As the Scottish poet Robert Burns said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
We had planned to spend a weekend in Boston in late June, bought the tickets two months in advance, booked a hotel and bought a city guide. On the day of the flight, a Friday, we went to the airport with plenty of time to spare, went through security and waited at the gate. They announced a delay. No big deal, we can wait. The delay got longer and longer until they announced the cancellation of the flight. All my expectations were dashed to the ground. It was a full flight, with everyone eager to either get back home or flee from the scorching Texas heat (that would be us!).
While we were waiting in line to try and get on another flight, we decided that if we couldn’t fly tonight, we’d go somewhere else. All the flights were full and flying on Sunday morning only to return that evening was not sensible. We jumped on the truck (parked at the airport) and drove south. We made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Austin and San Antonio.
The drive was pleasant; the countryside was quite green due to recent rains and made it to Austin at dusk. While checking in at the hotel, Sean mentioned our frustrated trip to Boston and the receptionist upgraded us to a suite. Right on! The receptionist, a polite and attentive young man, also suggested we had a drink at the Driskill Hotel.
The Driskill Hotel is located on 6th Street, Austin’s hard partying area but is patronized by a more mature clientele. The hotel was opened in 1886 by a cattle baron and is very grand, very Texas. We loved the bar. There was live music and a few brave couples danced to country-Western tunes.
The next morning I had to go shopping for shorts -as if I needed an excuse- because I had packed clothes for the milder climate of Boston and there no way was I going to face over a hundred degree weather in jeans! After that was taken care of, we went to the State Capitol.
The Texas State Capitol is said to be the second biggest in the country, only slightly smaller than the one in Washington. Hardly shocking news since everything is bigger in Texas. The building, opened to the public in 1888, was built in the Renaissance Revival style in sunset red granite. It sits on extensive grounds at the highest point of Austin. An interesting fact is that the contractors were not paid in dollars but in land: three million acres in the Panhandle.
The grounds are dotted about with monuments and statues. The first one you see is the Civil War memorial dedicated to Confederate soldiers who “died for state rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” according to the legend carved on one side. There is a list of all the battles as well. A Civil War memorial is a common feature in every Texan town and, whether or not you agree with the ideas of the Confederation, you can’t help but admire the immense pride Texans take in their heroes.
Now, off to our next destination: San Antonio.