Please note: 90% of the images were taken with a disposable camera; please forgive the sh*t quality, but notice how interesting the detailing is on the trees. (Seriously.)
I stayed at The Kimber Modern – a spot I recommend to all, should you have the cash flow to support the luxury – as well as at Martha Gannon’s Bat House (or, what the folks at the Kimber Modern call The Artist’s Loft).
Martha is a world-class artist whose work you will recognise if you’re at all interested in the universe of art. I didn’t know she was who she was until I started poking around her website, at which point I was stunned and humbled. Apart from being one of the nicest people I met while in Austin – and with whom I wish I’d spent more time – my introduction to Martha came at the same time as meeting her momma, who struck me as a typical Texas spitfire.
When I arrived, Momma had been outside and didn’t – for fear of slipping – want to walk past the plants which had just been watered. Martha indicated that she thought she should go past because the water wasn’t slippery. Momma said a simple and flat: “I think it is” and that was the end of that. There was a clear strength (with a lot of honey) in the way Momma delivered her answer, which was punctuated with the unspoken “…now this conversation is over”. That’s a talent, my friends, and one I am learning slowly. Texan women have it in spades.
Staying in Martha’s home was like staying inside of an art bubble as she had designed the entire space from zero to one hundred and then had it built (she worked construction to put herself through university and so was familiar with the inner workings, drawing everything to scale; also, her brother is a mechanical engineer and so helped with the creation of the Bat House) – I was almost too scared to touch anything because of its beauty. I must here give a quick nod of appreciation to her book collection where the quality of literature was a pleasure to peruse.
For those of you familiar with Austin, both the Kimber Modern and the Bat House are located directly behind The Continental Club. South Congress, a spot that in 2000, only had Allen’s Boots (still there) and The Gun Shoppe (no longer there), is instead today riddled with great little eateries and boutiques.
The neighbourhood is called SoCo and is a must-visit while in Austin.
Among the shoppes you should walk into and greet are:
– Lucy in Disguise (1506 S. Congress)
– New Bohemia (1601 S. Congress)
– Uncommon Objects (1512 S Congress)
– Farm-to-Market grocery (1300 S Congress) – possibly the only spot where the food you may purchase isn’t fried, breaded and / or covered in hot sauce; also, I recommend that pick up any variety of Austin Slow Burn jelly
Aside: I walked into the Hotel San Jose, which is directly on South Congress, and it is beautiful, with a greater hint of Texas feel than the Kimber Modern (which is more California, in terms of architecture).
Zilker, Barton Springs & Umlauf
Possibly even before visiting SoCo, you really must walk down to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden (605 Robert E Lee Rd) , arguably the most stunning spot in Austin. I spent some hours seated in the garden writing and reading, enjoying the calm and beauty of the space.
Among the stunning sculptures were
You may also swim, which I managed to do on my last day but only because I forced myself to do so as I didn’t wish to leave Austin a second time without having swam in the river. But I didn’t get baptised, though I’m certain it would have happened had I stuck around long enough. Most certainly, someone would have tried to de-Hell-ify my Muslim self, eventually.
Right down the way from Umlauf is the Zilker Botanical Gardens which is, unfortunately, not that great (it may simply be the time of year). I walked around for an approximate two hours looking for flowers and found only weeds; I may have also found one exceptionally creepy man lurking in the bushes, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. What’s even worse than the garden is their “map” of the garden, which looks like it was drawn by my best friend’s 3 year old son.
I’m pretty certain that if any employees from the botanical gardens read this, they will place a fatwah on my stupid a**, so for the record I will say that: YOU ARE ALL VERY NICE – it’s just your flowers that I didn’t much care for. (Instead of Zilker, apparently, you are much better suited to head over to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Centre.)
While next to Umlauf and Zilker, you have to take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool, which is lovely and cool. Warning: Go during the week, or risk swimming in the Barton Springs & Pee Pool, courtesy of the million children free of school confines on the weekend.
I mean, really? George Dubya started here. So, you also must take a walk through the more governmental spaces in Austin in order to visit the courts, the capital and the (now burned) governor’s mansion.
…and where you will find gems such as the following, which I love (because nothing says Texas like the following). I waited around, lurking like a creep, hoping to see the – I will go out on a limb here and think it a man – dude who owned this car, but I got bored and instead went hunting for the UT campus:
University of Texas
I got lost. No surprise there; and was helped along by a very friendly English lit Professor who, instead of simply giving me directions, chose to instead go out of his way to walk my lost self over to where I was going. This was no small endeavour as he spent nearly 15 minutes with me chatting about literature and such…
You’re in Austin, you must see both the notorious ‘Death Tower’ (and the football stadium, of which I would have taken pictures, had my disposable camera not committed suicide).
You must also see the beautiful (and much famed) Coppini Littlefield Fountain:
As well as play inside of this interactive piece (directly outside of The Blanton, which sits at the edge of campus). Can you see me?
Also while on campus, make sure to find both the fraternity and sorority homes in order to acknowledge the weird (and I would argue: dangerous) exclusionary pack mentality permeating the United States.
– Harry Ransom Centre (to see the Gutenberg Bible and the first photograph, as well as make fun of poor Harry’s name)
– The Austin Museum of Art
– The Austin Museum of Contemporary Art
– Mexic-Arte Museum (where, oddly enough, the only language is English, and where this is the contributory note I wrote:
…and stuck on their wall, because I was offended:
– Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (and watch the propaganda riddled Star of Destiny for a little giggle)
– The Blanton Museum of Art
– Austin’s Children’s Museum (SO MUCH FUN!)
– The Continental Club (naturally…)
– Walk along 6th Street on any given night, listen for what you like and jump in head first
Miscellaneous Randoms Across Austin
‘Vibrancy’ on the city street
PUPPY! (For those of you in the know, I am terrified of dogs (because as a child, I was bitten by one and chased by another who nearly killed me), but this little guy was so tiny and squiggly and snugly, he was hard not to love…)
Gorgeous Lisa & Jay.Dub (both of whom are mentioned here)
Hurley (of Chance & Hurley, mentioned here)
And finally, if your feet don’t look like this – covered in bandages – by the time you’re ready to leave Austin, then you’ve not done enough walkin’ and you need to git off yer ass a little more next you’re there…
(One last entry to come, just about my general state of head and heart re Austin.)