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Polaroid Of The Week: Street Art In Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california los angeles silver lake

While I admittedly didn’t get around to doing everything I had on my Los Angeles To-Do-List due to my tight work schedule this month, I managed to return to some of my favorite neighborhoods like Santa Monica Venice and West Hollywood,, but there was one neighborhood I really wanted to see before leaving LA: Silver Lake.

This neighborhood had been described to me as the Brooklyn of LA or the Williamsburg of LA, to be more precise And not only that Forbes Magazine even went as far as giving Silver Lake the top spot on its inaugural list of America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods and CNN Money followed by putting it in the Top Ten of its list of best big city neighborhoods in the U.S.

So of course I had to check this uber hip neighborhood for myself to see what all the fuss was about.

The stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs though Silver Lake felt indeed very Williamsburg-like, and just like the famous hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn, it is lined with trendy cafes, quirky independent shops and little eateries, and street art fills many a wall stretching into the side streets off of Sunset Blvd.

I couldn’t help but fling in love with silver like within fifteen minutes of getting there – this is definitely my kind of neighborhood! Unpretentious, with inventive yet affordable restaurants but also hole-in-the-wall Mexican street food, funky bars and shops that go beyond your usual chain stores: instead you find spice stores, comic book stores and guitar shops.

There are two basins – the neighborhood’s namesake Silver Lake Reservoir and the Ivanhoe Reservoir, both offering walking and running paths and a natural setting to escape the noise along the busy main streets. Speaking of walking: I found Silver Lake to be walkable and cycleable, something that can’t be said for all neighborhoods in this car traffic-heavy city.

I wish I would’ve had time to check out the bar scene on my visit but I guess it is good to have an excuse to come back to Silver Lake next time I’m in L.A.!

 

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Polaroid Of The Week: L.A. At My Feet

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california hollywood sign los angeles

This week I finally made it up to the famous Hollywood sign – a hike that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. After two failed attempts (traffic, cloudy skies), I found myself scrambling up the rocks to a small hill above and behind the actual sign, which me and my hiking buddy reached after about an hour’s walk, just in time for a brilliant sunset. You can’t get to the sign by car, the only way to get up, close and personal with these giant white letters that have become an American icon, is on foot or by horse, and you can’t get in front of the letters, only above them.

Funnily enough, the sign didn’t have any association with the movie industry when it was put up in 1923. Instead, it was supposed to promote local real estate during a time when the Hollywood Hills weren’t the prime real estate location that they are today. Back then it still read Hollywoodland. After years of deterioration, Hugh Hefner started a fundraiser to save the sign, and $250,000 were raised to restore the sign that had fallen into disrepair.

It used to be a bit tricky to get up to the sign until a few years ago, unless you were a local and knew your way around. The Trust For Public Land, that is in charge of protecting the sign and the surrounding lands, has made it much easier now to find the right paths and not get lost in the relatively remote and rugged southern side of Mount Lee, on which the sign is located. There are now several hiking routes: the Mt Hollywood Trail (short and moderately difficult), the Canyon Drive Trail (longest route), and the Cahuenga Peak Trail (the shortest, but most challenging). We took a shorter version of the Mt Hollywood Trail, which can be started at the Griffith Observatory (3.5 miles round trip) or at Sunset Ranch at the northern end of N Beachwood Drive. The ranch offers guided horse rides up the sign, by the way.

The hike is pleasant, with sweeping views over parts of L.A., Glendale and The Valley from various viewpoints along the way – but the star of the show, the sign itself, stays out of sight for the most part. We started our hike at Sunset Ranch, but next time I’d start at the Griffith Observatory for a longer hike and better views of the sign itself.

When you get to the sign, the most astonishing thing is seeing how big these letters actually are: each letter is 45 feet tall (14 meters) and all of them next to each other are 350 feet (110 meters) long! My height compared to it: 5.8 feet.

