And EVERY TIME I'm blown away. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I love Austin, Texas. It is the best city I have ever visited in my life, and I can't be the only one who thinks so.
Last weekend my friend from work, Rebecca, and I went to Austin to catch the tail end of South by Southwest, a big music festival of up and coming bands. Rebecca had never been to Austin and has a Utility Accounting conference this week ... I know, OUCH.
So I graciously volunteered to join her and take advantage of the free, downtown accommodations!
Upon arriving at the airport, we were immediately picked up by a broken-down Minivan/Taxicab driven by an Austenite who calls himself Ricky Ricardo. Upon pulling out of the airport, Ricky Ricardo (Richard, it turns out) cranks up the radio and screams "WELCOME TO AUSTIN!" as he tears down the highway.
We got to the hotel and asked Ricky Ricardo Richard if he would mind hanging on for a bit while we dropped our bags off. It was about 11:30 AM, so we couldn't check into our room yet. He said "No problem" and shut off the meter. When we returned the the cab, Ricky Ricardo Richard gave us a FULL 30 MINUTE TOUR of Austin .... with the meter still OFF! That's how much he loves showing off his town. He asked us where we wanted to be dropped off, so we picked a spot, and he even refused the tip I offered him. (I gave it to him anyway, but how cool that he refused?)
So then we started walking. It was 80 degrees and sunny. Because SXSW was going on, I wasn't sure of the protocol for getting in to see live music. A lot of my favorite venues were also hosting the conference, so I wasn't sure they would let us in without the $900 tickets that people buy for a full conference pass.
I asked the bouncer at Maggie Mae's if there were a time when we could get in without badges.
Immediately a girl came over to us and gave us two free passes. Just like that. So we went in!
We headed to the bar in the back. There were 3 bands playing, so it was pretty loud. I asked the bartender for 2 Shiner Bocks. The bartender said something to me, and I must have had a blank look on my face because he laughed and shouted "DO YOU WANT A FREE MARGARITA INSTEAD?", to which I replied "YES PLEASE!!"
Did I mention there was also a table of free food upstairs? (see picture below)
I LOVE this town.
Rooftop Buffet at Maggie Mae's
So we wandered around ... great people watching, great music, great drinks, and great weather.
I met this new friend outside of Stubb's BBQ. I dug his handlebar mustache, and he agreed to take a picture with me.
Rebecca and I took a little break from walking around and laid in the grass between the Four Seasons and the river (Town Lake.) We had some company.... later we realized that the couple and the dog next to us might actually LIVE there! They can be seen washing their hair on the dock in the background.
We had a FANTASTIC dinner at Saba in the Warehouse District, which overlooks Cedar Street Courtyard, this cool venue between two brick buildings where bands play outside. We started talking to the folks at this table next to us. Regina (blue shirt) works at my favorite Austin radio station, KGSR, which I listen to on the Internet every day at work! How cool is that?
They were headed to a gay bar across the street, so we joined them and their friends. We had a blast!
Then we decided to walk down to South Congress or "SoCo", this artsy area south of the river.
We ducked in some shops, had some beers at Guero's, and suddenly I saw this celebrity out of the corner of my eye! I yelled to Rebecca "Follow me!" and I tore off down the street after the poor guy. I said "Excuse me, but are you Steve the Pirate?" He said "Yes, I am."
It was Steve the Pirate from the movie Dodgeball!!! I asked him if he minded if we took a picture, and he said No, so I threw my camera at Rebecca. I also turned to him and said "I'm sorry, I don't actually know your name." He said "Hi, I'm Alan," and shook my hand.
Unfortunately, I have a pretty complicated camera, and this is the picture that Rebecca took, which ended up focussing on the Austin Motel sign in the background instead of us... Oh well!
Aunt Crazy and Alan Tudyk
Well, I've written too much already. Sunday was more of the same ... Music, food, shopping, relaxing. Sunday morning Kalu James (http://www.kalujames.com/) was playing at Hickory Street, where we stopped in for a bloody mary and a screwdriver. There's a lot of amazing music in Austin, but I am truly going to buy this guy's cd. He and his band were fantastic.
Kalu James at Hickory Street Cafe
Sunday night we went out ... again!
I flew back to Richmond on St. Patrick's Day, so as a final thought, here is a little farewell from my new Irish friends!