Saturday, January 12, 2013

Austin tour p.1: what I did

For anyone who has ever tagged along with someone on a business trip, you know how it goes: a lot of alone time. And that was fine with me, since I'm somewhat of an introvert and actually enjoy doing my own thing. Obviously, I would have loved spending the days with my husband, but since it wasn't an option (he's got a work ethic, and all that), touring Austin alone sure beat the pants out of staying in Virginia by myself.

Our trip came pretty quickly following Christmas, and during the Christmas season I couldn't spare a minute between viewings of A Christmas Story and The Holiday to see what there was to do in Austin. It wasn't until the day before we left that I bothered to do a little searching. I found some cool things to check out, and I can't say I did them all, but I thought it would be helpful to share what I did do, for others who may be heading to Austin themselves.

Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue: Before Jon had to report to the convention center for his presentation, we had some time Sunday morning to walk to breakfast together.  I had copious amounts of food, so I've saved that for another post.  On our way back to the hotel, we thought we'd pay homage to guitar god and native Texan, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Where (Stevie Statue): You can find the statue along the trail at Lady Bird Lake (which by the way, bears more resemblance to a river) in a park called Auditorium Shores.  Walk south over the 1st St Bridge and bust a right.

Downtown Austin from Auditorium Shores
South Congress Street (also known by hipsters as SoCo): I spent the rest of Sunday exploring the SoCo district.  About a mile from our hotel (the Radisson just along the river at Congress & Cesar Chavez St), SoCo is packed with true vintage shops (so much polyester!), cafes, boutiques, food trucks, etc.  I even wandered off South Congress and into the residential neighborhoods surrounding it.  I walked past a Baptist church on Sunday morning which was practically bursting with song.  Yeah... I loved it.  So much to see.  Definitely visit South Congress if you go to Austin.
Iconic 'i love you so much' on the side of Jo's Coffee at South Congress & James St.
Greetings from Austin mural on the side of Roadhouse Relics, S. 1st  & Annie St.
Where (South Congress): Congress St south of Lady Bird Lake to Oltorf St.

This little fella is named Jalapeno and I am smitten with him!  Austin Pets Alive is an adoption agency that has mini-locations around Austin every day.  I stumbled upon this one on South Congress and met Jalapeno.  I seriously racked my brain for ways to get him home on the plane with me.  I LOVE HIM.

Sunset reflections on the building across from our hotel.
Austin City Limits/Willie Nelson Statue: My Nan loves Willie Nelson.  Like, she named her dog Willie, and even though she's 72, I'm surprised she hasn't yet bucked up and gotten some sort of Willie tattoo to show her dedication (my Nan can be pretty badass, y'all).  So yeah, obviously I wanted to visit Willie's statue when I was in Austin.  He's a Texas boy, and lives in Austin (or used to, anyway).  Part of 2nd street was named for him.  They kind of love him there.  
Fun fact: Willie's statue was dedicated on 4/20 at 4:20.
If you're a music fan, or you've ever flipped through a TV Guide as a kid (or at least drew on the covers, like I did), you're probably familiar with Austin City Limits.  You can read about the history of the show and venue here, but quickly I will say that the pilot was shot in 1974 with - who else? - Willie Nelson (though he wasn't quite the music icon that he is now).  Nowadays, Willie practically runs the place.  His statue sits out front, his pictures are all over the place, and I'm pretty sure he shells out a good chunk of cash there.

The day I set out to catch a tour of ACL was rainy, so I ended up being the only one to show up and had myself a private tour.  I wish I could remember the name of my tour guide (Don, maybe?), but he was head of merchandising and very cool.  I learned loads of info about the studio and the show, as well as the artists that have performed there.  Seriously, take this tour if you ever visit Austin.  It's fascinating.
There are 4 dressing rooms (if I remember correctly).  This is one of the larger  rooms.  The last person to use in the dressing rooms before I toured was Greg Allmann.
"Willie's Porch"
One of the highlights of the tour, for me, were the two photo galleries which are available to balcony and mezzanine ticket holders for ACL shows.  The first of the two we visited was that of ACL's long-time photographer, Scott Newton.

