After a night sleeping at the airport in San Diego we arrived in Austin a bit bleary eyed – nothing that the blinding Texan heat couldn’t solve however! We couldn’t believe the stark change in climate from the much milder Californian coast that we had become accustomed to. After grabbing our bags we left the airport where Luke and Veronica were waiting to pick us up – it was so lovely to see them (and to quickly duck into their air-conditioned car!)
After a short drive we arrived in the city centre and made a quick pitstop at Juiceland for a smoothie which was delicious. Miles had visited Austin in the past, but for me it was my first time. I’d heard really cool things about the city, and it’s artistic vibe was immediately obvious. I was really excited to get exploring.
After spending so much of our time in California staying in motels and hostels (oh and airport foyers) we could not wait for the luxury that awaited us in Austin. One of Veronica’s friends worked for the JW Marriott and very kindly offered us rooms at a fraction of the cost (I’m talking less than the cost of a hostel bed, for a gorgeous comfy hotel room) we couldn’t believe our luck. After arriving at the hotel we dumped our bags and got ready for the day ahead. Miles had a bit of a beer explosion in his rucksack (lesson learnt – don’t put cans of beer in your hold luggage) so a little while was taken to remove the hoppy smell from his belongings.
After getting ready we hopped back in the car and drove to Lichas Cantina for a lunch. Lichas offers a delicious menu of Mexican dishes which we enjoyed thoroughly and washed down with various cocktails. After filling up we dropped off the car and began wandering around the city centre.
There’s a really cool music vibe to the city which is evident by the huge guitar statues that line the streets and the massive amounts of jazz and piano bars. We walked up towards the Texas State Capitol and had a wander around the grounds which was really interesting to see. After a little while at the Capitol, and many photographs later, we walked back up East 12th Street and took in the sites. Soon it was late afternoon and after a quick stop of back at the hotel we got changed and made our way to Rainey Street.
Rainey Street is a very cool street in the city lined with old bungalows. These probably were once homes, but now they have all been converted into an eclectic mix of bars with a small food truck park at the end – it really is amazing. You can have a drink at one bar and move from the next to the next to the next and stop off for some food when you reach the end….
As the Houston wedding was fast approaching, some of our friends had already arrived in Texas so we were lucky enough to have a meet up in Austin. We met up with Annie and Steve at Blackheart Bar before moving onto Javelina for dinner and shuffleboard competitions (girls vs boys which became very competitive!) After a fantastic evening, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel (which FYI was bliss).
The next morning, Miles and I woke up early to try and organise our accommodation for the remainder of our stay in the city. Luke and Veronica were heading back to Houston that morning so we spent some time looking at airbnb. Luckily we found a house right near Rainey Street which we could book there and then! Perfect.
Once our next accommodation was sorted we headed out with Luke and Veronica and went for brunch at a really nice restaurant called Annies on Congress Avenue. After a delicious meal we said goodbye to Luke and Veronica who dropped us off outside our Airbnb accommodation.
The house was perfect for what we needed, a double bedroom and a bathroom opposite in a really convenient location. We’ve used airbnb fairly often in the past, but this was the first time we had stayed with someone – normally we have hired the entire place. The owners of the house were all in their mid-twenties and friendly enough.
After sorting out our bits we ordered an Uber (which it turns out is the easiest way to circumnavigate the city) and headed off to Ladybird Lake. There’s loads of open water spaces in Austin which is a really cool feature of the city. We decided to enjoy the beautiful day and head to lady bird lake where we could have a drink and a chilled afternoon. We spent some time at Hula Hut where we sat outside under grass umbrellas on a platform over the water with a margharita (or two) in the sun. It was lovely!
After we’d had a couple of drinks we sat out by the water’s edge, dunked our toes in and did a bit of sunbathing. After we were fully rested and sunned out we headed back into the city, stopping off first at Mozart’s coffee roasters for some WIFI and a frozen drink – there’s no denying Austin is hot!
We hopped into our next uber cab and headed up towards South Congress to check out the row of cool vintage shops. You literally could spend hours walking around all the funky boutiques here and there certainly are some strange things for sale! When visiting this area of the town you can totally understand why the city’s motto is ‘keep Austin weird’.
