Part 2 of Austin: a guide, reflections and a love story.

We left off at Shady Grove.

My last trip to Austin was mostly spent under the cedar trees here. Sitting at the bar. Drinking Shady Things.  Eating queso. Looking at boys. Enjoying the wonders of daytime drinking.  It was great. When Kelly and I arrived this  trip, it was full (normal) hot (normal) and a great place to people watch. We put our names in, knowing we really just wanted a cocktail and a spot at the outside bar. Buzzer in hand we wandered over and started trying to determine who would be giving up their seats first. Turns out a table of fine looking gay boys noticed our plight and gave up their table. It was nice to know that gay boys still love me! We sat down, Shady Things in hand and just watched and listened and relaxed. The frosty goodness of the Shady Things calmed me down almost to the point of sleep. It was great. We found ourselves at a critical spot in the day….were we going to be drinking the day away (which would’ve been fine) or would we take our vacation to another spot? Once the idea of trashy magazines and slipping our feet in the chilly water of Barton Springs Pool came up…the decision was made.

If I were home, I would have gone home, changed into a bathing suit, brought rubber flip flops to walk in the pool and a towel to lay on/dry off with. However, we were on vacation. So we had magazines, leather shoes, a bottle of water and, in my case, rolled up our jeans to cool off a bit. I am very much in love with the Barton Springs Pool. It exemplifies so much of what I love about Austin. It’s funky and accepting. Hot and cool at the same time. Naturally lovely, but hardscrabble too. You can be as active or as lazy as you want. It’s just amazing.

Once we were sufficiently hot…which didn’t take long….we decided to go into the pool a bit. Warning: buy cheap flip flops to wear into the pool! The sidewalks are bumpy rocks that kill my (admittedly sensitive) feet. Even once in the super cool water (it stays around 68 all year long) they still hurt. So I scampered back to sit on the wall and watch the world. Kelly braved the shallow end of the pool and strolled around on the smoother rocks for awhile. Being there is very meditative. Even though there are all kinds of things happening, you can just get into the zone and check out pretty easily.  Once Kelly had her fill of the water, we found a shady spot under a pecan tree and watched the people use the diving board. We just stared forever. We watched all level of divers. We became fascinated with the group from the Austin School for the Deaf and their animated yet silent communication. Time passed, who knows how much really. But it became clear that once again, we needed to move on or stay where we were forever.

While looking for parking around the pool, Kelly had noticed a little train. Apparently she really has a thing for such trains and threatened to cry if we didn’t go on it. The threat was unnecessary,I was down for it. Tickets in hand we got as close to the back as we could (damn kids!) and melted/waited until the ride began. It doesn’t go fast, but it was still pretty damn awesome. You get a great overview of Zilker Park and you notice how many different types of people take advantage of this lovely oasis, with spectacular views of downtown and Lady Bird Lake. You see Barton Creek and usually get to see some dogs going for a swim. If swimming dogs don’t make you smile….please don’t sit near me! We were the only adults on the Zilker Zephyr that didn’t have kids in tow….AKA, the lucky ones. We didn’t care. A short trip on a little train around a great park should not be wasted on the young!

Once our ride was over, it became imperative that I have a shower. More specifically, another shower. We cooled off in the AC of the cube and made our way back to the hotel. I don’t know about you, but when I am hot, I am not hungry. However, when I cool down, I am hungry. I also know that being outside and then hungry, can make me grumpy. This had to be nipped in the bud! Luckily we had spotted a Taco Cabana on the frontage road near our hotel, so we stopped to get a snack.

I believe Taco Cabana to be what Taco Bell wishes it could be. Simple menu. Tasty food. Real margaritas (not available at the drive thru unfortunately). Great value. For some folks our Cheese Enchilada Dinner and Brisket Taco Combo may sound like a meal, but we hadn’t eaten since brunch and all that fresh air can kill ya! So snacks in hand we went back to the room and chilled out. I took my shower and I was a new person! We knew that the next stop was the bats on Congress Street Bridge, but we weren’t sure what time they would be making their appearance. Luckily Austin has a bat hotline to call. The hotline told us that the largest urban colony of bats in the world (or US?) would be showing up around 8-8:15. This allowed us only a 20 minute nap, but it was a refreshing 20 minutes and we didn’t want to miss the bats.

Turns out….we could’ve slept longer. It was admittedly early in the bat season (which runs March-October, best views in late August) and apparently the females are pregnant, so they aren’t as active as when they aren’t pregnant (can’t blame them) so it wasn’t as crazy a sight as I have seen when I’ve seen them while attending ACL Fest. But those little mosquito eating (thanks for that) mammals did make an appearance, eventually.  They didn’t come in a huge wave, but more like puffs of smoke. You could see their movement before you could see them. Then, the birds with no tails (as they appear) would be flapping overhead. The bats weren’t super impressive, but it was a fun experience. It’s not often you can say you’ve been stood up by 1.5 million flying mammals!

