There’s something a little bit special (funky? cool?) about Austin that makes it stand out all the more because it is located in the heart of Texas. Austin is definitely the black sheep amid cattle country – the non-Texan Texas – and quite a few people told me it’s got more in common with the likes of Portland and Seattle than Texas.
But what it has only goes some of the way to explaining its charm. It has (deep breath)…
Piano bars, dive bars, yuppie bars, 24-hour diners, karaoke RVs and live music clubs. Vintage shops, cupcake caravans, cowboy boot and hat stores, and an emporium of unusual things. Art galleries, a museum housing the world’s oldest photograph, an independent cinema, even some vaguely healthy restaurants. It’s also the home of the roller derby revival. And I discovered the highly addictive game of shuffleboard here in Buffalo Billiards on Sixth Street. There’s a big university and the impressive state capital building. There’s even a bat phone which you can ring to check on the Austin Congress Bridge bat colony which numbers half a million or so.
Austin also has something like the eighth largest couch-surfing community in the world – I stayed with a very nice host for a couple of days on arrival who showed me the sight, put me up in his spare room and introduced me to Mexican margaritas (with an extra beaker of margarita because those tiny glasses always need a refill).
The city motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird’.
Best of all there are the big festivals: Austin City Limits every September and SXSW festival every March. Which is how I came to be in Austin in 2009 – and again in 2010.
My favourite spots are: the Star Seeds Diner, The Spider House Cafe, Ranch 616, Buffalo Billiards, Uncommon Objects, Allens Boot Store and The Cedar Door bar. I’d probably include the Broken Spoke, if I’d got to it.
Or here’s the photo roundup of my favourite things in Austin (the pic at the top is of me and my sister, who came to SXSW with me in 2010).
Shuffleboard at Buffalo Billiards
Allens Boots (and hats)
Uncommon Objects (just next door)
My Austin chum Brad King – here at The Cedar Door
Mexican Margarita at the Hula Hut (with my Couch Surfing host Davy)
Luscious Pearl – a nice bar for content strategists and hula hooping
The Spider House Cafe – writers’ hangout
Ranch 616 (the loos)
Live music at the British Music Embassy
And finally, another arrival by train (see also Venice #8 and Slovenia #6)