Staying on the food theme, I started my final day in Austin with a walk to the first ever Whole Foods store which was founded in Austin. It was huge! And there were lots of pumpkins everywhere as this was the season for it leading up to Halloween and Thanksgiving. However, just like the London ones, it was also expensive but I liked the fact it had a dedicated Taco Alley which I doubt any of the London ones feature. After some breakfast, I was going to walk all the way to the other side of town to the SOCO district (South of Congress. NYC is the same – they shorten all the names of the different areas but I can’t quite bring myself to say them that way!) which I had read was the hip part of town with lots of quirky shops, more food trucks and the best place to buy cowboy boots.
It was a really long walk on top of which I was sweltering in 30 degrees Celsius heat – and this was supposed to be their winter? Well it was the equivalent of a heatwave in Britain for me so the walk across the bridge and to SOCO took me ages as I had to keep stopping for water breaks. Once I managed to pretty much crawl my way to SOCO, I wanted to eat but I simply couldn’t try another food truck as it was too darn hot so I opted for a Tex-Mex restaurant and told them to put me anywhere by the air-con. I am not a fan of Tex-Mex. Once you have had real authentic Mexican food in the food capitals of Mexico, Tex-Mex just doesn’t compare. I did appreciate the ice-cold guacamole served to me like a scoop of ice cream and helped cool me down.
I finally made it to where I became a cowgirl, on my friend’s recommendation; Allens Boots. The shop was huge and the smell of leather hits you when you walk in as it was just row after row of cowboy boots of every size and colour. At the other end of the shop were all the Stetson cowboy hats and other accessories if you wanted to complete the look! I was skeptical as to whether they would have my size as I have very small feet but they did – granted, I did not have much to choose from but I did find just what I was looking for and the minute I put them on, they felt like they had been made just for me. I am now the proud owner of a pair of real Texan cowgirl boots which I shall wear around London with pride and probably be mistaken for a hipster.
The walk back to town seemed a little easier, perhaps because I had some iced coffee from Jo’s to help me on my way. What I did notice in Austin was that everyone seems to have a dog, or two! Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that people have a lot more space here than in London and they must all have gardens or yards but there definitely seemed to be as many dogs as people. I had an early flight out of Austin the next morning so I went home to pack. I really wanted to try some famous Texan BBQ before I left so in the evening I headed out to Stubb’s BBQ in the Red River district where I could try some ribs and listen to live music.
I should say at this point that everyone had warned me about the homeless problem in San Francisco, which as I talked about in my last post, I did not encounter directly. I thought it was much more noticeable in Austin – perhaps it was because the weather was better that I just saw a lot of people hanging out on the streets and quite a few who were calling out to talk to me – not in an aggressive way but just calling out to me. As a woman alone, this made me feel slightly edgy walking around that area. When I found Stubb’s, it was closed for a private event (typical) so I went back to the downtown area around Congress Avenue where I felt safer and had some steak in a place I had read about called Second Bar and Kitchen. The steak was delicious but a lot pricier than a food truck option!
I wanted to see some live music but I am not a fan of country – my friend had taken me past a jazz bar called Elephant Room so I headed there for an hour or so to see some live jazz. It was downstairs in a basement and was a really chilled out venue where all the walls and ceilings were covered in signed one dollar bills. I wanted to add a dollar bill to the collection but I was so conscious the whole time of needing to tip, tip, tip in America that I also wanted to hold on to all my smaller notes. I had some beer and listened to some great Jazz and after I said goodbye to my Texan friend, that ended my flying 36 hours in Austin.
I would conclude that Austin is probably not representative of the rest of “middle America”. It is in the way it is not as multicultral as San Francisco or New York (I didn’t even see many Mexicans around – but there is a cute little Mexican museum called the Mexic Arte Museum) but the people are all really friendly, relaxed, into music and it is indeed a hip city. The SOCO area is where to go if you want to experience what the hipster scene is like in Texas – I would describe a Texan hipster as similar to others in their bearded exteriors but with a more rugged and less obviously crafted look than those you find in London or San Francisco. I did like Austin and I would like to visit again just to be able to see things in less of a rush and experience the outdoors and surrounding areas, perhaps in combination with a trip over the border to my beloved Mexico.