Thursday, 20 March 2014

SXSW = South By South Whaaaat? In which Austin's most famous festival fails to impress.

Hipsters Inc as Jon calls them - free love-loving, stylized grunge enthusiasts, more corporate than the corporations. What a strange event.

I've been SO excited about SXSW since a long time before we arrived. I love a good festival as much as the next person and, aside from an unfortunate toenail losing incident a couple of years ago, have singularly loved them. I love unnecessary flower garlands, toe rings, mid morning cider, 5am new best friends, pretending to singalong to bands i've never actually heard of -  and the relaxed inclusive atmosphere. I also love free food and fun tech innovation. SXSW was going to be a shoe in to my affections. I had already decided it was my new favourite thing.

Parts of it were definitely brilliant. During the interactive week every start up going was offering free tequila in exchange for app downloads (my very crowded iPhone screen is a definite testament to this). The #trendingvending #eatyourtweet Oreo 3D printing was an excellent gimmic. Definitely stayed there longer than was appropriate or polite...

The city is beautiful. The streets were full of fun and utterly ridiculous people trying to persuade me that they were the new instagram. Shamelessly cheesy hashtagged cocktails and snacks were freeflowing.  So far so good.

I loved the art installations - especially this #pi in the sky - five planes at 10,000 feet and pi to several hundred decimal places (with numbers 1/4 mile high) looping round in the sky above Austin. 

The music section was pretty terrifying though. Maybe I'm old. Maybe I should actually have bought a badge instead of RSVPing myself to all the free stuff (thanks Maybe the 6 weeks I've been away from the UK has robbed me of my enthusiasm for a good queue? I was pretty underwhelmed. For a festival in a city that prides itself on wierd and inclusive the whole thing was just a little too corporate for me. Boozy day time 21 year olds are always kind of fun/a bit sweet. But the corporate forties midday drunkards with 'comedy specs'? not so much.

The atmosphere in the city undoubtedly made stranger by the horrible accident on Wednesday night, but even so - by 8:30 on Thursday night we were very ready to move ourselves off 6th and on to french food and wine (definitely showing my age..!)

Despite the crowds its a beautiful city - I'm actually looking forward to having it back. And to ACL.Which is now my new - new favourite thing.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A house on a hill

Having stayed in a perfectly functional but very basic and pretty dark apartment when we first arrived house hunting became our first priority. It's a testament to the state of the last place that we managed to find, buy and move in to our new home within 6 weeks of arriving in a new country.

I say move in. We currently have: A bed, a nightstand, two bar stools, a LOT of empty boxes and about 10 extra pounds each from eating Ikea meatballs three times a day. Dreamy. 

Big plans to be settled before parents arrived last Tuesday were down-scaled significantly from 'have living room finished and painted' to the rather more achievable 'get another bed'.

Although we bought very quickly we didn't commit until we'd looked at a LOT of apartments, condos and full blown houses. Ranging from amazing downtown apartments (incredible views, not enough space) to absolutely gigantic houses out in the suburbs (huge but a bit too mock-Mediterranean for us). Having spent so long searching for the right flat in London last year I had to completely re calibrate my expectations to fit round all the new buildings here. But after trawling through the all the others Jon and I both knew that this one was for us as soon as we walked in. A good sized two bedroomed, contemporary wood and metal structure on a hillside 6 miles from downtown. A pretty perfect compromise on space and location.   

It was built 8 years ago and has only been lived in part time by one (apparently very clean!) person - so there's technically nothing which absolutely needs doing. But its our first home together and even Jon is a (little) bit excited about making it perfect for us.

Texas Home Pinterest Board
Before we do anything else/I can start making elaborate pinterest boards a reality - we're getting the textured walls smoothed out (Texans are very in to 'stucco'. good...) - and painting the beige/taupe/light brown walls a brighter creamier white.

Although the inside leaves a little (lot) to be desired still - the novelty of having our own, clean space is amazing, the views are fantastic, and the pool is pretty glorious.

A kitchen (pre stucco removal)
A sunset from a bedroom balcony

Obnoxious hotdog legs - but an excellent pool.

More excellent pool.
More photos to follow once we're a bit less minimally furnished!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dirty Sixth (and filthy 'dogs)

Since we arrived life has been an endless admin blur and our investigation of Austins nightlife has been pretty conservative so, with This Friday being the one month anniversary of our arrival in town, we slung on our best drinking-flip-flops (the Austin equivalent of dancing shoes..) and headed down to dirty sixth. 

East Sixth street is pretty infamous - its the original downtown entertainment district and Saturday nights are gloriously rammed/rowdy. A bit like being back in your student union - only much warmer, with good live music, and with even cheaper drinks. Even if we weren't both champing at the bit to cut lose after a couple of months of uncharacteristic self restraint this was clearly a recipe for disaster. 

We started our evening with the best of intentions - meeting a friend for the best hot dogs going (at Franks on 4th). Having been on a mission to eat all the BBQ in Texas I've neglected hot dog consumption since we arrived. Not a mistake I'll be making again. Huge locally made hot dogs topped with Mac and Cheese (Mine), Coleslaw (Jon's) and chili cheese (mine again..) 

...with side orders of spicy waffle fries and washed down with Austins own Titos vodka (crisp, clean, my new favourite drink - lots of these) and an even-less-delicious-than-it-sounds bacon buttered rum.

Still pretty horrified that the sugary bacon juice cocktail is an  actual thing...

We detoured to 6th via some live music and a smart cocktail in Austins oldest hotel - The Driskill

So far so good. definitely not disastrous at all. But Sixth street has something in the air that brings out the dirty student in everyone.

So 20 minutes later we were buried in the back bar at Cheers with their incredibly persuasive barman Cruise - who made us a Flaming Ferrari...

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And then another one. (apparently the bar next door burned down a couple of years ago because of these. good.)

It all starts to get a bit fuzzy after this but the boys bonded over tequila and bemusedly watch me twist the night away with my new 'merican friends (all of whom I swore undying love too, most of who's names currently escape me...)

Sixth street you have our regressed student souls. We'll be back for them. But maybe not for a while.

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