Monday, March 2, 2015

A Week of Exploring Central Austin On Foot

We've spent the past week in the middle of Austin, TX at Pecan Grove RV Park; just a block from the Colorado River and enormous Zilker Metropolitan Park, and a short walk to downtown and several interesting neighborhoods.

Pecan Grove RV Park is old and funky. Just a few sites (maybe a dozen) are for short term stays, the rest (maybe 50 sites) are permanent residents. Tall RV's need assistance getting into their site due to low power lines. You maneuver in slowly as the park manager raises the power lines over anything sticking up on your roof with a long pole!

This RV park has been here for decades and the city has evolved around it. On one side is a new restaurant (coming soon, under noisy construction during our stay) and on the other side is a fancy new apartment building. The real draw for this park is its location, walking distance to the throbbing center of Austin, plus several bars, restaurants and food trucks in the surrounding neighborhood.

The weather this week has been unsettled, we had several days that never made it above 35 degrees, mixed up a couple of days that included some sun and temps in the low 60's. On the cold days we just bundled up in many layers and walked a lot. In fact, walking was really preferable to driving because traffic is awful in Austin!

Back in San Antonio when we met up with Eric and Brittany of RV Wanderlust fame, we learned they were also the founders of The Austinot, a hyperlocal blog about things to do in Austin...the perfect starting point for our explorations. Be sure to check it out if you're looking for things to do in this city.

Austin has many faces: music city, hipster haunt, food focused, edgy artists, active outdoorsy. I'll let the photos of our week of exploring the center of this bustling metropolis tell the story.

Texas State Capitol...on a bitterly cold, gray day.

Capitol dome.

A one-time Austin resident, blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan is immortalized along the Colorado River.

From our RV park we could make a nice loop walk that included the pretty Zilker neighborhood and Zilker Park. Giant oaks are everywhere and many of the buildings on our walks use Texas limestone on their facade.

I loved the variety of limestone on this cute older home.

Another classic Texas limestone facade.

We walked several happening neighborhoods including Rainey Historical, 6th Street, South Congress (SoCo), South First. Dozens of interesting eating and drinking establishments enticed us; Austinites must really like to eat out!

Container building!

Bright murals can be found all over the place.

Enormous Zilker Park is just two blocks from the RV park. We practically had the place to ourselves on the coldest days, but once the sun showed its face mobs of people were out walking and running, paddling and swimming (at Barton Springs). I happen to be fascinated by turtles, and there were dozens!

Turtles with reflection, I.

Turtles with reflection, II.

Oh my that sun feels good!

Let's take a closer look...

Zilker Park backed by downtown skyline.

Continue upstream from Zilker Park along Barton Creek and it soon feels like wilderness right smack dab in the middle of the city.

Pretty, clear Barton Creek flows through a limestone canyon.

The crystal clear water flows over and around giant limestone boulders.
These must be wonderful swimming holes in the middle of summer.

If you like to eat out you will LOVE Austin! We don't eat out very often, but the sheer volume of inviting looking eateries tempted us several times this past week. Here are the places we tried:

Casa de Luz: We met a longtime friend of Hans, Darien, at this organic, vegan, macrobiotic dining and community center. Lunch is $12 and includes all you can eat soup, salad and beverage, plus a plate of whatever is being served that day. The food was healthy and tasty, though we thought it was a little pricey.

Bouldin Creek Cafe: Our RVing buddies, Amy and Rod of Go Pet Friendly fame, stay at Pecan Grove RV park for a couple of months every winter and recommended Bouldin Creek Cafe, saying they'd never had a bad meal there...we'll second that recommendation! Delicious vegetarian creations, breakfast served all day, decent prices, inviting, eclectic decor.

Lucy's Fried Chicken: Fried chicken seems to be a "thing" in Austin (and who am I to turn down a good plate of fried chicken?), and an article on the Austinot blog helped me narrow down my choices. I really liked the chicken, Hans thought it was just okay, he would have preferred a big fat meaty breast but the basket only had small pieces in it. Good cole slaw and flavorful mashed potatoes, though the potatoes were a bit too salty.

Whole Foods Store on Lamar: I've boycotted Whole Foods for ages, I cringed at their prices and pretty much refused to step in their stores for years. But when Amy told us what a unique store this particular Whole Foods was we just had to check it out. It's a flagship store, taking up a whopping 80,000 square feet. There are numerous places to relax and buy a bite to eat within the store: sushi, cookies, bistro, baked goods, a bar...and on and on. It really is an experience and I found some reasonably priced groceries to boot! This store changed my mind about Whole Foods.

