So: Verde Camp

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photo by Simone

I’m getting ready to head back on the road again (this time for a business trip) so I thought I’d share a few photos of Verde Camp, the wonderful place where Simone and I stayed in Austin. It’s a grouping of little houses that were built in the 1930s and lovingly refurbished by a husband and wife team.

Bruce and I discovered Verde Camp in 2010 when we wanted to get away from the Big D for the weekend and see Austin. We also wanted to bring Guinness and Godiva along since we had heard Austin was super dog friendly (it is!) and thought it would be a fun trip for all of us.

We liked that it was dog-friendly and eco-friendly, plus we’d have our own little cottage with a kitchen so we could have breakfast, cocktails, and snacks. It’s in easy walking distance to lots of fun stuff: Town Lake, South Congress, the Continental Club, Homeslice Pizza, the University of Texas, the downtown area, Zilker Park, and the Capitol. It’s certainly better than a hotel in my opinion—it feels more like a vacation home or cottage up in Ontario.

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Since then we’ve been down a number of times with Guinness and Godiva, then Guinness, Godiva and George (Gidget has not made the trip yet). One time we even brought some human friends along and had a blast. I’ve always thought it would be really awesome to get a big group of friends together and rent a bunch of cottages so we could all hang out during the day but have our own spaces at night. Maybe one day—seems like it could be a fun way to celebrate a birthday….

This time Simone and I stayed in Cicada House. It’s super cute with a nice little porch and has a great loft (that’s where I slept).

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cute Cicada House • photo by Simone

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the loft and the loft dweller • photo by Simone

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the cute planter

Check out the website when you get a chance and you can see a bunch more photos and get all the details about the amenities. And if you’re ever planning a trip to Austin, definitely consider staying there. And tell ’em who sent you!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo is from our very first visit in May 2010:

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Guinness and Godiva at Verde Camp in  May 2010 • photo by Bruce

 

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So: Keepin’ Austin weird

My dear friend Simone and I were in Austin for a few days. She flew in Thursday from Toronto and we headed to Austin directly from DFW. We left Saturday morning since she headed back to Toronto this morning and needed cuddle time with her favorite G, Guinness, and her favorite shoe-a-holic Bruce so they could clean out DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) before she left. Just doing her part for the US economy!

It’s only a three hour drive to Austin from Dallas and now that the highway is vastly improved, it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal. Besides we spent the whole time gabbing and catching up, eating lunch and looking for signs for the huge outlet mall in Round Rock (if you are in search of bargains on summer clothes, I highly recommend it.)

Besides horseback riding with our pals Topper and Julius on Friday evening, Simone and I made sure to do plenty of touristy stuff (including more shopping on South Congress Avenue):

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Food truck on South Congress! And yes, the cupcakes are delicious.

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We bought t-shirts (although not these exact ones)

We ate the best pizza in the universe Friday night after our backcountry adventure—and I am not kidding. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my life (hazard of late nights in the advertising world) and I would drive three hours to Austin just for Home Slice Pizza.

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the queen of pies neon sign

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One of their amazing pizzas and their awesome caesar salad

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they make me feel special

Don’t worry, we’re bringing Bruce our leftovers and a little gift so he doesn’t feel so bad missing out on the deliciousness. He was so jealous!

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A major touristy thing: Austin Duck Adventures! This bus is also a boat.

 

We even went on the Austin Duck Adventures city tour on Friday morning (it leaves from the aforementioned Visitor’s Center). Our driver/guide Vic was hilarious. I highly recommend this tour just for the novelty of it since you drive all around Austin and learn the history, then drive around Lake Austin and feel the cool breezes coming off the water. But if you don’t appreciate little kids blowing duck calls along to funny songs, don’t bother. It’s a little noisy. I loved it.

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this is the gift they give you with the tour: a beak-shaped duck call

Splash down into Lake Austin

Splash down into Lake Austin

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

When we got back to the visitor’s center where the tour starts, I heard a couple asking where to buy cowboy boots. They looked like fashionable people with a little bit of discretionary income burning a hole in their pockets.

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Simone at Austin Visitor’s Center

The cashier recommended Allen’s but said, “it’s really expensive,” which is true, but not if you’re in the market for perhaps the only pair of cowboy boots your East Coast self might need for an entire lifetime. She also mentioned that it’s far from the visitor’s center, which it is not if you are fit and sporty looking which they were.

They looked sad so I said, “do you have a car? You could try Cavenders, it’s where I got my boots.” (Yes, both Simone and I purchased cowboy boots a couple of years ago when she was visiting. They came in handy for horseback riding.) Again, they looked sad and said no. So I said, “You should check out Allen’s. They actually have boots in a variety of price ranges and if you’re only thinking of buying cowboy boots once, it will make a good story.”

