Many years ago… In a galaxy far far away… Just kidding. But seriously. Many years ago I created a self-inflected rule to “NEVER live anywhere that gets colder than your age”. An absolutely brilliant theory if you’re 12. I’m 41, which pretty much means by the time I’m 60… I’ll be living down in Boca Raton, Florida playing bocce ball with Frank and Estelle Costanza.
I’m really working hard (not really) to achieve a “glass is half-full” mentality; but, when it’s 8:30am on a Sunday morning in Austin, TX, with a projected high for the day of 103F (40C), and you find yourself saying (to yourself) “it’s too bloody hot to drink coffee!” then that’s a problem. For 2 reasons:
You’re talking to yourself. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
It’s never too early, never too late, and there’s ALWAYS time for coffee in my world, so it sure as hell should NEVER be “too bloody hot to drink coffee”.
If I can be random for a minute… I’ve never been a fan of bumper stickers. Just not my gig. Sure, I’ve got my Texas A&M University – Association of Former Students sticker on my back windshield; but, that’s a sticker. Plus, it looks decent. Go ahead and roundhouse kick me in the head if I ever put a “my child is better than your child” type sticker on my car, and I certainly don’t ever have the time (or energy) to advertise how much a political leader stinks. Now, after saying all that, I had to laugh out loud (LOL as the kids say) at my friend Janeen’s current Facebook profile picture. It’s the bumper sticker of my life! “DRINK COFFEE. Do Stupid Things Faster with More Energy”. Yeah, that’s me.
So now that we’ve gone around the block to go next door… IT’S HOT! Not Africa hot. TEXAS hot. We’re talkin’ 103F! That’s about 40C for my friends around the world on the metric system. I could easily go off on another tangent about “why America isn’t on the metric system with the other 95% of the world” but, I’ll spare you the boredom. Plus, that would mean I’d have to actually know the answer. Which I don’t.Wait… yes I do. MONEY. Costs too much to change everything out for 300 million people. Done.
Getting back to the “glass is half-full” conversation… I tried to look at the positive side of life. Unlike the temporary coma conversation with the Canadians (see Archived blog entry – AUSTIN: Hometown Cravings!), this time… I was fully aware of my surroundings. Primarily due to a 3.5yr old asking me “Daddy why don’t you have hair?” and whether or not he could have pancakes for breakfast. So as I’m “listening” to the boy discuss why he’s the fastest runner in his school, and how he doesn’t care too much for the way that research is currently being conducted on sub-atomic particles, I went to a place called VENEZIA. For my fellow English speaking brothers and sisters… VENICE, ITALY.
May 16th, 2011. The day after our 5yr Wedding Anniversary. My wife and I drove from Lake Bled, Slovenia to Villach, Austria. 3hrs later via first class coach bus… Venezia, Italia! If you ask me – What does a “perfect weather day” look like? Without hesitation… my first answer will now always be – Venice, Italy – 72F (22C) – May 16th, 2011. Perfetto!
This is typically where I try to think of something witty and intelligent to say. I’ve got nothin’, so I’ll just shut my mouth, stop blogging, and let you enjoy the photos of what I consider my “perfect weather day” in Venice, Italy. Or as I like to call it my… “glass is half-full” Significant Achievement Award. Austin 103 – Venezia 72. Score may not reflect it; But, today… Venice wins!
What does a “perfect weather day” look like for you?
Texas State Capitol Building – Austin, Texas USA – “Don’t Mess With Texas!”
The name of my TRAVEL blog is Austin GlobeTrekker; yet, all I’ve blogged about so far in my one month of existence is the “GlobeTrekker” portion. Time to get LOCAL and talk about AUSTIN! This might very well be one of the most conceited and arrogant statements I’ve made in the past 24-36hrs; however, I must say… I live in a BAD ASS city! Austin, Texas might very well be one of the coolest places to call your home. And I rightfully call Austin my hometown, because even though I was born in Leicester, England, I’ve lived in Austin for over 30% of my life; Texas for over 70%. As much as I love to travel… Texas IS home. Don’t worry… I’m still going to ramble on about other countries too.
I recently met some folks from Canada during a training session in Round Rock, Texas for my “real” job that I actually get paid to do. You’ll rarely hear me talk about “work” on this blog, because… we’re here to share stories and experiences about TRAVEL. Things I like to do when I’m NOT working. Sure, I’ve been to British Columbia (Vancouver, Whistler) and Alberta (Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper) and met hundreds of Canadians (ok, like 10); But, it’s not so often that you meet them right here in your hometown and hear them say “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Austin!”. That TEXAS PRIDE kicks in, and an uncontrollable Southern grin crosses your face, and all you can think to say is “WELCOME TO TEXAS!”.
