Have You Ever Wondered What Austin Is Like?


walking-over-the-bridge-in-austin

I’m just back from from my first trip ever to Austin, Texas. I’d happily go again. I was visiting two of my college roommates. Such a pleasure. They picked me up at the airport on Thursday night, took me to dinner here, then housed me, then fed me some more. In short, whole hog hospitality.

Oh, and showed me the city. Friday morning we walked around and over Lady Bird Lake. Gorgeous weather.

going-for-a-walk-around-lady-bird-lake

Then we went to lunch at Zocalo, for Tex Mex. Here’s the exterior of the restaurant – which seems, despite the ordinariness of the image, to capture something of the city. Rangy greens, outdoor tables, a comfortable relationship with parking lots.

tex-mex-exterior

And the interior – again, Austin. Modern, with evidence of craft. Very chipper.

tex-mex-interior

Then off we went to see outdoor sights. Here’s Barton Springs. Please do keep Austin weird, if you can. Weird, comfy, and beautiful. Up in the parking lot someone was playing the guitar and singing, others were advocating conservation and signatures. Down in the water, floating. Swimming in the natural pool open to all. Pretty girls in bikinis and tattoos chatting.

barton-springs

And we were off to see the view from Mount Bonnell. Californians may not think this place is actually a mountain but they would be silly to so note. Vistas are all.

from-the-hill-in-austin

Then out to dinner again. This time at Laundrette. Note the matchbook font below. Austin’s distinctive lettering helped characterize the city for me. You see this one a lot too.

austin-fonts

I commenced my dinner with a Wild Honey cocktail. Mezcal, honey, lemon, chili tincture. Delicious.

wild-honey-cocktail-at-the-laundrette-in-austin-texas

Saturday morning, we went out on Lake Lady Bird again, this time in a motor boat. Damn I love a water jaunt. Ray Bans forever.

lisa-on-lake-ladybird

You can drive your boat up and down the lake, touring shore buildings. Turns out billionaires build really artistic and interesting boat houses.

artistic-austin-boathouse

But Austin still has some older and more ramshackle affairs. You can easily imagine living there. At least I could. At least in October.

boating-on-the-lake-in-austin

We ate one more lunch. Look at that tree. Austin wins at trees. And does pretty dang well at food too. This place, Vinaigrette, served top notch salads. Hit the spot.

vinaigrette-in-austin-texas

My friends and I turned 60 this year. So did some of their other friends. Apparently, they had attended a traditional group lunch to celebrate, everyone in a necklace like this. I tried it on. Was offered the chance to bring it home, even. Was honored, but also worried that the dangling clanging might alarm security at the airport.

the-big-six-oh

Just I was ferried to the airport, my friend’s cat chased a lizard into her house. Imagine three 60-year old women organizing to chase said lizard back out the door. A broom, my bad advice, other good advice, team work, and there went the lizard – with a flourish of its long tall tail.

Doing my best to keep Austin weird. And to enthusiastically endorse. It’s a city worth visiting on a vacation and one to embrace if life brings you there to live.

Oh, and just in case you you do go, my friends recommend the following hotels:

For restaurants, I’d recommend every one of the places I mention above.

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20 Comments

  • Oh, you lucky girl! I went to grad school in Austin in the 1960s and 70s. Back then it was so deliciously weird you can’t even! :)

    I visit Austin often and do the lake trail every time, multiple times. I was there last in April and ate at several of the restos you listed above. I hang with long-time Austinite friends who also do Chautauqua every summer. In 1939 my mother summered at Chautauqua. That year dark clouds were also gathering for the world. Her glorious Chautauqua summer stories served as my introduction to that other amazing place.

    As you said earlier, it does seem like familiar souls follow each other around the world, treading the same trails, but never quite at the same moment.

    By the way, hubby and I leave today for Barcelona if anyone is also headed there. Because, heck, you never know where our respective time-spaces might intersect.

