Austin, even. It was lovely, but of course it was lovely. It was green, which I didn't expect. Where was the red dusty desert? And the tumbleweed? Not in Austin, apparently. It was brilliant, the tex mex was to die for, and I got to try all the fun American food for the first time (Cheerios. Buffalo Wings. Tacos. Goldfish. Chicken and Waffles. String Cheese.). Also, Austin was fucking amazing for their outdoor bars - Rainey St? So much fun! I hear east 6th is pretty nice. West 6th (where I went for First Thursday) was ridiculous, but novel all the same. And the people were lovely. Seriously, boys everywhere else could take a lesson or two - the manners of a Texan man in everyday life (rather than just on the pull) is like nothing I've ever seen. Boys would hold open doors for me, allow me to pass through doorways first. There were boys that flagged down cabs on my behalf, pulled back chairs and there was even one who tipped his hat in a very ohlala manner. Old was all very old school gentlemanly, and it was delightful. And it happened everywhere. All the time. Swoon!
There were adventures too, oh the adventures.
Austin has this amazing outdoors culture. Because they have lakes and things (remembering of course that I was there when the whether wasn't too hot. It was a balmy 35 most days! Lush. Loved it) there was loads to do. We went stand up paddle boarding, which was fun. We paddled up a river a good long way to a pier side bar. Where we had a beer to celebrate (drinking on the water - super sweet). There were also shit loads of turtles out that way. So fun!
I went on a Segway tour (it was one of things... I made friends with some randoms in a bar down the road from my hotel (The Belmont - highly recommend a visit, it's quiet but the bartenders are pretty cool), and he was awesome, and invited me on one of his tours (shout out to Segway Nation - it was ace!). It as a ghost story one, and woah buddy, Austin has a past! The ones I remember is the little girl in the Driskell (apparently even Bill Clinton heard her one time) who died playing on the stairs. As well as old Driskell himself. There was the two girls who got stuck in the service elevator at The Speakeasy in the Warehouse Distrct (woah buddy), talk of a wife done wrong by her senator husband (as in, he was having an affair in his capitol hill apartment), who terrorised a girl years later who looked like the senators mistress. There was the Servant Girl Annihilator (apparently the reason they put up the moon towers, which was successful in dissuading him apparently. Also, I then got the party in the moon tower reference from Dazed and Confused).
It was just lovely to see Austin this way. We went across the river to 'Segway Heaven' which was a lot of fun. Ridiculous amounts, actually. Quite fun. I definitely recommend it, I mean you feel like a bit of an idiot at first, but after a while? You get over it and start trusting it. Its well good.
I drove on the wrong side of the road (ironically, that's the 'right' side) which felt weird. In England + NZ we drive on the left. So learning to drive on the wrong side was a bit nervewracking those first few days. By the third or fourth day I was fine. I had no problem driving about, and was probably a bit cocky about it. The rental company gave me a 2012 mini cooper, so that was fun. The only real niggle was that I really had to concentrate on which way I was turning at intersections. That and almost everytime I went to go indicate I'd turn on the windscreen wipers. Fail.
Still, having a car in which to drive around was a real treat. Texas has a driving culture similar to NZ (which is where you drive everywhere) as opposed to London, which is where you don't drive ever. One of the nice things about this was that it meant I could go as I pleased, and so almost ever day I was down at Barton Springs.
Barton Springs is a pool. Kind of. It's where a bunch of fresh water comes out of the ground, and they've kind of half dammed the flow, and put pool sides either side of the spring. So it works out to be half river, half pool. Which was novel, because it was super fresh water, but also had greenery growing on the rock bed. Still, it was all kinds of delightful - everyone said it was super cold, but you know what? It was warming than swimming in the oceans in New Zealand. A little brisk when you got in, but you warmed up quick smart.
I was also lucky enough to make a few work friends, and one of them took me on a critical mass bike ride through Austin. Except, it was all ladies, and there was a fair few of us (100+ easy) riding through the streets of Austin. It was so fun! Riding around cars, getting lost, following the tinkling of bike bells as you went. Loved it. There was also a big party at the end, so that was fun.
Litsa (one of my amazing work colleagues who took me on the Betty Bike Ride) and I hung out a bit. She took me to Trudy's where we definitely enjoyed their AMAZING Mexican Margaritas. LOVED them. Super tasty. And I discovered Queso there. It's basically melted cheese goodness that you scoop up with corn chips. I couldn't stop eating it, it was ridiculous.
Anyway, Litsa has this insane green wild patch (kind of like a park reserve, but a but smaller) next to her house. So we jumped the fence and wandered into what was basically super overgrown bush. It was fun, though. Because when we finally clawed our way into the clearing, there was a stage! A stage that had been built using junk, and was clearly all acoustic. It was gorgeous.
There was also a massive tree that they'd hung a ladder from and put planks and things up. So I climbed it, and woah buddy. I'm all about adventuring, but I probably should have thought about the safety aspects (and lack of them) before I climbed up. It was novel to get up there, but it wasn't well thought out. There wasn't really anywhere easy to go, so I climbed back down a different way. Still, well novel. Super enjoyed the adventure.
We also hit up a Norman Geddes exhibition. Good old Norman was an American theatrical and industrial designer. The exhibition revolved a bit about his vision of how the future should be designed (and we're talking with a perspective of the early 1900's here). It was pretty fun, actually. I enjoyed the body work they showed, most of it was fairly interesting. He was quite a designer.
They also had one of the Gutenberg Bible's on display which was pretty baller. Gutenberg created a printing press with moveable type (clever man!) in the 1450s. The Bible was one of the first books printed with this press, and there are only 40ish copies that have survived, and most of them are incomplete. It was pretty amazing to see, actually. I was stoked!
While I was there, there was a game on. A college football game, and woah buddy. I was unprepared for the amount of enthusiasm and community participation. Pretty much overnight the population turned burnt orange. Which is to say, if you went out in public? Most people were wearing Longhorn colours. It was insane.
And oh, the tailgates. It's basically where people park up their ute in a carpark, open the bed of the truck and cook meat on a bbq (not a grill, some kind of smoker thing) and drink beer, and play games. It was actually insane, and they were everywhere. Lots of meat. Lots of drinking. Lots of people wearing orange. I had my first buffalo wing at one of them (it was tasty!) and I had my first Coors too (much less tasty). I didn't catch the game, but I'm a bit glad. What games I have seen are slow, and I can't help but compare rugby to football and which is better (much to the chargin of the very american company I was keeping at the time).
On the last night of my trip, we visited ACL - one of Austins main music festivals. Fitting as the music capital of the USA, right? Loved it. I was so so lucky to get a Friday night ticket. I saw Weezer, the Black Keys, Florence and the Machine (who were phenomenal), Avicii (who was also a lot of fun) and just lots of randoms. There were billions of people - it was amazing! A great night out to dance and listen to some well decent tunes.
I was sad to leave, in the end. Oh Austin, you were fun. I'll find a reason to come back at some point.