Tag Archives: texas

Austin, Texas, March 2011

I thought I’d write a few “catch-up” posts between when I last regularly updated here and the blog revival. Maybe I should rename the blog “where was Zoe in 2011/2012?”

View to downtown Austin from the footbridge near South Lamar Blvd.

View to downtown Austin across the lake (apparently it’s a lake? it looked a lot like a river to me…?)

I made the mistake of going to Austin without a car. It’s got this reputation of being a crazy, left-wing (read: less right-wing) town, so I figured it would be like New Orleans or San Fransisco, where getting around without a car is feasible or even preferable. Yeah, not so much. I dunno. Maybe if I was really into bars I’d have been more excited by my car-free few days in Austin, but as it was, it turns out that most of the things I would have enjoyed doing involve being able to drive out of town.

However, to be fair on Austin, I would seriously consider going back with a car if I was in the area again: the lake is quite beautiful and good for walking along; I seriously spent half a morning in the Whole Foods flagship store which makes me hungry just remembering it; it’s easy enough to get a decent coffee, which is not to be underestimated in the US; the hostel I stayed in managed to be clean and not noisy at night and friendly; and I had an AMAZING Korean-Mexican fusion burrito from a van near the State Capitol, the calories from which I think I finally burnt off last week.

Dallas to Austin by Amtrak

If you don’t have a car, there are three ways to get from Dallas to Austin: fly, greyhound or take the train. I decided flying was out because I feel ridiculous flying such a short distance (~300 km). I wasn’t sure I was up for the kahrazy adventures every reckons you get on the greyhound, so train it was.

Turns out it’s also the cheapest way to go, at least if you buy a ticket in advance. Which you may as well do, because there’s only 1 train per day so it’s not like you need any flexibility. (Yes, people from countries with developed passenger rail infrastructure, that’s right. One. Per day.)

It’s also the slowest way to go, taking well over twice as long as the ‘hound. As in, 6-7 hours. For 300 km. But on the plus side, the seats are massive, with heaps of legroom and proper leg rests, and you do feel very dignified crawling along through the country side in the late afternoon, with views like this:

In fact, having previously travelled by rail from Denver to SF (scheduled time: 35 hours; actual time: more like 40), the 7-ish hours for Dallas to Austin positively flew by, and before I knew it I’d arrived in Austin. Which I really must write about soon, so that this blog gets to Italy while I’m still here.

Dallas

Apparently Perth has been called ‘Dallas by the sea’. I can see where that’s coming from, though I’d say it as ‘Dallas is Perth without the amazing beaches’. That is to say, it’s pleasant enough, it seems like it would be an ok place to live if you had friends there, it’s also rather sprawling and not busy at all.

I was there for 6 days for a conference. Timewise, the number 1 place I went to was the convention centre, number 2 was my hotel bed, and number 3 was hanging out with other physics people, mostly in restaurants and bars. Including a bar with a taxidermied animal head wearing a hat:

It was disconcerting sitting eating a burger and drinking iced tea with that guy next to me.

Of course, one of the things Dallas is known for is the shooting of JFK. The Sixth Floor Museum is all about “the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy”. I though the part about the “legacy” (ie: a bunch of people saying why they thought Kennedy was important/inspirational) would have been better served by a more in-depth look at the historical background — various themes such as the Cold War and Kennedy wanting to promote American ideals via peaceful means were mentioned, but there wasn’t much analysis. That said, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon when the thought of more physics talks was just too much.

Anyway, to finish with an amusing anecdote: Towards the end of the week, I got a cab back from a bar one night. I mentioned to the driver that I was at a conference. He said, “Oh, you’re a physician — no wait, a physicist!” I guess he’d driven a lot of conference-goers around that week.