Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wandering Around Downtown Austin

From wild hill country to the urban experience: you get it all right here at the Astral Nomads blog. Today we did what we always do when we're in a strange city. We headed downtown and started wandering around. We took a cab from our hotel in South Austin because I wasn't sure about parking downtown. We were going to take in some museums but we decided to do as much outdoor walking as possible today because it was about 78F and by Thursday the high is only supposed to be 31F. So by Thursday I suspect we'll want to be inside as much as possible. The Astrals are guaranteed to bring a freeze everywhere they go. Chilling, isn't it?

Austin is a mid-sized city but to the Astrals, who measure
everything by New York City, it seemed curiously underpopulated.
You can walk down any street at lunchtime here on a weekday
and not be jostled by anyone. Even the traffic is very light for a city.
There's a very mellow vibe here and the architecture is a mix of
older late 19th century buildings like the one above and gleaming
newer skyscrapers.

Here's a bit of modern sculpture expertly captured by Astral Wendy.

We walked up Congress Avenue to the Texas Statehouse
and got completely lost in there for almost two hours. Not
lost in the sense of not knowing where we were, just lost
in architectural coolness and Texas government and history.
Plus, our tour guide was a total clone of David Letterman.

It's no Pantheon, but the rotunda is really pretty awesome. I got good
vertigo from the upper deck.

Here's the view from the top. Or at least as high as they would let you go.

They have portraits of all the ex-governors hanging
here so I decided to cool my heels under George W.

They have a cool floor mosaic under the rotunda celebrating the Six Flags
that have flown over Texas: Spain. France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, 
Confederate States of America, and the United States. 
And I thought it was just an amusement park
name. Astral Wendy just wants them to give peace a chance.

Since the Texas Congress was in session, we popped into the House
of Representatives to listen to some speechifying. I was hoping they'd
call on Wendy to ask her legislative opinion.

The statehouse grounds, like much of the city, were pretty empty.

C'mon baby, let's do the twist.

While walking down the street, we noticed this disembodied head
a whole block away. Deciding to check it out, we found a place to eat
lunch. The Cafe 1886 at the famous Hotel Driskill. It's no Econolodge,
but it was pretty swank. Just kidding, it's a world famous and world
class hotel.

Astral Wendy went for the brisket sandwich (not pictured due to 
focus issues) and I had the Cuban. Both were quite excellent.

The cafe was also a bakery but we were both so full after lunch
that we only ordered espressos. Too bad, the pastries looked awesome.

Then we wandered around the hotel, which was also pretty empty...

...and ridiculously opulent.

This big room off the second lobby on the second
floor was empty, so Astral Wendy made herself right at home.

The Hotel Driskill...Excuse me, sir, do you board rabbits?

This is a view down Sixth Avenue, upon which every
building is a bar featuring live music. Yikes. Austin
is billed as 'The Live Music Capital of the World'.

These pigeons dig the Sixth Avenue sound.

This mural was on the side of the Mexican Art Museum
here in Austin. We hope to check that out later in the week.

This is a lot bigger than my traveling guitar and has a 
much nicer decorative scheme. Of course, mine has

Since Wendy had her hair in braids, I made her pose
on Willie Nelson Boulevard.

Here's one of the newer skyscrapers.

Between downtown and South Austin lies Lady Bird Lake.


  1. Beautiful pix! Drop by Barton Springs Pool/Park where the "pool" is fed by natural springs. My son took us swimming there in the heat of August when he lived there. Not sure if it's open now though. Also, if you want a Texas bbq experience, try the Salt Lick.

  2. It looks pretty cool! I showed with a gallery on Sixth in Austin, Wally Workman Gallery.My friend was out there recently and said there was a location that had a bunch of corralled Airstreams that housed all kinds of eateries.She said it was worth going to Austin just for that.

    You Astrals are sure leaving a trail of "frosty" dust in some of the strangest locales. 31 in Austin?

  3. Thanks Lori... we're always looking for good spots to eat! We have a pool and hot tub here but we missed our chance today as the temp is supposed to plummet tonight. Bummer!

    We'll be doing museums and galleries tomorrow Sandy and will check it out. I don't know why the frigid temps seem to be following the Astrals... it's getting rather spooky.

  4. Kickin' in my neck o' the woods now! I may be a bit biased, but Austin is a pretty cool berg. Some excellent traditional Irish music can be heard opposite the Driskill at B.D. Riley's Pub on Sunday nights, if you're into that sort of thing and are still in town on Sunday.

    And for 24/7 dining, try Kerby Lane (South Lamar Blvd.) or The Magnolia Cafe (Lake Austin Blvd).

  5. @Katrina C. M.: Yeah we get around albeit slowly. But we have nuttin' but time. Ha! So far we love the vibe here. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Any Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera at the Mex-AM?

  7. @erica: not sure since we did not go there yet. will let you know.

  8. My other half used to live in Austin. It was great to see your pictures and be able to see where he comes from.
    The pictures are very clear and interesting and the information you give us makes it feel like I'm travelling with you.

  9. Thanks Star... so glad you are enjoying our travels with us!

  10. I didn't know you play guitar. Keep on Rockin in the Free World... I got an old Strat and an Ovation... Gary Gellner Middlesex... Eric's friend..

  11. @Gary: Well, to say I play guitar is a bit of a stretch. I bought a Washburn Rover before we hit the road and I practice everyday but I am still pretty much a n00b. But, yeah, Keep on Rockin'. Nice that you have a Strat. I figure if I learn on a steel string acoustic, the transition to electric will be easier. I got blisters on my fingers. Ha! At least on the tips. Thanks for reading the blog.

  12. poor little cuban, he didn't do nobody any wrong!

  13. @Clark: Oh, that Cuban! Yeah, he good.