Austin was the first city on this road trip that I'd never been to before, and it's currently my favorite of all the cities I've been to. I kept a list of all the places people told me to visit and things to do, and I had a hard time getting through them all in 3 weeks. Here's my top 10.
1. Turquoise water. Austin would be a cool urban city on its own, but what makes it amazing is all the natural beauty right in the middle of the city. On top of that, it's been in the 80s in February so there's no excuse not to go canoeing, hiking, running, rope-swinging, swimming, or biking.
2. Snapping turtles. I don't know what it is about turtles I love so much, but they're everywhere here and they're adorable. I went stand up paddle boarding across Lady Bird Lake to Barton Springs last week, and they were so close you could almost touch them.
3. Field trips. Lately I've been thinking of this trip as a self-guided internship, since I have the weekdays free to wander around museums with school-age kids on class trips. In Austin, I visited the state capitol, where I walked the same halls as state legislators, the Lyndon B. Johnson library, which includes a replica of the Oval Office, and the Blanton Museum of Art, which currently features an exhibition on Art of the 90s.
4. Eclectic families. I grew up in a big, crazy family with a million pets and friends coming in and out of the house all the time, so I have a special place in my heart for people who live the same way. My friend Laislee welcomed me into her big house along with her husband Peter, her son Ollie, her brother Abel, her friend Febe, and their two dogs Buster and Dylan. They made me feel right at home, which maybe came back to bite them when I ended up staying longer than I had planned. I was making pancakes one morning two weeks into my stay when Peter asked me how long exactly I'd been there for. My time in Austin flew by, but it also felt like a lot longer than just a few weeks [thank you Van Ettens for being so welcoming!]
5. Borrowed friends. Not long after I had the idea to take a long road trip around the country, I got an email from my friend Amanda asking me to show her friend Travis where to go running in Portland. I'd met Travis and his friend, Lars, at Amanda's wedding the year before, right before they were going to quit their jobs to sail around the Caribbean, and he'd just finished the trip when he was stopped in Portland. In my mind, he was exactly the person to run my idea by, because he didn't know me well enough to have a bias against it and given his own experience, I was pretty sure he'd have positive things to say. Now that he's settled back in Austin, he's been great about showing me around town and it's been fun comparing our trips.
6. Whole Foods. Both Laislee and Travis told me that I needed to go to Whole Foods while in Austin, which I initially thought was a joke since you can go to Whole Foods anywhere. This one trumps the rest though, since it's the flagship store that sits below the corporate headquarters. I've spent way too much time inside that store, especially at the taco bar.
7. Local coffee shops. I only went to Starbucks once in the 3 weeks I've been here, which has to be a record. There are cute coffee shops on every corner, another thing about Austin that reminds me of Portland.
8. Beef brisket. I wouldn't be in Texas if I didn't get the beef brisket.
9. Round Rock Donuts. I drove way up to Round Rock, Texas just to buy one of these donuts along with a sweet tea. Definitely getting diabetes.
10. Tacos. Laislee tells me I have white-girl taste in tacos, but I don't care, I love every single one of them. Top taco spots have included Torchy's, Taco Deli, Takoba's, Marcelino Pan y Vino, and of course Whole Foods.