By now you’ve probably heard from someone how the capital of Texas is so cool.
Well, I’m here to confirm that.
Describing it isn’t easy, but I’ll try. Think: young, bustling, and a little dusty. Rolling hills, a river (the locals call a lake), and a growing skyline frame the juxtaposed old & new of the city (old west and new tech). Mexican & Central American immigrants are everywhere, as are kitschy burger joints and BBQ places.
It’s a college town, so team spirit is around, as well as a center of government, so major public institutions exist next to rowdy bars and oversized coffee shops.
And, thanks to reliably good weather, outdoor options abound.
Lately I’ve been inspired to travel more, and through elementary friendships and new virtual connections, I know folks all over, including in cities I’ve never visited. Hence, a long weekend in Austin to stay with miss Rosenthal, Teddy, and their two rescue babies.
For eating and drinking, we hit all the hip and filling spots: East Side Showroom, Shangri-La, and Whisler’s on East 6th (the Brooklyn of Austin); Lustre Pearl and G’raj Mahal on Rainey Street; Snack Bar on South Congress; and Torchy’s Tacos, P. Terry’s, and Dan’s Burgers along the way.
We also ran along the Butler Trail near Downtown Austin one day – did a heart opening yoga workshop at CorePower Yoga another.
What I liked about Austin most was the perpetual theme of contrast. Run-down bungalows next to modernist million-dollar pads. Endless exercise available near decadent (nearly all fried) cuisine – as well as ultra healthy, gluten-free, vegan options everywhere.
The top photo is of a white tree painted and installed in the middle of Lady Lake in Downtown Austin to symbolize trees lost to drought.
All this creative progressiveness, with a dash of Texas bravado and cowboy confidence. Thus, a visit to the shooting range was in order too. Despite my liberalism, I can appreciate the power and quality engineering of a firearm. The feeling of firing a Glock is unmistakable. Smells dangerous too.
I was similarly tickled to find a store, across from Whole Foods in Downtown Austin, selling the likes of Lanvin, Givenchy, and Saint Laurent, of Barney’s stature. I picked up this little number for myself (shh don’t tell).
There’s something so romantic and personal about a locally-owned luxury fashion temple, where there are only a handful of shoppers at a time, and you can speak directly with the buyer about your knowledge and tastes. I was impressed with ByGeorge‘s men’s selections – including Common Projects shoes, Mykita eyewear, and Dries Van Noten leather goods.
The city’s unofficial mantra is: Keep Austin Weird. I’m inferring here, but think that means: keep these harmonious juxtapositions intact, in all their high-low, downtown-uptown, redneck-socialite-hippie glory. Cultivate and grow them all, without alienating any.
It is not ‘Keep Austin Creepy’ – which for the record, it is, when the bats exit the Congress Avenue bridge at dusk. Cute little things…
It’s also not ‘Keep Austin Cool’ – though it is, and is getting more so. I think this is because no one takes themselves too seriously here. Everyone is welcome, and greeted, and seated in a timely manner. For the most part, it is an equal-access town, which can’t be said for bigger metros with similar standards and diversity.
Thanks to the influx of Brooklynites and other young creatives, there is a clear sophistication that rides alongside an obvious (and historical) roughness, under a preferable weather pattern. This juxtaposition may be the most charming of all, permeating every part of the city.
I hope to return soon – to discover and enjoy even more of the endearing Austin weirdness.