Keep Austin Weird

I just hit my one year anniversary of being back in the UK.  On a J-1 visa you're given 30 days after the end of your studies to remain in the US and I made use of absolutely every one of them.  My friend Megan and I hopped on a bus down to Santa Monica for the weekend to recuperate from the tearful goodbyes that had marked our last few days at UCSB, and then set off for...Texas!

Austin is just awesome.  It's a hipster haven, full of vintage stores, people singing and playing the guitar on the street, and independent businesses.  There's a palpable creative spirit that's literally overflowing into the streets, where graffiti is undeniably artistic and full of hometown pride.  But it's also very Texan, the people are warm and friendly, the Mexican food is excellent, and people have pictures of their gun collection stored on their phone (or at least that one guy we hitch-hiked with did).  I fell a little in love with Austin to the point that I almost bought cowboy boots, although luckily Megan intervened.

The bat is a symbol you see all over Austin, which is because of the colony that lives under the bridge on Congress.  At sunset they fly out in a huge swarm which is supposed to be an amazing sight, although we struggled to see any more than the odd flutter in the darkness.  I would advise not being on top of the bridge, but arriving some time before sunset to get a good vantage point on ground level, or further down the river where the sky will cast a good silhouette.  South Congress is an amazing spot for antiques, vintage clothing, boutiques, and best of all - the food trucks.

Austin is famous for its food trucks, and rightly so - it might be a bit of a gimmick, but the food is too good for me to care.  The snowcones were very welcome in the unrelenting heat, and one day after sundown we stopped by the Thai truck too (I love a Thai curry - or any curry actually - but not when it's over 35C).

On our third day we decided that we needed to find a way to beat the heat.  It's a dry heat, and we had no idea that we would be suffering twice as much the next week in the humidity of New Orleans, but it's unrelenting and in the city centre there aren't many green spaces.  So on the advice of some friendly locals, we hopped on a bus to the Barton Springs pool, which is hewn into the rocks and filled by the river, meaning that there is the odd fishing swimming about in there.  It's a few dollars to get in but in July it's fucking worth every cent.

But the real thing that makes Austin such an amazing place is the music.  We spent a night trawling Sixth Street, and every. single. bar had an amazing live act playing.  The first place had Ian McLagen from the Small Faces; the next enticed us in with free drinks, where a biker-looking guy was playing the guitar with his teeth; the next, the guitarist played behind his back; and we even found some duelling pianos, complete with crowd of drunk women singing yelling their university's sport song.

We spent just a few days in Austin before heading to Houston on the next leg of our trip, but we had one last night there before flying back to California, and it was just the best way to end our time in the South.  We were taken to the most laidback bar I've ever seen, where most of the action was out in the yard, but indoors were a band of string musicians playing country music I could actually endure!  Add to that $1 beers and I was thinking to myself...I could really see myself living here.  Well, maybe if it wasn't SO DAMN HOT.

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