Keep Austin Weird

“Keep Austin Weird”. That, dear readers, is the “unofficial” city motto. However, you see it everywhere. On T-shirts; signs in store windows; on bumper stickers, and it really is what Austin, Texas is all about.

There’s even a  small museum down town, open till midnight no less, dedicated to weirdness. Russ thinks this is dedicated to him and he’s waiting for the call to be offered the key to the city!!!!IMG_20160127_131623481_HDR

 

 

 

This is the funkiest town we’ve ever stayed in and we’re loving it. And the creativity extends right into the residential areas. Just around the corner from where we’re staying, a small, duplex apartment complex proves my point.

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The garage door

 

 

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The front entrance

The decorations on the fence and trees give us quite a chuckle too!

The weather, since we arrived, has been generally in the mid to high 20s (Celcius) and sunny. If fact, most of the time it’s been blue skies, with not a cloud to be seen. Perfect for golf and sightseeing. Last night was the first time we’ve had rain since we’ve been here, and that’s been 54 days!

Here are some of the things we’ve done since we arrived. We’ve been to San Antonio (an hour’s drive from Austin) and visited The Alamo.

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The church at The Alamo

It’s right slap bang in the middle of historic San Antonio, which surprised us. We expected it to be in the middle of nowhere. A large portion of the site (which is surprisingly small)  has been re-constructed, although the church building featured here is mostly original.

 

 

And while in San Antonio, you cannot leave without eating somewhere along the River Walk. A two minute stroll from The Alamo,  it’s “The Happening Place” to be, be seen and be cool!

And we’ve also been sightseeing in the Hill Country around Austin. Lockhart, Blanco, Dripping Springs – small towns  which really remind me of the towns featured in Westerns.

And Austin funkiness extends out that way too – in Wimberley they get a kick out of displaying cowboy boots as street decor!

Did you know there are a number of wineries in the Hill Country? And the number of local brewers in this part of Texas is astounding. Their beer is the best beer we’ve ever tasted in the USA (and possibly anywhere else) by far! Well, when a beer called Devil’s Backbone has 8.1% alcohol by volume, compared to, say,  Yuengling (USA)  or Heineken (Dutch) which have 5.4%, that would explain quite a bit!

We have been to the movies (saw Tarantino’s  The Hateful Eight, which is violent to the extreme (not surprising), but not very good!). We’ve been to the theatre (saw The Improvised Shakespeare Company – absolutely hilarious), and, yes, we’ve been to Austin City Limits to an awards show inducting Texas songwriters in to the Hall of Fame. Great music, great fun.

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And here’s Russ, with Willie Nelson.    wp-1456249395030.jpg

Now, of course, we can’t wait till March and the South by Southwest Music Festival. Over 2,000 bands from all over the world play here over a two week period. There is music in every bar, restaurant, and on the street corners. Here, the city really lives up to its official motto which is the “Live Music Capital of the World”.

However, we prefer KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD! And on that note, I’ll leave you, as I have to have lunch!!

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What the Dickens?

Howdy!

Let’s get right to it. Here’s something I bet you don’t know. Jane Dickens Monk, great-great-granddaughter of the author Charles Dickens, and Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, great-great-great granddaughter of the same, both live in Galveston. Yes, they do!

This is probably the reason that every year in December, and for the past 42 years, there is a weekend Victorian parade on The Strand in the historic part of the town. And the Galvestonians really get into the spirit of things. You don’t believe me? Here’s proof!

The parade also covers the history of the area. The Sons of the American Revolution are there, the Daughters too. Cowboys on horses trot by, and even the area’s pirate history is celebrated. I met one!

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Here’s a Jolly fellow! Wonder if his name is Roger?

Oh, here’s another interesting thing to see in the city. After Hurricane Ike struck Galveston in September 2008, the combination of the powerful winds and tidal surge uprooted thousands of city trees. Three enterprising local sculptors decided to do something about the remains of the tree trunks, and created carvings  that are now displayed in many residents’ gardens.

And here’s yet another fact that will amaze and astound you. King Vidor, one of the directors of “The Wizard of Oz”, was born in Galveston.

IMG_20151217_151747000What a fitting tribute to him on the front lawn of the home he was born in: Tin Man and Toto (dressed for Christmas!), also carved from tree remains.

