So...I've had this little crush on Austin, TX, for quite a while. Jacob decided to take me down so we could meet in person and decide if it is just infatuation or if this could be a long-term relationship (he he).
Actually, that is partly true - but mostly, we wanted to escape the gray, drizzly skies and soak in some sunshine. (I have to note that if it was purely vacation - the kids would've been with us. But since we had a lot of varied activities on the agenda, my mom stayed with them the 4 nights we were away - I could've written a whole post about how hard it was to leave them, leaving our will on the countertop, etc. etc., but I'll spare you and just rejoice that we all survived! In fact, we all had a great time - thanks, Grammie!)
Did you know that Austin in late winter/early Spring is like Seattle's summer? Yep. It was about 70 our whole visit - and 78 the day we left. Hello, Sunshine!
We arrived on a Friday night, picked up our rental car, and headed straight towards downtown to meet up with Jacob's college friend and fellow designer - it actually ended up being a triple date with some super cool people who left a great first impression of what wonderful people live in Austin. We met for dinner at a - can you guess? - Tex-Mex place (mmm fish tacos!), and then we walked over to ARTCRANK, a poster show, in which Jacob's friend had a poster up - good stuff - you can check out a slideshow of some of the artist's work here. I kept thinking, mingling with the crowd - 'Austin is just as swanky as Seattle - only I think the hipsters are even better dressed' :)
Saturday, we kept to ourselves to just relax and explore the city. I'm not going to lie - we were surprised how much smaller a city it is than Seattle. Probably at least 1/3 the size. A MUCH slower pace (which isn't a bad thing). I mean - there is free parking next to some great shopping, and if there is a meter it's only $1/hour - incredible!
I wasn't great at bringing the camera along, but I did take a few pics to document our little trip. We started out by taking note how strange it was to be without our children. We noted that often on our trip - it was like we were missing apendeges of our body or something. A very odd/unnatural feeling to be away from our little ones. But, we were already away - so we tried our best to enjoy it because it won't be happening again.
Getting back to our day -
We "hiked" up Mt. Bonnell (it is more of a bump than any sort of "mountain" but it surely had a nice view) in the morning and truly basked in the sunshine and warmth - no jackets needed.
We ate lunch at the Whole Foods Flagship Store (did you know it's based in Austin? Yep)
We browsed Anthropologie (Jacob found a book he liked and I made him buy it - he never buys anything for himself) and spent a leisurely hour in Book People picking out a book for each of our kids to bring home to them.
Then, we walked across the river and took a wonderful stroll along Ladybird Lake - or Town Lake to the locals. It is similar to Greenlake, which is by our home, only the path is more than double the length. Oh yeah, the photo of Jacob with the Statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn - that's for Kimball Carter (Jacob's Dad). We couldn't get over how warm it was!
After our walk by the lake, we headed over to "SoCo" or South Congress Avenue (which was a bit touristy) and enjoyed some yummy goodness from Amy's Ice-cream. The people of Austin are awesome about supporting local businesses, it was evident, and while I still love some of the chain stores they had there (Anthropologie, West Elm, Title Nine, REI, etc.) I really enjoyed the spirit of Austin (some might call it "Keep Austin Weird" - I think of it more as "Keep Austin Awesome".)
In my mind I had envisioned Austin to be flat, dry and like a big desert - like Arizona. Well, it was definitely flat, and more dry than Seattle (we're talking in the humidity factor here) but it wasn't at all as desert-ish as I had envisioned. I was pleasantly surprised by all the trees, green, and a bit of water. True, I'm sure, that at the end of their scorching summer things aren't so green - but coming from The Emerald City, I was really excited to see so much more life than I had expected. Pleasantly surprised, you might say :)
After exploring a bit of SoCo (kind of bummed we're a few weeks too early to see the BATS, but maybe another time?) we headed up to the State Capitol Building to look around. The architecture was gorgeous - and did you know that it is the tallest capitol building in the entire United States (yep, even beats DC)? Well, what can you expect? It's TEXAS! And "everything is bigger in Texas" so the saying goes.
We were shocked at how much ground we had covered and realized that when you don't have to stop for naptime, you can sure do a lot more! I generally do stop and take a nap when our kids are napping (very blessed they both still nap!) so I was starting to get a bit tuckered out by this time. So, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up and then went to one of the best dinner's I've ever enjoyed...we called ahead an knew there was going to be about an hour's wait until we could get "in" - but really, it was an open-air restaurant with only a few seats "inside" - and while it was nice and warm during the day, it was somewhere in the 60s that evening. I wondered if we'd freeze - but then, if people are willing to wait an hour in chilly temps, we figured it must be worth the wait! And it WAS! They took our names and then sent us to a really nice outdoor fire, with benches and blankets you could use if you were feeling too chilly. Friendly, beautiful, people gathered around the fire for conversation as they waited. We waited and the time went by quickly as we conversed, uninterrupted, and enjoyed the ambiance. And then, of course, the food was to DIE for! So, if you ever find yourself in Austin, definitely check out Contigo. I am still thinking about our food that night (Thanks, Jessie, for the recommendation)! It was an awesome date night and, once again, we were impressed that such a nice dinner out cost half as much as it would in Seattle. (Sad that we kept comparing, eh? But who can help it! I won't even tell you about the difference in real estate prices! Shocking!)