    11/01/16
    9:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @Ann, “In 1939 my mother summered at Chautauqua. That year dark clouds were also gathering for the world. Her glorious Chautauqua summer stories served as my introduction to that other amazing place. ” Goosebumps. Have a great time in Barcelona! I hope someone here can give you a recommendation:).

  • Looks like much fun! My daughter and son-in-law have been (and loved it for music alone!) — my only Texas experience was an academic conference in San Antonio (loved San Antonio, would absolutely go again) and the Dallas airport (not as lovely).
    You’re traveling so much this year and making it look like all kinds of fun, those three or four-day trips to cool cities. . . If you want to read a hint into that, feel free ;-)

    11/01/16
    9:36 am
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Hint taken! And already on the must do in next 12-18 months!

    11/01/16
    10:27 am
    Katherine C. James said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Shyly raising my hand to say I’d love to visit you in Vancouver, one of my favorite cities, in the not-too-distant future as well. I haven’t been since 2010. I’ve been dreamily hotel shopping recently, and a trip back to the Museum of Anthropology is long overdue.

  • Very handy as I’m going over Thanksgiving to visit my son and daughter-in-law. Thanks! Good call on the necklace BTW.

    11/01/16
    9:36 am
    Lisa said...

    @Lauren, Hehe. Thanks. Have fun!

  • What a timely post! My son is moving from San Francisco to Austin this month. I’m looking forward to exploring his new city.

    11/01/16
    9:37 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie K, Oh how lucky! I bet you and he will both love it.

  • Everything in this piece, including you, looks glorious. My youngest niece (and goddaughter) is moving to Austin in January 2017. I’m confident she will help keep it weird. Thanks for this glimpse into the city.

    11/03/16
    7:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Katherine C. James, You are welcome and thanks!

  • Looks like such a young city, and fun.

    So glad you got to celebrate birthdays with your friends. The necklace is hilarious.

    11/03/16
    7:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, Good observation. Very young in some ways, and yet very historical and proud of the Texas heritage.

  • Sounds like a fun trip and meeting up with long time friends is even better!…notice I did not say “old friends” as 60 is not OLD!
    Love that architecturally designed luxe boathouse…
    BTW you look very happy and those RayBans are iconic classic sunglasses…
    Your 60th birthday year is turning out to be one of many special events and celebrations…keep them coming!

    11/03/16
    7:27 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, It is turning out to be very special.

  • Shhhhh. Don’t tell everyone. It’s crazy crowded there as it is.

    11/03/16
    7:34 am
    Lisa said...

    @Nelson Bartley, Sorry;). Still looks wide open compared to Silicon Valley. I am sure it feels crowded to all the long-timers.

  • That necklace! Hilarious! Happy for you that you are making the most out of turning 60.

    11/03/16
    7:35 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jane, Thank you. My friends have great senses of humor:).

  • I’ve lived here for 38 years now. And yes, it’s lovely here, especially the trees and parks that are everywhere. I think you were on Lake Austin. Lady Bird Lake doesn’t allow motorboats, except for crew.

    11/03/16
    7:36 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patty, Oh, gosh, thanks for the correction! I was clearly not paying enough attention to detail. Two lakes, three lakes, such abundance!

  • Awww… So glad y’all had fun! We’re heading over there in a couple weeks to do pre-Thanksgiving with friends, then up to the Dallas area for real Thanksgiving. Austin beats Dallas in every way. Oh!..and if you haven’t seen Bourdain’s recent CNN show on Houston? So great, so positive, bordering on uplifting. That boy has grown up.

    11/03/16
    7:37 am
    Lisa said...

    @Rosie, Have fun! And I haven’t seen Bourdain on Houston, so glad he has grown up. Houston has great food – Texas is changing, I love it.

