Slowing down to think in Austin

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February 15th 2016
Published: February 16th 2016
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The self proclaimed "most liberal city" of Texas. It's this line that drew us here, and had us miss Texan cities such as Houston and Dallas. We were aware of the differences between the north and the south but never really knew how deep it went.

Apparently Austin is the trailblazer for forward thinking and acceptance of all people of colour, gender and sexual orientation. We think the popular 6th street, lined with bars and pubs with happy hours offering large cocktails probably helped.

When attempting to book accommodation for Austin, we found it incredibly difficult to find somewhere affordable and close to downtown. Turns out, our time here is right in the middle of one of the 2 biggest music festivals in Texas. This one became so popular its now on 2 separate weekends. Austin City Limits or ACL as its commonly known draws 100's of thousands to the city for a weekend of live music from some of the top name artists known throughout the world.

We checked online before arriving for tickets and they were predictably sold out. $100 a pop. We weren't really sure if that was in our budget anyway, at least we knew the city would be buzzing with life whilst we were there.

Catching the short bus ride from our motel into town we went in search of some food. Heading straight to 6th street we walked along it checking out the menu's for something tasty and affordable.

One thing that can really get frustrating as a traveller when your hungry, is looking for food. It seems to take us forever sometimes as we go from the recommended popular streets to side streets in order to find something to eat. In the US, fast food is king. We found ourselves in a burger shop yet again. We do love a good burger though, especially when SE Asia always failed to deliver. I guess we're making up for lost time.

We noticed a building just up the road that looked surprisingly like the capitol building in DC. Even more surprising (to us anyway), this was also a capitol, where Texas senators met every 2 years to discuss legislations for the state. We decided to pass by for a quick look, walking inside we latched onto a tour group that was just starting.

The guide led us through the building pointing out rooms where the bi annual meetings are held and the growing gallery of senators, including one of George Bush Jr. We were also led into the rotunda, it was much smaller than the DC one but still quite impressive as the encircling balconies looked down on us. On the floor in the rotunda was an interesting design of the 6 flags that Texas has been a part of in its history - France, Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederates and the United States. Also like our DC tour this one was very short, one big difference was that after the tour guests are free to go anywhere within the building unless the door is locked.

Afterwards we headed towards the river to have a nice stroll along the pedestrian path which ran parallel to the river. Many people come here to relax or ride their bikes. We liked the idea of bike riding along here, most cyclists were locals with their own bikes.

That was our intention to and maybe visit some nearby natural pool we had heard about. However we felt like we had been moving at the speed of light recently and so spent our time here relaxing by the lake. P actually fell asleep on the bench next to Chris shocked when she realised she had nodded off.

One popular site in Austin is the bats. 750,000 of them!! They all live under one of the bridges above the river. In the evening shortly after sunset, they all emerge en mass in search of flying insects to dine on. We waited around an hour as the sun set and day turned to night. A few bats appeared but stayed circling underneath the bridge. We stayed as long as we could before getting restless. People were there from earlier too, eventually we gave up.

We walked to 6th street; a popular hub full of restaurants & bars. We stopped at one place (can't recall the name) and ordered ourselves burgers and waffle fries. Food was ok but nothing special and as usual the air=con was on full blast. Interestingly while we were there we noted there was some American football being aired. At the bottom of the screen was the news feed continually popping up with information about all the players who had recently experienced an injury during a game. It surprised us that such a popular support in the states so frequently resulted in injury in young players too.

Soon as we'd finished we walked out onto 6th street. It was around 9.30pm and the atmosphere had seemed to have picked up. People drinking from 32oz cups, screeching hen parties, locals and holiday makers all making their way from bar to bar along the strip. It kind of took us aback a bit as it was practically a ghost town when we went to eat, even the music coming from these bars had changed. We found a decent bar with happy hour across the way so decided to take advantage of the offers.

We got speaking to an inter racial couple in the bar. It was really insightful speaking on race and some attitudes they had experienced in the south from some narrow minded people which to us was actually quite shocking. They have mixed raced children which they explained sometimes draws odd looks in certain areas and the boyfriend (african american) often gets remarks like "you sound smart" as if to say it’s a rare thing for a black man. We couldn't believe it.

We were quite shocked by the idea that interracial relationships are still not accepted widely in parts of the US, unlike the UK.

To punctuate the divide even more, we bumped into a regretful white Texan guy who stopped us to basically apologise for the behaviour of people in the south. He ended the conversation with "be careful around here as I like you guys". We had been given a few warnings now by some friendly strangers and this was starting to make us think. Quite a disturbing insight. The more we travel the US we do become to see a 'divide' in communities, such a shame.

The following day we took it easy and just strolled around the town going in and out of the scorching sun. During our stroll we ended up near the gates of the ACL festival. We approached one of the street sellers and asked him how much he was selling tickets for. He offered us around $250 for 2. Way out of our budget to see a group of bands we have no idea of. There were a handful of acts we did know but it wasn't worth that ticket price.

Later that evening we passed a theatre that was showing a premiere of the 2nd season of the popular US tv series "Leftovers". We got all excited thinking we could go in too as we loved the first season. Unfortunately it was invite only - actors, crew & press. We'd just missed the actors arrive by about 10 minutes. Guess we'll just have to wait till its back on tv.

One place we would have liked to eat (namely Chris) was a place called Franklins BBQ. So popular, people queue from 7am till it opens at 9am and they usually sell out of meat by midday! Apparently the queuing is a social affair with people bringing alcohol and foldaway chairs. As much as we'd loved to try this we just didn't have the time or energy to be queuing up. The couple we got speaking to in the bar recommended it to us saying "It'll be the best thing you put in your mouth all day!" Maybe we'll try it next time.

Accommodation: Ace Motel

Transport: Megabus - $5 each 1.45hours

Date: 02/10/2015

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16th February 2016

Austin is a nice city. I'm glad you are not doing the standard NYC, LA, SF circuit. People who do that don't really get a good picture of the U.S. Sadly, our country in my opinion is far more narrow minded and racists than it was in the 70s when we seemed much more accepting. Something has happened in the past 10 years and I don't like it. Too many crazy politics and narrow mindedness. Sad really because our country has so much to offer.
16th February 2016

Slowing down to think.
We agree. So much to offer, we now want to come back maybe a camping trip visiting the national parks and some cities we missed out. It really is a shame, I wonder what happened? The warnings made us more aware but did not ruin our trip at all. We loved the states; the diversity of the places we visited, the extroverted people we met and saw and the overwhelming friendliness. There was so much to do and see both day and night. We'll be back!!

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