was the perfect way to catch up.