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The Time I lived in Austin, Texas for a Month


View from the Oasis

This article has been sitting in my drafts, half finished, for longer than I'd like to admit. That's because Austin holds such big significance in my life that I've found it hard to re-live some of the memories as I write. But we're finally here!


In March 2022, I lived in Austin, Texas for a month, and I went back again in August 2022 for a week. I absolutely fell in love with the city! I know I say that about nearly every city I visit, but this one truly has a special place in my heart and likely always will.


In this blog post, we're gonna talk about my flights, the Airbnbs, the coffee shop Opa, Chipotle, Whole Foods & Traders Joes, the culture shock, the weather, the Austin library, The Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria, Kuya, and some of my memories.


This is a long on, so strap in!


 

Contents

 

Before going to Austin, I'd lived in the states before, Ohio to be specific, but it was when I was really young, so I don't remember it. Thus, this trip to Austin was real special to me as it was my first time experiencing the US when I could actually remember it.


Airbnb

$444.26 CAD/4 days


When I was in Austin, I lived in 3 Airbnbs. The last one was definitely my favourite! It was a pink princess wonderland. The walls were pink, the bedding was pink, the couch pillows were pink, the entire bathroom was pink, the kitchenware was pink. Practically everything was pink!


Frau Hannah's airbnb in texas

Something that surprised me about this Airbnb though was the cement flooring. It's not common to have cement flooring indoors in Canada. In a garage, yes, in a living room, no. But, when you think about the climate in Texas, given that it is a scorching desert, it makes sense in a way that carpet doesn't.


The cupboards were a great surprise too! I couldn't tell from the pictures initially, but they aren't just silver, they're a glittery silver! A girly girls dream!


The neighbhourhood was really lovely, and actually the main reason I choose this one as it is so close to my favourite cafe Opa, but more on that later.


I loved the residential architecture in Austin. Flat roofs aren't common in Canada since we don't quite have the climate for them (snow is heavy), but they always look so beautiful and modern.


ceiling fan

Though, I was shocked to discover that it's common in Texas for homes to have ceiling fans outside on the balconies or patios.


This is not something you'll ever see in Canadian homes. When I tell other Canadians about it, they are just as shocked as I was. To us ceiling fans are an indoor only thing. But again, it makes sense with the Texas climate.


I went on a walk, found one of those little free libraries, and got a pretty beat up book about Texas history from it. I'm looking forward to learning more about Texians and Tejanos.


cholua

I also stayed in two hotels in Austin for a short time. I honestly don't remember much from either, but the one thing I do remember though, is that there was Cholula on every table during breakfast.


It's definitely not something I see in Canadian hotels really ever. It's usually salt, pepper, ketchup, and mustard on the table. Sometimes they'll have sugar and sweetener packets too, but not usually hot sauce.

sweet tea


That reminds me! Sweetener! I tried the infamous Texas sweet tea while I was there and was surprised to discover that sweet tea in is not sweet.


Instead, it's just regular iced or just cold black tea and they give you sweetener packets on the side. (We didn't ask for this much sweetener, the waiter just brought this much)


I thought it would taste like a Nestea or a Pure Leaf, but it just tastes like tea you make at home. Since I'm not a big fan of sweetener, it wasn't my 'cup of tea'. Get it?



Barton Springs

Goodness this place is absolutely gorgeous! Barton Springs is a natural spring in Austin, located right in Zilker Park.


Since it's a natural spring, there was tons of wild life, such a turtles and axolotls, and plant life. This made the steps quite slippery as they were covered in moss.


Frau Hannah at barton springs

If you need a place to hide from the Texas heat, Barton is definitely the place to go. The natural spring water is absolutely freezing, it's practically a cold plunge.


It was too cold for me, so I spent most of my time in the sun, laying on the grass, reading my book. Please wear sunscreen if you do the same though. The sun is Texas is unforgiving, it is very easy to get burned, especially during the summer.



You can't bring food to Barton Springs, but you can go out and come back in on the same day. Just make sure to stamp your hand again before heading out.

barton springs

If you wanna save some money, I recommend making a picnic lunch and leaving it in the car until you're ready to eat. Just try to park in a shady place. Otherwise, you could drive down the road and find some yummy food spots.


Being that I was hardcore vegetarian back then, am allergic to everything, and don't really enjoy eating out, I don't really have any recommendations (I know, kind of the wrong state to be vegetarian). But, my mom went to this BBQ place called Terry's Black BBQ and she said it was so worth the visit!



The Library


the library

The Austin library is insanely beautiful, and very fitting for the saying "Everything is bigger in Texas".


