Monday, July 23, 2012

Trip to Austin (Part 1)

Last month we took a 5 day family trip to Austin, Texas.  I got to know Austin from going to law school at UT in the late 70's.  Not only is Austin not like the rest of Texas, it's not like anywhere else.

Some of the things I remembered, and wanted to experience again, were........
Great restaurants.
Nice, friendly people, everywhere.
Nice countryside and unique natural phenomena.
Every kind of music, abundantly.
Lots of health food, yoga, and all things groovy (Heck, I live with that, so visiting a society where that is "normal" had potential).
Good friends.
Huge campus and State Capitol which are big parts of the City, but by no means define the City.
A sense that there are ALWAYS things going on, and always fun things to do.

It's challenging to plan family trips as a family evolves.  When I suggested the Austin trip, Rebecca told me a good friend she had met in the dorm at Wesleyan was from Austin.   This promising news got even better when I emailed my friend Phil (who I had met in law school and stayed in touch with), and told him we were coming to Austin.  I gave him our basic itinerary, and told him about Rebecca's Wesleyan friend from Austin.  It turns out she and her family are great friends of Phil and his family, and it was agreed we would all get together.  Small world, and a great pre-start to the trip.

We looked at all our schedules and narrowed it down to some "Thursday through Monday" in June or July.  I suggested we narrow the search by "seeing if Slaid Cleaves was playing in Austin".  He is a singer/songwriter who Felicia and I became obsessed with, after seeing him perform a few months ago at Stony Brook.   He is originally from Maine, but he is based in Austin.  When we saw he was playing in the Cactus Cafe (a venue on the UT campus) in June, we decided THAT was the weekend to go.

Another plus with Austin is that Jet Blue has direct flights from JFK to Austin.  I don't travel enough to have my opinion really count here, but I LOVE Jet Blue.  I know they occasionally have a freaked out flight attendant or leave passengers on the tarmac, but I always do well with them.  Their website is easy to navigate and book on, the prices are fair, and they have cable TV in every seat.

I'm also a big fan of Enterprise Rental Cars.  Nothing against the bigger, more famous companies, but I just love the customer service at Enterprise.  I think it's because when I used to have my cars stolen during the Dinkin's administration, my insurance company always sent me to Enterprise.  They were consistently nice, and they still are.

We did so well with the airline and car that we decided to splurge on the hotel, and booked a nice Hilton in downtown Austin, right off 6th Street.  This is the big live music section of Austin, pretty well known in the music world as the site of the annual South by Southwest festival

After a nice flight we checked at the Hilton.  Pretty spiffy.  We had a great view of Austin and 6th Street.. In the first pic you can see the Capitol, and "The Tower" and the Longhorns football stadium.

In the next pic you can see motorcycles parked on 6th Street.  We did not realize that we had booked our trip during the Republic of Texas motorcycle weekend, also known as the "ROT Rally".  There were 40,000 bikers in Austin the whole weekend.  They were EVERYWHERE, but as one of the hotel workers said to me "These are mostly doctor and lawyer bikers, so it's not too bad".

Here's how that looked at night on 6th Street.

After some driving around, and lunch in an off-beat, friendly place (which pretty much describes every place you go in Austin), Emilie and I swam in the hotel pool while Felicia and Rebecca took a nap.  This is very different than our usual family dynamic, where I fall asleep and everybody else goes out.  After they woke up we looked at our list of restaurant suggestions and research, and decided to go for Tex-Mex (funny, we reached that decision pretty much every night).  Night 1 we went to a place called "Z-Tejas"!/texas/austin-6th-street/  We sat out on the deck and enjoyed the first of many excellent meals.

Next...........Trip to Austin Part 2

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