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Monday, May 13, 2013

Austin Trip

Warning: this is gonna be a longer post but it's very informative especially if you are thinking about visiting.

As mentioned here, the 2nd weekend in March we travelled to Austin, TX! We had always wanted to visit Austin because we have heard many times that its a fun young city and people who live there just love their city, much like Charlotte. And my very dear friend and college roommate Vickie lives there with her boyfriend Kelly! Here is a recap of our visit - with a mix of photos from my camera and phone.

We picked this weekend because Eric was attending part of South by Southwest a.k.a. SXSW (a huge interactive, film and music conference) for work during the day (the interactive part) which gave me great girl time with Vickie and then every evening the four of us got to hang out. Since there were so many extra people in town for the conference and all the hotel prices were jacked up we stayed about 15 minutes north of downtown in a Drury Inn. It wasn't anything fancy but it was fine and had free internet (which I needed to work remotely from the hotel on Friday and Monday), a mini fridge, microwave and free breakfast.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and took a taxi to the hotel and then made a quick trip to the nearby Walmart to grab a few items like snacks and stuff for dinner that night. We knew we would be eating out a ton so that first night we got some healthy choice dinners that we could microwave and they weren't half bad.

On Friday, Eric was off to his first day of SXSW stuff (there was a shuttle that stopped at many hotels and took the participants to the convention center downtown) and I worked from the hotel room. Vickie picked me up after she got out of work and we headed to her and Kelly's apt downtown. We all walked about 10 minutes and met Eric at our dinner spot, Easy Tiger.

It's a bakery and beer garden. We had a delicious homemade sampler appetizer of pretzels, beer cheese, chex mix and beef jerky. In the photo the beef jerky looks a little like fruit roll up but it was all delicious. They also had yummy and large sandwiches. Eric and I split the turkey and avocado.

After that we headed out to do a little bar hopping in the Rainey St. district. We went to Lustre Pearl, Icenhauers and Texas Craft Pride. Icenhauers has a drink called "Emily" which is apparently awesome but it has strawberries in it so that was a no-no for me. Luckily they had fantastic Sangria served in a giant mason jar!

Aren't these two cute?

Vickie is a planner like me (she plans our Clemson roommate reunion every year) so she had our whole weekend planned out with Austin's must-see places and eateries. I didn't even have to do any trip research!

On Saturday Vickie picked me up at the hotel (Eric was at SXSW). The weather was nasty out... drizzly and gloomy and it was that way ALL day unfortunately despite the fact that it doesn't rain often there. We prevailed and went to Zilker park and walked along a little trail and saw the lake. We did a little more sightseeing by car.

This one bridge in Austin is know for.... wait for it.... bats! I know right? So even though it was too early in the year for them (they migrate to Mexico in the winter and don't come back until like May) Vickie took me by the bridge area and we got to read about them on these information boards nearby. They like to hang in the area with the vertical concrete separations.

We had lunch at this delicious Tex Mex place, Takoba . The quesadilla was fabulous as were the chips. And they had really cheap mimosas, not that I feel a mimosa should ever be pricey... its just OJ and Champagne.

After lunch we were supposed to go to practice for a SXSW flash mob that Vickie signed us up for that afternoon (she had done one for a previous SXSW) but on the way to practice we got an email saying the flash mob was cancelled. BOO. I was so pumped about it and it's on my bucket list but I guess it'll have to wait. So then naturally we needed some retail therapy. Actually my only request for Vickie was time for cowboy boot shopping.

We first went to a store at the South Congress area. We didn't find what we were looking for there (they had a lot of  more expensive boots) but we did go across the street to Hey Cupcake, a well-known cupcake "food truck".

We got the mini sampler which was perfect for us to be able to sample different flavors and easier to eat. I love mini cupcakes because usually they have a normal amount of icing... I'm not a fan of anything loaded with icing although I know for many people icing is their favorite part. I know this might sound crazy to all you chocolate lovers but I loved the Carrot Cake one the most! Don't hate me. And we thought the others were yummy too.

Gotta love their quote.