I didn't get the chance to check out the library when I was there in March, but I did when I went back in August of 2022 and it was unreal! The architecture and design is a marvel that must be appreciated.


If you have a fear of heights though, take the elevator and not the stairs. Looking down is honestly kinda scary.


the library

If I lived in Austin full time, I would spend so much time at this place. They have some amazing resources. I really think libraries have become a forgotten resource, you'd be surprised just how much they offer.


My favourite part of most libraries is the bookstore section. Most libraries sell books that they are discarding for super cheap. I've gotten some great ESL textbooks for 50 cents. The Austin library is no different. If you check out their bookstore, let me know how it is!


They also have an Innovation Lab. It's a digital makerspace for people interested in podcasting, video editing, 3D rendering, music, and content creation. You don't need to buy your own expensive equipment to start working on your passion, the library has got you covered. All you gotta do is book a computer.


The Austin library even has yoga, which if you've ever lived in Austin, this so fitting. Everyone in this gorgeous city is so motivated, driven, and fit! It's truly a city of young professionals.


This is definitely one of the places I miss the most in Austin.


The Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria


The contemporary Austin jones center

As y'all now by this point, I love exploring the local art when I travel, be it street art, or museums. I went to 2 museums in Virginia, 1 in Niagara, 1 in New York, etc. Thus, Laguna Gloria was a place I absolutely had to go to!

looking up


The style of art at Laguna Gloria is by far my favourite kind. I love abstract, avant-garde, eclectic, risque, androgynous art. Art that is really open for interpretation.


The art piece I was most excited to see was Tom Friedman's Looking Up. This was a stainless steel structure, resembling a man looking towards the sky, that measured 390 x 130 x 90 inches (32.6 x 10.10 x 7.6 feet). It was an absolutely unreal sight, a fantastical feat of art.


The other art works we saw we're equally as amazing and thought provoking. Check out the gallery below for some photos.




We happened to, accidentally, go on a day when entry was free. So, if you wanna check out these gorgeous art works for free, go on a Thursday!


If Laguna Gloria is a bit too far for you, Austin is full of amazing street art and murals that deserve to be admired. You'll find gorgeous artwork by just walking the streets of Austin. The one that sticks out in my memory the most, and I actually used for a final paper in the last year of my BA, is called Be Well.


You can find in under the underpass by the Whole Foods on north Lamar. It's a pandemic piece and was one I would pass practically every day since I frequented that Whole Foods a lot while in Austin.


Kuya


kuya

Kuya, a spa located in southeast Austin, was my second ever experience a sensory deprivation tank.


epsom salt

If you aren't sure what those are, they are these giant tanks filled with water that has thousands of pound of epsom salt. The amount of salt in the water causes you to float, which makes you feel weightless, taking away your tactile sensations.


The idea with these sensory deprivation tanks is to take away all of your senses to really let yourself relax. So, the tanks are usually dark, scentless, quiet, and weightless.


Some people may find it uncomfortable to lose most, if not all, of the input from your senses, so in some tanks, you can listen to relaxing music or leave the lights on. However, I've found it really relaxing to let all my senses go, especially when I'm overwhelmed/overstimulated.

Before entering the tank, you are expected to put in ear plugs to avoid getting salt in them, and apply Vaseline to any cuts you might have otherwise it will burn. For the same reason, don't touch your face while in the tank. Salt in your eyes is not a good feeling.


Pro tip! Do not shave your legs or any part of your body on the day of your visit, they will burn from the salt. Do it the day before.


After your soak, you're skin will feel really soft from all the salt, but it's not so cute once it dries. If you want to avoid salt crusties, make sure you shower after and get in every nook and cranny.


Would you ever do a sensory deprivation tank?



Whole Foods

I've talk about my love for Whole Foods before in other posts, but in Austin is truly where my love affair with Whole Foods began. Bare with me while I gush for a bit.


I had never been to a Whole Foods before but I had heard about it through the internet and was curious. It was on my check list of things I had to explore while I was in Austin.


I think one of the major reasons why I fell so hard for Whole Foods was because of how many options there were for me with my allergies. I'm so used to having only a select few options in Canada that aren't all that great. However, in Whole Foods, you can think of practically any food and there will be a vegan, gluten free, lactose free, version of it, and it tastes GOOD!


I really miss the gluten free Whole Foods 365 brand bread. The gluten free bread we have here in Canada is alright, but it's quite little in size compared to regular wheat bread.


But as the saying goes "Everything is bigger in Texas". The simple fact that the Whole Foods gluten free bread was the same size as regular bread made me so happy.