Like most tourists (including myself), you do your research and have your rough itinerary of things you want to see in the city your visiting. About halfway through our conversation about the downtown Austin live music scene, the bats under the Congress Bridge, partying at the bars on 6th Street, eating real Texas BBQ (his words, not mine) and indulging in some authentic Mexican food (her words, not mine), I drifted off into a coma and started talking to myself about the things that I like to do in Austin. I started to tell them that if they REALLY want to see some live music… come back in September (16-18) for ACL – Austin City Limits Festival 2011at Zilker Park. Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of watching one of my legendary favorites – Pearl Jam put on a spectacular show. This year promises to be incredible too. Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, and so on and so on. Skipped it last year… but, I digress.
Unfortunately for them, they were staying at The Marriott – La Frontera, in Round Rock, Texas. I had to gingerly explain that this is NOT Austin. Saying you’re “staying in Austin” when you’re really in Round Rock, is kinda like the time one of my managers told us we were “staying in Manhattan, New York” when our hotel was really in Secaucus, New Jersey. True story. Similar… but different. It’s close enough that you can get there. But don’t fool yourself thinking it’s a 10min walk. More like an expensive cab ride. In honor of my new Canadian colleagues, I’ve added a photo of one of my favorite hotels in the world – The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Alberta, Canada. Once again – Similar… but different to Round Rock, Texas. I’m just sayin’.
Naturally, it wasn’t long before I realized… our “Austin Agendas” are just a tad different. In a traveler’s defense… It’s hard to know a place in 2 days. God bless ’em for tryin’ though. For example… The best bars in Austin (in my opinion mind you) are DIVE BARS. I’m embarrassed on the borderline of sheer pride that MOST of the Dive Bars in (and around) Austin, Texas know me and my group of idiot friends we like to call “The Dive Bar Crew”. For the past 10-12yrs, we’ve frequented some spectacular joints like Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Lustre Pearl Bar, Poodle Dog Lounge, Buddy’s, La-La’s, C-Hunt’s, G&S Lounge, Dry Bean Saloon, Horseshoe Lounge, The Hideout, Deep Eddy Cabaret, Shoal Creek Saloon, The Water Tank, Dog & Duck, Posse East, Nasty’s, Crown & Anchor, Shannanigan’s, Draught House, Canary Hut, The PLT (Parmer Lane Tavern) Carousel Lounge, and my favorite dive bar in Austin, Texas…Donn’s Depot – just to name a few! Oh, and if you’ve got the time… and the courage… take a short trip just outside of Austin to an old biker bar in theTexas Hill Country called The Devil’s Backbone . CLASSIC!
I then started to get thirsty. Then I just got flat out hungry after drinking all that cheap ice cold beer (in my mind), and could NOT get BOMB TACOS out of my mind! It was driving me crazy! So, I mentioned Lustre Pearl Bar. It’s a really cool laid back Texas style beer garden at 97 Rainey Street over by the Austin Convention Center. BOMB TACOS is a camper. No lying. It’s not a building establishment. It pulls up to the side of the beer garden in the back of Lustre Pearl Bar, and serves a Bad Ass Burrito. LITERALLY. It’s called the “Bad Ass Burrito”. Check the sign and menu. All Tacos – $3. All Burritos – $6. All Quesadillas – $6. And it’s fresh-cooked, TexMex heavenly cuisine when accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza! I recently got my Bomb Taco fix on my birthday party weekend (May 7th) before heading to Europe (May 9th) – Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Sometimes… you’ve just gotta have it!
Which leads me to another quick story (not really). My friend Sal lives in Munich, Germany. LOVES it there, and I can clearly see why. FANTASTIC city, culture, people, food, beer and overall scene. BUT… Sal told me how he was craving Mexican food like a banshee! Not really sure how a banshee craves food; however, dude was clearly desperate enough to get into an altercation with a Bavarian over the definition of Mexican food. Sal ordered a quesadilla. Dude gave him a burrito. Similar… but different. Sal’s response – “Hey man! I’m FROM Texas… I know Mexican food!”. So I said, “Sorry you didn’t get your Mexican fix! I wish I could package some TexMex and send it over for you.” His response… “Oh, I ate the burrito! And it was damn good too!”. Hmmm… me thinks NOT! He’s been away from Texas too long. They don’t know TexMex food; But… The Bavarians KNOW beer! PROST!
So, I’m still stuck in this freaky coma of complexity, dreaming about my local palette, and it leads me to ice cream. While we were recently in Venice, Italy, I think I may have had the BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world! Seriously. No exaggeration! OK… maybe a 3.742% exaggeration. Sometimes, food is just about location. location. location. Ice cream in The Rialto Market on a warm sunny May day in Venice, Italy… that’s almost perfection for location. It was sooooo good, that after completing the generously portioned scoop… I wanted to go back and get another one. If you’ve been to Venice before – good luck getting back to where you were in The Rialto if you never knew where the hell you were in the first place.
