Austin is home to a packaging-free grocery store,  In.gredients, that I read about on one of the environmental blogs I follow. This was our first stop in the city to stock up on bulk goods in addition to the fresh veggies we picked up in the morning at a great farmers’ market in Bastrop. From there, we parked next to a “pocket park” to eat lunch. This small lot of a park also hosts a bit of a community garden, with a sign welcoming visitors to share a little in the harvest. Sadly, the fig trees did not bear us any ripe fruit, but I took fragrant sprigs off the oregano and rosemary plants. As we ate lunch, several bicyclists rode past. I like this city!

After lunch we took a walk to a larger park. On the way we noted several streets with 1/2 in the number; I’ve never seen 1/2 streets before!

After lunch we took a walk to a larger park. On the way we noted several streets with 1/2 in the number; I’ve never seen 1/2 streets before!

Mosiacs always make me happy. This one is particularly glittery, with the background made from mirrors.

Mosaics always make me happy. This one at an Austin park is particularly glittery, with the background made from mirrors.

We met up with John’s friend Anna, our host in the city. The three of us cycled to a pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River to join a lantern parade in celebration of winter solstice. In addition to the creative lanterns on display by the parading participants, a few kayaks and stand up paddle boards on the river below were decked out in lights and the paddlers were in costumes. After the parade we stopped at one of the plethora of food trucks the city offers for a quick dinner, than off to game night at an anarchist book store. Anna made a great tour guide; it is so nice to have someone tell you where to go, and not have to rely on strangers’ reviews on Google.

Marching band at the winter solstice parade.

Marching band at the winter solstice parade.

Bicycle Christmas yard decoration across from our parking spot.

Bicycle Christmas yard decoration across from our parking spot.

Over the next few days, we cycled all around the university and downtown areas, and spent time in a local coffee shop. Austin has all the qualities that I am looking for in my next hometown, but I don’t think I want to experience a summer here. I would also prefer to be closer to mountains.

Postcard mural.

Postcard mural.

When John looked out the van window and saw a kid skateboarding in the parking lot, he went out and joined him.

When John looked out the van window and saw a kid skateboarding in the parking lot, he went out and joined him.

On Christmas Eve we left Anna’s and we headed to McKinney Falls State Park (still in Austin) for the holiday. At the entrance to the park we ran into Helen and Ralph again – almost literally. A car horn blasted as John started backing out of a parking space, bringing our attention to a truck behind us. It pulled in next to us; I was so certain the driver was about to berate us for almost hitting her that it took a minute for me to recognize our RVing friends. They generously invited us over to their Airstream on Christmas afternoon.

Shiny clean van at McKinney Falls State Park.

Shiny clean van at McKinney Falls State Park.

Christmas morning I rose early to finish John’s surprise stocking. Sneaking around preparing a surprise is hard when we spend every moment together, but I managed it! After baking cookies and presenting the surprise to John, we took a short walk to see the park’s namesake falls, then joined Helen and Ralph in their Airstream. They treated us to tamales, drinks, good music and enjoyable conversation.

Christmas cactus! It isn’t the plant I know of as a Christmas cactus, but it did offer lovely red fruits for view on Christmas.

Christmas cactus! It isn’t the plant I know of as a Christmas cactus, but it did offer lovely red fruits for view on Christmas.

Me standing by McKinney Falls.

Me standing by McKinney Falls.

Our Christmas portrait.

Our Christmas portrait.

We finished exploring the park on Boxing Day. The shore of the river downstream from the falls is an expanse of pockmarked stone that looks like a moonscape, and awesome formations in the limestone were visible under the clear water. At the end of the day we drove to the industrial area of town where the diesel engine service station is located. We parked overnight on the side of the street here so we could be at the service station first thing in the morning.

I am pointing out an extra neat feature in the water fall.

I am pointing out an extra neat feature in the water fall.

The stone shore and underwater rock formations were other-wordly.

The stone shore and underwater rock formations were otherwordly.

Closer view of the awesome under-water rock formations.

Closer view of the awesome underwater rock formations.

The garage where our van received regular maintenance work.

The garage where our van received regular maintenance work.

We stopped in a small town, Hondo, for dinner, and came across this gem.

After leaving Austin we stopped in a small town, Hondo, for dinner, where we came across this gem.

5 Thoughts on “Celebrating Winter in Austin

  1. rich lehne on January 11, 2014 at 12:01 am said:

    I was thinking that in just a few months of leisurely driving around the country you’ve traveled years beyond the lives of your house-bound friends. Pretty neat trick.

    • I don’t think our driving pace has exactly been ‘leisurely’, but yes, this trip has allowed us to catch up on a lot of traveling we were not able to do during our years in NYC. It’s been a really wonderful opportunity! 🙂

  2. This sounds like a lovely time. I am absolutely intrigued with that Mosaic. I used to make tabletop mosaics from broken dishes. But those mirrors and the way they pick up what’s in the park to surround the flamingos is outstanding. I wish I could’ve been there to see it. I also really enjoyed that underwater limestone formation. I was look forward to your posts. keep on writing gal!

  3. Hey nice post I LOVE Austin it is so rich in culture people scenery education etc….The weather is a dry hot in the summer, If you can got to the hill counrty N Austin for a driveMy favorite spot :)). Watch out for the fire ants and tranchulas !!

    • We saw a tarantula and I was nervous about getting too close because I thought it was poisonous…I later read that they are not harmful to humans, so nothing to worry about! They are interesting creatures. Fireants, I am not so keen on.

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