Keep Austin Weird.
Hey, Austin. Isn’t that Portland’s line?
If you thought that, like I did, you’d be incorrect. So much for Portland being the hip, trendsetting city it touts itself as. Turns out Austin was there first. Portland is a copy cat.
I had my doubts about Austin, Texas. Yes, they have all sorts of live music. Some fantastic acts have come out of the capital city. If you haven’t heard of the music and tech festival South By Southwest, you’ve likely either been living under a rock or are living in another country. I won’t go in to any of that because all I know about SXSW is what I hear on public radio whilst it’s happening. Instead, I chose to go to Austin during the Reggae Festival.
One of my BFFs (yes, I have sooo many) was in town for work, all the way from London, and I, being the globe-trotting travel junkie that I am, promptly flew out for a girlie weekend in the so-called Live Music Capital of the World. Having just moved house I needed the break. So swiftly into the sky via Southwest I went, an easy 2.5 hr flight from LAX.
I love their new logo, of which I was up close and personal with having lucked out at a front row center seat.
My trip was pretty eventful as I had a leisurely chat with the woman seated directly to my left. As it happens, when you fly from Los Angeles, you might find yourself sitting next to celebrities or personalities. I was sat next to the fabulous Kari Wuhrer, star of many B-movies and my personal favourite sci-fi show: Sliders. Oh, and of course don’t forget Beverly Hills 90210. I only wish I’d recognized her sooner, as I’d have definitely told her what an honor it was to be sat next to her, chatting about the industry and projects etc. She even introduced herself (first name only) and my brain still didn’t put two and two together.
If you are reading this, Ms Wuhrer, have fun in Austin!
Upon arrival, a taxi spirited me straight to the W Austin, located next door to the famed Austin City Limits. (If you don’t know it and love music, look it up.) On the eighth floor, we had quite a view of the Lady Bird Lake and the green beyond:
But enough about the views. It was time to do what any self respecting girlfriends do on a weekend of girliness: we went shopping.
Off to the SoCo neighborhood, a little shopping district walking distance from downtown on South Congress Street. We popped our heads into a few boutiques and filled our suitcases with wares from the independent shops that line this vibrant street. I dug the signs, their age turning them into retro chic.
We popped into Heritage Boot and my cohort purchased some beautiful handmade cowboy boots in red whilst I tried on and lusted after these deer skin, $600 beauties:
My wallet not allowing such an extravagant purchase (it whispered to me something about airline tickets), we moved on instead to the shop next door: Blackmail, which was so up my street with its dark vibe and rock influences, clothing with a nod to All Saints and a few original pieces by its designer. I myself steered toward the more inexpensive pieces. If you aren’t sure that cowboy boots are your thing, stop in to Blackmail Boutique instead.
After a bite to eat and glass of wine we powered back to the hotel for some late afternoon sun bathing. The W Hotel Austin is kinda awesome for that sort of thing. I’ve never been much of a poolside holiday type of girl. Let me tell you, I am now.
I spied Pimm’s behind the bar, and bless the little Texan bartender if he didn’t have any idea what to do with it. He made a pretty good drink out of lemonade, soda water and a strawberry. Not exactly a Pimm’s Cup, but who’s complaining?
When in Texas, you must have some of the local cuisine, aptly named Tex Mex. Keen to keep with the walking tradition, our group headed to Michelada’s (where, yes, I did have a Michelada – basically a bloody mary with beer in it. F’ing yum.) on our way to Rainey Street.
Rainey Street was once a residential street filled with big old houses with front porches and even larger back gardens. During some development snafu, these houses being slated for much bigger things, bar and restaurant owners moved in and turned the street into an eating and drinking paradise. We visited Lustre Pearl, which was the bar that started it all (so says its website). Upon entering, it felt like a cross between a shabby frat house, cleaned up crack house where they left all the original features and college house party in someone’s parent’s back yard. It was a hoot:
From the trees hung mason jars with little lights in them, and as you can see from the photo, the vibe ranged from sweatshirts to button downs. Everyone was welcome and seemed relaxed. Great place to grab a can of Shiner Bock and pull up a pew on a picnic table. Good vibe overall.
And once you’ve realized just how tired you are after a long day of travel, shopping and pool hopping, the very best way to get back to your hotel after you’ve enjoyed a drink on Rainey Street is via pedicab.
These guys and gals have no fear. Weaving in and out of traffic, it’s almost an amusement park ride. I don’t usually condone bicycles plowing through traffic lights or riding into oncoming traffic, however within seconds we were back at the hotel having seen more of the city than we would have on foot (like the metro and dedicated, separate bike lanes! Come on, Los Angeles!). And besides, it meant I no longer had to walk in my heels and we even had a wee blanket to cover us. Lovely.
To recap. Austin is not at all what I thought it was. It’s not just some landlocked city with lots of students and some live music to boot. It’s a forward thinking mecca of innovation. With a river. And trees. In Texas.
(no offense intended)
Keep an eye out for my next update where me and my friend explore more of Austin – even more than our concierge knew existed. Who’s trendsetting now?!