Austin, Texas BABY

There were two different reactions when I told people I was heading to Austin, Texas as part of my six week 40th birthday extravaganza road trip.

There were those who knew and there were those who didn’t.

Those who had never heard of the place or didn’t know the greatness of Austin gave a blank expression accompanied with ‘Oh…Austin…Why would you be going there?!’  Those who knew, however, were excited. They would squeal and give tips and say how envious they were that I was going. I knew I’d love it…I just didn’t realise how much.

Similar to the reason I went to Savannah I have followed the artist, stylist and bon vivant extraordinaire Kelly Framel for years now. She’s a native Texan and is often popping back to Austin showing snippets of life there. Over the past ten years she has championed the fact that, again like Savannah, it has a large growing art & music scene and was therefore attracting young, expressive, exciting folk who were making Austin a go to destination should you find yourself in Southern middle America.

Bestie and I drove across Texas from Houston. We had the great fortune of meeting up with a Zimbabwean friend, Brian, who was also travelling around the States. We made our way to our large, airy, terribly hip Air BNB in the large, airy, terrible hip Eastern side of Austin. Not that I knew it at the time but I had managed to secure us a 5 night stay in one of the coolest parts of this rapidly growing metropolis. FYI I’m afraid you’re going to read the word cool far too many times. It’s the only word I feel is suitable to describe this place. We were parked for our vacation right at the end of East 6th Street which turned out to be foodie heaven street….as well one long building site. As it’s an area that is being built up quicker than I could take my knickers off should I be in front of Chris Pratt, it’s not a particularly pretty part of town but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the place is full of bars and restaurants and pop ups and food trucks and graffiti and young people who are great to look at. We spent three out of our five nights finding places to eat and drink along 6th street and never even touched the surface.

Our favourite place was Suerte where we sat outside with large fans that sprayed cooling mist. We ate Mexican inspired, locally grown gorgeous food and drank beautiful wine. Another favourite ~ who am I kidding ever night was a favourite! We did not have one bad meal in Austin ~ was Salt & Time, a rustic eatery in an old butchery serving that oh-so-cool saying of ‘farm to table’.

After dinner one night where we’d eaten food I still dream of and drank wine that disappeared far too quickly we made our way to the famous White Horse which was in every guide book, bar list and recommendation going. It’s an old dive of a pub that has live music and proper old school partner dancing. It’s SOOO COOL! Every one stands around the dance floor of this spit and sawdust joint waiting to be asked to dance by a real cowboy or cowgirl. {If you’re not familiar with the two step they have free lessons on Thurs, Fri & Sat at 7pm} It’s not pretty. There’s no air conditioning so as soon as you step in you’re soaking wet with sweat and you should probably stick to beer so your head is still in one piece the next morning. But it has managed to keep it’s authenticity. It’s not been redone to look old, it is old. There are the hipsters of course, who will no doubt ruin the place in a few years, but for now the place still attracts your original old timers with their checked shirts, cowboy hats & heeled boots. Their ability to twirl you round a dance floor with grace and a lightness you didn’t know existed in a man over 70 is so worth a hangover the next morning.

Now, Barbeque is what you really head to Texas for and Austin does it so well. Reading our extensive food list recommendations ~ that everyone wanted to give us ~ we chose to head to Franklin’s one afternoon for lunch. Our Uber driver scoffed at our naiveity for even thinking we could get food there past midday.

‘For the most famous BBQ’s in town y’all need to get in line at 9/10am so y’all can be served by 1pm. Most of the meat will be long gone by 2pm’ He told us.

Sensing our dismay and hearing our rumbling stomachs he suggested a place that he considered to be the best BBQ around and that people were only just cottoning on to. A food truck called Valentina’s which was a 20 minute ride out of town. Blindly we put our faith in this stranger’s hands and were dropped off in a car park in the middle of nowhere. Oh sweet Uber driver, whatever your name was, you were so right. Valentina’s is a mix of BBQ & Tex Mex and was one of the best meals I’ve ever had ~ melt in the mouth ribs, tender pulled pork in a bun, succulent chicken tacos. At 3pm we were late for lunch so didn’t have to queue at all and were able to get a guided tour of the BBQ set up. A whole food truck was dedicated to the cooking of this mouth watering meat which we were told was a blistering hot 24 hour operation.

Just like Savannah the heat was intense. So intense that the only thing you can do in temperatures, and more importantly humidity, like that is get yourself to water. Luckily Austin has amazing water. For two days we hired bikes and rode around Ladybird lake and the long, lazy river leading up to it. We found Barton Springs which is a natural swimming pool and a body of water I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to dive into. It’s cold but that’s fine because we were ‘face the colour of a plum’ hot. We lounged on the banks of the pool to dry off and twenty minutes later would slip easily back into the cool waters to lower our core temperatures. The following day we rode through a quiet, rich neighbourhood on the Southern edge of town. We trekked with our bikes down to what we thought would be Barton Creek Greenbelt river ~ NO AGUA ~ it was all dried up. Unless the rains have been recently some places no longer exist and you need to wait for the next downpour. We hiked, with our bloody bikes, across the no existent body of water and made our way back to the Colorado river near Barton Springs. This time we perched on the banks with the turtles and passing paddle boarders and floated in the river for hours. Happy, Happy days.

  

Keeping the days lazy and carefree, which you have to due to the movement reducing heat, we skipped from air conditioning to air conditioning via Uber chatting up our driver’s everywhere we went. That Southern hospitality was littered throughout the city and, along with numerous food recommendations, we learnt about the history of Austin and the proud future they’re heading into. According to the Forbes list Austin is the USA’s fastest growing city due to low taxes and cheap rents. It has the state capital as well as The University of Texas and now due to a tech boom {Google, Dell and Apple are all there} young people are migrating in droves for the warm weather {too warm for me I’m afraid}, the low cost of living and the fantastic music scene. How long it will stay this way is another matter.

When I describe Austin to people I say ‘Remember when East London used to be cool? When it was about where you would hang out and the area itself?’ Well, Austin’s like that. The competitive beard growing and the 25 minute wait for a coffee hasn’t arrived yet but they’re probably on their way.

Get there now so you can hang out with the real cowboys, eat unpretentious, delicious food and swim in turquoise, cool, clear waters….Hurry, I know you’ll love it too.

 

For Drinking & Eating ~ 

Suerte ~ https://www.suerteatx.com/

Whisler ~ https://whislersatx.com/

Valentina’s ~ https://whislersatx.com/

Common Bond ~ https://commonbondcafe.com/

Salt n time ~ http://www.saltandtime.com/

Pearla’s ~ http://www.perlasaustin.com/

 

Music & dancing ~ 

The White Horse ~ https://www.thewhitehorseaustin.com/

The Continental Club ~ http://continentalclub.com/

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