Photo Tour: Austin
Happy Friday! I hope everyone has an adventure or two planned this weekend whether near or far from home. My last post from my spring Austin trip is simply of a handful of my favorite pictures I took while roaming around town. Big thanks to Leah and Ryan for being incredible hosts. Can't wait to come back!
Today I'm going to share a little adventure I had in Austin involving footwear. Cowboy boots to be specific. I recently watched the TV series Friday Night Lights and became an immediate fan of the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas and all the beautiful people that lived there. The characters often wore cowboy boots, so I decided to try them on since they looked so good on Lyla Garrity and Tammy Taylor (and let's not forget Tim Riggins)! My friend, Leah, took me the mecca of cowboy boots in Austin - Allen's Boots. This place is crammed with endless aisles of boots and if I couldn't find a pair I liked here, I doubt I could find a pair anywhere else.
I learned a few things about cowboy boots:
1) They are difficult to get on. But once they are on, they are pretty comfortable.
2) If you are like me and have large feet in relation to your height, cowboy boots will not help your cause. I felt more like a kangaroo than a cowgirl and, I swear, I could have skied in these bad boys:
3) They come in all sorts of wild colors and designs. Bedazzled boots, y'all?
4) They are wicked expensive. The picture below is a little blurry but these boots costs $1,899.99. I chuckled at how they rounded down the price by a penny, like one cent helps the consumer rationalize the price. For this price I could buy at least FOUR roundtrip tickets to Austin!
It turns out that cowboy boots are not for me. I must have tried on 20 pairs and I just couldn't rationalize the high price for boots I'd wear occasionally in Boston. Plus, a size 10 cowboy boot is HUGE and would eat up way too much space in my carry-on!
During my visit to Austin, my friend Leah recommended we check out the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum. While presidential libraries are typically not on the top of my trip list, I figured this one should be interesting because LBJ was president during one of the more pivotal eras in US history. LBJ passed a ton of legislation including the monumental Civil Rights Act. Leah was right, the museum did not disappoint!
The first floor featured a fantastic exhibit about the 1960s - including music, bios of influential people, advertisements, scientific breakthroughs and pop culture references. It was impressive to see how much progress our country made during this decade. There was also the added bonus of classic rock and Motown tunes piping through the entire exhibit. I think Baby Boomers in particular, would enjoy this nice little stroll down memory lane.
(Above) One hall of the 1960's exhibit featuring Hugh Hefner's pajamas. (Below) First issues of Rolling Stone magazine:
Side note for Game of Thrones fans: Doesn't Theon Greyjoy look EXACTLY like a young Mick Jagger?
Several exhibits were dedicated to the legislation LBJ passed (Civil Rights, Medicare, PBS to name a few). Of course, there was an entire section dedicated to the Vietnam war. The exhibit that most impressed Leah and me was an interactive situation room that put you in LBJ's shoes and asked you to make decisions about the Vietnam war based on actual reports from various advisors at the time. For example, you'd read three memos and listen to an actual phone call from a general and then the interactive desk would ask you if you should send more troops to Vietnam. In the picture below, Leah is contemplating her next move.
The phone rang and the general's report was not good...more casualties.
The top floor focused on his personal life, which was something I knew little about. For one, he was a bonafide close-talker. I suspect he didn't carry Tic-Tacs because the fine print said that he used close-talking as a method of intimidation. Perhaps this is the key to getting so many bills passed?
I also read that he loved to give gifts and his favorite gift to bestow upon friends was an electric toothbrush. He once said "I give these toothbrushes to friends, for then I know that from now until the end of their days they will think of me the first thing in the morning and the last at night." My guess is that a staff writer wrote that line to cover up the real reason why he gifted electric toothbrushes - he wanted to ensure his friends had minty fresh breath to make his close-talking conversations more bearable.
There were a few recordings of conversations between LBJ and his wife Lady Bird. I'm still a bit shocked that we had a FLOTUS named Lady Bird. Her real name was Claudia, but when she was young her nurse said she was as pretty as a lady bird and the nickname stuck. Her family called her "Lady" and her husband called her "Bird". She must have been quite the lady because LBJ proposed to her two days after they first met! She was an acute business person having invested her inheritance in local radio and TV stations in the 40s and 50s that eventually made the Johnsons millionaires. In fact, she was the first president's wife to become a millionaire in her own right. Here is Leah listening to Lady Bird giving LBJ a pep talk.
Also worth mentioning for the design aficionados - Lady Bird kept a stylish office with pops of orange and gold:
The top floor also featured footage from LBJ's daughter's wedding at the White House, which was fun to watch.
There is so much to see that one could spend several hours in the museum. After a couple hours, our stomachs began growling so we bid farewell to LBJ, Lady Bird and the 60's, pulled up directions to the nearest taco joint on our smartphones, and Googled our remaining questions, thankful for the modern conveniences that have been developed over the last 50 years.