But, back to local. As great as that ice cream was in Venice… there is almost nothing like a true frozen dessert experience at Amy’s Ice Cream here in Austin, Texas. These artisans are like Wizards of Dessert. I remember a few years back when my cousins Roger, Amanda, Polly and Ella came over from England. Music blaring, “Keep Austin Weird” signs around the place, college students on their laptops (pretending to study), and an ice cream server who looked like his beard should have had a hair net on it for health code reasons. BUT, that’s Austin my friends! After getting all kinds of candy bars and fruit crushed up in her ice cream, my cousin Polly was shocked, yet excited like a cast member of GLEE, when they threw her ice cream over the counter for her to catch in a bowl. Like I said… it’s a true frozen dessert experience.
By now, I’m starting to come out of the coma, and I realize that the Canadians are still talking. Probably something about hockey and asking “why is it so bloody hot down here in Texas!” 103F today. Well, I’ve been drinking beers at dive bars, eating bad ass burritos at Bomb Tacos, and eating Amy’s Ice Cream. It’s like I was in The Matrix. Plugged in… but, more like a robot of “yeah”, “sure!”, “oh definitely”, “you don’t say?”, “uh huh”, “you go girl!”. I’m just ready to go to bed by this point; but in “coma land”, it’s late night 2am in Austin, Texas, so I started thinking about blueberry pancakes at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. This place is so good! And it’s a true local Austin diner. Like they say… Everybody Knows – Everybody Goes! I had a ridiculously fantastic strawberry syrup with ice cream pancake at The Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands a few years ago; but, it still wasn’t the same nostalgic experience as a late night closer, or morning hangover remedy at Magnolia Cafe. Ironically, less than half a mile down the road from my favorite dive bar – Donn’s Depot, and across the street from yet another one of my favorites – Deep Eddy Cabaret.
As I’m now fat, full and drunk… I join reality once again, only to hear the Canadians closing comments: “THANK YOU! So I guess we’ll see you tomorrow night!”. As of right now, I have absolutely no idea what I signed myself up for (or THEM for that matter). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow now, won’t we! If they truly want to hit 6th Street… I’ll take them to WEST 6th Street. Who knows… maybe we can grab a slice of good ol’ late night pizza from Roppolo’s Pizzeria!
OK… I’m done rambling. Stay Tuned for more adventures of Austin GlobeTrekker. Until then… Join the Conversation!
Since I love to travel, and I love photography… I’m always looking for that everlasting first impression. I recently spent 10 days in Europe (clearly not enough time) celebrating my 5yr wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife (Anna). Rented a car in Munich and traveled around a small quadrant of Germany (Bavaria), Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. A friend asked me… “so, what was your favorite part?”. When it comes to travel, you might as well have asked me which one of my kids is my favorite. The truthful answer (even though it sounds like BS) is that I loved every region for different reasons; however, their commonality was the way each culture simply loved and lived life!
Of course, if I had to pick just ONE outstanding memory… waking up at 5:40am and witnessing Sunrise on Lake Bled, Slovenia. Definitely an everlasting first impression. Sure, I’ve seen pictures on the internet and in magazines across the world; but, that morning, it wasn’t just a picture… it was an experience! The sound of ducks and swans on the water’s edge, the light breeze and fragrance of mountain air, the amazing view of Bled Castle perched above the lake, and the absence of people. There very well could have been somebody else out there with me; but, at that time… the lake felt like it was all mine. Not sure what it is with me and lakes. Lake Tekapo and Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand – Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri – Lake Louise, Alberta Canada – Lake Austin, here in Austin, Texas – and now Lake Bled, Slovenia. What can I say… I like lakes.
See… now I’ve opened up a can of worms, because hiking in the Bavarian Alps to see Schloss Neuschwanstein (aka Castle) was a lot more dramatic than I could have ever anticipated. There’s a reason Walt Disney used this as an inspiration for his castle. Once again… that everlasting first impression. I remember saying over and over to my wife “how did they get all this stuff up here?”. No more than 15mins later, she would ask me “how did they get all this stuff up here?”. The inevitable madness of mankind. That’s how. Where there’s a will… there’s a way. But still, a marvel in its own right.
Yet still, there was more for me to be astonished by. VENICE, Italy. What the Venetians put together with their intricate canal system is nothing short of spectacular. The Grand Canal is truly miraculous; however, Basilica di San Marco (aka St. Mark’s) has got to be one of the most remarkable first impressions. Maybe we got lucky by having perfect 72F weather with clear blue skies; but, something tells me this place is magical every single day of the year. Regardless of the weather. Overall, Venice is a city of 90,000 locals, and will receive almost 25 Million visitors by the end of 2011. That’s impressive!
Now, don’t get me wrong… Germany and Austria had their highlights on our vacation too; however, there are some experiences that pictures and words struggle to comprehend. Like driving 180km/h on the A8 (Autobahn) from Munich to Salzburg… and getting passed like you’re standing still by names like BMW, Mercedes, Audi. Maserati and Porsche. Truly the ultimate driving experience. And definitely a lasting first impression. That’s all for now. Stay tuned for an upcoming “social culinary” recap of Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Probably titled something like “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!”. I think you get the idea. Travel well my friends! CHEERS!