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Deep in the Heart of Texas
by Diannek
Austin, TX
The State Capitol Building
Austin, Texas

You can't begin to see all of Texas in one week, or perhaps even in one year. It's too big, of course, but even saying that is an understatement. It's so big that the average tourist hardly knows where to begin when contemplating a trip to Texas. That's what I always thought.

Then my daughter decided to go to business school at the University of Texas at Austin. That made my choice of where to start a little easier. Still, I didn't get the chance to see Austin until graduation weekend. We flew directly from San Jose to Austin, on the "nerd bird" flight as it's called in these parts, because so many Silicon Valley types use it. It was late spring and we'd just missed the wild blue bonnets that blossom over the Texas hill country every spring. Ah well. Austin was lovely anyhow.

My sister-in-law Nancy McDougal and my other daughter Karen joined Dale and I to help Sheri celebrate her commencement. After a big barbecue bash at The Salt Lick, it was graduation day. (Do photo essay of UC and Sheri here!)

UT bell tower
Be sure to visit the UT campus when
you're in Austin, even if it isn't
graduation day.
Hi Sheri!
Here's our daughter, Sheri,
Clever's business advisor,
celebrating her big day.
It sure doesn't hurt to have
an MBA in the family.

Nancy and I are avid sightseers so we decided to stay on after the big weekend festivities and see a little more of Austin and the surrounding area. We started at the capitol building, which you can't miss from anywhere in downtown Austin.

There were hots of visitors strolling the grounds, touring the building and taking photos, just as we were. It's an imposing capital, built in the late 1800s of pink granite -- the biggest of the state capitols for the biggest state in the Union. It's nearly as large as the US Capitol and several feet taller! We marveled at the great seal in the entryway which named all the battles of the Texas Revolution. It's quite an institution.

Next we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It's located just south of Austin in the Hill Country. The goal of the center, according to its brochure, is to educate people about " the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants."
Hi Karen
Here's Karen trying out the
speaker's podium at the capitol.

It was a mild and sunny day, just right for wandering through the gardens. The inner area of the center was divided into many gardens, such as the meditation garden, which was filled with lush green shrubs, and the theme garden, which was divided into patches displaying native plants in full bloom. Surrounding the main gardens were nature trails, which wandered through widely diverse ecosystems of the area. The visitor center hosted a wonderful gift shop filled with gardening stuff -- books, garden ornaments, clothes -- in addition to seeds packets and instructions on growing native plants. It was hard to resist buying a few Texas natives for my California garden.

Grat-tailed Grackles resting in a park
alongside Austin's Town Lake near the
congress Avenue Bridge

Don't miss visiting:

The State Capitol Building
The University of Texas-Austin Campus
Bat-watching from the
Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk
Sixth Street Nightlife

Great Eats:

Kirby Lane Cafe for breakfast
The Magnolia Cafe for Breakfast
The East Side Cafe for dinner
Chuy's Hula Hut for Mexican
The Salt Lick for barbecue
The County Line for barbecue
Hudson's on the Bend for
a dining experience!

For a very special night out, make a reservation for dinner at Hudson's on the Bend, for a unique dining experience. Great food, great sense of style...and look at their cookbook: Cooking Fearlessly, a cookbook with a great sense of humor, fabulous photos and wonderful recipes. Yummy
You can even eat the flowers at Hudson's

From Austin, we drove southwest to San Antonio, probably about a 75-mile drive. I had always wanted to visit the Alamo, so this would be my one perfect opportunity. We were booked into the Menger Hotel, which is located right across from the Alamo. The hotel was built in 1859 and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. It was a beautiful old place, reminiscent of the 19th century, but with all the modern conveniences we expect of a good hotel.
Remember the Alamo
A visit to the Alamo is like a religious experience for Texans. Their reverence for every aspect of that dark moment in history is apparent each step of the way. After our visit to the Alamo, we went to the local IMAX theater and watched the recreated Battle of the Alamo.
Don't miss the beautiful
San Antonio Riverwalk.

Our last stop on our Texas tour would be Dallas. It's an easy drive from San Antonio, through Austin, and then to Dallas, which I believe it took us just over 3 hours. There were dozens of side trips we could have taken along the way because central Texas is just loaded with interesting sites, but we were on a tight schedule, as usual, and both of us wanted to visit Forth Worth's museums and do a little shopping in Dallas.

We were staying at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. When I called to make our reservation I gasped when the clerk quoted the room rate. I asked if there were any cheaper rooms available and she said yes, she would give us the weekend rate, which was about half the rate she first quoted. Our room was beautiful, one of the loveliest I've ever been in, and we were treated like two princesses while we were there. One evening we decided to go to the movies and since we had our own car, we asked for driving instructions to the theater. The concierge said the hotel would be happy to drive us and they did, in their Mercedes limo. When Nancy forgot to bring her reading glasses into the restaurant, the waitress said not to worry, she would read her the entire menu, which she did. I don't remember ever getting such personal service in a hotel before.

We visited the Kimbel Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, which is right next to the Kimbel, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Both the Kimbel and the DMA are world class museums and we enjoyed them both very much. But I must say I was truly impressed with the Amon Carter Museum, which houses a fine collection of American Art. One of the reasons why it was such an enjoyable experience, besides the subject matter itself, was the way the art works were displayed. We got a better sense of the artists' motivation and some of the social and cultural ambiance of the time from the arrangement of the exhibits, so we weren't simply looking at art, but experiencing the social context of the time period as well.

We spent our last full day in Texas at the mall. The hotel recommended that we head over to the Galleria because it was enclosed and air-conditioned, and Dallas was in the midst of a prolonged monster heat wave. It sounded like a brilliant idea to us. We shopped until we dropped, of course, and enjoyed our last day in Texas surrounded by Texans doing exactly what we like to do. I can't claim to be an expert on Texas in any way, but I flew home with many pleasant memories of a beautiful state that seemed to be filled with friendly and hospitable people.

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