The Texas capital is having a big week, with spring break, the rodeo festival, the saint Patrick’s weekend and more importantly the SXSW festival, it is pulsing! We got up early to visit the Capitol when it was still quiet. The building, built in 1885, is impressive. With its massive underground extension (bigger that the original building), it is the biggest state capitol in the country. It houses the Senate, the Chamber of Representatives, and the first Supreme Court and Court of appeals. On the floor under the dome are the five symbols representing Texas’s history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Confederation, and the USA. France’s aim was to control the Mississippi, they tried to establish colonies on the coast of what is now Texas. Spain didn’t want to let this happen and accelerated the spread of its territory, building more missions, including the Alamo. France gave up on this side and focused on Louisiana. Our guide told us that, even though ephemeral, this was an important piece of history, that boosted the development of the state.
South of the Capitol, Congress Street is the artery of downtown Austin. It is cut through by a second artery: 6th Street. 6th Street is where the life of Austin is, with bars and clubs, cafes and tattoo parlors. It is 11am and the street is already closed to traffic, with the festival and St Patrick’s day, the alcohol starts to flow early today.
On the other side of the river, South Congress Street seems to be the hipster quarter of the city. Again, with the festival on, the sidewalks are busy and music is playing loud everywhere. We stop by “Uncommon Objects”, a famous vintage shop. There I was surprised to see the same metallic box of Bouillon Cube my grandma had, with a price tag of $45!
Another famous place on the list to visit was Barton Springs. The swimming pool, in Zilker park, has been built on the river so cold water flows through it all year round, a relief for the hot Texan summers. It’s $8 for us non residents, and rookies -we could see people having a good time by the river through the fence, at no cost.
Texan people are extremely patriotic and proud of their history. We are in cowboys land, and the best way to experience the Texas pride is a good rodeo. Rodeo Austin is a charity event helping youth getting college education, but it’s also one of the best 5 rodeos in North America. This is exactly like you’d imagine, everyone dressed as cowboys and cowgirls, driving massive pick up trucks and drinking Bud light. And the crowd cheers massively watching bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, mutton bustin’, team ropping, barrel dancing and more. The competitors are their heros. The rodeo is followed by a country music gig, the Randy Rogers band, and it was quite good!
PS: Texans make honoring their 2nd amendment right a priority. On the radio we heard a car seller offering a gun with each car purchased. The ad started with “At xxx, we believe in our 2nd amendment rights…”