Austin is one of those cities that you can fall in love with the moment you set foot on its soil. We arrived around 10 pm on a Friday night and the airport was all but closed up, quiet and thoughtful, with pretty painted guitars flanking its baggage carousels in a bright and large, open room (rather than a stuffy, fluorescent basement-style warren like at most airports). The street in front of the airport was wide open, too - no taxis trying to run us down, no shuttle buses pumping smoke into the air. It was just us, Raf and me and the kids with Raf's younger brother Sky, all basking in the full moonlight of the Austin sky as we moseyed toward the parking garage. I almost belted out "Deep in the Heart of Texas," but I refrained. The quiet night sky was enough for all of us.
Our hotel was on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, just a block from the main parts of Austin. Sky stayed a block south in a hipper area of Austin, near super-cool boutiques and bars and food truck parking lots. We went to a UT game (versus Oklahoma State), passing blocks of tailgating parties to get to the stadium, and were bowled over by the Southern hospitality; despite a strong sense of school pride and an overwhelming turnout, the stands were civil and the crowds were kind. The pre-game show was unlike anything I'd ever seen: an enormous marching band played "Deep in the Heart of Texas" (thank you kindly) while forming a giant UT, then a special club (dedicated strictly to this simple chore) unfurled the largest Texas state flag in the world, turning it round and round on the field to wild cheers from the stands. The opposing team was also given an opportunity to play its fight song, respectfully. The Jumbotron at the top of the stadium played an inspiring "Go Texas" video and then a cannon fired. An honest-to-goodness cannon, plunked there on the corner of the field, intended solely for starting the game and for celebrating each touchdown. Amazing.
I had hoped the visit would inspire my girls as students, seeing what a big ol' university town was like, but we saw so much more. What a fantastic chunk of America.
|A chicken-and-waffle truck - Emme's dream come true.|
|We took pedicabs to the stadium.|
|Stopped at the UT store to buy burnt orange gear.|
|Because we played OSU - whose colors are bright orange and white, the stadium was awash in orange - couldn't really tell who was supporting which team... until the "hook 'em horns" hands came out!|
|Threadgill's in Austin.|