A Quick Guide For Your Visit in Austin

Visiting the capital of Texas is sure to leave you with a city and outdoor mixed lifestyle for experience.  Austin is known for its tech industry, SXSW, BBQ, and keeping it weird!  I have beed to this happening city three times and each time was short and sweet.  I’d like to offer you a quick guide to help you decide what to do when you visit Austin.  My most recent visit was in December, 2018.

Where to Stay: The Domain, Downtown, or South Congress.  if you want to the ability to keep your car parked and walk around an area filled with shops and restaurants (more on the upscale side) go with The Westin in the Domain area.  Like all Westin hotels it is extremely comfortable, convenient,  with a little bit of luxury.  If you do stay here, do make sure to take a trip to other neighbourhoods, because there is more to Austin than boutiques and brand name shops that you can find in any city.

Most recently I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in South Austin of Interstate Highway 35 and although the distance to South Congress was only a few minutes, I felt this area was too isolated and a little industrial.  You can probably save a few bucks by staying in this area during peak season, but I think the prices are relatively the same.  I wanted to stay in a different area and thought this part of town might be worth exploring.  Big Fail!

Where to Eat: Greenhouse Craft Food, Round Rock, TX

Austin has an abundance of food selections and is popular for food trucks and bbq.  On our way in to Austin, driving from Dallas, we chose to dine in at Greenhouse Craft Food.  The chef crafted each item with the notion of farm to table making sure everything that is served is locally sourced and sustainable.  We ordered Texas chili, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, a burger, and a side of fries.  Check out their menu. The environment is uber casual and since we were there on a weekday, it wasn’t too busy and our food was serviced within 15-20 minutes.   We did have the mindset of patience and could afford to wait a little longer if we had to.  Cook to order and farm to table is a specialty worth waiting for.

For Breakfast: Phoebe’s Diner

All the great reviews we read were really on point.  From the customer service, wait time, food prep, presentation, taste and quality, we were 100% satisfied.   We had the flapjacks, and omelette, two scrambled eggs, and hashbrowns and coffee all for only $24.00.  This new restaurants has a long and narrow interior with a 50s style diner feel.  You can sit at the bar, in a booth, or if you are a party of two, you will be seated at the side by side tables that are almost too close for comfort with people on your left and on your right. Headsup: There is barely any parking in their lot and you will likely have to park on one of the side streets nearby.

Where to Walk: South Congress and Lady Bird Lake

This area is a must on any day. Taking a stroll on this street is sure to give you that Austin vibe you have wondering about.  Here you will find tons of local coffee shops, antique and boutiques, restaurants, galleries and the picture postcard featured as our main image. Residential is mixed in this area and you will notice massive aloe trees on many of the streets too.

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I took this photo right across the street from the Greetings from Austin Mural.

 

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Lady Bird Lake

Only a few minutes from downtown and South Congress you can experience the outdoorsy lifestyle.  You can rent a bike or walk along the trail next to the lake, while you soak in the nature this city has to offer.

Take a Drive: Pennybacker Bridge aka 360 Bridge

If you thought Texas was completely flat, you have to experience the rolling hills on this scenic route leading up to this bridge (Hwy 2222). Once you get to the bridge, there are a few spaces to pull over beside the cliff and there is a pathway to hike up to the top.  The hike up is only a few minutes and can be done by all age levels as long as you have a bit of strength to step over and up huge rocks.  Take your time if you need to. I did see many elderly doing this walk up with help from their family.  Once you get to the top the view is spectacular and photos are a must!  Expect to spend 5-10 minutes here, unless you plan to meditate and do a complete photo shoot, but I wouldn’t leave my car parked for too long.  The area isn’t zoned for parking and it is obvious that car windows have been smashed because there was a lot of glass around the area.

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parking right before the bridge

Have you been to Austin? What do you recommend? Leave your comments below.

Awakening and Renewal

Each day you have a new chance to feel and be refreshed.  You control your awakening. First, agree to have an aware moment.  Getting up before the sun rises is one way to awaken your soul.  One of my best renewal experiences was in Cairns, Australia.  I went down to the beach before the sunrise. There I gave thanks to God, meditated and prayed as the sun rays renewed every inch of my body.

In response to this week’s photo challenge this is an awakening.

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Gratitude

Each day I awake with gratitude.  I am grateful for the breath I take and every step that I make.  How you start your day will have a direct affect on how the day plays out for you.  The energy that you exude is formed from what you allow to enter into your mind at the start of your day.  Have pleasant thoughts and stimulate your brain with a message that gets you pumped and ready to live out your day with positivity.  The way you end the day matters too.  I go to bed with gratitude every day.  Even if I didn’t get the results that I was expecting for the day, I’m grateful.  I believe that God’s plan is the right plan and God’s time is the right time.

Let this message meet you where you are with gratitude.  Good morning with gratitude. Good afternoon with gratitude and good night with gratitude.

 

 

Daintree National Park and Mossman Gorge

In Cairns, you will need to rent a car to really explore the area well.  We drove about 130 km from Cairns to the Australian rainforest of Daintree National Park.  Millions of years ago, much of Australia was covered by rainforest. The climate became drier as glaciers disappeared and continents shifted. This area is one of the last refuges of Australia’s tropical rainforest and owned by the Aboriginal people, specifically The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.