Food Adventures in Austin, Texas
Q: How many tacos can I eat out of a truck in a weekend? A: Not enough!
I recently spent a long weekend in Austin, the live music capital of the world and home of everything eclectic. One of my best friends, Leah, lives there with her husband Ryan and dog Sasha. Leah & Ryan have a good pulse on the city's food scene so we sampled food trucks, counters, cafes, restaurants and a home-cooked meal at Chez Blanc. We were thrilled to be reunited with these two:
Like the city itself, Austin's food scene is fantastically weird. Austin eateries are abundant and seem to materialize wherever people can conveniently graze. Gourmet restaurant in the middle of a suburban street? Check. Wine store on the side of the highway that serves delicious Indian food and unique craft beer? Check. Taco truck nestled in the parking lot of a strip mall? Everywhere. Anything goes in this city.
We happily followed Leah & Ryan on a tasty tour around town, frequenting the hipster-esque scene in East Austin. Here is a list of the places we sampled:
Tacos, Tamales, and Everything Mexican
El Primo Taco Stand: I particularly fancied the breakfast tacos at El Primo food truck. After tacos, stop at neighboring Once Over Coffee and enjoy a cappuccino on their peaceful deck out back.
[El Primo Taco Stand & Once Over Coffee Shop]
La Condesa: This modern Mexican restaurant is located downtown and has a great happy hour, complete with margaritas and a wide selection of tequila. I really enjoyed their guacamole sampler and mexican style street corn. [La Condesa]
Tamale House East: This inexpensive Mexican restaurant in East Austin has a casual, welcoming courtyard. The mini doxie earned it bonus points! [Tamale House East]
Taco Deli & Changos: Try either for lunch. They are a little more chain-like in appearance than the places mentioned above but the food is delicious. [Taco Deli & Changos]
Whip In - As mentioned above, this is the wine store with great Indian food and craft beer located on the side of a highway. Oh yeah, they have live music too, but I suppose that's not surprising being in Austin. [Whip In]
Justine's: A lovely french restaurant with more outdoor space than indoor. We ate classic French fare outdoors with a few of Leah & Ryan's friends and followed dinner with a bocce match in the side yard. This restaurant would be a great spot for a date or a private party because the atmosphere is very romantic, in a shabby chic kind of way. They even have a tintype photo booth set up in a backyard shed. I'm pretty sure they used tintype on their website which is cool in theory, but in reality, the website might induce a seizure. [Justine's Brasserie]
(Above) We wandered inside a random shed behind Justine's and encountered this spectacle of lights and mirrors. (Below) Deciding who won the post-dinner game of bocce ball.
East Side Show Room: Grab a craft cocktail or two at this little bohemian bar before dinner in East Austin. They are family-owned and boast walls covered in local art. Thy too have live music. Worth a visit! [East Side Show Room]
Chez Blanc - One night, Leah and Ryan cooked for us at their home which turned out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip. They made scallops wrapped in prosciutto paired with a Sancerre and Pinot Noir from Oregon. The Pinot Noir was a perfect pairing for the scallops! We also sampled a Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which is now on my list of favorite white wines.
Pickles + Beer + Wes Anderson = Perfect Rainy Day
Sunday afternoon brought a rainstorm which somewhat hindered our activities since everything is outdoors. Austin is home to the original Alamo Draft House which is the perfect destination for a rainy afternoon. Alamo theaters serve food and drinks throughout the movie and they have the BEST fried pickle spears. I discovered their fried pickles years ago, when I first visited, and have yet to find a place elsewhere in the world that can compare. We rode out the rainstorm eating fried pickle spears and drinking beer while watching the new Wes Anderson movie, Grand Budapest Hotel.
Sold Out: What We Missed
We missed a few gems, mainly because they were all closed by the time we arrived. Apparently, this is a common scenario in Austin because we passed by many a food truck/trailer with a "Sold Out" sign on the window. Supply & demand forecasting doesn't apply here. Nothing goes to waste, and the scarcity makes the food more desirable. Kind of brilliant! Here were the places we missed:
Vera Cruz All Natural: Leah swears this is her favorite taco truck. It must be good because it was already sold out when we arrived there for brunch! [Vera Cruz All Natural]
Franklin's: Featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, people wait in line 4-5 hours to just order BBQ here. Our friends tried it recently and arrived at 7:30am to wait in line. Doors opened at 11am and they finally ordered at 12:30. The place sold out shortly thereafter. I guess people enjoy going for the experience, arriving in big groups with lawn chairs to wait in line. It sounds a lot like a football tailgate, but with better food. [Franklin BBQ]
La Barbecue: This place must be amazing because it was completely sold out by lunchtime.[La Barbecue]
There are giant meat smokers in the screened trailer above. It was too bad they were sold by the time we arrived.
Needless to say, we left Austin with full bellies. However we did a lot more during our visit which I will recount in the next couple of blog posts. Stay tuned, y'all!
Eva has been traveling for 15+ years, including an 8 month journey around the world.