  • I lived in Austin from age 20 to 25 and loved EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of it! OH–the stories I could tell! I met my husband and Austin and we enjoyed our courtship there—what a wonderful time. There is NO better city! So many memories there–even before I met my husband. I loved Austin country music during those years—B. W. Stephenson, Herb Steiner on the steel guitar and many others.

    Swimming at Barton Springs was always a BRACING experience—the water was SO cold

    Too many memories–too much fun.

    11/03/16
    7:38 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan D., Thank you for sharing the memories. They add to my own sense of enjoyment in the trip.

  • I love Austin. I visited in 1999. It’s a great college city. Funny – my first visit was for Halloween. The only tattoo I have – I got during one of those visits.

    I remember going to this restaurant on a hill – facing west – and watching the sun set while having margaritas.

    11/03/16
    7:39 am
    Lisa said...

    @Lord, Sigh. I’d go back in a minute. 1999 must have been wonderful.

  • Lisa,you’ve put charmingly a face to the name! I’ve never been to Austin,but I will remember it just like that (with a little help from the ladies and gents above :-))
    So funny way to celebrate 60 birthday!
    Love the scarf!
    Dottoressa

    11/03/16
    7:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Happy to oblige! And the scarf is a winner – large enough to cover or act as a shawl, light enough to fold small. Bindya is the brand.

  • Brilliant timing – I’ll be there in two weeks so have book marked your restaurant notes

    11/03/16
    8:04 am
    Lisa said...

    @amanda, Oh enjoy!

  • As an Austinte, I would say you did the quintessential Austin trip. I’m glad you had a good time. Come back!

    11/03/16
    8:07 am
    Lisa said...

    @Deana Sanders, My friends did good:). And thank you, I will!

  • OH that necklace. So funny. Austin looks lovely. I’ve been wanting to visit San Antonio. Hubs is from Houston, so I think a Texas trip might be in order.

    11/03/16
    8:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary Anne, Throw in Houston for the museums while you’re at it! I really do love Houston’s cities.

  • LOVE THE NECKLACE!

    11/03/16
    8:12 am
    Lisa said...

    @LA CONTESSA, It’s so Contessa Goes To Texas, isn’t it!

  • The weirdest thing about Austin, is that it is NOT weird. I worked for a Texas-based company for 8 years and spent a week or two in Austin every month. Therefore, it is safe to say that I have visited Austin 100 times.

    Yes, like most moderate to large towns, they have a funky, artsy district, but then so does Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Diego, Oakland, Riverside, Seattle, Phoenix and the list goes on and on. All those cities offer coffee bars with Jazz and some even offer Country Western.

    “Keep Austin Weird” is just a marketing slogan promoted by small business owners to get people to shop in little, old downtown Austin. Kudos to them because it has worked.

    The rest of Austin is decidedly not weird – miles and miles of streets with white bread suburban homes that could be anywhere, glitzy country club neighborhoods and upscale gated, McMansion neighborhoods for the people who work for government and the huge High-Tech employers. Why, they even have a Barrio and several Walmarts.

    Well, I take it back, there ARE a few things weird about Austin – the airport with an all outdoor car rental area. A terrible idea for a city that gets so much rain and wind. The love affair with “Austin Stone”, a bright, white limestone that over time becomes covered with ugly, dripping blotches of what looks like black mold. Terrible tasting water out of the tap. It is one of the few places I have visited in the U.S. where bottled drinking water is de rigueur.

    Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed my visits to Austin. Were it not for frequent delays at the airport due to weather or having to route through Dallas or Houston, I would visit again in a heartbeat. There are lots of excellent Vintage and Consignment shops where I picked up wonderful French furnishings, lovely silk scarves and top-notch vintage jewelry. You must, however, leave the down town area to get reasonable prices. The bat caves and bee caves are fascinating as are other springs and caves in the area.

    It is just not weird.

    Smiles from Carol

    11/04/16
    3:59 pm
    Lisa said...

    The contrarian position!

  • Austin looks lovely – let’s start selling those necklaces!