Monday, 17 February 2014

A 'Capitol' Time - and a much-more-freezing swim.

Making the most of my time not working I've been shamelessly tourist-ing around town. Until my SSN arrives I'm not even allowed to drive so I've been doing the best I can with local buses and a LOT of striding. I imagine the things that I intend to do will fall by the wayside pretty quickly when I start working so I'm cramming them in as much as possible before life gets more complicated. 

This weeks highlights have definitely been The Capitol Building downtown and a re-visit to my favourite spot from my first trip to Austin back in 2012. Hamilton Pool. There is nowhere more beautiful.

Texas Capitol is a pretty impressive beast - my architectural understanding is limited at best - but a quick eavesdrop in to a departing tour group assured me it's 'Italian-Renaissance revival style (only in America..!) - built in the 19th century' - it is, by US standards - jolly old (although I'm not sure it would even be listed back home!). Its tall enough that the views from the top are still glorious despite all the skyscrapers popping up around it.

I thought I'd trot down on a week day morning to 'avoid the crowds' but, departing tour group aside, I had the place entirely to myself. A bit eerie wandering around such a huge an ornate building with absolutely no one in it - but I spent a very happy morning sitting in important chairs, pretending to deliver press conferences in front of enormous Texas Flags and being impressed/baffled by quite how many things are lone-star-labelled (everything).

Texas history is not my strong point but even I know that Samuel Houston and Stephen Austin are the big-dogs of the Republic - their rather lovely statues guard the entrance, and they were much more willing to pose for photos than the gun toting security guards.

Forgetting how car-centric everywhere is - my lunchtime plans to 'pop over' to the wholefoods for lunch involved a three and a half mile march down a main road and an introduction to the complexities of 'Jay-Walking' from a very sternly uniformed State Trooper (who also refused to pose for a photo. I did ask..). - but there's nothing better than walking all over a city to understand how it fits together - I plan to be less reliant on iPhone maps (and ideally walking in to fewer lamp posts) by the time visitors arrive.

As it has warmed up significantly all this storming round town was quite exhausting - so J and I took ourselves off to Hamilton pool for a refreshing afternoon dip. It's a steep half mile climb down from the car park to the pool so we arrived very ready to jump in, having ignored all the signs on the way down warning us that it was about 7 degrees (47F). WAAH. Lulled in to a very false sense of security by the warm air and sunshine we ignored the fact that everyone else was quietly sunbathing on the rocky beach and jumped right in. BANG. Air out of lungs. Applause from some spectating sunbathers, Muttered speculation  that we were on drugs from others. Definitely refreshing. Definitely waiting until its warmed up before I try that again! 

Despite the freezing water the air was warm enough to ramble round snapping away and regaling poor Jon with cave geology facts. Hamilton Pool is utterly beautiful. 

We've also continued our Eat-All-of-Texas campaign and spent valentines day taking on this BBQ at Salt Lick (traditionally romantic? Nope. What I wanted to do on V day? Absolutely) - I'd really like to tell you we won. We didn't...


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Jeepers that's good! (Barton Springs and Rudy's BBQ)

Apologies for dreadful title. We're settling in and, in the absence of any toy-sized available trucks (they're all monstrously gigantic), have purchased ourselves this excellent white jeep to transport ourselves from BBQ joint to BBQ joint. Bucketing along highways in it really not helping quell the constant 'on holiday' feeling! 

Talking of holidays… our Austin exploration has managed to expand beyond the walls of restaurants now that the sun has finally come out to play – I’m working my way through an extensive ‘must do’ list - and we took our jeep to Barton Springs (the 'beating heart' of Austin) - an incredible spring fed natural swimming pool in the middle of town. It’s 20 degrees all year round thanks to the local aquifer so bracing-but-bearable outdoor swimming 365 days a year - pretty amazing in winter to swim outdoors surrounded by bare trees with the city skyline in the background. Austinites in general are a pretty friendly bunch so, even in Feb, you’re surrounded by people who want to chat – I imagine it will be even more so come the searing summer heat.

In order to balance out this burst of activity we've moved our gastronomic focus from Tex-Mex to straight Tex - and Texas BBQ. The best so far? Rudy's which advertises itself as 'the worst Bar-b-q in Texas' and is in fact one of the best things I have ever eaten. Rather uninspiringly buried behind a petrol station it serves up BBQ'd everything in big plastic pallets with homemade baked beans. I'm in love. I'll be taking direct shuttles there from the airport for my next Austin visitor. 

We've also managed to have an offer accepted on a house (hurrah, no more pokey temporary basement apartment living), visit the 'Alamo draft house' to eat burgers and boozy milkshakes while movie watching, I attended a hilarious 'new-in-town' yoga meet (note to relocators: probably don't do this unless you plan to get heavily involved in unicorn tarot, yoghurt weaving or home batik - my inability to say no means that I'm now avoiding all phone calls from unknown numbers in case its Lou-Ann-from-Philadephia-who-knits-outfits-for-her-dog) and  ramble through Zilker park in the sunshine.

Y’all would love it. Book flights now. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Tacos but no tan..

Ever since J and I committed ourselves to the 5000 mile Atlantic migration I have been CROWING gleefully about the sunshine/expected tan/being outdoors all the time. I packed all my cold weather gear into storage/recycling bins and filled my (one) suitcase full of sunscreen and bikinis. I was much like this excellent fellow.

Sadly the weather gods have not been kind and I have spent the most part of the last five days sitting under a blanket in my wolf eared hood (the only warm item of clothing I posses) scowling at the cloudy sky.

On the plus side however the lack of clement weather has been an excellent excuse for carefully investigating the interiors of a lot of Mexican restaurants. What I lack in tan I have definitely more than compensated for in taco consumption. The best of them (an excellent 'space cowboy' from tacodeli) have almost made me forget that I can't feel my feet - and the worst have still been pretty excellent, especially when washed down with excellent margaritas and topped with endless tortilla chips. Here's hoping the sun comes out to play very very soon or all the jokes about elasticated waist bands will stop being funny..


Photos of everything else to follow as soon as the weather brightens up and it doesn't look like I've moved to Saskatchewan. In the mean time, so you know I'm still alive, here is my cold face. Serves me right.

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