The stately homes in the old part of the city are also something to see. Here’s a photo or two to give you the picture (no pun intended). Apparently a lot of these homes are owned by people (obviously wealthy!), who live in Houston and use them at weekends. Nice life!

I have to report that we had a car accident in Houston. A rather distracted elderly man went straight through a red light at 60 km an hour, and slammed into the passenger side of our car as we pulled into the intersection. A split second later and the impact would have been right into the passenger door. I shudder to think of the consequences had that been the case.IMG_20151223_112236031_HDRThere are no injuries to report, but we were bruised and are still pretty shaken up. The car has been inspected and is a write off, as the damage is too great. There was a slight hiccup dealing with our insurance company which resulted in quite a bit of stress for us, and to redeem themselves, they gave us $3000 more than the car was worth. Almost worth the hassle!!!!

Russ is flying back to Canada to buy another car, and will drive it back to Galveston so we can get to Austin and continue our Texas vacation there (with the cat!). This means we need to stay in Galveston for an extra week. And here I have to mention the kindness of the Texans. The owner of the condo we are renting has offered to let us stay at no extra charge. He told me we’d gone through enough and this was his Christmas present to us!

There certainly are good people out there! And that is a good end to this blog.

Merry Christmas to all from Galveston! And have a wonderful New Year!!!!

 

Galveston, oh Galveston….

 

After a month in Florida, we finally arrived in Galveston, Texas, at 7 pm on December 1, after a very tiring nine hours drive. The cat had meowed most of the way. It rained on and off. Russell could not drive as he was not feeling well. The highway drive around Houston in the dark at rush hour was horrendous. I was cranky, to say the least! And then, to top it all, the lock box code to get the condo key did not work! Thank heavens the owner answered his phone, and drove 40 minutes to get here at 8 pm to help us out. It seems that I’d been trying to get into the wrong condo. What was the most embarrassing moment in your life? This was mine!

The apartment is great. Right on the ocean, and we are lucky enough to have a fabulous ocean view. In the far distance is an oil rig, and at night the lights from all the tankers passing by is almost fairylike.

We’ve just done one day’s exploring at the moment. Russ is feeling better so life is good. Galveston is a great little city with a really cool historic district, a fabulous ocean walk, and a historic pleasure pier that resembles the one in Brighton, England! Much more exploring to be done, that’s for sure, so there’ll be plenty to write about in a next update.IMG_20151203_140105271

Did you know the first known European settler here was a pirate? The privateer Jean Lafitte established the colony of Campeche on Galveston Island in 1817.

The city is probably better known for the tragic Great Storm that struck in September 1900. At the time, Galveston had a population of 37,000 and was the fourth largest city in Texas after Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. One-third of the city was completely destroyed, more than 3,600 buildings. More than 6,000 people were killed. In fact, there were too many bodies for conventional burials. At first, they were weighted and buried at sea, but later washed ashore. They were then burned on funeral pyres all over the city. The city was rebuilt, but not before the ground level was raised by eight feet, 17 feet at the Seawall, slanting the ground so water would run off into the bay. The grade raising was so successful that when another hurricane as severe as the 1900 storm hit Galveston in 1915, the city was safe and just eight people killed.

It is , of course, a busy port city, and on the Gulf of Mexico. This means there’s also lots of local fishing! IMG_20151203_120832211Snapper, flounder, shrimp, you name it! We bought a pound of Gulf shrimp at one of the local markets.IMG_20151203_133838

Here is Arthur, with shrimp caught just 20 minutes before we bought some!IMG_20151203_141709781_HDR

We had lunch at the Black Pearl. A very popular local restaurant. We both had Po Boys. Russ had oysters, I had shrimp. Talk about the portion size! Well, we are in the U.S of A, so should not be surprised. We had enough food to take home for dinner too!

We sat next to Trinidade and Sonia at the bar. They gave us loads of tips for the best places to eat, the best Happy Hour deals, and even bought us a round of drinks to welcome us to Texas! Trinidade works at the port as a longshoreman (stevedore).  He says it’s been busy, and will get even busier once the widening of the Panama canal is completed.

Let me leave you with a puzzle. A lot of the streets in Galveston going east-west are a letter of the alphabet. Like Avenue “A”.  Now, we haven’t counted how many streets there are, but when you see Avenue N, then Avenue N 1/2, you have to wonder…..

We have an unusual weekend event planned, so stay tuned to this page for the next update. I have to sign off now. It’s wine time.