It was after 9 and time to eat again. We pointed the Cube toward Lake Austin (I just can’t get used to Lady Bird Lake) and cocktail and snacks over the water at Hula Hut! Yes…I may be obsessed with all things owned by Chuy’s….sue me. But they take time to have fun food, drinks and ambiance. We were told it would be at least an hour wait to eat, but the valet was unaware of the power of the Cube. We bypassed the main dining room and set our sights on the outdoor Tiki Bar–which is where we wanted to be anyway!  Two stools were available at the bar and we were on our way to a life changing experience. That may sound like an exaggeration, but some life changes are small, yet important and come in cocktail form or wrapped in a fried wonton…as these life changing experiences did.

Come back to get the details of how my life was changed over the waters of Lake Austin!

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Part 1 of Austin: a guide, reflections and a love story.

Never saw this coming!

I’m writing about Austin again.

Shocking!

But I just got back from spending  64.5 hours in that fine Texas town…and I must share.

We arrived around 10:30 Friday night. It was warm and a tad muggy and VERY windy. Our funky rental car took us for much needed food and beverage to World Famous 6th St. This was my travel companion’s first trip to Austin and she was instantly enamored with the crowds of happy people and massive choices of places to hang.  Our final destination was Opal Divine’s.  We were seated at a rustic picnic table on the large deck that looks over 6th street. We were parched and peckish. Since it was 11:30 by this time…a full meal seemed silly. Cocktails and appetizers seemed smart. Sweet potato fries with dill ranch–YES, the Divine Quesadilla; Spinach, mushrooms and roasted red peppers with cilantro pesto and feta cheese on a savory onion tortilla–OMG YES!  Then we had to figure out which cocktails to imbibe. The list is vast and varied, with each one sounding better then the next. I settled on the Divine Peach Lemonade which drew my attention with this description: The nectar of summer. Absolut
Apeach vodka, fresh pressed lemon and Cointreau. It was delicious. Each sip as good if not better then the last. I kept waiting for the taste to take a turn and not live up to the last drink, but it never did. It was delicious to the end. A lovely alcoholic experience. Kelly had a mojito, and while we are both completely spoiled by the mojitos at Rumba , she declared this one tasty and finished it easily.

With full bellies and the slightest of buzzes, we drove back to our hotel. A great Priceline deal provided us a relatively good location and lovely accommodations. I do believe that there should be a separate vanity in each hotel room so someone can shower, etc….while someone else preens and prepares for the day in ways that don’t necessitate privacy, but it is a VERY minor complaint. Our comfy beds welcomed us with soft linens and numerous pillows and we said good night to the Lone Star state with smiles on our face.

There was no early morning wake up call for us. THANK GOD. We awoke and started getting ready for the day at a leisurely pace. First order of business upon leaving the hotel was food. Destination; Magnolia Cafe . It’s not off the beaten path, rather, most folks beat a path there at some point when in Austin. Open 24/7 (the sign says “Sorry We’re Open”) a varied menu, beer….what more would one want? There is pretty much always a wait, but when you get to rub elbows with a gay softball tea, over accessorized UT students and the general tattooed masses of South Austin…it goes quickly. It is also recommended to take this time to peruse the menu.  If you can’t find something that strikes your fancy here, you are not hungry. Vegan—no problem. Gluten free….no problem. Meat eater….no problem. Want a gingerbread pancake with your Eggs Zapatino…done.

The location of Magnolia is nice also…as it sits at the end of the wonderful stretch of shopping, etc…known as South Congress, or SoCo. Parking can be a bit of a chore in this area, but The Cube had special powers and we found a space that we didn’t even have to pay for with little effort. First stop Tesoros. If you like folk art and finding things you can’t get just anywhere….go here! So many countries and ideals are represented here, it’s hard to not find something that strikes your fancy. Inexpensive accessories, fine handcrafted jewelry, milagros, sugar skulls , environmentally friendly pick up sticks made out of bamboo, handcrafted decorations made by Haitian artists that benefit the earthquake victims….something for everyone.

We didn’t buy anything there, I personally was somewhat overwhelmed as usual in this store, so we moseyed on. Next stop was Maya Star! Adorable clothes, fab shoes and accessories. Amazing toiletry items. It’s a great little store for window shopping. At least that is all we did there. Although I could see doing some major damage there 🙂

If you go to only one store on South Congress, hell, in all of Austin…go to Allens Boots! You walk in and are nearly overcome with the scent of leather. Then you notice all the colors and shapes and sizes and designs they have. I had decided that if I found a pair I really liked, I would bite the bullet and buy them. The first pair I loved was $500! I then decided that I needed to put a price limit on this because my mortgage company probably couldn’t care less how amazing the Old Gringo Abby Rose boots would look with a simple sundress. So I decided that $200 was my limit. It wouldn’t force me to eat Alpo or anything…and cowboy boots are an investment in my style future. The limit then went up to $300, then $400. Yet, even at that price point I could find no boots I loved. I found an AMAZING pair with so much detail I couldn’t even imagine how they were made….they were $1999.99. I passed. Kelly fell in love with a pair of boots. They were/are lovely! But her price limit topped out at $300….so we moved on.

Fondling all that leather and almost spending that much money makes a girl thirsty. So off we went to Shady Grove. Which is a good place to start back later……