Upon arrival, you will be welcomed at the visitor center with educational material and a souvenir shop.  You can buy a shuttle bus ticket, which will take you up the road getting you closer to the Mossman Gorge and saving you walk time.

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The tour bus will take you along this road to get you closer to the Mossman Gorge. You are welcome to walk this road as well and the walk is about 20 minutes.

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Here is where the bus lets you off and picks you up.
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Walked across this bridge before approaching the crystal clear water over large granite boulders.
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Mossman Gorge
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You can go for a refreshing swim here, but be careful as there are turtles here, which I’m sure are harmless.  You never know though…there could be baby crocs here too.
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A refreshing moment.
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Walking back to our car, we passed by some homes and saw this unique bird.  It might be a yellow oriole bird.

 

Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes

Melbourne is full of character and you won’t run out of things to do, especially if you love quirky sites and culture.  You can spend several days discovering interesting neighborhoods.  Brighton is an affluent area about 11 km outside of the central business district.  We took a stroll along Brighton Beach specifically because we wanted to see the beach bathing boxes.  We went very late in the afternoon and it felt like a bit of a ghost town because we expected there to be so many people. I even thought there would be vendors selling things out of these quirky colorful home like boxes.  I was completely wrong.  I have heard that in the early part of the day it does get super busy.

This side of the beach didn’t seem like a place for lounging and more of a site seeing art installation that is excellent for postcard pictures.  Apparently, these bathing boxes date back as far as 1862, when bathing in the daytime in the open was restricted.  The beach was even divided for males and females.

These sort of bathing boxes were usually used as shelter from wind and for changing in and out of swimwear.  Similar bath boxes or bath huts also exist in France, England, Italy and South Africa and have been used for vacationing as well.

I’d love to hear your stories with bathing boxes across the world.

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You will likely have to walk through this path, depending on where you start at the Beach.

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Crocodiles and Cairns

Adventures can be had anywhere in Australia and when you make it up to Queensland it is the best place to exhibit your curiosity for crocs.  In fact, Cairns has also been referred to as the croc capital. You don’t want to see them at the beach, but it certainly is possible, so be very careful if you plan to swim at the beaches here.

To understand the life of the crocodile we chose the safest place, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, where it was easy to view and take pictures of salt water crocodiles and fresh water ones.  The experience was incredibly intimate as we got on a boat and cruised through the lagoon filled with crocodiles.  You can spend a full day at this adventure park as there is a full days worth of wildlife and scheduled shows to see and learn from.  If you only have a half day, that is still enough time to get a fulfilled experience too.

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A salt water crocodile is the largest crocodile species, which can be found in Northern Australia and throughout South east Asia.

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The fresh water crocodiles have a narrow more elongated snout.

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The boat tour is scheduled for every hour and lasts about 20 minutes.
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The koala bears sleep about 16 hours a day. They are adorable even while they are resting!  We learned that they only eat eucalyptus leaves and because they have toxins and are highly fibrous it takes a long time to digest the leaves, therefore requiring more sleep. 

 

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This Kangaroo had her baby in her pouch. 

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Lebanese Food in Melbourne

We were craving Middle Eastern Food so we decided to check out Tiba’s Restaurant after hearing people rave about the quality of their food.  Tiba’s is located in Brunswick, the multicultural area of Melbourne with many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean retail shops and restaurants.

Right when we entered we were given the option for take away or dining in.  The grill behind the cash had me salivating for everything from chicken to kebabs to quail. We took a quick look at the menu and got seated quickly at a table.  The food was excellent and well priced.  They do have a variety of options for vegetarians as well.

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One chicken kebab and one shish kebab with rice, hummus and tabouli.

See Penguins for Free

If you are looking for a place to see penguins in Melbourne and you don’t have time to head out to Phillip Island, I highly recommend visiting St.Kilda beach in the evening.  Just as the sun was setting, the penguins were swimming back to the pier after their day of fishing.  Fortunately, these penguins come out every night in Melbourne, so you should be able to see them no matter what time of year you are there.

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You’ll see this sign as you approach the pier along with more signage to give you more history on St.Kilda beach.
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Everyone waiting patiently for the penguins to swim back to their home along the pier.
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Beautiful view as we watch the sun set.
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After the sunsets, the penguins run across from one breakwater to the next.  The Environmental staff along the pier enforce that visitor keep their camera flash off as it is harmful for the penguins.  For the safety of the penguins moving along their territory, the staff will shine a red light that will not frighten the penguins and also help us humans get out of their way.

 

Friday Flashback to São Paulo, Brazil

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit São Paulo, Brazil. One of the cool things to do is check out Beco de Batman also know as Batman Alley.  If you love the graffiti in Melbourne, you will be blown away when you get to Beco de Batman.

Apparently, well know street artists from all over the world have come here to make their mark.  The first piece of art, which was a drawing of superhero Batman, was placed here in the 80s and since then the walls have been covered by vibrant paintings that draws crowds from all over the world.

We took an Uber for only a few dollars from where we were staying.

Have you been to Brazil?  What cool places did you experience?

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Walking through Batman Alley in São Paulo, Brazil.

 

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