Where I Went: Austin City Guide

I have now been to Austin, Texas two separate times, so I would consider myself an expert who is fully equipped to write a comprehensive and absolute guide to the city.

Kiddingggg. This will be neither comprehensive nor absolute, but I do really like tacos and I can tell you about the places I went & liked. The problem is there's just a lot of places in Austin and most of them are pretty good. I had about five million suggestions from a thousand people which was a lot to navigate, but the ones who broke it down into more than a list of names were the ones that helped. And so! That is what I will do here.

Let's begin by talking about food, which mostly, were tacos.  

Eat This:

Torchy's Tacos (pictured left)
What is it?: Tacos. Obviously.
Right but like, what kind?: They have a pretty big menu. I had the Alabama Shake and the Independent, then we went back a second time and I got the Alabama Shake because you better believe I'm getting catfish when I'm in a southern state. Also thought the guac was A+.
Where is it?: There's a bunch but the South Congress location was good because you can walk to shops and other stuff from there.
Why has every person told me to go there? Because it's good and cheap. Think the Shake Shack of tacos. A local chain that's consistent and delicious. 

Licha's Cantina (pictured right)
Sounds Mexican: It is! It's what I imagine authentic Mexican food is like, though as a person who hasn't had food in Mexico in 15 years don't quote me on that.
Where is it?:  East 6th. Good place to go if you want to check out some divier bars before or after. (More on that later).
What should I get?: I don't want to tell you what to get, but I do want to tell you bring your lactaid pills and order up the queso. It's a slab of cheese melted in a cast iron pan with chorizo or mushrooms and it is the most delicious queso I've ever had? Also, get a marg. 
Sounds good but what's the vibe?: I love this place so much. It's a cute house with a couple rooms, definitely gets crowded, has a very cool outdoor seating area. 

Paperboy (pictured above)
Is this just a trailer?: Yes and it has amazing breakfast.
Is this only breakfast?: Yes and it is perfect
Where can I find it: Always in the same spot on East 11th street
How's their benedict?: They don't have any and it's FINE. A relatively small menu and everything is amazing. Get the Texas hash, or the sausage & egg (above) which is really more of a large burger than a breakfast sandwich. 

Mattie's (pictured above. not pictured: peacocks)
What do you mean peacocks?: There are literally peacocks that live at this restaurant. They just chill in the yard. It's weird and amazing.
I don't understand the vibe of this place?: It used to be an old farmhouse. It kind of reminds me of a plantation. It's a huge house with many rooms, some are just bars, some have tables, there's a patio area. Really it's just very cool and worth going just for the looks alone.
But how's the food?: IT'S REALLY GOOD I HAD FRIED CHICKEN BENEDICT. This has now made the list of my top 3 eggs bennies I've ever had. The bloody mary was also perfect. 
Where is it?: South Congress in a sort of residential area. You'll think you're on the wrong street but you'e not.

Juan In A Million (not pictured)
What is this place?: A breakfast place where you can get ten pounds of food for three dollars
What kind of food is it?: Tacos. Migas. Eggs. A whole mess of all those things on one plate. Come hungry, come hangry, come hungover.
Could you explain this vibe to me?: Yes. It's kind of divey, for a restaurant. There's nothing special about the way it looks. There's probably a wait. Put you're name in, it'll go fast.
Where's this place at tho?: E. Cesar Chavez St, East Austin

Okay, Now Drink This:

Austin, Texas is a city entirely built out of tacos, beer gardens and edison bulbs. There are A LOT of bars and I'm convinced exactly zero of them could exist anywhere else. If it were up to me the dirtier and cheaper the bar the better, but some classy joints make my list too for you uptown girls.

Whisler's (pictured above)
What's the deal with this place?: It's decently nice on the inside, has an even larger outdoor area, and has really good drinks. AND it has a mezcal bar on the second floor. A great place to chill with a drink or five outside. 
What's the price point here: Pretty normal. Happy hour 4-7 on weekdays and 2-5 weekends!
Cool, where's this place at?: East 6th!
What should I get?: That frozen thing above was my second favorite thing I drank, and lets be honest, three of them kindaaa fuqed me up (in a good way). I'd leave the beer here and get a cocktail!
I'm here for happy hour and kind of hungry: One of the many bars with food trucks! I didn't get any food, but I've heard from multiple sources the truck that's parked there is a notable one in the city. 

