Cowboys, cowgirls & a bit of country music

If you ever find yourself going to Texas, get yourself to Austin for a good chunk of time. We had 48 hours there and I wish it had been longer. Not only does it possess the aforementioned awesome cinemas, but it’s as though some of the coolest parts of London had been lifted up and transplanted to a city with significantly better weather. One of my travel companions kept commenting that he felt just as out of place as he does in Shoreditch – everyone in Austin was significantly skinnier, more tanned and more tattooed than him.

Austin is the perfect destination for a taste of ‘real’ Texas – and probably a good place to test out the mantra ‘Everything’s Bigger in Texas’. (Austin’s own motto? ‘Keep Austin Weird’…) It was also a great city in which to meet two essential requirements of any trip to Texas – country music and cowboy apparel.

One of my rules for travelling is that I want to experience life as locals live it – sure, I’ll have my touristy moments, but generally, I want to know what real life’s like. So it was fantastic to be hosted by someone in Austin who prefaced most suggestions with “If I were you, what I’d do is…” – invariably followed by a recommendation that turned out to be fantastic, from food to shops to beverages. This is how we’d found ourselves at the Alamo, and how, the following night, we spent the evening at Shady Grove listening to acoustic country music from a local band.

You’ve got to love the Austin life. An outdoor gig guaranteed not to be rained upon; waitress service at your seat; amazing burgers; an introduction to frozen sangria (more please!!); and some quality music being enjoyed by a wide range of locals. I’ve searched in vain for a YouTube video, but I did find the band in question – The Band of Heathens – on Spotify and listening to this track brought back a lot of memories.

So that was the country music urge satisfied – what about some Texan apparel? For that, there’s just one place to go: Allen’s Boots on South Congress. In the run up to the trip I’d been teasing Andy about how he ought to purchase both Stetson and cowboy boots and here we were able to trial run the cowboy look to see if it worked. [I should at this point issue an apology to Andy for the photos that are about to appear, but as if I could resist using them!] Honestly, if you’re going to buy boots, this is the place to come – row upon row of increasingly expensive, beautifully lovely, gorgeously leather smelling boots.

The dressing up opportunities were endless. Sadly, trying on the boots was a struggle thanks to sweaty sandal wearing feet, in fact I ended up in a fight to remove a boot from Cathers’ leg; but there was plenty of opportunity to try on hats and it was here that my cowgirl purchase was made. (Well, on the second trip. I took a photo, tweeted/facebooked it, received 20+ positive comments, and made a return to buy it after lunch. Thanks goodness for social media!) Andy did a lot of trying on: 
I have apologised already, and really, he should be grateful that I haven’t posted the photo of him looking uber camp while sat in a pair of cowboy boots. Why is it that footwear designed for super manly men simply makes non-cowboys look rather camp? Mysterious. Personally, of the above outfits, I reckon the Terminator-esque leather jacket would’ve made the best purchase… 
The biggest disappointment of the trip was not getting to meet a genuine real cowboy, but I will carry with me for some time the joy of watching two men, non-ironically clad in Stetsons, having an enthusiastic conversation while waiting for our flight to Houston from Atlanta. There should be more non-ironic Stetson wearing in the world!