Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travelogue: Austin

I didn't know what to expect out of Austin.  I had heard mixed reviews from "this is my favorite city in the world" to "I just don't get it-am I missing something here."  I can tell you one thing it is decidedly very different from anywhere else I have been in Texas-the vibe and surrounding scenery left me disoriented-am I still in Texas?  Am I still in the United States?

The Colorado River Runs Through the City
My mom and I took a whirlwind overnight trip, trying to pack in as much site-seeing, gastronomy, and shopping as possible.

After checking in to the historic Driskill Hotel right in the midst of Sixth Street, we set out to South Congress Avenue for brunch at South Congress Cafe:
South Congress Cafe located on South Congress Ave.
We spent some time walking up and down shopping on the street afterwards.  We drove by the surrounding neighborhoods of Austin to see where people live, and I was amazed to see ramshackle homes with couches and what looked like a permanent yard sale on the front lawn next to homes that had been completely renovated with pristine lawns.  I don't think I have ever seen such disparate neighboring homes.  But as one local put it: "That's what we like about Austin."

Endless Boots at Allens on South Congress Ave.
A stop at the original Whole Foods was in order.  This Whole Foods is humongous and has every good thing about every Whole Foods you have ever been to all in one store-it even has a bar inside!

More shopping down Congress street at a few home stores including Wildflower.  Then, off to Second Avenue, for what else?  More shopping...

Here we are walking down Second Avenue to find that the street behind is surrounded and barricaded.  Come to find out, Obama is here to make a speech at the W Hotel for his upcoming campaign.

Protests, arrests, and throngs of crowds ensued.  My mom even got interviewed by the local news.

After the hubbub died down, we headed to Congress Bridge to watch the bats fly at dusk.  This phenomenon happens most nights from mid-March to November.  Unfortunately, the skies decided to unleash a storm at prime bat flying time complete with lightning that struck at varying and unpredictable spots around town.  Do I want to be on a bridge holding on to a metal railing-I think not!  We did manage to see a spectacular sunset so not all was in vain.

Downtown Sunset
Then, it was off to Uchi on South Lamar.  We had heard rave reviews of this dining spot all throughout the day.  Uchi serves uniquely flavored sushi and dishes that are a delight to the senses.  The restaurant is packed full every night, and deservedly so: the chef just won the James Beard award for best chef in the Southwest.

Images via Travelmoon
A stop in Austin wouldn't be complete without checking out the bar and music scene.  My family happens to be dedicated Bachelor watchers, so even though Brad Womack is not my favorite Bachelor we did want to check out the bars he owns in Austin.  We stopped in at The Chuggin' Monkey and Dizzy Rooster among other bars that lined the street.

Luckily or unluckily (as those who are fans of ghost hunting) might say, our overnight stay in the Driskill Hotel, which is said to be haunted was serene and comfortable thanks to their plush beds.  This landmark hotel was built in 1886 and although it has been renovated, the true character of the original interiors were maintained.  The location can't be beat right in the heart of 6th street.

Image via Driskill Hotel

The next day we managed to walk by the Congress Building and drive around the University of Texas campus before heading back to Dallas.  After an overnight trip, do I get Austin?   I think I will have to go back and let you know.  But do I like Austin? That's a resounding yes.

Image via Travelmoon


  1. Beautiful! Was there many many years ago and remember being impressed by Austin, we ate in 2 very good restaurants..food was amazing! (always a big deal to me:) Glad you enjoyed!!

  2. It looks amazing. I'm hoping to visit a friend there this summer!

  3. Kate, these pictures are amazing! I now have a serious case of travel envy! They have just made me want to come to the U.S. even more now! I am loving that picture of the cowboy boots (I have a bit of an obession)!

  4. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos! I've not been, but my husband has, and so have a few of my friends. They all prefer it way more than the other Texan cities, so I have the feeling this is the place you'll like if you find Dallas and Houston pretty dull. The hotel looks impressive and I wouldn't mind trying a bit of the sushi!

  5. I love it!

    The post...not Austin, but of course now I want to go and give it a shot. Problem is that I live on the other side of the country and the odds of a trip specifically to Austin are pretty low. That's why I luuurve your blog--I get taste and put it on my Someday List.

    Great pictures too--I wanted to eat that sunset (if that makes any sense)!
    Now I've got to go through all your other posts that I missed in the past week or two--can't wait :)

  6. Wow! Sounds like a fun time! Great images and Austin looks a interesting place to visit. Great post Kate and thanks for sharing.

    Sunshine & smiles to you always! =(^.^)=

  7. Looks like you had a great time :)
    xx Marie

  8. the endless boots photo is my absolute favorite... I am SO glad you had such a great time!

  9. This looks like fun! I've always wanted to go to Austin.