Hotel San Jose (left)
A hotel? Not my scene: Yes it is, trust me. It's an extremely instagrammable patio by their pool that feels like some kind of California desert oasis (in Texas).
When should I go?: Happy hour. A really nice mid-afternoon stopover.
What do I order?: The rose was pretty good but definitely get their activated charcoal popsicle shandy. Yes you read that right, that's this thing to the left. Refreshing as fuck.
Where is this?: South Congress 

Cheer Up Charlie's (pictured right)
Isn't this a venue?: Yes, and we caught a pretty cool band while there too. But it's a good place to go and just drink if you're not in it for the music.
So what's the vibe: There's a lot of lights but like not in a tacky way, in a cool way. There's a pretty big beer garden, food truck too! It's vegan. It's queer friendly. There's kombucha on tap. It's all v Austin.
Happy hour?: Yeah of course, they ain't crazy. I would go at night though.
What should I get?: They make specialty cocktails with fresh made juice so you should most definitely get one of those if only for the fact that you can't get it anywhere else.
Sign me up and cheer me up! Where is it?: Red River Street. Close to 6th.  

Stay Gold (pictured left)
What's the deal?: I think this was my favorite bar I went to. East side slightly divey place, but in a clean way. Real cool outdoor area, inside there's live music with an old-school lounge kind of feel.
What should I order?: They have cocktails but I stuck to the classics this night -- PBR and Lone Star. It just felt like a beer kind of place. 
Please tell me there's food here too: There is! Food truck out back baby. Heard through the grapevine the wait was very long but it was worth it once they got the goods.
Where?: E Cesar Chavez St

White Horse (pictured right)
Let me guess, it's a dive bar: YES and it's a little grimey, they have free popcorn and their happy hour well drinks were $2.50, so I was sold.
So the draw is that it's dirty?: That's not all! There's live music inside, there's whiskey on tap (!), and on Friday nights they have free two-step lessons!! Personally I think this place is paradise. 
I'm gonna two-step my way on over. Where am I going?: Cornal St, East Austin

Easy Tiger (not pictured)
Let me guess: Nope! This one is not a dive bar. It's a really cool german-style beer garden that sits right next to a creek that runs through the city. 
Nice just beer here?: Standard bar as far as I can tell but a good amount of stuff on tap. 
Tell me about the food truck: There isn't one at this place, but you should order a homemade pretzel and beer cheese. The perfect snack.
Love drunk snacks. Where is it?: Right at the beginning of 6th street. 

You can't drink all day. So do this!

McKinney Falls State Park (above)
But everyone tells me to go to Barton Springs?: Sure, but McKinney Falls felt more like true nature to me.
What do I do there though?: Swim! It's good for jumping off the falls, or just wading in the river if cliff jumping isn't your thing. You can also hike, or just run around in a field of all these cute purple flowers.
Nature? How far is that from the city?: Only like fifteen minutes! Super close.  

Cathedral of Junk (pictured above)
Tha wha?: It's a three story structurally sound sculpture of junk in a guy named Vince's backyard.
I don't get it.: Don't think about it too hard. Vince is an artist who has been working on this installation since 1989 and kindly lets visitors come check it out. It is IMPRESSIVE. There are stairs leading up to three stories, you can climb all over it and under it. It's every color of the rainbow. It's truly something.
Okay art is chill, anything else I should know?: It's in suburbia, you'll have to drive about 15 minutes. You'll also want to call the day ahead for an appointment, but it's really more of a just check to make sure Vince will be there kind of thing. It's free but they do ask for  $5 donation. Extremely worth it imo. Oh and there are dogs there that you can pet.

Hope Outdoor Gallery (pictured above)
Woah this looks cool: It is! So cool. I read somewhere a while ago that it started as the foundations of a condo complex that was never finished. So the nonprofit HOPE bought it and opened it as a public art space. 
Am I allowed to be here?: Sure are. It's open during the day, and as far as I know, you're allowed to bring spray paint and paint whatever you want yourself. (If that isn't actually allowed...everyone does it anyway). What's cool about that is it's always changing. So you'll see everything from someone's instagram handle to a really impressive eight foot mural.
Rad! Anything else I should know?: Do a little googling before you go here because as I am writing this I think there are plans to relocate this whole place to a bigger piece of land. And I heard something about the original being demolished. 

That's it! Those are my highlights. Go forth and drink a Lone Star.

P.S. Honorable Mention, Coffee:

I will leave you with a quick list of coffee shops I didn't bother taking pictures of because I was too busy caffeinating.

