I was so looking forward to going to Austin. Everyone always talks about what a fun city it is – I had heard tons about the food and the music, and had seen lots of photos from my Flickr contacts who live there. And of course, there are all the old school movies that took place and/or were filmed in Austin – like “Reality Bites” and “Dazed and Confused” – just everything I had seen or heard or read about Austin was totally positive and I couldn’t wait to be there in person.
We arrived on Monday from Tampa – it was a long travel day with a stop in Houston on the way. We were staying about ten miles from downtown at the Hyatt Place Arboretum, an upscale shopping area. By the time I reached the hotel, got settled and went to the grocery store, I was too beat to do anything exciting that night, unfortunately. Exploring Austin would have to wait until Wednesday.
On Tuesday morning I drove in the horrendous traffic to the theater, which was on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin, not far from downtown. The traffic in Austin is unreal – worse than Florida, worse, I dare say, than L.A. I couldn’t believe what a parking lot the freeways were at all times of the day. We learned some back ways of getting downtown and to campus throughout the week, which made driving a little less painful, but still, I can’t say that I will miss doing that drive to work at all.
The campus at the University of Texas was gorgeous – big and sprawling and busy, busy, busy. The theater was also large, but surprisingly (and happily) we managed to fill it to the gills all week. The audiences loved the show! It was so nice to feel like a hit again – we have definitely seen the audience numbers decline over the last nine months or so.
I took a few minutes on Tuesday afternoon during load-in to walk around campus a bit. There was some construction going on (as there is on all college campuses – I don’t remember a time at UCSD when there wasn’t some new building going up), but amidst the construction and all the hundreds of students, there were some really pretty buildings, sculptures and glimpses of spring.
Unfortunately, the weather while we were in Austin was not great. It was warm the day we arrived, but the next day the skies turned to gray, and it started raining. It was chilly, too – in the forties for most of the week. I know that the Texans are happy for the rain because they are dealing with such a drought, but I was so sad to not be able to sit outside on any patios all week, or do any bike riding. It was kind of a huge bummer.
On Wednesday, I found a window of opportunity between rain showers to get down to the capitol building and walk around a little bit. It is a pretty building and grounds. With the big presence of the university, the grand capitol building, and the funky vibe to the city, Austin feels a lot like Madison or Portland. After visiting the capitol, I drove over to the flagship Whole Foods downtown, which is e-normous and quite spectacular inside. After that I went across the street to Book People, a great independent bookstore, and dropped some cash on a few books.
On Thursday morning I decided to wholeheartedly forgo dieting for the week, and embrace all the food that Austin has to offer. I had heard so much about breakfast tacos and margaritas and ice cream from some of my friends on Flickr, that I decided to go for it and just enjoy Austin for the week, tacos and all. So, I started Thursday by going to Kerbey Lane, a local diner, for breakfast/lunch, where I had their famous pumpkin pancakes. It had been a while since I had had pancakes, and these babies did not disappoint. So, so, so good.
We had a brush-up dance and music rehearsal in the afternoon on Thursday followed by the show. For dinner, Ken took Jovon and I to Threadgills, a local restaurant, for some comfort food. I had grilled tilapia with pineapple salsa, some corn and sweet potato fries. Delicious!
After the show was Spamalot’s big three year anniversary party. It’s hard to believe it has been three years already since the show opened in Boston. Anyway, to celebrate, Karl arranged a party for us at a great bar and restaurant downtown called the Moonshine Grill. There was a tent set up for us on their patio (it was still raining), and we had a great time listening and dancing to the band Milkdrive, and eating the delicious food (cornbread wrapped shrimp – come on!). It was a really fun night.
On Friday I drove over to Austin Java, and met up with Meg, a friend who I have gotten to know this year through the 365 Project on Flickr – this was our first time meeting in person, although we “see” each other every day in our photos. It was so nice sitting and chatting with Meg – the time flew by – she was so easy to talk to. The best thing about taking part in the 365 Project has been the friends I have made along the way – some really awesome ladies! My lunch with Meg was definitely a highlight of the week.
In the afternoon on Friday I drove out to the airport and picked up Ryan. He had gone back to Green Bay for the week to deal with a broken pipe in his basement. Its a shame that he had to miss the first part of the week in Austin, but we tried to make up for lost time over the weekend. We drove straight from the airport to Kerbey Lane for dinner where Ryan had a green chile pork stew with gorgonzola mashed potatoes and I had a bacon and pear grilled cheese sandwich with sweet potato fries. Yum!
On Saturday, Ryan and I got up early and stopped by REI where Ryan picked up some snowboarding pants and goggles that he had ordered in anticipation of our trip to Alaska. Then we went to Taqueria Arandas for some breakfast tacos. I had heard so much about breakfast tacos before coming to Austin, and they did not disappoint! When we got to the theater, Jovon had brought in donuts from Round Rock. I had a slice of one – so good. Between shows, we headed over to the South Austin Trailer Park to the infamous Torchy’s Tacos truck. Jovon, Ken, Karl and Callie showed up, too. The tacos were so good! I had an ahi tuna, a shrimp and a deep fried avocado (what?!). The trailer park was really fun and kitschy. You sit outside at picnic tables and can order either from Torchy’s, or a hamburger truck. There was also another trailer that sold gifts and coffee and s’mores! On the way back to the theater we stopped at Amy’s Ice Cream. I had triple Mexican vanilla and dark chocolate – yum!
That night we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a bit early at shot night. Merle hosted and she did up the room with all St. Paddy’s Day decor and with shots of Jameson, green apple liquor and cranberry juice. They were pretty lethal.
After Shot Night, Ryan and I went back down to South Austin to The Continental Club to meet up with Tom, Vicki and Suzanne to see the band Southern Culture on the Skids. It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad we were able to get out and see some live music while we were in town.
On Sunday it was the official third birthday of the Spamalot tour, and as with all anniversaries, we celebrated with cupcakes. These were from Hey Cupcake! in Austin.
There also was a return trip to Torchy’s Tacos. It had to be done. Those tacos were so freakin’ good. A few more company members also showed up. It was also the first sunny day in town. It felt really nice to sit outside in the sun.
And with that, our stay in Austin was over. It’s probably a good thing, too, because my stomach could not have handled much more! I wish it could have been nicer out so that I could have done some outdoor activities like riding around Towne Lake or going to Zilker Park, but that will have to wait for another visit. I loved my week in Austin – if it wasn’t in such a hot climate, I could probably live there. But I like my seasons. I’ll just have to save Austin for visits – that being said, it was definitely one of my favorite stops on the tour. What a great week!