austin, on the hoof

as i sat on my couch in a toque in a house with no power the weekend before christmas, i couldn’t wait to fly to texas for the holidays.

last christmas, cozy in a cabin in upstate new york, pierre and i set out short lists of things to accomplish in 2013. for pierre, that list included visiting his sister and her family in texas. we did surprisingly well with these lists and pierre booked us a trip to texas over christmas. we spent four days with family in houston, then forged east to austin for our birthdays, landing back home in toronto late last night.

i’d been to texas just once before, and despite a distaste for big oil, most meats, and republicans, i think i could have been a cowgirl easily in a past life. what other state has historic buildings and natural springs alongside tex-mex restaurants, honky tonk bars, and the world’s largest urban bat colony? where else can i wear plaid shirts and buy discarded deer antlers almost everywhere? (side note: i am reading the son, which makes me think i would’ve made a terrible cowgirl, actually.)

foyer's round top caferoyer's round top caferoyer's round top caferoyer's round top cafeour first stop out of houston was round top, tx, population 90. it’s a tiny town about halfway between houston and austin if you’re travelling south on highway 237. i read about round top in the september 2013 issue of en route, my favourite magazine made extra special by the fact you can only get it while flying. i got doubly lucky on my last two trips, picking up the august issue on our way to prague and the september issue on the way home, and getting the december issue flying to houston, but the brand new january issue on the way back yesterday.

the “quick trip to round top” article in the september issue listed five places to treasure-hunt in the texan countryside. round top is an antique mecca; a place that closes a 30km stretch of highway twice a year for antiques fairs. as the fairs are in the spring and the fall, not many of the barns were open when we were there a few days after christmas. but royer’s round top cafe was, where we shared a slice of “texas trash” pie.

but, as the agreement was i could pick out anything i wanted for my birthday gift, i didn’t go home empty-handed.

junk gypsiesP1040801

i got a few things at this big barn (owner had the same birthday as us!), which will be making appearances in the bungalow as our basement comes together. dumpster comes tomorrow! one purchase was slightly unwieldily and too fragile to check, so it came in the cabin on the plane home with us. i was pretty ecstatic to be in a cab home last night, having cleared customs with my birthday gift.

round topround top town hallround top public libraryround topP1040925

round top was just the most beautiful little town. above are photographs of the town hall, where stakeholders meet monthly to discuss architecture, and the town’s public library, with a mailbox-book drop out front.

round top church

on the outskirts of round top, passed in a blink on the way to austin, but stopped to explore on the way back to houston for our flight home, was the world’s smallest, active catholic church. the graves in the yard are from the late 1800s and the congregation meets once a month.

st martin's churchP1040916st martin's churchP1040918

our first night in austin was saved by a woman named paula. we had arrived at the condo we were renting only to find the passcode we’d been given didn’t open the door — and my cell was dead and pierre’s refused to pick up a signal. the mini-mart around the corner let us use their phone to try and call the condo owner, but no one picked up. paula, overhearing us as she bought eggs and bananas, invited us back to her house to charge our phones and use their wifi. luckily we were able to get a hold of the guy almost immediately (the cleaning service forgot to change the passcode), but we have been so lucky to meet so many generous people while travelling.

once settled in the condo, first stop in austin was matt’s el rancho, a venerable tex-mex institution serving stiff frozen margaritas, followed by 50¢ pool and shuffleboard at horseshoe lounge.

horseshoe lounge

in the morning, we went for the first of two runs in zilker park, then headed to south congress “soco” for shopping. there were so many odd little shops lining both sides of this street and everything was open pretty late, so we didn’t have to rush. i spent an hour in a curiosity shop called uncommon objects, where i bought some 1952 pillsbury flour sacs to make curtains out of for our basement bedroom. this whole neighbourhood was really cool, and we had dinner at the south congress cafe, then caught some live music at continental club.

no trip to texas would be complete without football, and it’s bowl season so we had no trouble finding games to watch. along with about 65,000 other people, we drove to san antonio to see the alamo bowl (texas vs. oregon).

crockett hotelP1040894P1040908

we were cheering for oregon, of course. (and luckily, so were the father and son sitting next to us.) a very good trip overall, though i ate too much cheese and pie. i’m excited to unpack the texan treasures and get started on all the little projects they require. some recommendations below, if you’re planning a vacation to the heart of texas anytime soon!

in round top:

royer’s round top cafe
105 main street

round top family library
206 west mill street

st. martin’s catholic church
warrenton, tx 237

henkel square market
henkel circle / north live oak street

round top festival institute
248 jaster road

in austin:

matt’s el rancho
2613 south lamar boulevard

horseshoe lounge
2034 south lamar boulevard

zilker park
barton springs road

creatures boutique
1206 south congress avenue

allens boots
1522 south congress avenue

uncommon objects
1512 south congress avenue

1700b south congress avenue

stag: provisions for men
1423 south congress avenue

south congress cafe
1600 south congress avenue

continental club
1315 south congress avenue

whole foods market
525 north lamar boulevard

book people
603 north lamar boulevard

texas capitol
112 east 11th street

scholz garten
1607 san jacinto boulevard

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