We had only a short drive today, and, as it was boiling hot, decided to chill out a bit in the morning with a swim in the motel pool before heading over to Austin. Although we arrived in the early afternoon, as it was still obscenely hot we decided not to venture out until around 3.30pm.
We walked down to the city centre through South Congress District, a formerly down-at-heel area that has now been regenerated and has lots of self-consciously hip shops, cafes and bars. One of these is the fabulous Uncommon Objects, an amazingly curated treasure trove of miscellaneous objects / junk / generally cool stuff that brands itself ‘materials for creative living.’ I was very tempted by a bright blue eagle lamp (seriously, it was great) but managed to restrain myself from trying to cart a fragile object across one and a half continents.
We poked around South Congress for a while, grabbing late afternoon cocktails at South Congress Cafe, before wandering across the Congress Avenue Bridge into the city centre.
As evening approached, we were eager to check out one of Austin’s most unique attractions – the Austin bats. Approximately 500,000 female bats take up residence in the crevices of the South Congress Bridge to raise their young every summer, and as dusk falls they leave the bridge to fly off hunting at Lady Bird Lake. We’d heard that seeing the bats leaving the bridge was quite an experience, and we weren’t disappointed. We’d picked a prime spot under the bridge on the east of the river, and after a few false starts and flickerings, the bats decided to move. En masse, thousands upon thousands of bats streamed out of the bridge, making their way in a swirling wave up into the sky and to the lake beyond. It was quite a mesmerising sight, and definitely one not to be missed if you’re in Austin when the bats are in residence!
South Congress Cafe
After the wave of bats had eventually slowed to a trickle, we headed back up to South Congress for dinner. We’d liked the look of the menu at South Congress Cafe and so headed back there for more cocktails and some delicious food – I had scallops and clams with chorizo washed down with a tabasco and jalapeño silverfire margarita. From there, we headed a few doors down to an outdoor bar for some local beer and piano music before eventually getting a taxi back.
Although we didn’t have that much time in Austin, we all liked it – it felt like a very liveable city, and had a more ‘European’ vibe than many other US cities. For example, there were not only joggers, but cyclists, who seem to be a particularly rare breed on US roads. Definitely a place I’d be keen to go back to and chill out in for a while!
Highlights: Bats, delicious food and cocktails at South Congress Cafe.
Lowlights: Hottest day so far – had it not been so boiling we might have had a bit more time to explore.
Up next: Lots and lots of Texas…