After going to brunch and listening to the gospel choir on Sunday, I spent Monday vegging. I don’t know if it’s because I’m on the final leg of this trip now or whether its because I’m feeling a little travel weary but my drive to trawl through Downtown Austin somehow wasn’t there.
I think I was also dreading my plans for Tuesday: I was going to blitz shop. In my normal life I enjoy shopping. And, to be honest, I thought at the start of Plan B that as I travelled the world I would do clothes, shoe and handbag shopping as I went along. But even early on, in Italy, home of the lovely shoe shops, I found I really was not in the mood for much retail therapy. In fact, all the way up to this Tuesday I had bought a very limited number of items and several of these purchases were predicated by the weather i.e. I bought a coat because I was going to be wandering around in zero degrees Celsius! But I did want to do some shopping before returning home, including some of my Christmas presents.
I headed for a giant outdoor mall on Tuesday. I have to say the Americans know how to do a mall. The fact that I came away with the sense of having had a positive day possibly had a lot to do with the fact that the sun was shining brightly and so, even though it was rather brisk temperature wise, I didn’t feel too cold while wandering from shop to shop. And shop I did. I got most of my seasonal gifts and a few items for me, spent time at my favourite coffee shop in the world and ate Chinese food as an early dinner in a restaurant. The highlight of my day out though wasn’t a good deal or the perfect shoes (sadly, although I did buy a pair of quite lovely ankle boots they do not qualify as “perfect shoe” material) or a fabulous LBD (although I did buy one of these too). The highlight was the taxi ride back.
And here I have to raise a hand to just about every taxi driver I’ve met throughout this jaunt. I have had the funniest, most interesting, at times odd, down to earth conversations with them. From the guy who went into detail about how corrupt local government was in one of the towns I was in to another who explained to me, deadly serious, that the televising of football (American, that is) is one giant conspiracy because he’d worked out that the ball was in play only for something like eighteen minutes within the whole game, in every game, and the rest was just filler with “them” trying to brainwash the viewing public with ads and “messages”. Oh yes.
But the taxi driver who brought be back into Austin from the shopping was lovely. A musician, originally from California, who is part of a bluegrass band and with whom I had the loveliest conversation which turned into an attempted chat up by him. It was interesting to hear about the music scene in Austin from someone directly involved in it. Austin is famous for this and bands flock here to play at live venues – even the smallest bars and cafes have stages here – in the hope they’ll be discovered. My new friend Nate informed me that it’s become a highly cutthroat environment and that those who remember it from a few years ago say that it’s not a change for the better. But the opportunities are obviously here for young talent who wants to try and break into the world of music. He told me about his music and I told him about Plan B. I got out of the cab feeling quite good at having been told by a late twenty something that I was the most interesting woman he’d ever met. I can live with that 😉
Yesterday I did some sightseeing in Downtown Austin, namely around the Capitol. The building itself is quite striking but it’s the grounds that really made me smile. The gardens are large and dotted with sculptures and cannon and the loveliest foliage. I spent over an hour just wandering around snapping away. The building houses the Texas State Capitol – that is the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor. It is crowned by a statue of the Goddess of Liberty, a statue that originally was in the grounds before being placed at the top of the dome.
And then I returned to my hotel room and packed for the last time. Yes, Plan B is fast coming to its end. As I write this I’m in an airport hotel the night before I begin the long haul flight back to London and then onto Gibtaltar. I’m a little shell shocked that I’m here, at this point in time. But I’ll speak about that a little more in my next post.
For now I’m going to just say that I’ve enjoyed Texas a great deal more than I thought I would. The people I’ve chatted with and met have been charming and gracious. The cities have been lovely and the ranch will always stand out as an amazing experience. Doors have been opened for me, manners have been beautifully displayed and “Yes ma’am” grows on you when you realise it’s done naturally and not as a practised routine. This is not to say that everything here makes sense to me. Just about every Texan I’ve spoken to has been so far to the right in the political spectrum that the centre is but a faded spectre across the range. It obviously works for them but it doesn’t sit brilliantly with my own ideologies. But I can’t say conversations have been boring!
And then Texas has cowboys – I mean, who doesn’t love a cowboy who utters the words, “Yes ma’am” in his Texan drawl and tips his Stetson to you with a cheeky grin? 😉