Saturday, October 2, 2010

the first thirty-six hours in Austin, Texas

you can stand underneath the sign that reads Taxis at the Austin airport, but that doesn't mean there will be a taxi there.
but most of the time some kind of pay to ride vehicle will show up eventually.

but if you're headed downtown or near the University area the #100 bus only costs a dollar and shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to get you at least close to where you're going. which is the way to go if you're not on an expense account.

our cab driver said that he lived in Austin for 12 years without a car.
he did not find it ironic that he now drives a taxi.

we arrived at the Doubletree on 15th Street way before check-in time but the hotel has a shuttle that will take you anywhere within a two-mile radius.
we chose Whole Foods, and the shuttle driver said that it was the biggest Whole Foods in the world (being the corporate headquarters and all).

after a bit of perusing I decided I could eat at the Whole Foods (almost never my first choice) and one of the sandwich guys (correctly I might add) assumed that I was without major funds because he recommended the tacos ("more bang for the buck").
so we both ordered the soft tacos (two, fully loaded, for $5), then took them up to the second floor patio (very warm, very sunny) to eat.

while in the neighborhood we stopped by Snap Kitchen and Waterloo Records where I bought a t-shirt as a gift (for someone else) and a boxed (as in mystery kind of surprise thing) Simpsons figurine as a gift (for myself).

we walked back to the hotel.

(one of the bellmen thought that the Texas Clocktower shooting (by Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966) occurred in 1979.)

our room wasn't exactly ready (even though it was after 3 p.m.), but once it was we got a very nice one: 14th floor in a 15 floor building, balcony overlooking a very nice Southern view (the State Capitol just to our left), a kitchen so full it has a dishwasher (though not nearly enough dishes to fill it).

walked up Guadalupe to campus, the Harry Ransom Center, over to the Texas Union where the Chick-Fil-A was closed so I asked at the Hospitality desk what the C-F-A hours of operation were.
9 to 5, the woman said.

the University Co-op (which does not have Texas Baseball hats) currently features University of Texas-themed Halloween shirts for a mere $9.99.

walked back down Lavaca, then over 15th to the 7-11 which did not have a 2-liter Dew anywhere so I settled for a 12-pack of 12 ounce cans.

down to the hotel gym (2nd floor) where I ran a mile for the first time in 20-something years (while watching 30 Rock (and the headphone jack on the treadmill is underneath the Stop button where you can't see it unless you're like three feet tall, and not anywhere near the other controls, like Volume and Channel and Power, up by the screen)).

dinner? dinner?
well, it was after 8 and we'd made no plans, had no thoughts other than not having Mexican again after the Whole Foods tacos so I brought up Iron Works (barbecue) even though there really wasn't anything there (I thought) that my beloved could eat.
but I'm a selfish bastard and was well past hungry and it turned out that they flavor with a dry rub which she could actually eat, HOWEVER they closed at 9 and it was after 8:30.
so I made an executive (though I'm not an executive) decision and we placed a phone order, ran down to the lobby to get John, one of the bellmen, to drive us up to Iron Works and back (just over a mile each way as the crow flies, but that's not the way he went) and we ate in our room.

the chicken was pretty damn good (probably the best of what we brought home).
the beef ribs were also pretty damn good.
the potato salad was acceptable.
I didn't have a lot of interest in the pickles that were included and even less interest in the raw onions.
the barbecue beans were, well, not worth eating at all. extremely bland.

curled up and watched the Daily Show when the hot tub (which we can see from our balcony) appeared occupied.

the next morning I grabbed a couple items off the free (for us as I'm a Hilton Honors bigwig) continental breakfast (just okay, primarily because it was free), fought off a sore throat and much congestion, then went down to the pool and read the last 100 pages of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (good, but not as good as The Corrections).

showered, got Tee-Jay, another of the bellmen/shuttle drivers, to run me over to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (on campus, but kind of tucked awkwardly between the interstate and the football stadium).

was welcomed by an elderly docent (of which there were several) who recited most of the introductory welcome material twice, including the fact that the brochures, that she soon collected for me even though I didn't need any of them (contact information for each of the Presidential libraries, for example), on the counter were all free.

watched an informative 23-minute film overview of LBJ's life and career and was reminded that I'm actually quite a fan (Vietnam was the proverbial rock and a hard place, no-win, no solution debacle and the man was arguably as well-intentioned as any President and likely unarguably the hardest-working man to ever hold the office).

exhibits may be viewed on the 3rd, 4th and 10th floors.

I skipped the kind of scene-setting, general history material on the 3rd floor and stuck with the LBJ only objects (bordered in red) such as correspondence, the suit he wore when taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One and the teletype text of his "I will not seek nor will I accept" speech.
the 10th Floor, with replica Oval Office (7/8ths scale) and Ladybird's actual Library office open for viewing, was definitely more interesting than the 4th (some poor portraits of every President (on one wall) and every First Lady (on a separate wall), gifts from other heads of state and an animatronic LBJ telling jokes (audio good but the robot looked nothing like the man).

the LBJ Museum Store: make no plans to walk out with a t-shirt or baseball cap or you will be disappointed.
but I tried to support (the Library and Museum require no paid admission) by purchasing quite a few postcards as well as LBJ's memoir, The Vantage Point.

down the stairs and by the impressive bowl of a fountain, past the north end zone of the football stadium, then up to the Main Building (no tower tours until next spring due to some kind of maintenance/repair work) and over to the Texas Union where, to my tremendous dismay, the Chick-Fil-A (the only one within walking distance, by the way) was already closed.

I returned to the Hospitality desk, reminded the workers there that I had been told that C-F-A closed at 5.
Yes, the woman said, but they didn't check the holiday schedule.
What holiday? I asked.
Well, she said, it's OU weekend.
So the Chick-Fil-A closed at 2 today because there's a football game in Dallas tomorrow?
Pretty much, she said.

I ate a roast beef sandwich at Which Wich.
which seems as good a time as any to suggest that it appears that people in Austin, or at least those working in the service sector, are genuinely nice.
or terrific actors.
the sandwich was good, though the flavor of their barbecue sauce could use some adjustments.

made dinner reservations then down to the second floor spa/gym/room where the weights and treadmills are kept to run another mile (that's two days in a row) then back up for showers.

ate at the Driskill Grill, "consistently ranked as Austin's #1 restaurant," for dinner.
a restaurant week prix fixe was still in force so the two of us enjoyed a three-course meal, with tip and drink, for about $55 each (we paid separately due to the expense accounting - one of us on and one of us (me) off).

then a lovely stroll home (if the hotel counts as home), probably a mile, on a beautiful evening, with much tarrying within the floodlit 30-acre State Capitol complex which is just around the corner from our hotel.

No comments:

Post a Comment