So then we went to this other bigger boot store with more affordable options. I'm not about to shell out hundreds of dollars on shoes I'm not going to wear all the time... gotta think about that price per wear! But I also wanted ones that would last a long time and fit my annoyingly narrow feet. Vickie was great at advising me on what type of boot sole was good for dancing vs. heavy walking/riding and that they aren't supposed to feel as snug as other shoes.

I found a winner in an Abilene brown pair that had a nice soft leather. Abilene was one of the brands the store recommended for narrow feet. I am normally a 6.5 but I took a 6 in these and noticed in all the boots I tried on that I needed to size down. I love them! I've already worn them some and they need just a little breaking in.

After that we went back to Vickie's place to relax a bit. Kelly had already headed downtown and and met up with Eric and a few of their friends. We decided to do a CarToGo to get downtown since where we were going for dinner was a little further but it probably would have been faster to walk with how hard it was to find a place to leave the CarToGo. We finally made it over to this food truck area where we were doing dinner. There was a variety of food for everyone to choose from. Eric and I decided to eat at East Side King, the food truck run by Paul Qui, Top Chef Season 9 Winner. We even saw him in the truck.

I don't know how to describe the food... Asian fusion maybe with other specials thrown in (like pork sliders). I had this veggie noodle dish and Eric had something similar with fried chicken in his. It took awhile to get the food but it was really good especially for not really knowing what we were ordering. The names on the board were not descriptive.

After eating we wandered around the city a bit and walked through the convention center mainly to get out of the wind and drizzle. We decided to go to this .... party outside under white tents. You had to download their app to get in and they gave everyone 2 drink tickets for beer. I am not typically a beer drinker but it was amusing watching people scramble to pick up the dropped or purposely discarded in my case drink tickets on the ground.

Next we went to a country bar with a live band. This looked just like what you would expect a Texas band to look like and they were great although we wished they had played longer. Their wives helped them pack up their gear afterwards - it was really cute. After they finished, a DJ played hip hop and pop music.

After a quite difficult time hailing a cab to go to our hotel we missed a torrential downpour by a matter of minutes. Phew!

After a late night on Saturday, we started off Sunday a little later. Not to mention this was the first day of "spring forward" where we lost an hour but at least that meant later sunset.

Vickie picked me up and we went to Tacodeli near Zilker Park. They have many different tacos to choose from and you order "by the taco" kinda like by the slice pizza. We devoured cheese dip and tacos while sitting outside in the sunshine! Finally some Texas sunshine!

You can walk to this greenbelt trail just yards away from Tacodeli (all part of the Zilker Park area).

Then we went close to downtown to take some skyline pictures. We did get a Car2Go for our sightseeing the rest of the afternoon and it was a great choice since we easily found parking for it.

Of course now we were ready for some ice cream so we popped over to Amy's on South Congress to have some of their famous ice cream.

On the way to our next destination we were driving through the downtown area and saw people just riding horses down the street so I snapped this quickly with my phone. Only in Texas!

Up next was a trip over to the Texas State Capitol building. We did the highlights. Tour guide Vickie had done the tour a few times with visitors so she knew all the basic facts and they don't do official tours on Sunday's anyway.

Yes these are gold door hinges!

Then we drove through the UT campus.

Of course we had to make a stop in front on the Alpha Chi house.

Next we picked up Kelly and Eric who was finished for the day and headed to Mt. Bonnell. This is Vickie's favorite spot to watch the sunset. With the time change we were there before sunset but still got some great pics.

Hubby is sporting the company shirt there. Good thing they spelled out Skookum Digital Works since the response from anyone when you say Skookum is "what?".

At this point we were getting hangry so we headed to dinner nearby. The plan was to go to Hula Hut but the wait was going to be over an hour so we went next door to Abel's On the Lake. The food was pretty good and there wasn't a wait. We were able to sit out near the water, Lake Austin, but it was still shielded some from the cool evening air.

We had quite an eventful sightseeing day so after dinner we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. Monday I worked from the hotel while Eric was at his last conference day of SXSW and then Tuesday morning we flew back to Charlotte. We had such a great time in Austin and we cannot wait to visit again (especially since Eric didn't get to see as many sights this time)... I can definitely see why Austinites love their city! Thank you tour guide Vickie!

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