They perked up and I said “It’s not that far, but we’re going that way, so we can drop you off.”

They were surprised, but thankful I offered. So we drove them over even though they said, “we never accept rides from strangers.” I said, “we’re not strangers, we’ve been on the duck tour together for the past 2 hours.” They laughed.

They were nice people from Binghamton, NY (him) and NC (her). Seemed like they were old friends, on a fun getaway, just like Simone and me. After making a couple of jokes about the potential of two Canadian ladies being serial killers and asking us to at least have the courtesy to call their parents and let them know what happened, we headed out. We chatted about Toronto and the CN Tower, how awesome Austin is, and how my Prius reminded the guy of an Alero (I think that’s an Oldsmobile, but I’m not sure). We drove them through the back roads of the South Congress neighborhood so they could see the cute little cottage houses and beautiful landscaping and told them a bit about Verde Camp, the place where we stayed and where Bruce and I stay every time we come to Austin. (more about Verde Camp tomorrow)

It took us all of 15 minutes to leave the parking structure and get to Allen’s by car. It was hardly out of our way since our next plan was to walk around on South Congress after we dropped off the purchases we made at the Visitor’s Center.

They thanked us when we dropped them off and waved bye to us. Hopefully they got the boots. Maybe we’ll run into them again on another adventure.

Yes, I did my part to keep Austin weird during our weekend, but so did Simone. And she started early.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, on the way down, we stopped at the giant outlet mall in Round Rock for a little retail therapy. We both were looking for stuff to wear to work as the weather got warmer. Well, Simone is a good shopper and has a knack for helping people find the perfect outfit. That is why I have a huge bag of work clothes to bring back to Dallas—I managed to find nearly all of the things on my shopping list and my spring/summer/fall wardrobe will look awesome.

Not only did Simone help me, she also helped a lady that we met at the Loft outlet find a dress for her son’s upcoming June wedding. Anna was really unhappy and hadn’t found the right dress even though she had been shopping for days. She had friends, the bridesmaids, her kids, her future daughter-in-law help her to no avail. And the wedding would be outside which is going to be surface of the sun hot down in the Austin area. Lots of roadblocks!

After unsuccessfully trying on dresses at Loft, Simone convinced Anna to follow us to Ann Taylor and try on a few things. She started to protest that it wasn’t the kind of store she shopped in and they would have nothing for her. Simone wasn’t having any of that. She told Anna if she wanted to find a dress she needed to come along.

Well, like usual, Simone was right. Anna left with a beautiful sleeveless blue dress that really flattered her body and made her look like the mother-of-the-groom. And we gave her another friend’s contact info so she could get jewelry help (she sells it online).

Simone even told her what shoes to get (nude or black) when she went to DSW—Anna is a fan also. She was so happy she wanted to pay Simone or give her something, but Simone said to just pay it forward and help someone else.

It was a great trip. And we lived up to the Austin vibe.

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One of the official beverages of Austin

And here is your gratuitous (and funny, at least to me) dog photo:

Gidget, mid-bark

Gidget, mid-bark

So: overrated fear


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Meet Julius. He’s my new BFF.

If you would have asked me about him a week ago, I would have said he was big and scary. That his giant eyeballs and enormous teeth gave me the willies. Or that he’d flip me off his back like a little fly. And I was terrified that he would toss me off his back and stomp me into the ground.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Julius was quite the gentlemen. He knew I was scared. But he took his time to get to know me and show me he wasn’t going to hurt me. And in the end, he made my first time very special. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

So, Julius changed my mind about horses. They’re kind of like super-sized dogs that you can ride. And now, I get to cross being brave enough to ride a horse off my bucket list. Can’t wait to do it again. Maybe on a beach with Bruce on some fancy vacation. Or maybe at a ranch in North Texas.

Clearly, my fear was overrated. Good thing I dared myself to be brave. Check that off the bucket list.

It felt like I had ridden a horse before. It was weird. Sometimes I feel the same way when I’m out messing around in the Urban Farm. Even though I haven’t done something, it feels like I have. Weird.

Here are a few photos of today’s fun in Austin with my dear friend Simone:

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so proud of myself! and Julius!

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Julius and his pals Zeke and Ranger

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beautiful ranch scenery

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looks like something out of a movie

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so serene

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ah nothing quenches fears like seeing a sign like this one

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Simone and Topper, Julie and Julius

Special thanks to Jessica and Emily at Texas Trail Rides for getting us into the saddle and on the trail. It was an excellent experience and one we will never forget.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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the 4G network likes to sun themselves • photo by Tracy