Austin, 7-Apr-2014

Our only full day in Austin was spent around downtown Austin. We saw the Texas State Capitol and the LBJ Library in the morning, the University of Texas at Austin in the afternoon, and met a friend of Celeste's for dinner.

We had arranged to meet in the morning to wander down to the breakfast room to see what was available. It was pretty nice; there were breads, fruit, and cereal.

After breakfast we did a rough plan for the day, deciding to walk in the morning and then see if we were still up for walking back or would want to take the bus.

Texas State Capitol

 Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

It was a short walk of a few blocks to the Texas State Capitol. We made a quick stop in the visitor center to take a quick look around, then we went to the Capitol itself. It's quite striking to see a brown building, since the other capitol buildings I've seen are a variant of white.

 Inside of the dome of the Capitol

Inside of the dome of the Capitol

 Door hinge

Door hinge

If you look at the dome, you'll see a spiral staircase. There are several of those which enable you to get to the very top of the inner dome, and one more which takes you outside the outer dome to the top. Unfortunately, it's not open to the public; it must be a great view.

We waited around for the guided tour, and since we were the only people, we ended up with starting a private tour; a couple people joined us later on. The guide was pretty good with pointing out not only the things you'd normally expect (height between the rotunda floor and top of the dome, etc.) but was also good at pointing out things which made the Texas State Capitol unique, such as the door hinge above; all the hinges in the building are like that.

As we were leaving we saw a lot of school groups milling around. We even saw rows of backpacks hanging on the fence surrounding the grounds.

LBJ Library

 LBJ Library

LBJ Library

Our next stop was the LBJ Presidential Library on the UT Austin campus. The building has ten floors, with the galleries on the third, fourth, and tenth floors.

 LBJ Library grand staircase and library

LBJ Library grand staircase and library

Several floors between the galleries contain the LBJ collection, all stored such that you see a consistent set of red spines.

On the top floor is a 7/8 scale copy of the Oval Office as it was when Johnson was president. There was also a great view of campus.

Several movies were scattered throughout the library, and were all well coordinated with each other and the artifacts around them. They were strategically placed to be in places where you're likely to want to sit down for a bit.

It ends up we had good timing when going to the LBJ Library, since a few days later was a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Since four presidents would be in attendance, it would probably be impossible to get near the library, let alone tour it.

We were ready to grab a bite to eat, and it looked like there was a pretty good place a couple blocks away in the Alumni Center. There wasn't a place for all of us to sit, but while we were ordering Melody scored a table. We ordered paninis, so there was a short wait until they were done. Celeste's was the first one ready; we heard, "Celeste", followed by some gasps and Celeste jumping up, grabbing her sandwich, and throwing it onto the table, running towards the voice. Ends up she knew the person behind the counter (Celeste went to UT Austin for a while), so they took a few minutes to catch up. Small world.

University of Texas at Austin

 University of Texas Main Building and tower

University of Texas Main Building and tower

It was time to do a small walking tour of the University of Texas at Austin. After we walked out of the Alumni Center, the first thing we saw was just how huge the Texas Memorial Stadium is. The stands went really high, and apparently the stadium seats 100,000 (the newly-renovated Husky Stadium seats 70,000).

We spent the next hour going through various buildings on the west side of campus, and didn't run into too many crowds of students, but did see several milling around between classes.

Dinner

Taking inventory of how we felt, we decided to go ahead and walk the half hour back to the hostel, then Melody and I went to the nearby Starbucks to get connected to the internet for a while. While we were there, Celeste had gotten in touch with the friend (with whom we originally were going to have dinner with the previous night) and we were going to meet nearby for dinner. Celeste had sent some dinner options over and we took a quick look, then headed back to the hostel to make final plans: dinner, then go to the Congress Avenue bridge to watch the bats fly around at dusk.

We ended up going to Moonshine Grill, about a half mile away, where we met Celeste's friend Alda. The food was great (among other things, we ordered fried calimari, catfish with roasted sweet potatoes, and a fajita steak salad) and we enjoyed getting to know Alda.

As we were eating it started to rain a bit. When the empty plates had been taken away, I took a look at the near-term forecast which showed that the rain was supposed to stop in about 10 minutes, then a few minutes after that it was going to ramp up to heavy rain. We said quick goodbyes and walked outside to see that the sprinkling was stopping.

Knowing that watching the bats wasn't going to happen, wt hurried back, and the sprinkling started to pick up again about half way, and we could see a lot of lightning bolts. We got inside without having gotten too wet, and a few minutes later the skies opened up to a full cloudburst, complete with lightning about every second.

Needless to say, we hung around the hostel that night.