Sunday, we met up with Jacob's aunt, Martha, and her husband and son, who live in nearby San Marcos. We had a nice lunch and visit and then headed to church. There, we met up with some Seattle friends who had moved to Austin (we were in a book club together a few years back) and they very cordially fed us dinner their two cute kids entertained us (and also made us miss our own!) As we were leaving, their 3 year old little girl said "are your kids all in your belly?" I had to laugh. I told her one of them was and the other two are at home - but next time I'll bring them over to play.
After visiting with those friends, we had one more stop to make - another little visit with Jacob's friend from design school and his family (the ones we went to dinner and the art show with on Friday). We visited and they served us dessert (weren't we fortunate? Dinner AND Dessert with friends on Sunday so we didn't have to eat out). We had a good visit and returned again, exhausted, to our hotel.
This is silly but I do have to say: at the continental breakfast in our hotel, they had a belgium waffle machine, and it was shaped like the state of Texas. Only in Texas! Of course we ate some :)
Monday was our last full day in Austin. It was cloudy that day, and a bit cooler (though a jean jacket and flip flops were still perfect!) We took it slow in the morning and then met up with my old roommate and her adorable 1-year-old son for lunch. It was a good feeling knowing that we were so far from home, yet still we had a handful of good friends. We had a nice visit and lunch and then spent most of the afternoon just chillin' in the bookstore some more. I actually wasn't feeling very well. (Pregnancy even at 25 weeks still doesn't agree with me very well). I think all of our running around had kind of caught up to me. AND remember I usually nap when my kids nap and I hadn't done that the entire trip. So...we went back to the hotel and I took a nap. I was bummed because we had fun plans for the evening and I was afraid my pregnancy-related sickness was going to ruin them. Thankfully, though, a 2-hour-nap later, I woke up around 8pm feeling quite a lot better. Even though we were running a tad bit late, we decided to stick to our plan: Texas BBQ and Live Music.
I mean, you HAVE to have a bit of briskett if you're in Texas, and when you're in the "Live Music Capitol of the World" you just have to see a show, right?
So, we went to the infamous Stubbs and ate and then saw a show (Katie Herzig - I really really enjoyed her and her band! (Check out what fun she is here.) I was of course the only preggo lady there, but no one seemed to care! I certainly didn't! In fact, little Hazel Grace (yes, we finally decided on her middle name on the airplane ride to Austin!) was movin' and groovin' along with the beats she heard inside my belly. We used to go to see lots of shows before having kids, so it was a treat to be able to do so in Austin).
Tuesday was our last day in Austin. We drove a bit north to taste the World Famous Round Rock Donuts and they did not disappoint! It was also raining lightly in the morning, and since we had already checked out of our hotel, I lured Jacob into doing a bit of shopping. It is a LOT easier to shop for clothes sans kids, that is for sure!
Once the temps started rising and it was dry again, we headed back towards downtown and spent the rest of our time at Barton Creek and Zilker Park. It was 78 degrees by now and I waded into the water and it felt like summer. It was a delicious treat at the end of February! We walked a bit around the park and saw the natural swimming pool and then decided to ride the little train around the park. It's kind of for kids, but we were missing ours and we thought they'd love to hear about it, so we went. We sat behind a group of moms who had met up for a "train playdate". We couldn't help but tell them about our two at home, and how much they would love this little train. We had one of the moms take the only picture of the two of us together on the trip - in the little train, of course ;) Not everyone in Austin had a twangy accent - but you could tell who some of the Texas natives were - and it was kind of endearing.
By the end of our trip - we were certainly ready to come home and see our children - the shuttle express couldn't get us home fast enough! (Only wish we could've brought the weather back with us!) I felt like my belly had grown bigger just by being in Texas :) Flying was weird (I had never flown while pregnant before) but something to do with the equilibrium being off, I think, made me want to get really sick during taxi and landing. Luckily, I held all my cookies together, but that part of traveling wasn't very fun.
Overall, we had a great time exploring a new city. We soaked up the sun and gathered a lot of information and I think it's safe to say that my crush on Austin is still in tact. We might just have to go back again someday. Until then, I will just have to have our friends send us sunny thoughts :)
A huge THANK YOU to all of our friends who were so very lovely and hospitable in showing us your city. You are all wonderful and we hope to see you again sometime!
Now that we're home...come on, Seattle, show us some Spring!