We just returned yesterday from a five-day mini-vacation to Austin. Leslie had to be there for work shortly after a trip to Boston, so instead of flying all the way back, she arrived a few days early and I joined her. We got in on a Thursday, rendezvoused with the Hall clan at Lisa and Eric’s place (Leslie’s parents were kind enough to drive down for a couple of nights), then crashed at my parents’ place.
Friday we kicked off with a shopping trip to Central Market for dinner supplies. That place stands up to any grocery store the Bay Area has to offer. The choices are broad, the atmosphere is pleasant, and it’s uncrowded (so take that, Berkeley Bowl!). I guess Austin probably couldn’t beat a Berkeley or SF farmer’s market for freshness, but there was plenty of trucked in Cali produce that I’d be happy to settle for. After stopping back at the house to make the guacamole and start the chicken brining, we embarked on a fantasy house-shopping tour of neighborhoods in Austin.
It was a blast–there are lots of areas near central Austin I’d just never visited before, and the parts I had have changed quite a bit. We’re pretty convinced that if we move back, we’d like a place in the “core” of the city, which to us means roughly in the box drawn by Mopac on the West, 45th on the North, I35 on the East, and Oltorf on the South. Of course, we also explored east of 35, which is developing fast. I don’t have the Austin geography chops to name all the neighborhoods we looked at, but we liked a lot of what we saw. There are plenty of houses all over this area in the 2-bedroom-cottage style we’d probably be looking at, though in parts there is an additional 3-story house tacked on the back of them. It will be a deep rabbit hole to explore when the time comes.
Friday night we cooked dinner for my parents and Leslie’s parents, which was fun. Saturday we went out to explore the Hill Country, stopping by Pedernales Falls, a winery (not great), and then we met up with my parents in Johnson City for the “wildflower festival,” the highlight of which was the Kettle corn and $2.50 pints of Fireman’s #4, an excellent local beer. That night we ate at a great Japanese place, Uchi. We saw the chef on Iron Chef America and couldn’t resist making a reservation. I hit a party later that night at an old friend’s house with a bunch of old HS friends… it was quite a trip.
Leslie’s job responsibilities kicked in on Sunday afternoon, so we struck out in the morning after a great brunch with my parents at East Side Cafe. We took a stroll around campus (the Master Plan of covering all of central Austin with red-tile roofs continues apace), and then we explored downtown near the river, which is awash in new development. The skyline has changed substantially in the last 3 years, and I think there are several more sky-scrapers going up now. The new city hall looks cool, and Palmer Auditorium has been knocked down and tastefully redone.
Monday I amused myself, grabbing a Don Juan breakfast taco from Juan in a Million for a late breakfast, then mooched the AC at various bookstores. Here’s the taco, for those who don’t know of its glory (it took three supplementary tortillas for me to finish):
Finally, I returned to Yoga Yoga for an Ashtanga class with my old teacher, who, bless her soul, still remembers me. Exhausted, I bought a classy dinner of 32 oz fresh squeezed OJ, a smoked turkey leg, and a spinach salad from the nearby second location of Central Market and retired with Leslie. Overall, the trip kicked ass. I don’t see any real competitors to Austin at this point for our Adult Landing Pad. The timing of our return? Well, who knows. But first, I do need to finish at Berkeley, so BACK TO WORK.