If you’re thinking about climbing the security fences that fence off the sign, be warned: the charges are no joke. Trespassers face a $1000 fine, restitution to the City agencies involved in the trespasser’s arrest, a one-year probation period and 20 days on a Cal Trans highway crew.

You can find more information on the hikes to the Hollywood sign here.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Gregos Street Art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn williamsburg gregos street artMy last week in New York (for now) rolled around, and so I decided to take some time off and not hide behind my laptop the whole time, which is what I had done pretty much all month. Instead, I made time to hang out with friends and enjoyed a few more of my favorite summer activities in New York – cycling, sunset picnics, food markets and al fresco dinners (on a rooftop no less!). This year, I also got to kayak on the East River, something I’d been wanting to do for the past two summers. It was just as awesome as I expected it to be, and was a good reminder that I need to get into a kayak more often (the last time I was in a kayak was in May in Austin).

And I went on a street art walk in Williamsburg, hunting down some new graffiti pieces and murals, which I love doing, no matter if I’m in New York or in Bangkok or Buenos Aires. A highlight of that day was stumbling upon a Gregos face – exactly a month after stumbling upon one in Berlin. I was excited when I read in July on Gregos’ Facebook Page that he had just finished a project in NYC during which he plastered his face in 3D 74 times all over the city. I couldn’t wait to see some of them, but it took me nearly a month to spot one (and it should be the only one I got to see)! I’ve seen his faces (actually his very own face, always molded with varying expressions) in Berlin and London, and am hoping to find one in L.A. where I am right now.

The French street artist started his ‘face art’ in Paris, then plastered them all over cities across France, and finally ventured beyond his home country with stints in places like Japan, Malta, Brazil and Greece. Sometimes his faces are smiling, sometimes they’re sticking out their tongue, sometimes they look sad – and they’re always painted in different colors. Some are just glued onto a wall, others incorporate the surrounding wall into the piece, resulting in completely unique artwork. Check out the list of cities where you can find his faces (there are over 1,000 now) – maybe there’s one near you! If you spot one, share a photo of it on my Facebook Page 🙂

For a more detailed look at everything I got up to in August, check out my monthly round-up: Life Lately & Upcoming Travels; August 2016 Edition.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Cheers To Summer In New York City

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city central park sunsetThis past week was all about Central Park! I was staying a couple of blocks away from New York’s largest (and most famous) park, and so I ended up there for one reason or another every single day. There were runs in the park (it was Central Park, by the way, where I became a serious runner and finished my first race in 2010), several writing sessions on a blanket in the sun (those are the times when i love being a freelancer), a picnic and tour of the park which I shared on Snapchat (my ID is mariposa2711) and, pictured above, an epic sunset session with cheese and wine, a game of boule and a catch-up with my fellow travel bloggers Caroline and Kristin.

As much as I love Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, close to which I’m usually staying, the majestic feel of Central Park is just unrivaled: The views over Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the rocks or from Sheep Meadow (best enjoyed with a cookie from Levain Bakery on 74th and a coffee from Le Pain Quotidienne inside the park, just behind Sheep Meadow), Belvedere Castle and the nearby Shakespeare Garden, the Conservatory Flower Garden, the many lakes and ponds, (including the turtle-filled and aptly named Turtle Pond, my favorite!), hidden waterfalls, the symmetry of the Mall and Bethesda Terrace with its gorgeous tile work. Of course Prospect Park has similar things to offer, the beautiful boathouse for example, the wilderness trails that are not unlike Central Park’s northern forest, an ice rink, but if I had to pick a favorite, Central Park would win!

Have you been to both parks? Which one is your favorite?

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Polaroid of the week: Outdoor cinema in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn bridge park outdoor movie

Click here for the soundtrack to this post 🙂

The past week has been all about work; the most I got to see of New York was during my runs: Brooklyn Bridge Park with its stunning Manhattan views, across the Brooklyn Bridge (with even better views), the lovely Red Hook neighborhood with its pier and great vistas of the Statue Of Liberty, running in Riverside Park alongside Hudson River and in Central Park. I took a break on Thursday to finally enjoy an outdoor movie – one of the 28 things I love about summer in New York City are the free outdoor movies all over the city – and couldn’t have chosen a better time for a break away from my laptop: a beautiful summer night, A League Of Their Own, good company, a lovely picnic and watching the sunset over the Manhattan skyline.

