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Published: August 16th 2006
Texas State Capitol in Austin
Try to cap off the Capitol dome.
A couple days ago, British intelligent raided the city of London and arrested about two dozen of its own citizens of plotting a series of terrorist attacks on about ten aircraft jets flying to the United States from Heathrow Airport in London. The plot is to use common items brought on-boards, to be filled with some chemical components to be mixed once they are in midair, creating an explosive device for a suicide mission and eventually kill thousands of people, plunge to the Atlantic.
From what I’ve read from the Travel Advisory provided by the US Government, the US Department of Homeland Security banned from carry-on luggage all "beverages, shampoo, sun tan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency." Hum.
Whether it is coincidence with the fifth year anniversary of 9/11 attack in a month, or the fact of I’m flying out from Atlanta to Dallas two days right after the raid, I would never find out. I’ve had the plan on visiting Texas for a couple of months prior to the incident, and I was quite nervous on finding out what would happen at the airport, which surprisingly had no reason whatsoever. The security
Stephen F. Austin
One of Texas' founding fathers, of whom the capital is named after.
went smoothly without any delays, and the next thing I knew, I had my seat secured on the plane flying above the Southland, without my usual water bottle on me.
Who says Texas is a cool place to be? The temperature in Dallas around 9 pm is 97F (36C), hot arid breeze blowing at my face. I spent the first night in Dallas, with an excursion to Irving, TX where the landscape architects’ must-to-visit-list of the Mustang statues in Williams Square - Las Colinas is located. The bronze statues larger than life size were portrayed to run across a big empty square, with some water effect on the pool as if the mustangs splash it.
We drove to Austin from Dallas the next morning, right after Ryan showed me around RTKL, his architecture office, in downtown Dallas. It took us three hours enjoyable drive down I-35 South through towns of Waco, Temple and Round Rock. We *almost* stopped by Crawford, TX, by Waco to see Bush’s ranch. NOT. Keep Austin Weird!
As far as Texas stereotype of cowboys with their hats, big buckles and boots, none of these are to be found in Austin. It
Texas State Capitol
Rotunda details, Texas State Capitol, Austin.
is a very liberal city; with the University of Texas - Austin aka Longhorns dominates the town, creating its own culture and town within Austin. Lots of weird people everywhere. Weird people, you might ask? How about the hippies, who used to live in San Francisco area during the 1970s, except now they’re in the 50s and live in Austin, Texas? They resemble a same look: white, older, white flowing beard, and funky dirty clothes. Or should I say, eccentric? They are many of them all around town, seems to be homeless but enjoying their lives. It goes well with the unofficial motto of Austin, Keep Austin Weird
Austin has very interesting backgrounds and random facts. Throughout its history, the city is rapidly growing - doubling its population every 20 years, today with about 1.2 million people call themselves to be “Austinites”. Although Austin is the fourth largest city in Texas and sixteenth biggest in the United States, it still maintains its college town feeling, i.e. not overly crowded or a typical big city of US of A. It’s the home of University of Texas - Austin aka Longhorns, one of our competitors in the Big 12 Conference South.
Williams Square - Las Colinas
Mustangs sculptures in Las Colinas, Irving TX.
It’s going to be tough, as they’re the 2005 National Champion. LOL, it’s almost football time, baby! In contrary, Austin is the biggest city in the US without any four major sports teams in baseball, basketball, football, or hockey. As everybody in town is rooting for the UT Austin, it is not a surprise to see the only sport stadium in Austin is the Longhorns football stadium. Or at least what I have seen.
Everything needs to be bigger and better than everything else in Texas. Austin falls into this category, with the State Capitol dome only second in size to the US Capitol in Washington DC but seven feet taller (surprise, surprise). As soon as we stepped inside, we knew instantly that they spent a lot of money to build this grand landmark, especially during the 1880s when the Capitol was completed. Details, details, details. Starting from the carved painted staircase railings, flooring, dome ornamentals, to the door hinges, every inch of the State Capitol was ornate with details. I was snapping lots of pictures like an Asian tourist, but hey, that’s me by the way.
The only clothing optional beach in State of Texas, Hippie Hollow,
Dallas skyline at night.
lies along the bank of Lake Travis in outskirt of Austin. It attracts lots of older hippy couples, who like the idea of becoming one with the nature. With Mayor Kinky running the town (who is running for the Governor of Texas), it is understandable that Travis County might be the only liberal county in Texas. From what I’ve read, it is the only county in Texas which doesn’t support the banning of gay marriage proposal.
