So, I’m going to do this thing called Blogging from A-Z for April. It will involve lots of posts, some longer than others, and it will hopefully provide a look into what makes me tick.
To begin with, A is for Austin. That’s not me; that’s Austin, Texas. My favourite place to go in the United States.
I first visited Austin in 1999. I arrived on the Greyhound from Houston and had to make my way across town to the Youth Hostel. I was immediately struck by how friendly the people were there. The bus driver asked me where I was going and pretty much figured out the route for me. He was running through various combinations of buses I could take and then finally said, “Oh hell, just get on son, I’ll get you where you need to go.” A few miles down the road, he pulled up next to another bus and shouted something at the driver before sending me over to him. Eventually, I found myself at the Hostelling International place on S Lakeshore.
That kind of hospitality can be found all over Austin and has been consistent throughout my four visits there. I knew nothing about the place when I first picked it out as a stop. I literally thought that I would check it out because it had the same name as I did. I never expected to be so blown away by the place. It’s getting more and more popular these days so I think the small city charm that I remember of it may be all but gone now. I do hope, however, that this has been maintained by the Keep Austin Weird campaign (stolen from Portland, Oregon – another great little city). The purpose of this is to support small, independent businesses against large chains. Unfortunately, I have to say that a great bookshop from my first three visits was gone in 2009 when I made my last visit.
Having visited four times: in 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2009, I am ashamed to admit I have never been in one of the premier attractions of the place. That’s right; I’ve never had a swim in Barton Springs. It’s meant to be great, though. Cool water even in the fiercely hot summers. I did go for a walk around the trails there. It’s nice to get some feel of countryside so close to the city. I’ve also never been there for SXSW, one of the biggest music and film festivals going. I’ve always been there in the full heat of July or August.
One way to escape the heat is by visiting the Paramount theatre on Congress Ave. They have a summer film series there showing classic films in the middle of the day and in the evenings. I’ve sat in there several times watching such classics as Ben-Hur, Willy Wonka and a 50’s double bill of Them! and The Thing from Outer Space.
You can also go on a tour of the State Capitol building, which explains the history of the place (much better than the Colorado State Capitol tour in Denver – that was very dull indeed)
You can also wander around the grounds of the University of Texas. The first time I went, I pretended to be an International student interested in a course and got the full tour of the place. It’s huge! The facilities there are amazing. There’s also the big tower that you can go up and get spectacular views of the city.
The best thing about Austin is undoubtedly the music. You can walk down 6th Street of an evening and see so many live bands. Every night there’s something different. It goes far beyond 6th Street, too. It’s everywhere. I saw so many great acts there, like Erin Jaimes, Princess and the ATX boys, Eric Tessmer, the Hot Club of Cowtown (in the wonderful local music store, Waterloo Records) and Jonathan Tyler. It was in the Shakespeare Pub on 6th that I first heard my favourites, the Dave Matthews Band, albeit just on the radio
Having said that, what I take away from every experience in Austin is the people. Each visit brought me into some great company. Maybe I’ll get back there again sometime. I hope to.
Well, that’s A. See you next time for B.
Thanks for reading,