That night was a nice walk down memory lane in three different ways: This Used To Be My Playground, the theme song of the movie, was the first Madonna song that really got me hooked on her music (I liked her 80s stuff, but it was a bit too pop-y for me), and was the song that started her ‘ballad phase’ – over the next couple of years, she would release some of my all-time Madonna songs, like Rain, Secret, I’ll Remember, Take A Bow, and finally You’ll See, which might be my all-time favorite song of hers.

The other way related to the movie that I was strolling down memory lane: Some of the baseball scenes were filmed in Wrigley Field, Chicago’s famous baseball stadium which dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest baseball parks in the U.S., which is why it was a perfect location for the movie which was set in the 1940s. I was lucky enough to watch a couple of games there during my visits to Chicago and even though I’ve been struggling to understand the game ever since I watched my first one in the suburbs of Chicago nearly ten years ago, I’ve always enjoyed being in the ballpark, taking in the cheery atmosphere of what is for me as a European a quintessential American experience, munching on peanuts and cheap nachos.

And last but not least: A couple of summers ago, I had one of the best dates nights of my life while watching an outdoor movie, and thinking back on it still puts a smile on my face.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Feelin’ beachy in New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york riis beachThis week was all about beaches – simply because it is too hot to do anything else! New York is suffering from / enjoying a heatwave – the perspective depends on who you ask, I guess, but I might be the only one who’d say this is enjoyable, and admittedly, it has been a little too hot even for my taste.

Working two jobs at the moment means I didn’t have much time to explore this week, but I managed to visit three different beaches: the small beach in Red Hook, just a short drive from where I’m staying, which is the perfect place to let my pup cool off in the water for a while, and Riis Beach in the Rockaways, where I’d been wanting to go for a long time (I’ve been to the Rockaways before, but only to another part of the beach there).

And my beachy highlight this week: Fire Island! This 32-mile-long, ¼-mile wide  strip of sand (the longest of four barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean) had been on my travel wish list for the past two summers, but somehow I never made it out there (it takes about 2.5 hours incl car & ferry ride to get there from NYC). But this week, there was the perfect opportunity to finally get my a** over to the island when a friend celebrated her birthday there. It was just a quick teaser and I didn’t get to experience any of the gay night life that Fire Island is famous for, which means I have to return soon, I guess! But the quick visit did definitely whet my appetite for more  – it was the perfect city break, and I didn’t even bring my laptop over there, which means it almost felt like a vacation to me.

If New York stays as sweltering hot as it’s been these past few days, I might need to plan another beach getaway for next week…

Newsletter subscribers: I sent out the summer edition of my Beyond the Blog newsletter last week – if you haven’t seen it in your inbox, make sure to check your spam folder. I’ve got some exclusive giveaways for newsletter subscribers which you can still enter. (If you’d like to subscribe, you can do that here)

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Polaroid Of The Week: Performance Art On Governors Island, New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city governors islandAnd just like that, two months in Europe are over and I am finding myself back in New York. As always, it felt like I had never left and I picked up right where I had left off when I said Au Revoir to New York in early June. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back in what is undoubtedly the greatest city in the world, and I started August off with a trip to Governors Island.

What was supposed to be a beachy afternoon turned into more of an entertainment trip when the beach bar I was hoping to sip a cold beverage in was closed, but we caught a compelling show by the Polish theater group PEREGRINUS instead, which involved acting, dancing of the fantastic performers, and even participating myself. The Manhattan skyline formed a picture-perfect backdrop to the performance (which got us excited for the NYC Fringe Festival later this month!) and to a relaxing day in the sun – much needed after the lackluster summer in Germany.