I also fell in love with the mangoes in Texas. They are so sweet and so much cheaper than in Canada. I tried mangoes with Tajin for the first time, but couldn't get into it. Maybe I need to try it with Chamoy and Tajin?


Whole Foods has the nickname Whole Paycheque because of the prices. But, if I'm being honest, I think Canada is still more expensive when it comes to allergy friendly foods and certain imported foods.


In terms of geography, it makes sense that mangoes and avocados are cheaper in Texas than Canada. But even allergy friendly foods such as gluten free bread, I find Whole Foods is still cheaper than Canada.


I think what blew my mind the most about this particular store though was how it wasn't just a grocery store. There was a BBQ restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, a vegan burger joint, a juice and smoothie bar, and more in it!


You could do your groceries, grab coffee or drinks with a friend, have some lunch, sit and do some work in their dinning area, and more. The possibilities were endless. It blew my mind just how much they were able to pack into one store.


I've never seen something like this in Canada. Some grocery stores will have a fast food joint or coffee shop in them, but it's not that common.


But that's not all! Like I mentioned earlier, I did a final term paper analysis of the mural Be Well, and through the research for this paper I learned that this Whole Foods has way more than I thought.


You can pick up and return Amazon packages here. There are wine, beer, and cheese experts who can give you advice. Amazon One is a program where you can pay for your groceries with just your palm and apparently you can do this at this Whole Foods. They even put up an ice rink on the roof during 'winter'.


It truly blew my mind that this store was considered a grocery store still.


hannah potato

Fun Fact!


At this Whole Foods I learned that I share a name with a kind of sweet potato. I too am sweet but definitely not as firm, haha. (sorry for the bad joke)


While in Austin, I would cook this potato into a kind of hashbrown thing for breakfasts some mornings back in March. Is that a kind of inter species cannibalism? (sorry again)



Trader Joes

bagel egg sandwich

Thankfully, we do have a few Whole Foods here in the major cities in Canada, but they definitely aren't common.


I've never seen a Trader Joes in Canada however, though this is another great grocery store for people with dietary restrictions.


I still dream of the Trader Joes gluten free everything bagels I got back in August. During my August trip, I would make a toasted everything bagel breakfast sandwich with eggs in the mornings. Heaven on a plate!



When I think about Austin, Opa is the one place I miss the most.


Ugh, I have so many beautiful memories at this cafe! One of the memories that sticks out to me the most was between me and a barista.



Opa is a cafe that not only serves coffee and tea, but also serves alcohol. So, on the counter they have pastries, the daily iced tea, the menu, and the various types of alcohol they serve.


I was at the counter one morning ordering my coffee - iced coffee with almond milk (best thing they have!) - and while I was waiting, I was chatting with the barista who was making my order.


I happened to look over at the alcohol bottles, just reading through the labels when I noticed something odd about one of the bottles.


There appeared to be a bug the size of my palm on the bottle. I initially thought nothing of it since I know some alcohols have bugs in the bottle for whatever reason. These kinds of bugs are harmless since they are preserved in the alcohol. But it wasn't until I saw the bug move that I realized it was in fact not preserved or fake, but a real, living gigantic bug.


Being Canadian, I am used to the colder weather we have here and so are our bugs. As a result, our bugs are quite little (smaller than a finger nail usually). But this is not the case in Texas, it's quite the opposite actually. Giant bugs, at least bugs I deem giant, are normal in Texas.


I instantly froze, then back away slowly. I told the barista about the bug and she said "Oh my goodness, thanks for telling me."


She turned around, grabbed a paper towel and, I kid you not, grabbed the bug with her paper towel wrapped hand as if she didn't just come face to face with a prehistoric creature and threw it away!


I was amazed! She seemed like a super human to me at the moment.


I always laugh whenever I think about this memory. It was such an interesting culture shock to experience while simply getting coffee.


I also have this memory of this sweet old man who frequented the cafe. The staff all seemed to know him and many customers too.


Whenever I went, which was also often, he was always there. I remember this one time I was sitting in his regular seat without knowing, but he was so sweet about it and just sat next to me.


He was such a highlight to see, even though we never really chatted with each other. He kinda became apart of my routine while in Austin. I hope when I go back, he will be there just like before. I think you can see him in one of my old Study With Me video over on Youtube.


opa


chipotle

Austin is also the place where I fell for Chipotle. The first Chipotle I ever went to was the one on South Lamar, just up the road from Opa.


