Texas has never really featured on my list of places to visit, but ever since moving to San Francisco 18 months ago (was it really that long ago?) at least half a dozen people have raved about Austin, the state capital of Texas, and recommended that we visit. So we eventually decided to head to Austin over the weekend of the United States Grand Prix at the end of October and I have to say that I am very disappointed that I ever let myself be convinced to go.
I was unimpressed from pretty much the moment we arrived on Friday morning as we wandered the almost empty streets of downtown struggling to find a place for breakfast. The previous weekend we had been to New York (which you can read about here) and the busy short week had left little time for planning. We therefore decided to do some research over breakfast. When we eventually found a restaurant that was open, we grabbed coffee and our phones and began compiling a list of the attractions (including Barton Springs Pool, the Congress Bridge Bats and a few bars, BBQ spots and live music venues mainly along Dirty 6th Street, Rainey Street and South Congress Avenue) before deciding to start at the State Capitol.
On our way up Congress Avenue towards the State Capitol, we passed a tourist information center and not feeling overly enthusiastic about the recommendations we had found online, we decided to pop in and get some local tips, as these usually tend to be the best. But instead of offering better advice then what our quick research had revealed, the guy in the tourist information center made it even more clear that Austin has nothing to offer by pointing out a few streets where he said there were some nice shops including a Whole Foods. Whole Foods? Really? A grocery store chain where I do my weekly shopping in San Francisco is considered an attraction in Austin!?!?
Needless to say, we took none of his advice and also scrapped our own rather unexciting sounding list of sights and spent the rest of the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) watching the Formula 1 and lying around the pool soaking up the sun! Not being a huge fan of F1 myself (my husband is the reason we planned our trip over the F1 weekend), I have to say that the race was actually pretty exciting with lots of over taking and my husbands fellow countryman, Max Verstappen, coming from 17th place and overtaking Kimi Raikkonen in the last corner to finish third (but unfortunately he didn’t actually end up on the podium due to a penalty). In fact, according to my husband, who is rather an expert on all things F1, the United States Grand Prix at COTA is the best F1 race he has ever been to.
To be fair, Austin did wake up a bit at night and we found the most fantastic Italian restaurant, Red Ash, where we ate dinner on both Friday and Saturday night as it was just so delicious. We also tried Texan BBQ but it turned out to be as disappointing as the city itself with corn on the cob being the best bit. With Austin being haled the music capital of the world, we were sure that the live music wouldn’t disappoint and in fact we really enjoyed our evening listing to live music at the Elephant Room, that is before a group of drunk, loud and irritating locals sat next to us and offered equally bad recommendations of things to do in Austin as the guy in the tourist information center.
So although I enjoyed the sun and the excitement of the F1 race, I certainly won’t be flying 1,500 miles (almost 2,500 km) cross country for superfluous food trucks (Austin seriously doesn’t know how to prepare or serve food in anything other than a truck) and dive bars again.