After we had shopped ourselves out we stopped off at Hopdoddy for lunch. Miles had been to Hopdoddy on New year’s day a couple of years ago and I can totally see why – proper hangover food! It was probably the best burger I have ever eaten – definitely worth the queue!
After spending the day in the sun we returned to the house and got ready for the evening. A little later Steve and Annie drove and picked us up and we headed off about an hour from the city to Salt Lick – apparently one of the best Texan BBQ joints in the area. Salt Lick is BYOB so we stopped off on the way at a liquor store and stocked up on drinks. When you walk into the restaurant (I’m not sure if the word restaurant is really right – it is literally a big rustic BBQ pit with a huge fire and outdoor area) – the first thing you see is the huge BBQ with slabs of meat cooking and strings of sausages hanging – it’s insane! The smell was delicious – as was the food. We practically had to roll back to the car on the way home…
When we arrived back in Austin, we left the car and headed to the Elephant Room to see some jazz. The Elephant Room is quite well known so we were excited to see the music on offer. We were lucky and managed to find a table for the four of us even though the place was pretty busy. We saw three different bands (although they all seemed to merge together and share members). There was one guy on the saxophone who was obviously quite new to the game so it was very interesting seeing him play. All in all it was great fun!
After the shows at the Elephant Room had finished Annie and Steve decided to call it a night whilst Miles and I decided to keep going and hit 6th Street. 6th Street is probably the most famous street in Austin and is full of rooftop bars, clubs and music venues. It’s got a real party atmosphere and it’s great for a night out. Miles and I ended up having a much more drunken night than we expected and visited a string of bars including The Blind Pig, Dirty Dogs and Bat Bar. We even made friends with some random guy in a bar (the bar with the mechanical bull) and he bought us a round of drinks! We had a great night and walked home with a huge slice of pizza each!
The next morning, nursing a bit of a hangover Miles and I walked to Cenote, a cool bungalow style coffee and breakfast place not far from our house. We both had bagels in the hope that they would keep us going for the rest of the day.
Our plan today was to have a wander through the city and head to see the huge graffitt murals. We knew there was a storm forecast but I’m not sure we really knew how bad it would hit! Miles and I had walked for about 20 minutes into the centre of town when we were completely monsooned by the most torrential rain. We seeked out shelter under the canopy of a local police station and were stuck there for almost an hour! The rain just did not stop! Soon the police men opened the door and let Miles in to use the toilet!
Eventually the rain stopped and we made our way (although fairly damp by this point!) to see the graffiti.
After visiting the graffiti we headed to Barton Springs which is a cool natural swimming pool in the middle of the city. Unfortunately, because of the storm and the increased rain fall the pool was closed. Being a natural pool though, everyone just seemed to move a few feet further down the river and swim there – the current really was strong though.
This was our last day in Austin as we were headed to the airport later in the afternoon to meet Kirsty and family before all heading to Houston. We therefore decided to do a little shopping before heading back up to South Congress Street. There really is so much to see there that we needed a second visit! As I’m sure you can see from my blog posts, it seems all we have done on this trip is eat and eat and eat – the food is also really heavy and I think by this point we were both craving something fresh. We headed up to the top of South Congress and visited the South Congress Café which is apparently abit of an institution. We both ordered salads, bit in true American style they turned up, were huge and covered in cheese. Clearly a salad here can’t even be healthy!
We sat next to the window in the restaurant and I kept exclaiming ‘lightning’ ‘Miles, did you see that lightning’ every three minutes. The sky kept lighting up and there even appeared to be a tornado in the sky at one point – the storm was definitely on its way!
Soon enough the rain came and it was pretty crazy. There was tornado warnings across the whole city and it did seem a bit scary. We called an Uber which collected us from South Congress and took us to the airport (via the house to pick up our bags). We should have checked this before we left for the airport, but because of the storm all incoming flights were severely delayed. Kirsty and Simon’s plane wasn’t allowed to land and apparently just kept circling over-head. They eventually landed – albeit 4 hours late… After we were all reunited (it was so nice to see the kids) we grabbed the hire car and started the drive!
Next stop – Houston, Texas!