Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DAY 97- Austin & San Marcos, TX…

The first thing I had planned for the day was a visit to the Texas State Capital.  I was curious to see what a big state like Texas would have as a building for the state capital.  So I found parking along the street and walked up the main stroll to the Capitol building.  I wasn’t surprised to see a statue that was dedicated to the Confederate Dead but coming from the north it hit me that this was seen as the norm for the south.  There was another statue on the main stroll up to the Capital that was in honor of the Texas Rangers which made sense to a certain extent.  Then, I noticed another statue that was dedicated to fireman that I thought was very honorable. 
Photo- The Texas State Capital.
Photo- The statue for the Confederate Dead.

I went into the Capital building and had to walk through a metal detector, had my purse go through an x-ray machine; nothing new for any of these buildings anymore since 911.  The interior was a painted orientate white wood with touches of gold.  It was elaborate as you would think a state capital building would be; though, I will say I was a bit surprised that it wasn’t more elaborate.  I’ve been in state capitals in Utah, Montana, and Iowa; and this capital building didn’t seem as elaborate.  But I will admit the rotunda area was quite a bit taller than most.  The very tall round rotunda was centered in the capital building.  On each floor there were former statesmen paintings hung around the rotunda.  At the top inner side of the dome area was a star with Texas around it.  I ended up taking the stairs to the third level which was as close as you could get to the inside upper rotunda area. 

Photos- Inside the Texas Capital rotunda.
There were quite a few areas that were not open to the public because of remodeling going on.  There were also quite a few areas where furniture was stacked in halls because they were installing new carpet.  But overall, it was a very nice building.

I then went to the 6th Street area that is where the night life in Austin occurs.  There are tons of restaurants and bars along the street.  There were still quite a few people along it about noon time but I would imagine at night it would be packed.  There were a couple of gift shops and t-shirt shops but all in all it was bars or restaurants that served alcoholic beverages in the area.  A great deal of the buildings were older with had colorful signs and some even had very colorful names too.
Photo- Zilker Park.

Next, I drove through the Zilker Park area which is a HUGE city park area that people enjoy in the area.  There were people running, picnicking, and strolling along paths and all with the city skyline off in the distance.  From there I drove through the South Congress area where there are shops and food carts.  In fact, some of the best reasonably priced places to eat I was told were the food carts.  It was almost a whole block area where they were set up.  It kind of reminded me of Portland but these carts had more room between them and had places for you to sit down to enjoy the food.
Photo- Inside the Black Sheep Lodge.

The next place that I stopped at was called the Black SheepLodge.  Part of the reason that I stopped by, I’ll admit, was the name and the other part was that it was known for their burgers and beer.  I found a parking spot in their lot about half a block down from it.  I walked down the sidewalk and out front there’s a covered patio area where there were tattooed biker dudes; a row of Harley like bikes were lined up along the far end of the patio area. In among the bikers there were others that looked like hippies.  I walked inside and wasn’t sure about what to do about sitting down if there was a hostess or what.  I asked a guy and he said it’s communal seating; sit where ever you want and a server will show up.  There were plenty of TVs to watch your sports and there was 4 different football games on while I tried to decided where to sit.
I chose a picnic table where 2 other guys dressed in t-shirts and ball caps who were already seated and a cute Oriental gal in a Black Sheep Lodge t-shirt showed up.  She recommended a local brew called Live Oak that was similar to a Heffie and then handed me a menu.  I looked at the menu and ended up choosing the Carnitas Sandwich which is a slowly marinated pulled pork with green chilies and served with some spicy slaw on top.   I also ordered it with the sweet potato fries.  It arrived and the sandwich was wonderful with a nice hint of spicy with the sweet bbq flavor.  I then HAD to order the Fried Cookie Dough dessert.  I was just too curious.  A while later an oval dish shows up that looks like chicken nuggets with ice cream.  It didn’t look very appetizing.  I tried it and it was okay but I don’t think I could get past the appearance enough to enjoy it.

Next, it was the drive to San Antonio.  Though, I was making a pit stop about half way.  About halfway to San Antonio, I stopped at a town called San Marcos.  I had been told that there were glass bottomed boats on a small lake where you could view the natural springs of the lake.  I swung by the visitor’s center where I got directions to the place and also got a coupon for $2 off my boat ride.
Photo- The small clear lake where the glass bottom boats are.

The Aquarena used to be an amusement park with a hotel that is now owned and run by Texas State University which is located nearby.  The lake is situated near a golf course that looks very scenic.  With my $2 off coupon I paid only $7 and got to go on a nice gentle ride in a glass bottom boat with a young captain who explained about the lake, the springs, and the ecosystem in the area.  It was also very fascinating and I even got to see a pair of turtles and some fish.  I was amazed at how clear the water was and it was 25ft deep in some areas but it was so clear you would’ve guess it a few feet.  After the ride, I was invited to go into the former hotel building to see the aquariums.  It was free.  I went in and learned more about the ecosystem that is particular to this area and got to see some more interesting fish and water life.
Photo- A pair of turtles as seen through the glass bottom boat.

I drove into San Marcos and took a quick walk around the main square area.  The main downtown area is centered around the courthouse building and there were a great deal of picturesque older building situated around the surrounding street areas.  It was about 4:30PM so quite a few of the businesses had already closed or were in the process of closing.  So I just walked around for a bit and did some window shopping.

Now I was on my way to San Antonio.  I got checked into my room just as the sun was setting.  It was a pretty view from my 6th floor hotel room.  I got directions and a map from the front desk clerk and headed over to San Antonio’s River Walk area where I planned to find somewhere to eat for dinner.  I was within walking distance; about 6 blocks.  While on the way to the River Walk, I happened to walk by the Alamo on the way; which was cool because it was lite up and the moon was shining above.  The river walk area was wonderful and all decorated for Christmas with lights.  There were a lot of people walking around and out. 
Photo- The Alamo lighted up with the moon above.

I ended up eating at a place called the County Line which I had been told had good BBQ.  It was okay are far as BBQ but it was sitting out watching on the patio area that was the real winner here.  I watched people walk along and watched tour boats going slowly along the river area.  I was having fun just watching and drinking a HUGE margarita.   I was glad I was walking back to my hotel after this margarita.

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