Did I ever mention that Texas is a cocky state? Texas is the best state ever, according to Texans. I have a neutral position on the issue, though I have to admit that the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin is a very cool museum with a Texas twist. It is a proof on how Texans think that they live in heaven through displays of myths, facts and legends. A story of people who share this land, starting from the native Indian, Spanish missionaries, Republic of Texas (1836 - after its independence from Mexico), Confederacy, and Statehood of Texas to the United States (1845). They also have an IMAX theatre, which the choices of Superman or Texas: A Big Picture
presentation. There I learned
Texas State Capitol
Details of a door hinge at Texas State Capitol, Austin.
” really mean.
With the spirit of backpacking, we decided that we would stay over the HI-Austin for the trip, which brought back memories of traveling all around Europe and South America. Lots of Aussies stay over for the weekend, escaping the harsh Aussies winter, I suppose.
Even though we are in Texas, we had the urge of having Japanese for some weird reason. Zen’s is the place to go for dinner, with some sushi to go and laidback atmosphere - just like the simplicity of Zen style. For that reason, unfortunately we didn’t have chance of going out to experience what Austin is famous for - live music. Its official motto is The Live Capital of the World, referring to the live music playing throughout the city - at the restaurants, along the streets, bars and pubs, airports.
The other thing we missed out is the famous Batty watching at the Congress Ave Bridge. All the travel books I read mentioned “dusk” is the time when thousands of Mexican free-tail bats emerge from underneath the bridge to hunt bugs and mosquitoes, or moskies
as the Aussies would refer them, which creates a phenomenal experience of
Texas State Capitol
Flooring at Texas State Capitol, Austin.
swirling bats all around the city of Austin and allow Austin to be almost bug free town. But what would you consider as dusk? When the sun goes down? When the City of Austin turn on their lights? But in short, we missed out the event only by minutes, simply because our perception of dusk is different with the batty perception of dusk. Nonetheless, they flew off from underneath the bridge earlier than we thought. Owell.
I’ve been told that night life in Austin is great, and the place to be is the Warehouse District along 6th St. and the 4th St. We went bar hopping around the area, and the atmosphere was awesome - lots of blaring music and neon lights. Nssstt! nssttt! nssstttt! I tried to see whether we could spot any famous Austinites in town: Michael Dell, Willie Nelson, or Lance Armstrong. But just like the Barton Springs salamander, they were nowhere to be spotted. Or as if I knew how Michael Dell might look like.
Oh, almost forget about the Barton Springs. It is a famous Texan experience to take a dip on the Barton Springs in Zilker Park in Austin. It is a
Texas State Capitol
Handrail details, Texas State Capitol, Austin.
fresh artesian spring which allows millions of fresh water from the earth emerge underground, and some historical guy built a pool and charge people to take a dip on the three acres size pool. Nothing is fresher than being sweaty all day long in 100F Austin summer then taking a dip in the 68F fresh water, having your feet tangled with moss and slimy stuff at the bottom of the pool. The Native Indians believed that the springs have a healing power, and they came to the sacred springs to heal their wounds. As famous as the spring itself are the Barton Springs salamanders - endangered reptiles that live only around the Barton Springs so the "national endangered species association" feel the need of closing down the park because of that. I couldn’t spot any wild animals around the pool or the pecan trees, just domesticated pet dogs and some birds, let alone the salamanders.
We took it easy on Sunday, having spending all morning at one Starbucks in a city corner doing some people watching, and then strolling along the Congress Ave in downtown Austin to check out several art galleries: Volitant Gallery and Mexic-Arte Museum and Gallery.
Texas State Capitol
Texas State Capitol ground, Austin.
Along the same route was the posh Driskill Hotel, with a high standard of perfection to carry. Everything in the hotel is perfect - as it was intended to be about a hundred years ago when it was built by a cattle baron Col. Jesse Driskill. After having dessert at the café in the lobby, which reminded us of the Café Tortoni in Buenos Aires, we spent some time walking around the lobby and ballrooms to admire its wood carvings, marble floors, antique dark wood furniture, and different style of very elite hotel.
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