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Greetings from Austin, y’all!

Greetings from Austin, y’all!

Yesterday kicked off a summer of quite-a-lot traveling.  Vacation was vitally, terribly most needed. And here I am, in Texas, having a grand old time! (Don’t try to burgle our house. We have a housesitter).  Mr. Beez and I are spending this trip as a “grown up” vacation, Baby Beez is staying with her grandparents.  This is perfect for relaxation for me.  I absolutely love having adventures with my kid, but when I’m on vacation, what truly relaxes me is being able to wake up in the morning and have a few things in mind that I want to do, but not being wedded to any itinerary.  That’s how yesterday and today have been going.  We do one activity, and then say, “how about this?” and go off to that.  It’s lovely.  Tomorrow I will be going to BlogHer Food, so the next 2 days will be scheduled tightly, so it’s extra nice to be able to spend the first half of our trip winging it.

I had two priorities with this trip: FOOD and LIVE MUSIC.  I’ve been here a little more than 24 hours, and both have been handily accomplished.  The things I’ve noticed so far about Austin are: (1) The food is consistently good. Austinites take pride in high quality, delicious meals.  Every meal has involved me saying “oh wow, that is tasty.” (2) The people are friendly.  All the bartenders, waiters, waitresses have been happy to chat with us about good things to do and see and just how our trip is going.  There is some atmosphere of pretension– lots and lots of hipsters, and an attitude of “yes, we know our city is awesome, but don’t move here, we found it first.” and finally (3) It is HOT, and the people here don’t seem to notice that. Everyone is OUTSIDE! running, walking, biking, and it’s hot hot hot! That’s just crazytimes. Even though I have a high tolerance for heat, I tend to spend the summers and winters indoors, because I am just not down with either extreme.

So we arrived late morning yesterday. First order of business was FOOD. Not only was I excited for Austin’s offerings, I was HUNGRY.  I had heard so much about Franklin’s BBQ that I really wanted to go there.  Then I heard the whole story about how you have to stand in line a million hours, and they always run out, etc etc etc, so that was not going to happen. I needed to EAT.  Instead I pulled out my handy dandy phone and Yelp’d it up (seriously this trip has been almost entirely guided by Yelp), and we wound up at Manuel’s.  It is on the section of Congress Ave that is central/downtown, and has more of a corporate feel.  There were lots of business people and also casual diners. If I worked in Austin this would be a go-to place for me for business lunches.  The food is creative and delicious, and a little upscale but not too fancy.

photo(6)I kicked things off with a guava margarita.  The flavor was sweet and mild, and this cold drink was extra refreshing after our trek around downtown.  I could spend a whole evening sipping on these things.  They’re like everything I love about the Harris Cosmo, except better (and also not as potent, which on most occasions is a good thing).
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My entree was a grilled zucchini stuffed with seasoned pork (essentially a chili relleno, just with zucchini…and I can’t remember the “official” name of the dish.).  This was excellent, flavorful, and just perfect for a hungry diner on a hot summer day.  In summer, you don’t want to eat a meal that’s TOO heavy, but when you’re hungry you want to eat ANYTHING in sight, and this totally filled me up, without making me regret how much I had stuffed my face.

Manuel's on Urbanspoon

Following lunch, we scooted on down to check out 6th street in the daylight.  6th Street is a crazy popular destination for music, drinks and hanging out at night time, but we wanted to see what the layout was before an evening venture.  We popped into Darwin’s Pub for a beer (and because we had about 45 minutes to kill before our next activity).

photo(7)I love that Austin is so microbrew crazy that you can go into pubs and they all have different local beers on tap.  Darwin’s was a pretty low-key kind of place that seems to be geared towards regulars and locals. When we told the bartender we were visiting from out of town, he got all excited to tell us all about the huge live music scene, and all kinds of neat things going on in the city.  It was so welcoming and fun for him to be so excited to share about his city.  I wish I could tell you what beer we tried, but all I remember was that it was some kind of ale, and it had a goat on the tap. (I picked it because of the goat).  It was a little malty for my taste, but on the whole pretty good.

Next up for us was an AUSTIN DUCK BOAT TOUR! I saw the duck boat while we were walking down the street, and I asked Mr. Beez “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!” and he said “oh fine.”  He has learned that when traveling with me, it’s less painful to suffer through what ever activity I am insisting upon, than to suffer through my moping if he says “no.”

photo(8)Let me share with you some wisdom my mother has imparted to me (although I fought her on it tooth & nail when I was a kid, because I fought her on everything. I was that kind of kid): Even though it is silly and touristy, whenever you visit a new city, it’s a good idea to take a guided tour so that you get a general idea of the layout of the city, and can figure out the kinds of places and areas where you’d like to spend more time. YES MOTHER YOU WERE RIGHT. And now on almost every vacation I take, I make a guided tour a priority early on.

Obligatory tourist photo of the Texas State Capital

Obligatory tourist photo of the Texas State Capital

I have to admit, I love duck boat tours. They’re always silly and fun, and every duck boat tour guide I’ve had has really known his stuff. This tour guide was no exception.  I loved it and got a great idea of the layout of downtown (with this short trip, we’re not covering a lot of geographic area).

QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!

QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!

I love animals. Just love them. Except for one animal: The bat.  I can’t stand their ugly mousy faces with their ugly skin-covered wings and their ugly squeaks. They are the things my nightmares are made of.  But I put aside my disgust for this awful creature and did venture down to the “bat bridge” to see the thousands upon thousands of bats fly out from under the bridge at dusk fall.

photo(10)All these folks are waiting to see the bats.  They probably like bats a whole lot more than I do.  Even though I do not like those icky bats, I do have to admit that watching the thousands upon thousands of them all fly out from under the bridge was pretty neat. It was especially cool to see giant clouds of them zoom out from under the bridge, fly in the direction of trees, and the ZOOM like 3 feet before hitting the branches they all take a sharp turn and get around it.  The icky creatures were to small, dark and fast for me to get a picture of them.

Later in the evening, we made a stop at Amy’s for ice cream.  Amy’s is THE ice cream in Austin, and it well deserves it’s devoted following.

photo(3)Amy’s is open late, and is perfect for a post-dinner treat on a hot Austin night.  I selected the famed Mexican Vanilla with chopped up biscoff cookies mixed in.  Mr. Beez selected the Mexican Vanilla with gingersnaps chopped up and mixed in. Isn’t that the same thing? Whatever. It was tasty. TASTY I tell you.

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Amy's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Despite being tired from waking up at 4am to catch our flight outta Pittsburgh, I was not going to miss out on a night of live music in the Live Music Capital of the World.  At the recommendation of one of Mr. Beez’ friends (who is attending the conference with him), we headed over to The Continental Club to see John Dee Graham.  His music was rock with a bit of a rough/country edge.  I really liked the music, and even more, I loved seeing musicians perform who are totally living in the moment.   Isn’t that the best feeling? To get to watch someone doing that thing that they love, that they live for, and they are so blissfully happy to be doing?

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So yes, our first day in Austin was a total win!  I’ve had excellent adventures today as well (more on that later) and am loving it here.  Boy did I need a vacation, and Austin has proven to be the perfect place for it!

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