Prior to the beginning of September I’d travelled to a few cities in Texas: Corpus Christie, Galveston, South Padre Island, and Houston. I thought Galveston was a cool town to visit (for an afternoon), even though it was just a few months after a bad hurricane had swept through, giving it a somewhat eerie feel. Houston’s sprawling modern emptiness shocked me – I didn’t see a soul walking anywhere the entire time I was there, there were highways going through the parks, and it took twenty minutes to drive to the grocery store. I’ve never been entirely impressed with the state and most certainly not it’s government or politicians.
But for a few years now I’ve heard as Austin as sort of a “Portland of the South”, where young urbanites from across the country migrate to listen to music, drink craft beer, and bask in the desert sun. A little liberal bubble inside a giant conservative Texas. My sister and I set on down to the Lone Star State to check out this hip city and see what’s up down South.
Austin definitely had a funky vibe, and I really liked the architecture. My first impressions were that it was similar in style to New Orleans, all the one-story buildings and houses with nice large porches and brightly painted facades.
People were super friendly – everyone said “Hey, how are you doing?” when they passed you on the street, even the bus drivers smiled and asked you how your day was going. One morning I sneezed while walking down the street. Thirty seconds later a man passed me on the street and said, “God bless you!” I’d practically forgotten I even sneezed!
Austin was full of active people running, jogging, cycling, skateboarding, canoeing, rowing, doing outdoor sports I didn’t even know existed. Emily and I walked 5 miles the first day, and only one person asked us, “Why are you walking? Where’s your car?!” Five miles in New York doesn’t seem like much, but it was 95 degrees the whole time and streets are much longer. Basically, 5 blocks in Texas is about 15 New York City blocks. Lesson learned. Luckily a day pass on the Austin city bus was TWO DOLLARS. That wouldn’t even get you one swipe in the NYC subway.
1. Migas at Juan in a Million’s. Migas, for those of you who don’t know, are scrambled eggs with tortilla chips mixed in + refried beans, cheese, and potatoes! Yum! We also got served 32 ounce glasses of water. Would that be illegal Mr. Bloomberg?
2. Being a history buff, the Bullock State History Museum was great. A cross between The Smithsonian and Madame Tussaud’s, you can learn a ton about all the different groups of people, from the Comanche to the Spanish to the Tejanos to the Anglos, who have populated Texas from pre-historic times to the present day. The entrance to the museum and the wall-to-wall carpet pretty much sums up our experience:
3. Barton Springs. Half creek, half pool, it was the perfect way to cool off on a 100 degree day.
4. Food trailer parks. Austin must be a graphic designer’s dream come true – so many different logos and paint jobs to be done!
5. THIS. At Freedman’s: Pulled pork, pork ribs, sausage, brisket, slaw, German potatoes, sauce, and one huge roll of napkins.
It’s crazy how different a place and people can be, yet you’re still in the USA (albeit to the chagrin of many a Texan).
All in all, cool city with cool vibes. But I still prefer New Orleans. It’s magical there.