Despite getting back from the USA four months ago, up until now I hadn’t looked at the photos on my memory card, let alone thought about blogging about my time there. This was partly due to being busy with work, and also partly due to me being in a strop about returning to England.
Out of the places I visited, Austin Texas was a strange one for me. I checked into my AirBnb which was essentially a bedroom in a randoms house. In hindsight I’d have definitely preferred my own apartment, being introverted I’m not a lover of small talk so I’d sneak out of the house in the early hours of the morning and slip in at night to avoid having to discuss what cafes I’d visited that day.
Pros to getting an AirBnb was my host had a huge
bear dog, that I’d coax into my room for cuddles during the thunderstorms that went on the entire week I was there.
Pro tip; you can actually filter places on AirBnb to only include ones with pets, so if like me you want to travel from country to country cuddling all the dogs then let me tell you, what a time to be alive my friend. I’ve also got a code that gets you £25 credit towards your first booking so go forth and pet all the doge. (Not sponsored, just all about that dog life ok.)
I gained a real perspective on solo travelling during my time in Austin, and whilst I am a lover of my own company this was my first real experience being alone in a strange place.
Before I go on to gush about the abundance of vegan food, or the beautiful buildings I’m going to tell you about the worst day I ever had. In retrospect, it’s not actually that bad of a day and I feel a bit silly admitting that cried in not one, not two, but three separate Starbucks.
The day started off well, I got some pancakes and trekked into town to begin my touristy adventures. It got to late afternoon and I’d ran out of things to do but wasn’t quite ready to go back home, because as explained in paragraph two, I’m an antisocial bitch.
So I found my way to the cutest independant cinema, picked up a vegan ice cream sandwich and purchased a ticket for “Jake Gyllenhaal once again plays brooding sociopath” to kill some time.
When the film finished I went to turn my phone back on (I turn it off during movies because I am a model citizen thank you) only to discover it had somehow completely ran out of batteries and I was stranded with no way of getting home.
Okay. Deep breaths. Just go find a convenience store and buy a charger, no big deal. So I set off to do just that.
Now I’m going to go off on a side note here, Austin is inhabited by these birds called grackles. Their unique song becomes monotonous after a few days in the city. Not dissimilar in size to a crow, with oily black feathers and white beady eyes. Menacing things.
Back to me, stumbling lost and alone through a new city trying to find a shop that’ll sell me what I need to reconnect with the outside world. I turn a corner and sat on the pavement is a small injured baby bird. Can you see where this is going? I pause in sympathy for a split second, but long enough for big mama bird to deem me a threat.
Just as I turn to walk away, this great big thing swoops from above and starts pecking my face. I start running. And screaming. So much screaming. It doesn’t stop, I’m legging it for my life, I can’t see a thing just feathers beating against my head. Buy this time it’s managed to get its feet caught in my hair, already matted from the humidity. I’m still screaming, the bird is still pecking. It’s going for my eyeballs, my fucking eyeballs. I’m flailing my arms about wildly screaming for help. I feel something warm running down my face. Is it blood or tears? Who knows. After what seemed like an eternity everything went quiet.
Am I dead? I think I’m dead. Oh wait, nevermind the birds just flown off.
After composing myself I did the most painfully British thing I could and went to Starbucks for a sweet tea to help with the shock.
When I eventually stopped crying I found a shop, picked up a phone charger and took it to the till where the poor guy at the checkout uttered four little words that he was soon to regret. “How’s your day been?” I broke down and explained that my day has been shit thank you very much and the wildlife has gone Alfred Hitchcock on my ass and I just want to go home.
Then I went and got another tea and cried a little bit more until my phone was charged enough to call an uber back to my AirBnb where I cried into a lovely fluffy dog.
Now I’ve outed myself as the drama queen I am, let the regular travel post commence.
You would be forgiven for thinking that Austin is like most other cities with it’s glass skyscrapers and financial districts because, at first glance it is. However you only need to scratch the surface to discover Austins vibrancy. Turn down any side street and you will be greeted with bright coloured walls and naive street art.
