All I knew about Austin before we got here was that it was the capital of Texas and that it was full of cool down-to-earth people and that they had bats under one of their bridges. That’s what I gleaned from the internet the night before we drove to Austin and I was equally pumped about the people as I was about the bats.
I think bats are awesome. My dad and I built a bat house for my grandparents’ cottage last summer, and one for our neighbour’s cottage. Our neighbours have bats living in theirs but I think my grandfather scares the bats away from ours (yeah, Poppa, I’m on to you!).
We lined up along the Congress Ave bridge in Austin with the hundreds of other people there to see these winged wonders. We arrived just before sunset, not exactly certain of when the bats would come out.
Those sleeping beauties took their sweet time! We got there a little after 8pm and it wasn’t until a little after 9pm that they started swooping out from underneath us. Such a cool sight! It was too dark by this point for me to get any pictures, but here’s a video from YouTube that someone took to give you an idea. Just imagine thousands of bats (1.5 million of them!!!) flowing out from under the bridge and flocking into the night-time sky. You might imagine this making a lot of noise, but actually they were silent except for quiet squeaking here and there, so silent that many people didn’t even see them! Depending on where you were on the bridge, you could have missed them coming out. We overheard some disappointed tourists walking back from the bridge exclaiming that the bats just didn’t feel like coming out that night – silly tourists!
On the way to Austin, we remembered that it was Memorial Day weekend, and it might be busy at the campgrounds. Turns out we were right and none of them had any availability, and neither did several hotels that we phoned, including the one Sara and Matt recommended to us, Austin Motel. We ended up at the Wyndham Hotel and were pleasantly surprised. It only got 3 1/2 star rating but it feels more like a 4 star hotel and they’re more environmentally conscious than most hotels (you have to leave your room key in a slot in order to access the air conditioning controls – so no pumping out a/c while you’re out; they have recycling on every floor; they use water saving techniques like special toilets and the now common approach of encouraging guests to reuse towels/sheets). We tucked Amelia to bed and then tucked ourselves in bed.
We experienced some bad luck in Austin. But apparently it had been following us around, unknown to us, probably since Florida. This bad luck was in the form of bed bugs.
Pause for collective shiver.
Blech! We were horrified, aghast, embarrassed, stricken – I’ll stop there. If you’ve ever had these little buggers, you know just how we felt.
Before Mary, and any future people who thought they’d open their doors to us, feel like shutting them in our faces instead – we do not have bed bugs anymore, and possibly never had them in the first place. But now we’re just skipping to the end! Here’s how it went down…
I had these little innocuous bites on my arms and legs and I assumed they were black fly bites, since black flies love me and they looked just like black fly bites, except minus the blood. They weren’t itchy or really harming me in any way, until we started seeing them multiply, and then we saw a few appear on Steve, and suddenly they weren’t so innocuous – we were freaking out! Where the hell were they coming from?! We searched the internet for the answer and the best (and worst!) we could come up with were bed bugs. And then we started freaking out some more.
Actually that’s not true, we were pretty calm and rational about it all. In general, I’m fine with bugs. I like them even. I pick up spiders and relocate them when they come in my home, and I’ve been known to befriend dragonflies. Actually a dragonfly got stuck under our windshield wiper while I was driving on the interstate one day and I freaked out and pulled over and then made Steve free him from his high-speed trap (I was too scared he’d be injured and I wouldn’t be able to take it). But bloodsucking bugs? I have absolutely no love for them. I don’t relish squishing them, but it’s more the ickiness factor than any concern I have for their lives.
And the ickiness factor involved with bed bugs is pretty high in my books. But we quickly developed a plan of action – find an exterminator and determine if our fear (dread, worst nightmare, hell?) was true. We called a few exterminators and quickly realized – duh, it’s a holiday in the U.S., nothing’s open. So we sucked it up, put the crisis on hold, and went out to explore Austin.
On our way to see the bats we had noticed this funky street, South Congress Ave, which I later read about in the hotel’s city guide and we decided a day strolling along those funky shops would be just what we needed to forget about the nocturnal nasties in our life. And it was. The first store we went into was the coolest antique shop I’ve ever been in – and I’ve been in a lot of antique shops and loved most of them.
I bought two things there – a funky antique blue, green, and red striped umbrella, and a turquoise heavy-metal iron to be used as a door-stopper. The umbrella has a wooden shaft and handle, and is still in working condition, which is more than I can say about any of the other modern umbrellas I own, which always seem to somehow have one or two spokes that come undone and render the umbrella flimsy and near-useless.
Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds is this awesome costume shop filled with every costume, mask, retro-outfit you could possibly dream of. I would have liked to spend more time in here and pick out Halloween costumes for next year, but my Partner in Silliness was not feeling the Halloween bug at the moment and the prices, though understandable, left me simply gazing back at the costumes as we walked out the door.
SoCo, as the street is called by the locals, is full of fun shops like the ones described above. I won’t bore you by detailing each, but would definitely encourage you to check it out for yourself if you ever hit up Austin!
We stopped and had dinner and people-watched here:
It’s hard to believe that we spent the whole afternoon and evening on this one street, but we really did! Then we got to bed early, getting ready for our all-out battle with the bugs the next day.
(stay tuned for the battle with the bugs…)