Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org or @em_luxton – I would love to hear from you!
This week, the lovely couple behind Norway to Nowhere are taking part with a Postcard From Austin. Jimmie & Shelly are an American couple who quit their 9-5 jobs, sold their possessions, and began travelling around the world in 2014. Soon they will continue their adventure by heading to Asia to teach English. Together they operate their travel blog, where they share travel tips, city guides, and tales recounting their crazy adventures and the equally crazy people they meet along the way. For your daily dose of travel inspiration, you can follow their blog or find them on Twitter.
Hi guys! So, tell us about Austin…
Austin, Texas is Jimmie’s hometown and where Shelly attended college (well technically San Marcos, but close enough!) We love this city and constantly boast that it is Texas’ best town. “Keep Austin Weird” is the official tagline of the quirky Texan capital and for good reason. The city gives off a hip, unique vibe with it’s incredibly down to earth atmosphere. It seems that everyone is active and healthy, constantly taking advantage of local organic restaurants and the great outdoors scene. There are plentiful parks, lakes, rivers, hiking and biking trails located throughout the city that are often put to good use.
That sounds awesome – just my cup of tea! But Texas is hot, right?!
Weather in Austin can be somewhat unpredictable, however you can count on the summers being blazingly hot. Texas commonly reaches the 100 F (38C) and over mark during August so it’s crucial to either hop from air conditioned place to the next or take advantage of Austin’s lakes, rivers and springs. The best times to visit would be either March or April during the spring, or October & November during the Fall. Conveniently this is also when Austin hosts two of its major music and film festivals – South by Southwest in March and Austin City Limits in October!
Which part of the city did you guys live in – and can you recommend anywhere fantastic to stay?
Jimmie’s folks live in a smaller town just off Lake Travis about 40 minutes NW of downtown Austin. He grew up playing in the water, taking field trips with classmates to Austin area landmarks and then later occasionally getting into trouble on Sixth Street.
When Shelly was in college she would often stay with friends living near the University of Texas Campus. It’s a lively area with people walking about going to and from classes, frequenting cafes and lunch spots or just wandering the Austin streets. If we were going downtown for a special occasion such as a bachelor/bachelorette party, birthday, wedding, etc. we’d definitely want to stay within a few blocks of 6th street. That and Rainey Street are where most of the night scenes occur. If you can afford it, The Driskill is one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve ever seen and it’s rumoured to be haunted!
What are your favourite things to do when you’re in town?
We recently planned a little stay-cation trip in Austin! Sometimes it’s fun to play tourist in your hometown, especially when you haven’t been back in quite some time. We visited the Texas State Capital, wandered around 6th street, hit up a local food truck park, stopped for a latte at 7th flag coffee, and hiked a bit for a great view of the 360 bridge. There is so much to do in this town that we are constantly discovering new places to explore!
Sounds amazing! What’s your very favourite thing to do?
Every time Shelly comes to Austin her first stop is to kayak or stand up paddle board on Lady Bird Lake. It’s extremely popular on beautiful days (seriously, you would think no one has a day job in this town) and it provides gorgeous views of the Austin skyline. We absolutely love mixing nature into urban settings. Best of both worlds.
How is the food scene in Austin? All barbecues and burgers?
Oh the food in Austin. We could stay here forever just based on that reason alone. Firstly if you have never had “Tex Mex” we urge you to book the first flight out to Austin! It’s an incredibly delicious fusion of Mexican and American food – think fajitas, chile con queso (cheese dip with beef), and gourmet tacos. Kerbey Lane Cafe, an Austin original, has THE best queso we’ve ever had. It’s creamy, finger licking good and there’s rarely a time when the bowl doesn’t end up empty. For tacos you absolutely must try Torchy’s Tacos. It originated as a small food truck and has blown up into a notable Texan chain. They serve gourmet tacos and aren’t afraid to experiment with interesting ingredients to form some truly delicious and unexpected concoctions!
A few other notable Austin originals that shouldn’t be missed are Hopdoddy’s for an amazing hamburger, Homeslice for some rockin’ pizza, and Franklin’s for legendary Texan BBQ. If you’re looking for more health conscious meals, Austin has plenty of amazing vegetarian and wholesome restaurants too. We especially like stopping at Whole Foods (a grocery store specializing in organic all-natural foods) for a quick lunch.
Can you recommend any unusual things to do in town?
Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world” so there are plenty of options to explore the thriving music scene. There’s something going on every night of the week in nearly all corners of the city. If you’re here at the right time you have to experience one of Austin’s famous music festivals – Austin City Limits or South by Southwest.
We’d also recommend visiting a few of the local graffiti walls. They’re in pretty random locations (i.e. not in the main downtown area) but are fun to get some pictures in front of! Our favourites are the “Austin Postcard” mural, “I love you so much” at Jo’s Coffee and “You’re my butter half” located just east of UT campus across I-35.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone planning a trip?
If you aren’t used to extreme heat, DO NOT visit Austin between June-September! It is a city best explored outside and you’ll be missing out on a lot if you’re forced to stay indoors. April/May or October/November are the best times to plan a trip here. If you do end up visiting in the summer, take advantage of Barton Springs Pool. The Pool is fed from a natural underground spring that keeps temperatures between 68-70 degrees and is extremely refreshing in the 105 degree (F) heat!
My pale English skin will probably crisp up if I visit in summer! So tell us: what’s your favourite travel read?
Jimmie recently read Harry Potter while we were travelling. For some reason he had never really gotten into it growing up and Shelly finally urged him to give it another shot. It’s kind of funny how obsessed he is with it now…
And finally – a question about you two! What do you love most about travelling?
It might sound cliché to say this since most travellers do, but seeing new cultures, meeting interesting people, and experiencing the most beautiful things nature has to offer are truly what we love the most about travelling. We are addicted to the thrill of adventure and exploring new places!
NB – all images are owned by Jimmie and Shelly