Sometimes you get a good feeling about a place before you’ve even begun exploring it. This is exactly what happened in Austin; as soon as I saw the city shining on the horizon I felt an excitement in the pit of my stomach.
Waking up in our Airstream Airbnb, the quirky yard was fully revealed in the light of day: wind chimes, colourful decor, cats, and chickens – it was so bright and welcoming. Also, within the garden we bumped into Kyle (who had been described by our host Sam as the aging hippy). Kyle was balding with a long white pony tale, huge moustache and a slow yet cheerful voice. Standing chatting for half an hour we discovered he was a wealth of knowledge and a great guide to Austin.
I love sitting at an open kitchen watching the heart of the eatery in full swing. Soon our order was up, the huge homely portions and never-ending stream of strong coffee set me up for the day. More than full of coffee, eggs and home fries we decided to explore the city by foot and walk off some of those American portions.
East Austin is full of independent eateries and breweries, all decorated with splashes of street art. With its warehouse style buildings it reminded me a lot of Hackney Wick, one of my favourite places in East London.
Walking beneath the underpass there were many homeless people nestled in their sleeping bags yet, unlike many other deprived areas, did not feel dangerous but part of the city’s pulse. Crossing over the main road that splits the East and Centre we reached 6th street – Austin’s famous bar-lined party area which was making its recovery from what looked like a heavy night before.
Continuing on our journey, after about an hour we made it to our first planned stop: the Hope Outdoor Gallery. Made up of high crumbling walls the gallery was being added to by artists with paint cans in hand as well as being clambered over by visitors. After climbing around the concrete structure we wandered on with little purpose, crossing the river and heading South we strolled through the park and pretty neighbourhoods eventually reaching Bouldin Creek Cafe, a cool art-covered vegetarian cafe serving up incredible salads and sandwiches.
After a quick beer break we happily strolled around Bouldin, a super cool arts area filled with eclectic independent eateries and stores selling vintage, bric a brac, art and, of course, cowboy boots. I could have spent way longer in here but I had one more must visit item in my list and we had to be there before sunset. As the sun goes down over Austin up to 1.5 million bats come out to hunt from under the “bat bridge”. Patiently waiting for the sun to set, the tiny squeaks began to get louder and suddenly the tiny bats were swirling above our heads. The bats have usually migrated by this time of year so I felt very lucky to see such an incredible site.
It had been a long day and our Airbnb was so nice that we decided to stay in for the evening (with a WholeFoods purchased dinner and a few beers).
My gut feeling about Austin was right: it’s a city filled with personality, and with the tag line “keep Austin weird”, how could I not fit in?