Happy Trails

When playing tour guide, there's no place like home.

SOMETIMES, THE MOST INVITING PLACE to visit is right in your own
back yard, so to speak. I found this out recently after hosting a few
out-of-town guests over a short period of time. At first, the very thought of
entertaining seemed taxing, but once I realized why I like Austin, showing
friends a good time proved fun and easy.

In the Capital City there really is something for everyone. What
I find so funny about Austinites (myself included), is how we think we live in
a big city. “Oh, the traffic is horrendous. The crime rate is really
high.” The list goes on. In reality, Austin is more like a small
town—only it is just big enough so that you don’t have to worry
about running into someone you know everywhere you go. The small-town feel
applies to attitude too. Most folks are laid-back here; the vibe is friendly.
Of course, I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said
before. I’m just validating a few of the reasons why I live
here—and why people like to visit.

Amusing three very different houseguests is not as difficult as
it sounds, especially when Austin is the locale of choice. Our first visitor,
Linda, went to school at the University of Texas at Austin, so she was familiar
with the city. Linda came down for a UT Longhorn football game, which is a
great way to spend part of a Saturday in Austin. There is nothing quite like
tailgating before kickoff with a bunch of friends—hanging out, eating,
drinking, and reveling. Linda’s plane arrived late Friday evening, so to
avoid the crowds (in case you didn’t know, most restaurants are packed on
game weekends), we went to a neighborhood Italian spot called Cipollina. The
food was good, and we didn’t have to wait for a table. Saturday morning
we got up early and headed for the Drag before the thousands of other UT fans
did the same. Linda wanted to buy some Longhorn paraphernalia for her three
young nieces. At ten in the morning, Guadalupe Street was hopping with folks
wearing burnt orange shirts, shorts, caps, you name it. While we were near campus,
I realized I should have booked us a tour of the UT Tower. I went with some
friends about a year ago, and it was amazing. On the observation deck, there
are bullet holes in the walls where officers tried to shoot sniper Charles
Whitman, who killed ten people from his perch on August 1, 1966.

After shopping for a while, we headed to the El Dorado
Bar—yes, somehow it is associated with the restaurant of the same name in
Nuevo Laredo—on Lake Austin to grab a quick snack. The Longhorns won the
game, thank goodness, so everyone was in high spirits, but it was late, so we
called it a night. After all those beef fajitas, beans, and tortillas we ate at
our tailgating party, we didn’t have room for dinner. Sunday was a lazy
day, and we didn’t get out of the house until lunch. Linda and I went to
the new Maudie’s at the Davenport Village shopping center. I was
surprised to find that everyone else in town had decided to go there for lunch
too. The wait was 45 minutes, but worth it. Linda caught an early flight back
to Dallas, and I made my way back home.

One of my husband’s longtime pals, Jimmy, came a few
weekends later. Jimmy had recently moved from Austin to Fort Worth.
(We’re still not sure why.) At any rate, he was in town for a UT football
game too. Friday night for dinner we ate at Maudie’s (hmmm)—but the
one in our neighborhood, off Lake Austin Boulevard. We like this location much
better than the new upscale eatery in Davenport Village. There’s
something charming about waiting for a table outside on the sidewalk of a strip
center featuring a washateria and a Goodwill store. Naturally, our meal proved
satisfying. In the old days, we might have gone down to the Warehouse district
to check out the scene and grab a cocktail, but who wants to deal with parking?
It was a familiar topic of conversation as we drove around looking for a spot
near the Clay Pit, an Indian restaurant where a friend was having a birthday
party. We ended up parking about three blocks away and walking through the
mist, but we made it. Of course, after all that Mexican food, we didn’t
last long. Saturday morning I ran errands while my husband, Kit, and Jimmy and
some other friends made preparations for the game. I didn’t
go—sitting in the rain for a couple of hours didn’t sound that
appealing—but the rest of the gang spent the day cheering on the Horns.
Maudie’s for dinner again. (I’m beginning to see a clear pattern
here, but we were all in the mood for Mexican, honest!) Kit and Jimmy went for
a ride Sunday afternoon, cycling around downtown, the greenbelt, and the campus
area (“the city loop,” as my husband likes to call it) before it
began to drizzle. If the weather would have been nice, the guys would have been
up for some sculling on Town Lake, but Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating.
Jimmy decided he would have to come back to get in his
“outdoor-Austin” fix. 

Another guest, Andrea, hadn’t spent much time in Austin. We
grew up together down in the Valley, but she ended up going to rival A&M
while I went to UT. During our college days, she visited maybe twice. Because
she lives in Missouri now, Andrea was basically thrilled to be back in
Texas—period. She didn’t care where she was. Even so, I thought she
should have a pleasant time here, especially since I had been trying to get her
to move to Austin. Our first stop was Cipollina for lunch (uh-oh) before
heading out to the Arboretum area to do some shopping. We stopped in Saks for
makeup, Harold’s, Coach (Andrea was looking for a wallet), and a handful
of other high-end retail stores. Sure, Austin isn’t a shopping mecca like
Dallas or Houston or even San Antonio, but we manage quite well with what we
have. Despite the onslaught of suburban sameness, Austin still has its fun,
quirky mom-and-pop operations; you just have to know where to find them. (Hint:
They aren’t around the Arboretum.) After a little freshening up, we met
some old friends for dinner at

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