It didn’t take me but a block driving down South Congress to realize that Austin is a city with which I could easily become enamored. (I’m trying not to think about it too much, as I love, love, LOVE San Francisco and don’t want anything to ever tempt my relationship with the City by the Bay.) Strike that, even before I entered downtown, when I was out having an amazing dinner with the lovely ladies at Barton Creek Resort & Spa, I realized how nice it was to be back in the friendly Southern states. While I find everyone on the West Coast perfectly nice and polite, there’s just something about how warm and genuine Southerners are that will forever make me take their side should someone pick on them on the playground or call them names behind their backs.
While my four-day trip to Austin with Lemon was initially a vacation, you guys know me and my masochistic, workaholic ways–within 24 hours of booking our flights (I had a free round-trip ticket on JetBlue that was set to expire soon, so I paid…wait for it…a total of $5 to get there and back), I had three assignments pinned down. I’m just incapable of going somewhere new and not wanting to write about it. But the possibilities! The food! The drink! The hotels! Not to mention, ahem, the tax write-offs! Plus, being on assignment allowed us to stay places like here and there and have spa treatments at little slices of heaven like Barton Creek. Our hotel in downtown Austin (our balcony is the second from top!):
Speaking of Barton Creek–where my ex-boyfriend Andy Roddick frequently trains; also the site of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s wedding reception–I had my first hot stone massage out there, and boy did it feel good. (For the record, my initial thought was to indulge in the Mexican Chocolate Cayenne Scrub (um, yum?), but I’m just not ready to part with my much-worked-for tan just yet.) I was a little hesitant about letting someone press scalding rocks into my spine, but it was heavenly. And my sloth-like toes–those custom-made for flip-flops and retrieving things from the ground without even needing to bend over–came in handy here, as she also placed small stones between each of them without even having to pry them apart. I still don’t really get what healing powers these unassuming rocks boast, but whatever it is, I left relaxed. I’m just glad I remembered to shave this time and that my monthly Brazilian fell a few days before. Last time I had a massage, I didn’t realize until I was on the table that my legs were resembling those of a Sasquatch, and it was too late to do a single thing about it. It’s kind of like when you go to a Vietnamese nail salon for a pedicure and just as they begin to roll up your jeans, you notice the harsh bristle. Of course, then they inevitably gossip about your lack of personal maintenance in their mother tongue under the guise of their smiling, seemingly happy faces (it’s true; I’ve had a Vietnamese friend translate for me before). But ignorance is bliss, right?
So what else did I do during my brief love affair with Austin? Well, I ate tried-and-true Tex-Mex (duh). I shopped on 2nd Street and in SoCo. I had a delicious treat from the Airstream trailer that houses Hey, Cupcake. I killed time in the world’s greatest book store, Book People (thanks to ChrisC for that tip!), where I finally found a Guatemala map for my vacay with SVV next month (you have no idea how difficult a feat that was).
I brunched on carrot cake french toast at South Congress Cafe. I donned several shades of cliche and bought some real cowgirl boots from a boot factory (the only ones I’ve ever had before were the ones I used for horseback riding day in, day out when I worked on the ranch in Arizona), as evidenced below (also with a (cheap) new dress from a 2nd Street boutique):
I went to a wine bar with my friend Addy, who actually shared a suite with me on the same ranch mentioned above, and whom I haven’t seen in four whole years. She works for the Democratic National Committee and was just with Obama in New Mexico earlier that day (how cool, right??). Here we are in Utah, summer of 2002:
We met up with Lemon’s high school pal, Kim, who showed us some of her Austin and is new to the blogosphere (show her some love!). Lemon and I explored the State Capitol at night. I was very impressed. What a stunning sight–it looks so much like our National Capitol (and stands 14 feet higher, too!). Lemon drove me around that other orange-blooded UT campus, which was perfectly nice, of course, though I still think Knoxville is a prettier university!
We stumbled upon the infamous bar, Chuggin’ Monkey, owned by Hotter-than-Crap Brad from The Bachelor and went in, on a Friday night of a game weekend (kill me now), only to discover I could never again be back in college. But the noise! It was deafening! I was ready to pop an Excedrin Migraine halfway into Thriller, which of course was the song blasting from the speakers when we walked in. We ate dinner with the Er’s, Liz’s parents, Terry and Jerry, who were hurricane evacuees and taking advantage of a loss of power to eat and shop their way through Austin, alongside us.
We sampled the chocolate bag at Truluck’s, which I kid you not was a good foot-and-a-half in height and made of a chocolate bar-like shell that was filled with all sorts of cream and fruity goodness. We tasted the “official drink of Austin” at Ranch 616 with the gals from the CVB, a shot of some sort of vodka concoction from a jalapeno pepper and chased by a Lone Star beer.
We visited the.most.amazing.outlets.EVER. After five hours of power-shopping through Kate Spade, Victoria’s Secret, Coach, Nike, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Neimans, Saks, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Catherine Malandrino, White House Black Market, etc.etc.etc.etc.–all outlets!!–we still hadn’t even covered a FOURTH of the grounds! Seriously, if you ever find yourself in the Houston/Austin/San Antonio areas, you must promise me you’ll make a trip to San Marcos (and subsequently send me a gift for a finder’s fee, as well, of course!). I bought the world’s cutest go-go-like boots from Nine West (worn here with my new Blair Waldorf-esque dress from some teenybopper store on the UT campus):
I just have to say it’s a good thing I was finally paid by several magazines that had owed me from as far back as 2007 last week, because my wallet suffered a serious bruising in Austin (but $30 cashmere sweaters! $90 boots! $100 Coach purses! it was all too good to be true!). And I shopped a bit for SVV, as well, who literally has not purchased jeans since the 90′s. His wardrobe needs a bit of a facelift, to put it mildly, and someone tell him every man should own a suit and that Dickie’s don’t count as dress pants, puh-lease?
But! There are so many things I didn’t get to do! Like eat Texas bbq at Salt Lick and ice cream at Amy’s (Lemon and I both had some sort of stomach problems–probably passed on by her roomie, who was at home with a horrible virus–so our eating was limited for a good 24 hours). Once we recovered, however, you’ll be glad to know we hit up Waffle House (regular waffle, hash browns scattered, smothered and covered) and Sonic (grilled cheese, cherry limeade) out in San Marcos in a mere afternoon (living in cities gives you the oddest cravings for Middle America chain food). I am bummed to no end that I didn’t get to visit the Alamo Drafthouse, a theater-and-restaurant combo establishment, as recommended by several of you and everyone I met while I was there. Which only means…I have to go back! Soon! Anyone want to go with me? We can have our own girlfriend getaway! It’s true: Everything is bigger there!
But for now, I’m off to Sonoma this afternoon through Friday for yet another work trip, sigh, meaning more time on the road and more days away from SVV (who I haven’t seen since Tuesday; though I was home last night, he’s left me alone with the cat, while he has fun frolicking with sea lions during SCUBA School in Monterey with Sean).