Showing posts with label Austin Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Austin Texas. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Austin: Strolling through History

It is easy to stroll through history in Austin, with only a word or two of caution: sidewalks are uneven in places as mighty Oak tree roots have shifted cement slabs in certain sections over the decades. The town also has a strange way of sloping sidewalk handicap access points at a street corners - making it easy to trip over curbs in places you thought should be flat. And sidewalks sometimes have stairways and elevated sections in them. This is only worth mentioning because there is so much history to see on a simple walk through town that it is hard to pay attention to the surface on which you walk.

The Historical Commission has done a thorough job of telling the story of Austin's buildings by posting signs on those of historical significance. Stop by the Visitor's Center on 6th Street and pick up a brochure if you don't want to set out on an uncharted course of exploration.

Among our favorite historica buildings were The Driskill Hotel ( just off Sixth St. and The Austin Club ( on Ninth St. The hotel, built in 1886 by cattle baron Jesse Driskill, has 189-guest rooms in its Historical and Traditional wings. We began our weekend days with breakfast in its cafe/bakery and ended them sipping locally brewed beer in its bar. The Christmas season kicked off while we were in Austin so the enormous lobby with its columns and marble floors had a centerpiece tree that stretched to the ceiling. We found its food and beverage prices reasonable, if not on the inexpensive side for a luxury hotel; a tumbler-sized glass of fresh squeezed orange juice was $4 and a pint-sized brewskie $5.
Three blocks away, The Austin Club, is housed in the one-time Millett Opera House, built in 1878 by Captain Charles Millett. Over the years the Opera House has hosted legislative sessions, political conventions, dances and roller skating. The building is now owned by the Austin Independent School District and is being leased to the private club.

The Club's website offers a link to the history of the club and the building. One of the stories it features is that of "Priscilla" the Third Floor Ghost. As the story goes, Priscilla, was an opera singer who fell to her death from a catwalk above the stage on the night prior to her wedding. Periodic Priscilla sightings have been reported by both guests and employees over the years.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cattle, cowboys. . .and wine?!

We know its reputation and claim to fame is live music, but the fact that Austin is in the heart of Texas still conjours up images of the ol' Wild West. . .cowboys and cattle, blue jeans and boots with spurs. Wine country didn't really come to mind.

But a bit of research prompted by a recent article in the New York Times took us to the web site of the Texas Wine Trail ( Austin's location is perfect for wine country exploration through the Texas Hill Country, which is home to some 24 wineries. While we won't have time to explore the trail, we'll make it a point though to sample some Texas vino while visiting some of Austin's wine bars like Cork & Co. or Max's Wine Dive. With names like that we can't pass them up.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Headin' to Austin

I'll be writing y'all from Austin, Texas, 'the live music capital of the world', next week. While the trip is prompted by a conference I am attending, we tacked on a weekend stay to explore a bit of this part of the Lone Star State. After three weeks of continual Pacific Northwest rain and wind, we are looking forward to a place that also boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and average daily December temperatures of 62F.

If the town is half as much fun to visit as its Visitors and Convention web site (, we will have a great time.

Founded in 1839, it sounds like there's a lot of history to be found there. Two free guided walking history tours are offered each week; one of Congress Ave./6th Street (Thurs - Sat. 9 a.m. and Sunday 2 p.m.)and one of the Bremond Block Historic District (11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday). All we need do is register 48-hours in advance by calling 866-GO-AUSTIN.

Getting to Austin will be a snap as Alaska Airlines ( just started non-stop service between Seattle and Austin, (every day but Saturday when they loop passengers through a San Jose, CA, connection to get back to Seattle). Alaska's introductory fares are starting at $119 each way.

We'll be staying at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Downtown Convention Center. The conference rate of $185 per night drops to $135.96 AAA rate per night of our weekend stay. However, a friend who just returned from Austin reports even better deals; she nabbed a 4-star hotel in downtown Austin for $105 a night, including taxes, on


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