It’s Texas, but not as you’d expect it…
Last weekend I went to see High or Hell Water at the cinema, a fantastic film about two brothers who plan a series of bank heists in order to save the family ranch. Jeff Bridges is brilliant and Nick Cave on the soundtrack had me sold after the opening scenes. But what this film really reminded me of – aside from the fact that Bridges is still a boss – was just how breathtaking Texas is.
I was in Texas in 2014. The landscape in this southern state is vast, deserted and largely barren, dry and dusty, until suddenly you’re in swamp or lakeside surrounded by forest. It’s dramatic, which is probably why it lends itself so easily as a captivating backdrop on the big screen. The saying ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’ is definitely, true, from the cars to the cowboy hats.
You say that you’ve been to Texas and most people think it’s full of rednecks, swigging Lone Star on the porch and riding out the rodeo every Saturday night.
But Austin is different. Yes the skyscrapers are still huge, the roads are wide and the margaritas are still overflowing on 6th Street. But sometimes Austin can feel like it’s not in Texas at all.
Austin locals like to ‘keep Austin weird’ and I’d say they’re doing a good job! For a start you won’t see as many people wearing cowboy boots here – even though, arguably, the most famous cowboy boot shop in Texas is in Austin (see below). I couldn’t help myself and bought the most expensive pair of boots I’ve ever splashed out on – I blame the fact that we were on those margaritas! I’ve still never had them on my feet (the most expensive bad souvenir purchase EVER).
Regretting not going for these beauts…
Austin has one of the best, most creative and diverse music scenes in the whole world, let alone the US. Another slogan for you; Austin is also known as ‘the music capital of the world’. Austin City Limits is one of the biggest music festivals in the country and this October you’ll find the likes of Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and Willie Nelson taking to the stage. Then there’s the street art – it’s everywhere, and it’s an Instagrammer’s delight! Here are a few shots from HOPE Outdoor Gallery, the only community paint park in the entire US:
But just when you thought Texas had gone all hippy on you, up pops the State Capitol, an impressive domed building – like a mini White House to ignorant Europeans like me! Its manicured lawns, marble columns, polished floors and portraits of powerful men scream tradition, conservatism, history and heritage. Don’t be fooled by a honky-tonk dive bar and a bit of spray paint, Austin is a powerful place with a lot of powerful people in it.
Austin isn’t just home to musicians and politicians; between March and October 1.5 million bats emerge every night from beneath Congress Avenue Bridge. It’s the largest urban bat colony in North America, and I was lucky enough to catch them on their nightly flight. TIP: the best vantage point is from the water and there are lots of boat tours available, but be sure to book early.
Then there’s the food. Austin is where I ate the best burger I’ve ever eaten in America – caveat, I’ve eaten A LOT of Dennys… If you’re a fan of meat between bread then get yourself to Hopdoddy’s. Austin is perhaps one of the best cities for street food.
I love Austin, its creative liberalism sits side-by-side with political conservatism, and from a visitor’s point of view, they seem the get along pretty well. I hope it retains its off-beat, un-Texan tinge. Keep it weird Austin, and I’ll be back! And remember…
For more on my travels across the US, including California and New York, head right this way.
Liked these snaps? Join me on Instagram