My particular favourite was “i love you so much” scrawled on the wall of a cafe in South Congress. I’d love to know the story behind that piece. Who does the artist love so much? Or was it just a spontaneous act of self expression?
I stumbled upon this Fafi piece by pure accident, whilst hunting for a little vegan bakery. Fafi is a female graffiti artist I’ve followed since a teen and I instantly recognised her work spread across the wall. Living and working in Paris, I was surprised to see her work 5000 miles away and couldn’t resist snapping hundreds of pictures.
Austin really prides itself on its street food scene with trailers parked up on the roadside serving anything from tacos to tabbouleh. I found myself ordering food, then walking a bit further down the road and spotting another food truck, and another and repeating this until I had to order a taxi home because I was so full I couldn’t physically walk.
The food truck scene is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else, and there were hordes of little food truck communities all with brightly painted menus and picnic benches, each trailer offering something completely different to the next. I love that groups of people would sit together all enjoying a completely different cuisine.
If I were to ever find myself in Austin again, I really would take time in finding more trailers and sampling as many of the delicacies as I can.
Travelling alone means no candid photos of yourself looking longingly into the distance, and instead ending up just one single awkwardly posed photograph, hair deflated in the Texan humidity.
I do love this photo though, I feel that it perfectly captures the blend of nature and city that gives Austin its charm. Skyscrapers aggressively forcing themselves out of the soft greenery and vast yet delicate Colorado River.
One of my favourite memories from Austin was seeing the bats. Every night just before sunset, 1.5 million bats fly out from under Congress Avenue Bridge. I’m not skilled enough with a camera to capture how truly impressive a sight this is. I waited patiently with hordes of other people until the first flutter of movement, then one by one tiny bats started emerging from under the bridge until the sky was filled with black clouds floating into the distance. It was such a beautiful thing to witness and I’m not ashamed to say it was actually quite emotional.
One of my more touristy stops was the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin. Spread out across a huge 360,000 sq ft, and made up of around 400 rooms. The building was covered in scaffolding when I visited so I only have a handful of pictures of its exterior, its red granite presence still breathtaking as it towered over the city.
I entered through the large front doors and tagged along with the guided tour, led by the most stereotypical cowboy hat-wearing, Bush-loving Texan I’ve ever laid eyes on. He took us through the vast corridors and rooms, whilst explaining to us the history of the building, which admittedly I have forgotten.
In the centre of the Capitol was a large whispering gallery, with ornate decorations leading up to the word “TEXAS” at the top of the large dome.
The one thing that surprised me most about Austin was the amount of vegan food available. When I think of Texas, my brain conjures up images of barbeques, smokehouses and other such places where a vegan wouldn’t feel welcome. I was wrong. I ate like a queen the entire time I was in Austin.
I sipped my first root beer (is it supposed to taste like mouthwash?) whilst sitting in a vegan cupcake parlour. I hung out in an entirely vegan gay bar that served kochumba on tap, drinking organic cocktails whilst shoving a bacon cheeseburger in my face that I bought from the vegan burger van round back.
Can we take a minute to admire tater tots? Like someone decided to take hash browns the godlike fried potato fusion with medicinal hangover curing properties, and make them into tiny little bite sized lumps of good. Bless you America.
I also had the privilege of trying the best nachos to have ever entered my mouth. Complete with mince, sour cream, con queso, cheese and guac. I’m drooling just looking at the photos. Food like this is why I will never listen to people who say vegan food is boring and we survive entirely on sad looking vegetables. Nope, I can’t hear you over the sound of me crunching my delicious plate of cheesy nachos.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Austin, despite having it’s ups and downs. I’d love to go back with a bit more knowledge, as more of a seasoned traveler.
Have you ever been to Austin? Or have you experienced any travel disasters? I’d really love to hear about your adventures in the comments below!