Austin is the state capital of Texas and the 4th most populated city in Texas, with a population of about 930,000. It is the second largest state capital city in the U.S, and is known as ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’ with more than 250 music venues and a vibrant arts scene. Considering this, I thought it would be my favourite place to visit. (However, there were a few problems with our trip that I will mention at the end of this post).
Our trip to Austin was definitely interesting. Matt hired a car, as there is no public transport from College Station to Austin (except a bus which takes 7 hours even though Austin is only an hour and 45 minutes away). In the UK, we drive on the left-hand side of the road, and the driver’s seat is on the right-hand side of the car, so it took a bit of time for Matt to get used to driving. (Also considering he was used to driving a manual car and kept reaching for the non-existent clutch in the automatic we had hired, I thought he did a pretty good job). But soon enough, we were on our way, and made it to Austin in one piece, craving peaches, as we kept seeing signs for peaches on the motorway.
As we were only in Austin from midday until early, the next morning, we tried to fit a good number of things to see in a day, without having to rush from place to place. I like to spend a bit of time in the places I am visiting to get a feel for them, rather than just rush from one tourist location to the next.
11:00 – 12:30 BRUNCH AT THE HILLSIDE FARMACY
Everyone says that Franklin BBQ is the best BBQ in Texas, so we thought we would give it a try, only to reach there and learn that there is a four hour wait for lunch and there are only a certain number of people allowed in. It was the middle of the day and the sun was very hot, so we did not really want to walk all over Downtown Austin trying to find a restaurant. Luckily, we stumbled on to an antique-chic brunch restaurant called the Hillside Farmacy, which was absolutely wonderful. The gorgeous interior came only second to the scrumptious food, and breakfast cocktails. This was definitely a great start to the day.
1:00 – 3:00 TOUR OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING
After a lovely brunch, we wandered up to the Capitol Building. I was not prepared for how beautiful it is. Made of pink granite, it glows in the Texan sunshine. We spent a bit of time in the grounds just admiring it, which inspired the final painting in my 30 Days of Texas collection, ‘A Self-Portrait’. Some of my favourite moments are seeing a building so beautiful, that I just need to sketch it right away, and seeing the Capitol Building made me feel that, so I painted exactly how I saw myself at that point in time.
We then headed into the Capitol Building for a tour, which would have been informative, but we could not hear our tour guide, due to the general noise levels in the building. The interior of the central rotunda hosts portraits of all the governors of Texas and all the presidents of the Republic of Texas, and the dome over it is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside, with skylights lighting up the rotunda. This inspired my ‘Free Choice’ painting, which depicts the central rotunda and a peek at the interior on the dome. I used red to signify Texas as a Red State.
3:30 – 5:00 HOPE OUTDOOR ART GALLERY
After our tour of the Capitol, we took a taxi up to the Hope Outdoor Art Gallery. In the midst of a residential area, it looms up in an explosion of colour, when you first lay your eyes on it. Situated on a steep hill, it is a building that was partially demolished, and has no ceilings; just walls of varying heights, piled on a hill. Street artists over the years graffitied the walls and it was converted to a free open air gallery, constantly changing with the art that continuously builds up on its walls.
I tried to use the Hope Outdoor Art Gallery as inspiration for my ‘Abstract’ painting, which was slightly daunting as neither abstracts, nor graffiti, are my strong suit.
5:30 – 10:00 RAINEY STREET
Finally, we headed to our last portion of the day. Relaxing and grabbing a bite of dinner on Rainey Street. Rainey Street is my favourite street in all of Texas. Situated in Downtown Austin, surrounded by tall buildings, is a tree-lined street with individually designed bungalows with front and back yards, all of which have been converted into bars. It is fun and quaint and big and posh, all at the same time! In honour of my favourite street, I painted a Warhol inspired ‘Street/Traffic Sign’ painting which has a street AND a traffic sign on it.
After bar hopping for a while, we came to what I thought was the prettiest bar there, called The Parler Room. It was a blue bungalow with a bright yellow door and lights strung through the trees around it. The lovely bartender made me a cocktail with bubbles, vodka and peaches, and we sat down in the front yard to take in the happenings all around us. From games (like the one where you throw bean bags into holes), and beer pong to groups of people playing cards over cocktails, the atmosphere was lively, yet relaxed. In honour of The Parler Room, I painted this little painting.
I painted this one under the ‘Toy/Game’ category, even though it’s a painting of a bar, as in England, our bars do not really encourage games. The most you will find is a pool table in a pub, but our bars tend to be less casual.
For dinner, we wanted to try some food from the food trucks, as we had heard very good things about them, and they did not disappoint! We started off with a dessert of fresh mini donuts, which were absolutely scrumptious, and rounded it off with food from an Indian food truck. Being Indian, I was not keen to try Indian food in Austin because I could not imagine it being good, but I was pleasantly shocked to find that it was delicious!
While walking, up and down Rainey Street, I spotted this retro-looking food trailer and the sign made me laugh, so I thought I would paint it as my ‘Retro Inspired’ little painting.
I loved everything we did in Austin, and all the places we saw, but there were definitely some negatives about this trip. Austin seems to give off a bit of an unfriendly vibe, and after staying in College Station where people are very welcoming, it is a bit of a change.
Firstly, we used AirBnB for our accommodation, and every time I have used it in Europe, the hosts have been great at hospitality. In Austin, however, the people hosting do not seem to actually care about the hosting part. They do not update the website and we got six cancellations before we finally found a place to stay, and we were not impressed with how lax they were about the people booking with them.
Secondly, parking in Austin is a bit of a nightmare, so you would not want to drive into downtown Austin. However, the council has banned Uber and all other ride-share apps so to get around you have to use official taxis. This would be fine, but for double the price, you would expect the drivers to be nice to you. However, we had drivers constantly trying to con us out of our money by turning on the meters before we were even in the car, and rude drivers that actually shouted at us for not being able to understand them (because they did not speak English)!
I think if it was cooler we could have just walked everywhere, but in the heat, we needed to take taxis and it really ruined our day.
I tend to judge places, not by how pretty they are, but the vibe I feel when I’m there, and unfortunately, Austin’s vibe seemed to rub me the wrong way, which is a shame because I thought I would absolutely love it.