United States of America · 6 Days · 28 Moments · April 2017

Leanne Mann's voyage in United States of A...

24 April 2017

We drove from Austin to Houston and ended up with lots of time, so we found a mall, The Galleria, to walk around, stop in at a Legos, & eat some lunch. This was a truly upscale mall with shops I've only read about. There was also an ice skating rink on the bottom floor with the eateries. I was happy to leave there. The Fairfield Suites & Inn had an outdoor pool, so Riley spent most of the afternoon & evening in it. Early to bed early to rise to fly home

23 April 2017

The final stop of the night was Dave & Busters. For those of us in ME, it's like a Jokers on steroids for teens -20s. Riley was so excited! Zoe was lucky & kept hitting big ticket wins. After about 40 minutes & $30, the kids put their wins together for 415 tickets. They walked out with a refrig magnet, a pack of glow-in-the-dark hand tattoos, & a candy, and bragging rights -- been there done that.
Robert researched & found us a pizza place -- Rileys request. It was a pizza bar, so we could each order what we wanted. Mod Pizza. The staff was super. Riley claims that this was his favorite meal in TX.
After lunch, we went to Zilker Park, which offers a 3-acre, spring-fed pool. It's actually a river that was dammed up. It was pretty cold, so the kids didn't stay in too long. The concept was ultra cool. It was a natural habitat for blind & deaf salamanders -- I guess it's a thing. They placed a diving board right in the middle of the habitat??? There was also brown blobs of gook floating in the water. It truly looked like dog poopy. I finally asked a lifeguard what it was, & he told me it was sediment. I shared that I thought it looked like dog poop & he didn't think I was funny. Oh, well.
Sunday we journeyed to southern Austin to The Picnic in Barton Springs. There is a good sized parking lot with a variety of food trucks. Thai, Mexican, & Middle Eastern made its way to our table.

22 April 2017

The Domain offers several streets / blocks of shops & restaurants. I found Madewell, which I didn't even know had an actual storefront, and it had 30% of the marked down prices plus I received an additional 15% off for being in education. Wa hoo. The shops were upscale but the whole area was very comfortable, so we didn't feel out of place in sneakers & jeans. It was a fun night that was definitely a different experience for this Maine family.
While waiting for our dinner. It was a chilly night in TX. They light the outside heaters, which provided the perfect temp for outdoor dining.
Hubby researched and found an outside mall called The Domain. We ate at the Grand Lux Cafe. I recognized this place from Chicago & asked one of the staff, who had just come from the Chicago site. She said there are only 14 in the U. S. I've eaten at 2 of them.
And here's the kitchen. It's my almost sister-in-law's nightmare as most of the surfaces are covered with stuff.
See what I mean?

21 April 2017

So, how did we spend our one Friday night in Austin, TX -- city known for its music? At IKEA, of course! I haven't been to IKEA since 2008 when we bought our kitchen. The closest IKEA to us at home is 3.5 hours south. Here? 10 minutes. So much stuff to see / no space to haul it to ME.
This is where we are staying. It's in a bedroom community north of Austin, near Pflugerville. It's a gated community with a pool, which is why we booked it. Riley has been in the pool 5 separate times, & we've only been here a little over 24 hours. The condo leaves a lot to be desired, but we don't plan on spending much time here anyway. Good thing. The owner has decked out the place in black & yellow -- an utterly regrettable choice. It has a clever layout with an IKEA (more on that later) couch that pulls out into a full bed for Riley, & a yoga space separated by a whole expanse of black curtains, with a blow up mattress for Zoe. What was one big room is divided into two spaces. Then we have the master bedroom. One bath & a small stackable laundry unit -- the 2nd reason we choose this place.
We found the cool/weird part of ATX. We ate at So Co Cafe. I had this incredible Butternut Squash Bisque that had a coating of seasoned oil & a sprinkle of cheddar. Delish! I also had a bowl of cheesy grits, & a small goat cheese salad. Robert had a specialty ham & cheese sandwich, topped with eggs over easy, & Hollandaise sauce, Riley had grilled shrimp, and Zoe had a burger.
One street back from the shops & restaurants were cute, brightly painted houses. We drove the streets for a while hunting for a for sale sign but saw mostly lease signs. Hubby says we are about a decade late to help resurrect this town. It done been done. Not finding Austin as hospitable for a small family from Maine as we'd hoped. We keep comparing it to Seattle, which we loved & which was easy to get around.
And here is our first jaunt into ATX. The first pic is the skyline taken in the car as we drove. It's a huge big city. People are friendly though. We had to ask 3or 4 different people for directions. We spent a good 40 minutes waiting for a bus that never came. We finally found a functional bus stop and met a very nice bus driver who took pity on us & gave us free transit tickets to get around. We ended up at the Univ of Tx, which is very impressive. We spent several hours hunting for food trucks. Found Toy Joy a neat toy store. Finally got the car -- $21 parking garage fee for under 3 hrs -- and drove south on Congress.
Oh, this girl. Note the iPod Touch (not an iPhone), the ever present earbuds, & the black nails. She's 11 going on 19. This was right before I confiscated the earbuds, after which her brother said, "Now she's using it as a mirror." Argh

20 April 2017

We toured downtown Waco on the free trolley. Visited Spice Villages, which is a 2nd story factory filled with great shops. We ate at food trucks, which I didn't get a pic of. And also toured the Dr. Pepper Museum. Waco is really nice. It offers some really nice shops & seems doable in terms of size & getting around.
This is the big back room. So many amazing things.
Then some shopping at the market.
This is the greenery outside the market. It's a really lovely place.
We hit the Silos just after they opened -- 9:00 a.m. No lines no waiting, & delicious cupcakes-- or so I'm told.

19 April 2017

We Google mapped Food, read some reviews, & ended up at the Twisted Root Burger Co. Robert said, and I agree, that it was the best burger he'd ever eaten. It was a Waco-weird, hip spot with beer barrels cut in half, mounted to the walls, with naked lightbulbs. There was lots of cement, tall picnic tables, & a woman in a cowgirl hat who sang out phony names when your order was ready.
The reason we came to Waco. We arrived after everything was closed, which gave us great photo ops.
A few more. . .
Waco TX. Magnoliaville
All worn out from traveling. Our flight arrived one hour early; I'm not sure I've ever arrived an hour early? Then we had the ubiquitous haggling with the rental car agency. What you think is the total price ends up being the starting point. From there you add $63 for unlimited tolls (which are jacked up for rentals), $13 / day for a 2nd driver, $50 for incidentals, $40 to start with a full tank of gas, and, no, you don't have a choice in that matter. What was supposed to save us money, ended up being not so Thrifty.
Waiting at LGR for Houston flight.

18 April 2017

Cheesecake Factory Cambridge, MA. Supper & dessert