Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day Trip Report: The Texas State Capitol...

On Thursday, I played hooky from work to celebrate Eva's birthday.  What do you get the gal who has everything?  A trip to see the Texas state capitol in Austin, that's what!

Make no mistake, none of the pictures I took can come close to this outstanding virtual tour put together by the Texas State Preservation Board, so take a few minutes to listen to Matthew McConaughey.
From down here in Natalia, it takes just about 2 hours to make the drive to Austin, all very much dependent upon the traffic.  We waited until after rush hour, plus we stopped at Buccee's to grab some pecans, so we didn't actually get to the capitol until noon'ish.  And of course, once you actually get into Austin, traffic is pretty much just crawling along.  But, we got to our exit and quickly found a parking spot on the north side of the capitol grounds.
Eva's first reaction was to say that she thought the capitol was white.  Not so. 

I was not aware of the vast underground complex that was built in the 1990's to house the ever expanding government.  One big clue was this interesting and beautiful hole in the ground that contained doors to the interior hallways.  Is this some sort of smoking area?
Later when we were inside, we realized that these skylights were hidden by landscaping along the walkway to the entrance of the building. And this is the view of that pit from the inside.

As we walked up through the grounds, I really was expecting that we would take a few pictures then head off to find the museum located nearby.  Instead, Eva wanted to go inside, so we did.  After a brief discussion of my knees with the capitol security and the hardware that set the metal detector off, we made our way into the rotunda part of the building.  
 The first thing we noticed was just how old and awesome the place is.  Granted, there isn't anything in these parts that is "old" like in Europe, but still, I really appreciate when I see things that are from the late 1800's that are in really good shape and still look new.
The rotunda itself is simply magnificent.  Looking up to the top you can see the star with Texas spelled around it.  Below, the seals of the countries that have reined over Texas. There are four levels above ground and for the most part, you can go anywhere you want.
 We saw people participating in guided tours and others, like us, just wandering around.  And you can take all the pictures you want.
 It was interesting to see the floor of the state senate.  One of the themes we found in the main part of the capitol building was that everything has been left the way it was.  They still use the original high quality furniture today.  Taxpayers have gotten their money's worth.  And the paintings all over the place are simply wonderful.
Some of the architectural details are really interesting if you are in to that sort of thing.  I certainly am.  The hinges, the doorknobs, the stairs, everything is done just right.
And I can only assume the elevators were added later, but even they were adorned with really nice Texas symbols. 
We walked into the legislative library and there were people actually researching things.  I just assumed everyone uses Google these days.  But there were a lot of interesting artifacts.
This is what the Texas Supreme Courtroom looks like, though according to the video, they apparently hold sessions somewhere else these days. 

Overall, it was a great visit and we already have decided that we want to go again and spend more time looking around and probably taking time to visit the museum.
Outdoors, the grounds are an open park for visitors to enjoy.  There are statues and such of various historical things.
And of course, Eva makes friends with everyone.  This lady was named Peace, and she told Eva she had beautiful teeth.  I don;t think she was protesting anything in particular, but on the flip side of her "we the people" sign, I noticed that it was a bumper sticker with the Texas state flag and the word Secede.  So there ya go.

After our visit to the capitol we had to grab some lunch.  Without much of an idea of where to go, I used the Urban Spoon app to locate a place on Congress called Wholly Cow.
It was a small little place with lots of your standard hipsters and UT students grabbing lunch.  Eva had a cheeseburger and I went with a Reuben.  Not bad at all.

The weather was good, the visit was very enjoyable and we had a great time and will definitely go back again.  I'm pretty sire our next trip will be an overnighter so we can really take some time to walk around and really see the place.  If you live within driving distance, at least see the capitol - it was well worth the drive.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Busy Weekend: Bluebonnets and Touristy Things...

We had a really enjoyable visit this past weekend from my oldest brother, Dennis and his wife Denise, in town for the Basic Training graduation of their son-in-law.  It was nice to see everyone and it gave us a reason to eat some barbecue (catered by Grady's) and take them out to see some of the local sights.
The bluebonnets are in full bloom here, so on Saturday we had our granddaughter, our nephew's kids and my my brother's grandson out here playing and enjoying the great weather.  This photo of Isabella and Jonah really says it all!  Someone on Facebook told Eva that these two looked like that scene from Ferris Beuller where the parking attendants take off in the classic Ferrari.
The two best months out here are October and March; October because we are done with 100 degree days and March, because it isn't 100 degrees yet and the Bluebonnets are beautiful.  I've done my usual trick of mowing areas that don't have the pretty flowers and I'm sure when it is time to more the rest of it down, it'll be quite a chore, but we'll appreciate the floweres while we have them.

On Sunday, we took Dennis and Denise to see some of the old standbys.  Bussey's flea market was a hit with them, even though the wind picked up and the temperature dropped.  Lots of good stuff to dig through, and best of all, it put us in reasonable proximity to New Braunfels which meant the obligatory trip to Buc-cees and a mandatory visit to Clear Springs Restaurant off Hiway 46.
I relayed the story of how our grandfather found Clear Springs during a visit in the 1990's and that we had been going there ever sense.  I think it is rare that you find a place that can remain so consistently good for so long.  

Later, we took a quick tour of The Alamo, The Menger Hotel and of course a quick circuit along the river walk. San Antonio (and the surrounding area) is truly a destination that requires more than a few days, and I think this little taste was enough to make them contemplate return visits fairly soon.

Congratulations to A1C Jonathon Rosa who was selected as a BMT Honor Graduate and moves on to tech school training at Ft Sam today.