I am excited to be able to enjoy all the things this month that make NYC so great in the summer – open air movies, food markets and street fairs, beach time, rooftop drinks and picnics in the park. Stay tuned for more – and if you happen to be in NYC this month, let me know!

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33 things I love about Austin

austin

I spent nearly a month in Austin and I’ve already mentioned in my monthly round-up that I’ve got a huge crush on Texas’ quirky capital – who knew that a city in Texas of all places could sweep me off my feet the way that Austin did. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in the U.S. during the past 6 years, including numerous road trips that brought me to dozens of U.S. cities – but I don’t think I’ve ever declared that I am so enamored with a place that I could see myself live there – that has always been NYC’s prerogative. But I think I might want to make an exception for Austin. Why? Well, let me share 33 of the things that I love about Austin…austin texas street art

1 The food trucks

Of course, for me as a foodie, a city with dozens of food trucks is a culinary paradise. Even if I had tried to eat at a different food truck every day during my month long visit, I wouldn’t have been able to cover them all. Which means I’ll have to come back to continue my quest to try all of them. My favorite so far? Gourdough’s Big.Fat.Doughnuts. Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and I don’t eat BBQ (or any kind of meat), so it’s a dessert food truck that takes the crown (for now). If you’re visiting Austin and are wondering which food trucks are the best, here are 10 food trucks you need to visit in Austin and if you still have room for more, 17 essential food trucks in Austin.Food Trucks in Austin Texas

2 The weather

I don’t think any city could ever come close to how much I love New York, but Austin did impress me a lot – and one point where it wins over NYC is without a doubt the weather. While my friends in New York were still wearing scarfs and winter jackets at the beginning of May, I was sweating by the pool. And months of ice and snow? Not in Austin! It’s not rare to have temperatures in the 80s here during the winter months. Perfect.austin pool

3 An outdoors-y city

I read that Austin’s one of the most active cities in the US, and yes, I always saw people being active: kayaking, SUPing, swimming, rowing, climbing, running, cycling, hiking.. I love how many hiking trails there are within the city limits or just outside of them, and how many people were on the river doing some sort of water sport every weekend.austin stand up paddling

4 The Colorado River

Not only do I love the river that runs through Austin (although I could’ve done without the water snake that chased me while I was blissfully paddling on my board) but also how well developed its shores are. You can walk, run or cycle on each side for miles, there are bars and restaurants right by the water, and there are plenty of things to do on the river, as mentioned in #3. I love being by the water, and I ended up almost daily by the Colorado River – either running, walking or on the river.

Austin Colorado River Texas
I loved the lady who SUPd with her two dogs!

5 The craft beer scene

Austin has an amazing amount of craft beer bars and microbreweries – and if there’s a way to my heart, then it’s with sugar and craft beers. I loved sampling local Texan beers and micro brews from all over the US while I was in Austin, and I feel like I only scratched the surface! But I don’t think it’s impossible to ever work my way through all the beers that I can try in places like Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden or Growler (both with over 100 craft beers on tap) or the Ginger Man (with over 70 taps). If you’re looking to try some of Texas’ best brews, head to Craft Pride, with over 50 Texan beers on tap! Other favorites include: Draught House Pub & Brewery, Pinthouse Pizza, the Black Sheep Lodge and Easy Tiger.Craft Beers Austin

6 Decent pizza

After eating my way through many many of New York’s famous (and less famous, yet still fabulous) pizza joints, I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a pizza snob. So it’s understandable that I was skeptical when I tried Home Slice, a pizza place that a lot of people had raved about. But guess what: It was definitely a good pizza! And days later I came across an article that the best pizza in all of Texas was actually coming from an Austin-based place as well: Via 313. While I didn’t get around to trying it before I left (another excuse to return!!) I trust the good reviews.austin pinthouse pizza1

7 Red River music district

The Red River music district, which basically means the live music venues on Red River Road, is THE place to be on weekends if you’re into live music. There are super famous venues like Stubb’s where bands like Metallica, Vampire Weekend or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have played, but also smaller venues like Mohawk and Cheap Charlie’s which had amazing live bands and a great atmosphere every time I was there.austin musicians

8 Speakeasy bars

Yes, I have a thing for speakeasy bars, and I was thrilled when I heard that Austin had several of these semi-secret, semi-hidden cocktail bars. I am still working my way through the lists of the best speakeasy bars in Austin, but I loved the sleek cocktails at the secret bar at the W hotel’s Living Room and ultra cool Garage. For more, check out 9 secret bars in Austin and how to get into each.

