For a very long time I’ve listened to people tell about how great Austin is however, I wasn't having any of it. At the time my priority was international trips because I could fly to Europe for the same price of some domestic air tickets. This year my priorities changed and the stars aligned so I finally decided to go. I told my travel buddy CY about my plans and and is the case lately she decided to join in on the fun. Once we arrived at the airport I whizzed through security in no time flat because I have TSA Pre Check but CY unfortunately does not (between you and me that’s going to have to change if we’re going to continue traveling together). Our flight was on Delta and when we got to the gate they asked for volunteers to be bumped to the next flight and I dutifully volunteered myself and CY as tributes for $800 each in return. Unfortunately, once they started boarding they no longer needed the extra seats so we were both out of the $800 that we had already spent in our heads on future travel plans.
The flight from Newark to Austin was fairly short but I was kind of bummed that the WiFi on the flight didn’t work and we ended up forking over $10 to pay for DirectTV. We arrived in Austin and since both CY and I were #teamcarryon that day we were able to exit the airport pretty quickly and hail a Lyft to the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt. Kimpton hotels are one of my preferred properties when traveling domestically. I love the design aesthetic of their hotels without feeling too stuffy and pretentious and the Van Zandt was no exception. The check in process was fairly smooth and before we knew it we headed up to our lake view room. If there was one thing I would change about the room it would be that you almost need to be a bodybuilder to be able to open and close the bathroom door. But other than that everything else was pleasant. Despite it being a little too cool to swim in the outdoor pool we did take advantage of hanging out on the pool deck to catch the sunset and enjoy some cocktails by the fire.
The highlight of my Austin trip was definitely getting to hang out with my friend and Austin native Sarah. Sarah and I met another lifetime ago when we were both living in Paris and bonded over artisanal cocktails (before they were even a thing), good wine, and enjoying being expats in a beautiful city. Thanks to her, CY and I really got the inside scoop on some great places to check out while in Austin. Without her inside knowledge we would have never tried the delicious tacos at the Quickie Pickie, an East Austin institution and she came in clutch when I suggested that we grab a quick drink at a random bar near our hotel on Rainey Street. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with Rainey Street but Sarah knew that it wasn’t quite my style so we ended up at Ah Sing Den instead for some delicious cocktails on their outdoor patio area.
In addition to hanging out with Sarah, here's a list of my top five Austin highlights:
Laguna Gloria - Contemporary Austin
Laguna Gloria is an outdoor sculpture park that offers mix of nature, art and history all in one. There’s also a beautiful villa on the grounds which you can walk around, explore and photograph. We visited on our first day in Austin and it was the perfect remedy to being cooped up on a plane for almost four hours. It didn’t hurt that we had perfect weather that day.
SPUN Ice cream
At SPUN they make your ice cream fresh and made to order using seasonal and locally grown ingredients. The best part of the process is watching them turn the ingredients into ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
After a little shopping at some of the quaint shops on E. 11th St. in East Austin such as Olive and Take Heart, Blue Dahlia was the perfect quaint little bistro to stop and have some lunch. What made their menu even more enticing is that they offered a gluten free option for all of their tartines which was a huge win for me.
Tillery Street Plant Co.
One thing I noticed while in Austin is that almost every place we went to had an array of cacti and or succulents on display as decoration and I think the Tillery Street Plant Co. is to blame. It was such a treat to visit as they had a wide selection of plants for sale and the layout almost made it feel like you are in a secret garden. It’s so nice that I didn’t mind that CY spent over an hour picking out two new succulents to bring home.
Hotel San Jose
Everyone knows that a visit to Austin isn’t complete without a stroll down South Congress. But when you need a break from all the shopping and sightseeing Hotel San José has the perfect court yard/pool area to pop into to rest and grab a cold drink or cocktail.
I couldn't think of a better way to end my travels for the year than catching up with a great friend that I don’t get to see often and aren’t in touch as often as I should be. She truly made my trip to Austin special and I’ll definitely be back to see her and her beautiful family and check out the list of places I didn't get to visit. In the meantime Austin, can you please work on some mass transit options because I spent way too much money on Lyft rides.