Uncle Billy's Brew & Que: Uncle Billy's couldn't be located any better - it's right next door to the RV park. We met Rod and Amy there for a drink one evening and Hans and I stayed for dinner. Tasty brews and smoked chicken, yum!

Hans, Lisa, Amy and Rod at Uncle Billy's.

Moving on...
Today we have a short drive to another RV park on the Eastern edge of Austin where we'll settle in to a calmer environment for a month, continue our explorations of this city and wish fervently for a little sun to warm our bones!


  1. How lucky that you had a chance to stay at Pecan Grove so you could enjoy Austin on foot. We also used the Austinot to find some great places in Austin. A very useful resource. That Whole Foods store is the best I've ever been too! I am glad you gave up your boycott to see it. Yes, Whole Foods does carry some expensive items, but they also have good deals (last week I got Stonyfield yogurt for less then at Publix), their selection of natural meats is amazing and competitively priced, and the store brand, 365, is always a good deal. Can't wait to see what else you find in Austin!

    1. Yes, this was a very good location for exploring the city center. Over the next month we will be very picky about when we enter the city to avoid the brutal traffic!

      I was really pleasantly surprised at how many reasonably priced items I saw at WF and am really glad I ventured in!

  2. We don't eat out much, either, but we loved all the vegetarian choices in Austin. We were in Hill Country in March one year and experienced crazy weather. Didn't care for the thunderstorms and hail!

    1. Our vegan friend was telling us about tons of good vegan/vegetarian options. I don't believe I've ever been to a city so immersed in food culture! I heat that our next RV park has a farm right across the street...fresh seasonable veggies - YAY!

  3. You have seen some of the amazing places in Austin already. I'll be interested to see where else you go. Hopefully it will warm up to an amazing 80 degrees so you can go visit some of the beautiful swimming holes!

    1. 80 degrees seems like a pipe dream right now! At least our new park has a hot tub!!!

  4. We loved Austin! We only spent a day there but would happily return for a longer visit. I love that container building! The mural with the little camper is pretty cute too.

    1. It's a vibrant city isn't it! Container buildings rock! :-)

  5. Austin is one of those cities that has changed my mind about a whole state - one I planned never to visit (sort of like WF for you, but for other reasons). I love your photos of all the art and architecture - and being within walking distance of so much to do in chilly weather sounds like a great option.

    1. Agreed, Texas was never at the top of my list, but Austin, as a city, is more my style.

  6. Looks like you're having a great time even though the weather is not so good. I can hardly wait to make it to Austin, and hopefully meet up again ! Wishing you warmer weather, believe me anything above freezing right now sounds good for me.

    1. Oh yeah, our weather is definitely better than yours! I wouldn't mind snow for a day or two, but your constant snow is too much!

  7. I'm really shocked at your weather in late February. Spring is only 3 weeks away. I somehow thought Texas was warm in the winter. Highs of 35 are why we left Virginia. In fact, we're moving north in Florida because of the heat.....84-86. Love the black and white of you guys and the pictures of that lovely creek. Hope you get some better weather for the rest of your time in and around Austin.

  8. We enjoyed our stay in Pecan Grove for exactly the same reason -- walking distance to everything, including lovely Zilker Park. The park is funky, but fun. We only stayed three days, but would love to go back for a week. You discovered some cool places that we need to see for ourselves. ;-)

  9. I made a short trip to Austin for work years ago and haven't been back since. We would love to explore this vibrant city. It looks like there is lots to do. Looking forward to your next post Lisa.

  10. we lived in Austin for a while and will get there some time in the spring but we are moving very slowly because of all that nasty cold weather east of us...

  11. We've never been to Austin so we are looking forward to seeing it through your eyes.

    Love how you had to get into the RV park:) There is a lot to be said to be within walking distance of town.

    Those turtles are so cute. That's a lot of turtles on that log:)

  12. Thank you Lisa, I get to enjoy Austin through you and your captures of those homes ( the container house especially)and the colorful murals and the funkiness of the capital city.
    I too have stayed away from WF, too pricey for our taste.
    These dreary cold days are really getting into our nerves, we have moved now too but still the sun is hiding.

  13. The most turtles I ever saw on that log was four....WOW, a Turtlepaloza! Sorry it is so cold there this year. I swam in Barton Springs last January. Crazy Texas weather!