Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Tale of Tex Mex and BBQ: Our Austin Babymoon, Part 1

After nearly three years without a just-the-two-of-us vacation (we've traveled plenty for family get togethers, destination weddings and races, but no vacations for the sake of vacation since our honeymoon), MM and I decided that since our "just the two us of" time is running out, a vacation was in order.

Enter: The Babymoon
Lucky for us, the hubs and I are on exactly the same page when it comes to what the word "vacation" means, and it means L-A-Z-Y. Forget museums, monuments, and other tourist attractions, vacation means sleeping late, eating good food, parking it at the beach or pool for hours on end, reading a book or two, napping, partaking in a spa service, and, indulging in one of my favorite hotel luxuries: watching television while lounging in bed. We will usually schedule an activity or two, and we typically like to rent bikes, if that's available, so it's not like we do absolutely nothing. We do some stuff, just not a lot, and it's not the priority. And in my opinion, it's the only way to have a proper vacation.

Even though a city vacation suggests that you have to do stuff, we chose Austin for several reasons, and we made it work. First we agreed on a domestic vacation. It seemed easier with the whole pregnancy thing to not worry about navigating a place with a different language and unfamiliar food. Second of all it was more cost-effective--we used reward points cover the flight and rental car--which meant we could splurge on nicer hotel rooms and other fun extras.

Beyond that, weather was key. If you're going to leave Chicago before June for a vacation, you might as well go somewhere that can provide you with a solid dose of sun and heat. We also wanted a place that was known for its cuisine. It didn't have to be fancy, but good food options were important. Beyond that, we just picked a place that we had heard was cool. And, if you've heard anything about anything ever, Austin is cool.

Austin City Limits: Day 1 and 2
After the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Chicago, we checked into our first hotel. I found Heywood Hotel on TripAdvisor. It was a highly rated, boutique hotel, which we tend to prefer, basically brand new, so I went for it. I would say that the only downside to this hotel is that it was a little bit farther from the Austin action than I realized, and the area it was located left a little to be desired. Luckily, we had a rental car and the hotel loaned out bikes for free, and the location was not an issue. And really, once I saw this in our hotel room, I knew we had made the right decision:

The thing that has been missing from my life.
Other than the beautiful bathtub, which I used multiple times over our two day stay, the bed was extremely comfortable, the room was adorably furnished, and the hotel offering nice amenities like fancy coffees and teas and a nice patio. Really, it was perfect.

Did I mention that we did leave the hotel room occasionally?

Congress Avenue is main drag in Austin. This is where you'll find the majority of shops, restaurants, bars, trailer parks filled with food trucks, and live music. We spent a fair amount of time wandering this street and eating Tex Mex. Our first night we had Guero's, which sold me at the mention of a "salsa bar." And the second night, after our sunset bat sightseeing cruise (see we do stuff), we had Freebirds, which is Chipotle on steroids, but 10 times better, and now that I'm thinking about it, it makes me sad I can't have it for lunch today.

Maybe I'll open up a Freebirds franchise.
Oh, and I did I mention the bats? Austin has the largest urban population of bats in North America. There's literally millions of them living under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and they all leave at sunset to go hunting. We watched this. It was pretty cool.

Let's all wait for the bats to come out!
 We also spent one morning/afternoon on the bikes that Heywood Hotel provided for free. This is a great way to get around Austin because is a bike friendly town. In fact, if you're into running or biking or training for endurance events or just want a place to leisurely walk, Austin is amazing. Our second morning there, we biked to a cute restaurant for lunch, which happened to be close to Zilker Park, a 350-acre park in the middle of downtown Austin, with tons of recreational activities.

Activities like this train that is clearly meant for kids and families, but we went on it anyway.
The most amazing part of Zilker Park is Barton Springs. You can swim in it, but I had failed to bring my bathing suit on our ride this morning, so mostly we just admired the water and the many triathletes who were swimming laps.

My photo really doesn't do it justice.
After we hung out at Barton Springs (OK, after we hung at Barton Springs and then I got some ice cream), we headed back to the hotel so I could nap. Biking up those Austin hills really did me in. But seriously, by day two, MM and I were in love with Austin and ready to become permanent residents. That changed (at least for MM) when we traveled 20 miles outside of the city to our next destination: Travaasa Austin.

More to come...

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