The one and only.
Says the photographer of the Ray Charles picture: "While I was out of position, I saw him briefly arch his back and stomp his foot, singing triumphantly, and do what you see, visually encapsulating all that he was and what he was doing.  I got in position and waited for him to do it again.  I still remember that click as if it were today."
Newton says this Dave Matthews Band picture is one of his favorites on a technical level.  The layers of fore-, middle, and background create a sense of depth that bring the viewer into the photo.
The largest dressing room, also used for events (the president was here recently!).
The second photo gallery was dedicated to legendary rock 'n roll photographer, Jim Marshall.  As the tour guide put it, Marshall basically lived the photography version of 'Almost Famous'.  He was self-taught, and at a young age began shooting some of the biggest names in rock music.  He toured with the musicians, and became friends with them.  From his website: "He was the chief photographer at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, the only photographer granted backstage access at the Beatles' last concert, the only photographer to squeeze Janis Joplin and Grace Slick into a single frame."

He shot the iconic photo of Johnny Cash (seen below) taken at San Quentin Prison.  Apparently, Marshall asked Cash to do "a shot for the warden", and this is what he came up with.   And if you're familiar with the Allman Brothers At Fillmore East album cover photograph, it, too, was taken by Jim Marshall.  The band hated being photographed and wouldn't crack a smile, that is, until Marshall asked a dealer (yeah, that kind) friend for some coke, waved the baggie in front of the band and told them they wouldn't get it unless they smiled.  And so they did.

Where (ACL): The Willie Nelson statue and entrance to ACL is on the corner of 2nd and Lavaca.  The ACL box office (tour tickets are $10) is along 2nd between Lavaca and Guadalupe Streets.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library: I love history.  But when I first saw the banners along Cesar Chavez St. advertising the LBJ Presidential Library, I wasn't sure I'd get a chance to visit the UT campus and check it out.  But with not much else to do on a rainy day, I got a bus ticket and went.

LBJ's presidential limousine
I have mixed feelings about LBJ.  Part of me sees him as a little sneaky, a little tricky, and I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if it ever came out that he had some involvement in JFK's assassination (not that I'm a crazy conspiracy theorist or anything).  However, he also did a lot of good things for our country that still affect us today, and for that, I like him.  I still don't really know how I feel about him, but the library exhibits were very interesting, and I had a good time exploring and learning.

Where (LBJ Library): On the UT Campus along Red River St, by 23rd.  I took the Airport Flyer bus (#100) from downtown.  Definitely something to check out if you have time and enjoy history and/or presidential libraries.

Texas State Capitol: And finally, the last thing I did on my trip.  We had to catch a bus to the airport at noon on Thursday, so I got up early to squeeze as much in as possible.  I grabbed a breakfast taco at Torchy's Tacos, then took the bus up to the Capitol (and then took it back down to Torchy's, got lunch tacos to-go, walked over to SoCo to get Jon a souvenir, and took a bus back up to the hotel... all by 11:30 am).

I had kind of put off visiting the Capitol, even though it was recommended by several people.  I wanted to wait until a sunny day, so my last chance was Thursday morning.  I got there just in time for a tour (semi-private this time; just two of us were there).  The tour lasts about a half hour - 45 minutes, and is pretty interesting.  The capitol building itself is stunning.  Check out the rotunda: The dome is 118 feet high (don't quote me on this), and the star at the top measures 8 feet across, tip to tip.

I didn't have a ton of time to spend here, but I wish that I did.  I did run over to the visitor's center (on the grounds, in a building to the right if you're looking at the capitol) to get a Christmas ornament (we collect them when we travel), and wanted to explore a little more in there.  Definitely something I'd like to visit again next time I am in Austin.

Texas has some ridiculously young senators.  Jaykay!  I found out that the babies are children, grandchildren, or nieces/nephews of senate members.  They call them "mascots" and have appeared on the posters since 1911.
The amount of detail all through this building is astounding.
House of Reps was about to go in session.  I didn't have time to stick around, but it was cool to see them preparing.  Check out the San Jacinto Battle Flag in the back.
View from the Capitol.
It's a star.  And the lights spell out TEXAS.

Even the doorknobs are decorated in lone stars.
The outside of the capitol is "sunset red" granite.

You can see the capitol all the way down South Congress St.

Flag used in the 1835 Texas Revolution
Stars everywhere
Where (Capitol): 11th and Congress.  I think I took the #10 bus from 1st Street, but I think the 1L and 1M will also stop around here.
Texas State Flag
Flying back to the East Coast: Nighttime aerial view of The District.
Could I have written any more?  Good God.  I hope some of you found this informative, and a little interesting.  Austin is a great city and I think you should all go (and take me with you).

No comments:

Post a Comment