Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Keep Austin Weird / Part 1

Last week, Beau and I traveled with Nate and Kate to Texas for one dream of a vacation.  This little trip has been in the works since August and while we planned and anticipated and looked forward to it since then, the memories we made together last week will far outweigh the months of excitement leading up to it.  Getting to spend three days at the Magnolia House, the vacation rental Chip and Joanna Gaines renovated during Season 3 of Fixer Upper was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  So much so that it didn't feel real until we walked through that front door Tuesday afternoon.  I hardly wanted to talk about it until then because a part of me kept thinking it wasn't going to happen!  But happen it did, and it was nothing short of a dream.  But before I jump into our Magnolia leg of the trip, our adventure wouldn't be complete without our first two days in Austin...

A trip to Austin has been on my bucket list for awhile now, thanks to the likes of Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, and Jamie Ivey.  They talk about their city with great affection and I've always been intrigued by how unique and weird they make it sound.  It's also known as the food truck capital of the world, and I knew I had a better chance of talking Beau into this vacation if I could use taco trucks, barbecue, and Willie Nelson to persuade him.  And let me tell you, this city lived up to the hype.  Its unique vibe, creative energy, and no shortage of killer places to eat good Tex-Mex, made this one of our favorite places to spend a long weekend.  I can't say I'll ever have the chance to stay in the Magnolia House again, but Austin, Texas will surely be seeing us.

Our Austin stay wouldn't have been complete without our charming Airbnb.  We knew it was in our preferred South Congress area of the city, yet didn't expect the location to be this central to so much of what we wanted to see.  The loft happened to be above the famous Allen Boots store, and the smell of leather filled the air as we unlocked the gate and made our way into this upstairs loft.  It was much bigger than expected, and full of Texas charm everywhere we looked.  From the floor to ceiling display of cowboy boots, to the bull horns and Mexican blankets, to the bowl of Texas Pecan coffee waiting for us in the morning, it was easy to feel at home in Texas. 

We flew out of Des Moines Sunday afternoon and had a bit of a delay at DFW.  Just thankful to reconnect with our friends, we made the most of it and had a little progressive dinner through the airport, stopping for our first Lone Star beers and a little barbecue at the Salt Lick, and capping off our pre-flight meal with nachos and margaritas at Pappasito's Cantina.  We arrived to Austin late and settled into our digs, but not before a late night slice of pizza across the street. :) 


Monday was our first adventure day in Austin.  After a quick morning rain shower, the skies turned blue and the temperatures were in the low eighties and couldn't have felt better to these four Iowa kids.  Thanks to three pages of local recommendations from our sweet airbnb hosts, Sean and Lauren, our morning started across the street at a TOMS coffee shop.  Kate and I took advantage of Sean and Lauren's recommendation for the vanilla coriander latte and this unexpected ingredient made for our first of many food wins of the day.  

The problem with Austin is that I could have spent nearly all day in each place we visited.  Every corner of this coffee shop had something to explore and I loved their same one-for-one mission that put their shoes on the map.  Every drink purchased means clean drinking water for someone in need.  We explored their backyard patio, admired the first of many Austin murals we would come across, and sipped coffee in funky chairs as we planned the day ahead.  And then we asked the barista about the best place to score tacos.

We hopped on four Google bikes just outside of Jo's Coffee, and headed west (uphill I might add) in search of El Primo.  And as we came upon this rundown little taco truck on a street that looked far less picturesque than our hip little South Congress, Kate and I began to wonder if this fit the vision of what we were looking for.  But my husband, who typically rates his dining experience by how dive-y the establishment looks, hopped off his bike like a kid who just found a buck on the sidewalk.  We ordered tacos from the sweetest man who acted as though it literally made his day to serve us.  And it was here we were convinced to 1) always trust the locals, and 2) never judge a book by its cover.  The tacos were delicious, my husband was happy, and we felt a little bit like locals, even though our Google bikes told everyone otherwise. :)

Our El Primo destination soon led us to a few other surprise stops that made each of us happy in our own ways.  Kate and I were pleased to stumble upon the picture-worthy Welcome to Austin mural, and less than five minutes after tacos, Nate made a beeline to a cute airstream serving donuts.  Making a little fun of him at first, we soon ate our words, and his absolutely delicious fried donuts smothered in blueberry goodness.  

After it took us about an hour to make it three blocks, we decided to head downtown and cover some distance.  Kate and I had our hearts set on shopping at Raven and Lily, so Nate fearlessly navigated us downtown, beside lots of city traffic and under the interstate, in search of our destination.

Our biking adventure was one of the highlights of our Austin experience.  While I would not recommend this with small children (did you know Austin is the 11th biggest city in the country?), it was a great way to see a lot of the city and be able to stop on the fly when we needed to.  Like when we made it uphill and across the interstate and needed to catch our breath!  Slightly hairy at times when the bike lane and turning lane seemed to be the same thing, it was quite the rush.  Beau said he felt pretty tough at times, but then looked at the basket on the front of his bike and was quickly brought back to reality. :)

Stay tuned for the rest of our Austin adventure...  

And thanks to Kate for sharing a few of your pictures with me. :)    

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