With my allergies, I have a lot of food anxiety, especially when it comes to foods or places I haven't tried before. So as silly as it might sound to some, I was quite nervous going to Chipotle for the first time. However, I very quickly fell in love. I didn't think I'd like cilantro, but turns out their cilantro rice is addictive.


We do have Chipotle in Canada but only a select few cities, so it's still not common. However, as you all know, I have been a few times since being in Austin, so I haven't gone without.


I always get the same thing when I go: white rice, no beans, lettuce, guac, fajita veggies, sometimes chicken, and of course the chips on the side. It's basic I know, but it's so good.


Culture Shock

Now that we've talked about some of my favourite spots in ATX, let's talk about the culture shock I experienced.


Before going to the US, I had some presumptions. I didn't think that Canada and America were all that different when it came to culture, but I was definitely proved wrong.


traffic

The first thing that was really shocking to see was families on a walk with their children and/or babies in a stroller on the road. I didn't know this at the time, but apparently, it is not common to have sidewalks or crosswalks in the states. There is no shortage of roads and cars, but very few resources for pedestrians.


Canada, similar to America, is also a large country that more often than not requires you to have a car to get around. But, we have crosswalks and sidewalks absolutely everywhere, especially in big cities. The only place you may not see them is in the country side, but in those places the homes are so far apart that you have to drive to see a neighbour.


One of my biggest culture shock was the linguistic differences. I was not expecting Canadian English and American English to be that different, but there were a few instances where Americans had actually asked me to clarify my English.


old man
Not lee

One instance I remember very clearly was in Fredericksburg during a chat with a funny old man named Lee.


Lee was actually the first person I met with the Texas accent as Austin is full of people referred to as transplants - people come from all over the states and the globe. There seem to be few natives in Austin.


Thus, very few people have the typical southern accent in the city. Outside Austin though, it is much more common.


Lee was demonstrating how these wooden guns with elastic bands work. I referred to them as elastic bands and he looked confused and asked me what those were.


I was really confused, when he corrected me in saying that they are elastic, but are called rubber bands. It was fascinating to see first hand the ways in which even our English's differ.


I was also shocked at the size of the cacti. In Canada we do have some cacti, but I've never seen them outside in a garden. They tend to be houseplants, so they are typically quite itty bitty, like fit in the palm of your hand little.


In the desert that is Texas however, cacti are often seen outside in gardens, around the city, and thrive in the Texas heat. So, these cacti can grow to be gigantic. I've seen some that are bigger than me and I'm 5'5" (165cm).


There were a couple more instances of culture shock throughout my time in Austin, but these are the ones that I remember the best.


The Weather


I've talked about the weather a bit throughout this article so far, but let's go a little more in depth.


In March 2022, the average temperature in Texas was 57.1 F or 13.9 C, which is not bad, even a little chilly. But in August, on my second trip to Texas, it was an average of 90 F or 32.2 C, which is pretty hot for Canadian standards. A temperature of 32 C would only happen maybe once or twice during the summer, if at all. But temperatures like these are a daily occurrence in Texas.


I honestly really enjoyed the heat. I didn't find it debilitating, but rather a really nice change. Back home, I'm usually in a sweater since I'm always cold, so it was a nice change not needing a sweater outside. I did still needed it indoors though since the Texas AC is strong!


It doesn't seem to rain often in Texas, but when it rains oh boy does it rain! Back in August my mom and I got caught in a crazy rain storm. It was practically a flood.


 Apparently there was 187mm of rain that day, which is a lot of rain if you're wondering.


Cars seemed to just be swimming through the streets. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. When it calmed down a bit, I went to lay in the rain on the balcony and it was heavenly. Definitely a moment that made me fall even harder for Texas.


For a story as to how this crazy rain storm helped meet those at Austin Pets Alive, check out this article.


Flights


airport

If your curious how the flying experiences was for me, check out my article on my Spookiest Travel Experience. Spoiler alert! It was not very fun.


At the end of the March trip, once I got home in April 2022, I got COVID. It wasn't too bad for me thankfully though. I lost my voice and had a few fevers, but I had 2 Pfizer shots before I went. That said though, I did lose my sense of smell and taste for like a month after I got better. I have a funny video of me eating an onion and it tasting like water.


When did you get COVID, or have you never had it?


 

Woo! There we have it folks, we've come to the end of a long article. Thanks for listening to my stories.


Austin is, and truly always, will have a special place in my heart. I do hope to go back again at some point, but I don't that will be this year.


I do have some amazing adventures planned for this year though, so be on the look out for those!


Have you ever been to Austin or Texas? What are some of your favourite places or places you have yet to check out?

 

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