Monday, July 25, 2011

Austin, Texas - Day 3

IMG_3729 [800x600]

Today was our last day in Austin, Texas. We had done a lot, but we had one last grand thing to visit. The Texas State Capitol.  They offer free tours every 15-30 minutes which last about 30-45 minutes or you can pick up a self guided sheet and walk where you want. Our tour guide was Becca and she did a great job giving us all the history and details about the capitol. The first Capitol was built in 1839 and completed in 1853. In early 1881, officials held a nationwide competition for a new design which was built in 1853, only to be destroyed from a fire in 1881. A temporary Capitol was built across the street until the new building was ready. Recently in 1990-1995 a restoration was done in order to preserve the building for years to come.

As you walk past the life size statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston you enter the Rotunda and IMG_4039 [800x600]Dome. A very impressive look up to the top of the 215 feet dome you can see the eight foot point to point star and the letters of Texas around it which are 1 foot tall each.

IMG_4046 [800x600]

When you look around the walls around you, there are portraits of each president of the Republic and Governors if the State circling four public levels of the rotunda with the most recent on the ground level.

IMG_4053 [800x600]

We moved along to the Senate Chamber where the desk are 120 years old. Around the top of the chamber is where the public viewing gallery is. There are no reservations or tickets handed out, it’s open to the public to listen in when the Senate is in session. in the back of the chamber you’ll see 2 large paintings which show the Battle of San Jacinto and Dawn at the Alamo.

IMG_4056 [800x600]

Behind the Lieutenant Governor’s original walnut desk there’s an original portrait of Stephen F. Austin which is the last one ever drawn of him as a gift to his sister for missing her birthday while he was fighting in the Revolutionary War. He died shortly after the painting was done of phenomena. It’s sad that he only had 3 of them done because he thought they where a waste of his time having to sit there and be painted.

 IMG_4066 [800x600]

The House of Representatives Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol. There are 150 seats

IMG_4074 [800x600]

Behind the Speaker’s desk is one of the oldest artifacts: the flag flown from the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto.

IMG_4079 [800x600]

No matter where you look there’s beauty everywhere from the door knobs to the door hinges. It’s really neat seeing all of the details that went into this building.

IMG_4072 [800x600]

Next we headed down to the underground extension level to see the World War II Medal of Honor gallery.

IMG_4084 [800x600]

This level is the newest section built in 1990-1993. It’s also where all the meetings take place while they are drafting bills.

IMG_4086 [800x600]

As our tour came to an end I learned one more neat fact. There are 6 seals of Texas on the back side of the Capitol building as well as the circle of the rotunda floor. This is where the name 6 flags over Texas theme parks came from. Pretty cool huh?

IMG_4093 [800x600]

You really need to stop and visit if you’re in the area, the tours are great and you can join in and leave at any point.

IMG_4092 [800x600]

With lunch time approaching we made our final 2 stops before heading back home. First up was Iron Works BBQ which opened in 1978 and is known as a favorite among the locals. There’s indoor seating or a patio which overlooks a bayou.

IMG_4096 [800x600]IMG_4098 [800x600]IMG_4099 [800x600]

We ordered the Sampler Plate $13.45 (Sliced Beef, Sausage, and one beef rib). Now I need to remind you I live in Texas and we eat a lot of BBQ so I’m a little more picky then most people are. The sausage was my favorite as well as the BBQ sauce on the table. The rib flavor was good, but they leave the membrane on doesn’t allow the meat to get real tender as it should be. The brisket looked good and had a nice smoke ring, but didn’t taste like anything, I couldn’t even taste the smoke. Overall I think it’s over priced and wouldn’t recommend going. The dish also came with 2 house sides, beans and potato salad. I enjoyed the potato salad which was huge for me because I don’t care for anyone's. The beans where ok, didn’t taste like anything more special then something from a can.

IMG_4102 [800x600]

Last stop was a food truck A Touch of Fire. If you don’t eat much Thai food, let me warn you they know how to kick up the spice! Looking at the menu we settled on an eggroll $1 and Thai Taco $2.50 (Spicy sliced beef with onions and cilantro, stir fried in chili-lime dressing, rolled up in a grilled tortilla and served hot).

IMG_4105 [800x600]

Looking at the taco I was a little shocked there wasn’t more too it for $2.50, but holy cow your lips burn like you just kissed a hot cast iron skillet. As spicy as it is you just can’t stop eating it! Now the egg roll is a waste of money! My finger is bigger then this thing is. It has to be one of those boxed frozen ones I don’t think they make them so don’t order one.