Flat Track Coffee
What: Coffee shop/roastery/bike repair shop/serves breakfast tacos and waffle stickss
Where: East Austin

Figure 8
What: Really cute place with good coffee. Gets kind of crowded, because it seems like the kind of place people come to stick around
Where: East Austin

Fleet
What: Extremely trendy, that's all.
Where: East Side

Jo's Coffee
What: This is the one with the "i love you so much wall." You've seen it. They have breakfast tacos.
Where: There's a few locations but the one you probably want is South Congress. That's the cool wall, plus all the tables are outside on a cute patio thing.

Where I Went: Utah

If you're from New England like me and haven't been out west, or southwest, I don't know how to convey to you how big it is, how much earth exists outside our cities. New York seems small and Boston seems even smaller, comparatively. But I'll try: It took four hours to drive from the airport to our little cabin in Utah and we did not need to consult a map on the way back because we only had to make three turns. The population of our temporary home was 100 and something. On our last night, we exhausted every restaurant option within a reasonable proximity to Bryce Canyon, all were closed (s/o to good ole' Subway for being the exception). There is never even one object obstructing your view of the sky. There's so. Much. Sky.

How do I convey how big it is? Valley of Fire State Park is only an hour and fifteen minutes from Las Vegas and you can still easily get shots of the road without vehicles in them. There's trails, sure, but an eighth of a mile in we abandoned them to scramble up boulders on the side. I don't have any idea how far we could have gone. Until death.

It's big. Route 12 through Grand Staircase Escalante is 124 miles. We drove all of it, but those 124 miles were just 10% of what we put on the rental car in those four days. The BLM road we drove down was 4.5 miles long, but another one went all the way to Arizona. The Dixie National Forest is 2 million acres. I grew up in a house that sat on just two. At it's highest point it's over 11,000 feet. I couldn't breathe.

It's high. It's high and I am not used to elevation. Boston's elevation is 141 feet. We descended 1500 on our hike in Bryce Canyon, my heart felt it on the ascent. 

I took a thousand photos in Bryce. I tried, over and over again, to capture how big it was. I knew it was impossible. And it is. After we hiked in Bryce, we drove to every scenic vista there was. At Bryce Point I stopped trying. I snapped a few, but it is impossible to convey how big it is. So I'll stop there. It's nice, when you think about it, to have a view to your mind only. Sometimes places are worthy of seeing but it's only a disservice to attempt to convey why. I guess that's Utah.

The Places I Went:
Valley Of Fire State Park
-Mouse's Tank Road
-Mouse's Tank Trail

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
-Scenic Route 12
-Willis Creek Narrows
-Lower Calf Creek Falls

Dixie National Forest
-Red Canyon - Birdseye Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park
-Figure 8 Loop: Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trail
-Bryce Point
-Under The Rim Trail
-Rainbow Point
-Natural Bridge

Photos: Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy

To me, the music of Phoebe Bridgers sounds like every person you've ever loved. It's every time you know it shouldn't have worked out, but nothing has, and so what now? Her lyrics are simple, they can be taken at face value yet somehow hold an impossible weight. On "Scott Street" she recounts a meeting with someone from the past, singing, "Anyway, don't be stranger" and it pins you under heaviness of every person you've ever reconnected with as if would change anything.

She performed songs from her album, "Stranger In The Alps," at Great Scott in Allston on Saturday -- a venue she easily could have sold out three times over. The packed room wasn't left without surprises, though; Conor Oberst, who collaborated with Bridgers on "Stranger" was there, in the flesh, to perform their song "Would You Rather." To close out the show, Bridgers and bandmates were joined by Oberst and the members of Soccer Mommy (who opened the show) for a light-hearted rendition of Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy."

 

Winter at Flume Gorge | New Hampshire

I've been dying to hike something big lately. I haven't made it up a real 4k footer in the Whites all winter, which is a shame because one of the best times to be in the Whites is when they're...white. And yet, time and weather, and life continue to get in the way. 

But I'm happy to spend even a few hours up there at a time, so Madeline and I took a quick trip to the Flume this weekend. This was actually my first time going to this rather touristy spot in the Whites and while I'm sure it's great in the Summer, my advice is to go in the Winter. (I'm not saying this ONLY because it's free in the off-season, but, don't mind one bit).

During the Winter most of what is *usually* a boardwalk through the gorge is taken down. But since everything is frozen you can pretty much just walk on top of where a river is. Guys. We out here walking on water. 

But also, LOOK AT THAT ICE. This is where I tell you for the 7,000th time in my life that pun is intended when I say, IT'S COOL. Full disclosure, I do not ice climb. Would I like to? Absolutely. Will it be easy? To me it just looks like all you have to do is slam a sharp thing into a wall of ice, so I'm sure I'll say "looks simple!" and then be 95% incapable of being able to pull my body weight more than a foot off the ground. Teach me.