I found my dream cottage…in downtown Austin???

Austin dream cottage
This is not my typical post for this blog, but I couldn’t resist!

It started as a weekend walk to find the perfect first day of school outfit. As we wandered from one side of town to the other (yes, we were trying to avoid mall shopping!), Lance spotted a building he thought I would like…

I love architecture (well, most of it. Not thrilled with anything from the Brady-Bunch era) and this unexpected treat amid far too many faceless commercial buildings was wonderful. Then we looked down the street…there was more!

All together, there were three magnificent houses in a row, just blocks from parking garages and office buildings. Each wonderfully preserved (restored?) Each even still had a carriage step built into the wall to the street, where we stood imagining ladies in their finery alighting for an afternoon tea or even garden party.

There was a lot of construction at the end of the road, so we headed around the corner and then I saw it.

My dream cottage. I am sucker for cottages. The smaller, cuter, more adorable the better. And this was all of them.

This adorable little building started life as a servant’s home, then moved around a bit until it settled in it’s current location at 607 Nueces Street. I was entranced by every detail, from the elegant script house number to the very New Orleans Cafe du Monde can on the porch of this house that would look so at home in NOLA. And should those MegaMillions ever come in with my name on them (course, I have to buy a ticket first…), this cottage just might find its way to a new home, somewhere in a deep, shady, wonderful wood or a cozy seaside setting.

Now I’m psyched about looking for more “hidden” architectural wonders here in Austin. Ready to take my camera and go building-hunting. Got any suggestions?

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Town Lake trail offers nature in the middle of the city

Town Lake in AustinThere are very few U.S. cities that offer residents a huge green oasis in the middle of the city.  Fortunately for us, Austin is one of them.

Town Lake (also known as Lady Bird Lake, or so I am told) and the associated Town Lake Trail offers Austinites and visitors walking and biking trails from just over a mile to almost 7.25 miles.  The trails are wide, and most of the route meanders along next to the lake (which looks like a small river to me, but hey, I’m not from around here!)  Wildlife is sparse, but there are swans, blackbirds and tons of butterflies.

Most of the path is shaded, which is critical given the summer temps around here.  Parking is hit or miss at several locations, but if one area is filled you’ll only have to go a short distance to the next on-street parking or off-street lot.  Most of it is free, too…another plus.

If you want to head out onto the water, there’s a boat rental here, offering canoes, kayaks and boards, plus lessons for the uninitiated.

There are lots of restaurants within a few minutes walk of the trail, so many people finish up their taste of nature with a taste of something more er, um cooked?

Pets are welcome and pretty much equal the number of people on the Town Lake Trail, but they must be on leashes and you must pick up their poop to avoid lake contamination. (Yes, there are trash cans, but bring your own bags.)  Off-road strollers do well here, although I have seen people with regular ones, too.

Wildseed Farms brings wild beauty to home gardens

Wildseed Farm Texas

In the middle of wildflower season in Texas, it might be hard to think about planting and tending a garden.  After all, incredible blossoms are everywhere, from the center of 183 to the patch of dirt in front of the local strip mall.

But the fact is, most of the Technicolor flowers that are native to the Austin area are also a great choice for local gardens and landscapes, too.  That’s what I learned from our visit to Wildseed Farms, located near Fredricksburg.

But lest you think this is just a seed store, or even a nursery, I need to tell you about the unbelievable fields of flowers.  There were acres and acres of bright red, yellow and orange poppies.  Unfortunately, it seems that fields of poppies photograph about as well as they survive once cut — so you’ll have to see that amazing display for yourself.

There were also several smaller fields of larkspur — we picked enough of them to fill one large and several small vases at home for only $5.00.  And visitors can walk around through the growing gardens and see dozens of other wildflowers in bloom (and there are even clear tags identifying the flowers in each row…perfect for a new Texas resident like me who was worried about having to go into the store and ask for “those yellow flowers with the red bits near the center”.)

The shops at Wildseed Farms do have seeds…lots and lots and lots of them.  There are even wildflower mixes for other parts of the country, so visitors or people who want to send garden gifts can get the right kind for each region.

Add in the selection of garden decor, wind chimes, garden-themed gifts and beautiful cotton women’s clothing (yes, a surprise for me, too!) and you have a great place to stop on the way to Fredricksburg, or a relaxing destination all its own.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there was live music in an outdoor venue, with tables for enjoying the view, the sounds and something from the ice cream shop or snack bar.

Pets on leash are welcome here, even in the shops as long as they are well-behaved.

Breathtaking Waterfront Views at The Oasis

The Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis in Texas

One of the hardest things about moving to Texas was leaving behind the ocean.  But when a friend recently visited, and we started looking around for some where special to take him, The Oasis was recommended.

Once we arrived, we understood why.  The views of Lake Travis from this uniquely designed restaurant are enough to (almost!) make a coastal native happy.

The Good Part…

The Oasis Restaurant was built with a series of seating balconies, one above another.  The result is a clear view of the lake from almost every seat outdoors. Well-placed heat lights make al fresco dining comfortable even during one of Austin’s rare winter chills, and they tell me that the large overhangs make it bearable in summer’s heat.

The Not So Great…

While the view is well worth the trip, the food unfortunately was only average.  Small portions and so-so preparation didn’t produce a meal worthy of the lofty setting. It was sadly unremarkable, more like what you would expect at mid-tier hotel restaurant than at a place with the most romantic setting in the Austin area.

And the Rest...

The official Oasis Restaurant is just a part of a larger complex of shops, pubs and other restaurants, so we do plan to return and try some of the others.  And maybe, just because the view is so amazing, we’ll even give the Oasis itself a second try.

Lots of Steps but the View From Mount Bonnell is Worth It!

Mount Bonnell Park Austin

Yes, there are over 100 steps to reach the viewing platform at Mount Bonnell.  But when you get to the top, you’ll forget all about that burn in your muscles — the view is simply breath-taking.

Look one way, and gaze out over the water (you know, that wet stuff Austin just doesn’t seem to have enough of!). Look another, a few steps down the path, and you have a clear view of the city skyline.  Turn the other way and walk for a minute or two, and beautiful waterfront homes are in sight.

This is a great place for a picnic (yes, there are tables and benches.) Or find a rock above the water and settle down to read, write, play guitar or just enjoy the view.  Pets on leashes are welcome, parking is free and abundant, and most days this beautiful site is free from crowds.

A word of caution…Parents will need to keep a firm grip on little ones…the edges are real and the drop is significant.