I feel like I'm cheating on California. Until now, San Francisco was my favorite city on the planet. But then, I expected California to be cool. Of Texas, I had zero expectations. Or at least not good ones (I'm so sorry my dear Texans, I had no idea how amazing y'all are!) But then I came upon Austin and fell in love.
First there are the people. Texans are Friendly (with a capital F). Their Southern drawl and the way they say "Ma'am" had me eating out of their hands. Then the gentle evening breezes warmed my cold Canadian bones and the Southern breakfasts and bountiful Tex-Mex food filled my belly.
Austin is a place you must see for yourself. Even if it's just for a mere 24 hours before or after your Texas Hill Country Biking Trip, there's so much to experience...
1. LIVE MUSIC: Take in some live music! Try the Continental Club on South Congress Avenue, where greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely and Lee Roy Parnell have played since 1957. Better yet, plan your trip to coincide with a phenomenal festival like Austin City Limits or South by Southwest. Austin is the live music capital of the country after all.
2. FILM: If it rains, head to a matinee at one of Austin's famous movie venues. For fine food, art house film selections and a lounge atmosphere, go straight to the Violet Crown Cinema. If comedies and draft beer better match your mood, check out the Alamo Drafthouse.
3. FOOD: Austin is famous for their food trucks and they're everywhere (check out this live map)! Also, in spite of the fact that Texas is inland, you have to visit Perla's on South Congress for their happening patio and phenomenal seafood. Their ceviche rivals even the best preparations I've tasted in Lima, Peru. Now walk. Explore. Then eat some more.
4. BATS!: At dusk from March to November, visit the Congress Avenue Bridge, where a swarm of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats come out for the nightly hunt. Just don't gawk open-mouthed under the bridge. Trust me. Either close your mouth or watch from above.
5. RELAX: Step inside the boutique Hotel San José and you instantly feel...cool. Hidden behind a wall of ivy, its courtyard contains history, mystery and the hippest vibe in town. Each room is so painstakingly detailed that you'll find yourself photographing every corner. You can even borrow one of their vintage-looking road bikes to explore town. And oh! Not only do they serve up a swinging jazz brunch once a month, but if you want a soundtrack to make your stay even more memorable, the front desk will provide you with custom playlists based on your tastes and mood. This is all thanks to the most finger-on-the-pulse concierge staff on the planet.
The only thing I have against Austin is that it could stand to be a little more diverse. I mean, really, must everyone be ridiculously good looking, tattooed, bearded, semi-employed as a drummer/barman/artist and wearing a fabulous plaid shirt with vintage cowboy boots*?
*Buy some cowboy boots at Allens Boots on South Congress. You'll fit right in.