IMG_4111 [800x600]IMG_4109 [800x600]

It was a great trip minus the heat, I can’t wait to get back and try more food trucks!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Austin, Texas - Day 2

IMG_3870 [800x600]Today was our day of inside activities and try to get a refresher course on Texas History. We tried not to have too big of a breakfast at the hotel so we could sneak in some more food stops I wanted to try. First stop of the day was a drive out to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I figured we would hit it first thing instead in in the afternoon heat, which I’m glad we did even though we still got all sweaty. Today was Lady Bird Johnson day so it was free to get in, where normally it’s $8 for adults. Honestly I’m glad it was free, because I was a little disappointed with the lack of flowers. Of course with the Texas heat wave we’ve had it’s to be expected. If you have time it’s worth strolling through, but probably best viewed in the spring. My favorite part was the Courtyard Spring which reminded me of our trip to Yellowstone. IMG_3874 [800x600]

IMG_3888 [800x600]IMG_3900 [800x600]

Back in the truck with the ac on full blast to cool down we headed to the LBJ Library and Museum. Personally I loved this stop and remember visiting on a field trip in 5th grade. They have fantastic displays documenting LBJ life as well as important events through the time. There’s even a cool smaller scale of his white house office. The best part is it’s free so be sure you stop and visit.

IMG_3925 [800x600]IMG_3931 [800x600]

IMG_3937 [800x600]IMG_3939 [800x600]

IMG_3944 [800x600]IMG_3947 [800x600]

IMG_3950 [800x600]IMG_3951 [800x600]

IMG_3969 [800x600]Ready to have lunch we went to the place listed as the best chili in Texas, Texas Chili Parlor. I ordered a bowl of XX Spicy which is their most popular $6.95 large. Loved it and would go back for this anytime. The meat was tender and you got plenty of chunks in there. D on the other hand decided to order a Grande Burrito $6.95 (with rice and beans and choice of filling w/ choice of sauce). IMG_3971 [800x600]I’ll try to keep from gagging again and I write this. Holy Moly this was horrible. The meat was so chewy even cutting it up the size of my pinky fingernail it was still in-edible! I don’t know how he forced it down or why he didn’t want to share a bowl of chili at a place that’s known for chili. Of course we both figured if they can cook chili meat then they should be able to tenderize fajita meat, but we where wrong.

IMG_3972 [800x600]IMG_3975 [800x600]

IMG_3980 [800x600]We where full again so on to our next stop to walk it off. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is $9 for adults, and we thought that was fair for our refresher course of Texas History. You can’t take pictures in there, but I didn’t know that since other people where taking them and I had my big honking camera when I walked in and no one said anything. I saw a sign at the end and of course felt bad afterwards that I had taken so many while in there. So I figure I won’t post any to make up for my wrong doing.

After a day full of knowledge we rested up at the famous Driskill Hotel built back in 1886 it’s the oldest hotel still in operation in Austin.

IMG_5094 [800x600]

The lobby just makes you drop your jaw with how big it is and the stain glass is amazing to look at as well.

IMG_4036 [800x600]IMG_4037 [800x600]

Be sure if you stay you ask for a room in the older section. Over the years they added on to the hotel and our room seemed renovated and not as old as some of the other sections we walked by. The room was really nice for $139 a night I thought it was more than fair for an old historic hotel.

IMG_5090 [800x600]IMG_5091 [800x600]IMG_5092 [800x600]

For dinner we drove to Lake Austin to eat at the Hula Hut which is known for Mexican food with a surfer twist. It’s very casual and has a lot of seating. Even though it was hot out we where seated out over the water on the patio. With the breeze and fans going it wasn’t so bad. There’s a cool large floating bass out by the boat dock too.

IMG_5097 [800x600]IMG_5103 [800x600]IMG_5101 [800x600]

I wasn’t a fan of their salsa, but D really liked it.

IMG_3997 [800x600]

We ordered the Huli Huli Luau Platter $24.99 (A half rack of BBQ baby back ribs. 4 Texas nachos with grilled chicken, 2 BBQ chicken tacos, 4 chicken flautas, Hula Hut chopped salad, papas asadas and chile con queso) Ummm yeah a LOT of food! We asked if they could sawp out the chicken for beef on the nachos so we could try that as well. With a “sure no problem” we learned later it cost us an extra $4, not happy. Anyway the food was really good and I would go back again any day. 

IMG_3998 [800x600]IMG_3999 [800x600]IMG_4000 [800x600]

IMG_4003 [800x600]Our last stop of the evening was a 30 minute drive out to The Oasis on Lake Travis. A simple search of this place will tell you it’s overpriced food, but the best view for sunset around. You can sit out on the deck, but there is a 2 drink minimum. There’s actually several places you can choose to eat from here with all joining deck, but we didn’t know that until we got there. It kind of reminded me of a casino when we got there, this place was huge!! They have umbrellas to shade you and as it gets closer to sunset they come around and take them all down. The sad part was you could really see how bad we need rain in Texas, the water level was so low.

IMG_4004 [800x600]IMG_4010 [800x600]IMG_4021 [800x600]IMG_4008 [800x600]IMG_4020 [800x600]IMG_4030 [800x600]IMG_4032 [800x600]