9 The sunset spot in Zilker Park

Zilker Park is Austin’s largest city park and not only that – it also offers great views over Downtown Austin. I loved the views from the little hill near the Rock Island, especially around sunset, when the high rises were bathed in a golden light.austin zilker park

10 Chicken Shit Bingo

Even though I never made it to the Little Longhorn Saloon, where people gather for Chicken Shit Bingo on Sunday nights, just knowing that such thing exists made me love Austin a little more.

11 The bats

Yes, you’ve read that right: bats! And Austin is not just home to a few bats, but 1.5 million of them, apparently (which is more than the city’s human population), making it the largest urban bat colony on the planet. Most of these bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge and they fly out in huge droves every night just after sunset – a spectacular sight, because it takes over 30 minutes until all the bats have come out (you can’t help but ask yourself: where the heck are they all coming from!?). The flight of the bats is a tourist attraction, and while it gets fairly packed on top of the bridge and at a viewing area below every night, I think it is well worth joining the crowds. If you want to see this spectacle for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about the flight of the bats.austin bat watching

12 Unpretentious rooftop bars

Spending most of my time in NYC where rooftop bars usually mean feeling like sardines in a can and sipping on mediocre, overpriced drinks, I was amazed to see how wonderfully unpretentious Austin’s rooftop bars were. Sure, they’re lacking the views over Manhattan’s skyline, but Austin’s downtown buildings aren’t ugly either – especially lit up at night. The bars were barely ever crowded, not even on weekend nights, and drinks were reasonably priced. Some of my favorite spots were the Handle Bar, the Hangar Lounge and The Market.hangar bar austin

13 Apartment complexes with kayak docks

Austin has the already mentioned Colorado River (#4), and it seems like many Austinites appreciate the river just as much as I did, with a lot of locals having their own kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. I loved that when I walked by the apartment complexes right by the river, I discovered that not only do almost all of them have communal swimming pools (you hear that, NYC?) and BBQ areas, but also kayak docks right outside the apartments, and often there were kayak storage racks on the property. Being used to tiny New York apartments, where storing a bicycle can already be difficult, let alone a kayak!, I promised myself that if I ever move to Austin, it would be in one of those buildings, and I’d buy a kayak right away.austin kayakers

14 The thriving coffee shop scene

As someone who doesn’t only love coffee, but works remotely and thus spends a lot of time in coffee shops, I was over the moon when I discovered that Austin had a number of excellent ones! And one thing I particularly enjoyed: that most of them doubled as bars, like one of my favorites, Radio Coffee & Beer or Halcyon. There were too many coffee shops to try (here are 12 worth a visit) – another reason why I need to go back!halcyon coffee bar

15 Rainey Street

It seemed like 6th Street, Austin’s main bar drag, was frequented mainly by tourists, while the locals preferred other spots, such as the bars on Rainey Street which always attracted a large crowd of Austinites. The bars there are housed in little historic bungalows which have been fixed up and converted into cocktail bars. Most of them have big porches and/or backyards, which served as dance floors later at night. Plus, some of my favorite bars are on this street: the already mentioned Banger’s and Craft Pride, as well as the Container Bar, Javelina and Blackheart.austin blackheart bar

16 Pinball Arcades

One quirky thing about Austin are its old-fashioned pinball arcades – something I’ve never seen anywhere in this form: Large rooms filled with pinball machines, lined up side by side, ranging from vintage Metallica or Indiana Jones themed games to brand new Iron Man themed ones. Apparently such arcades used to be ubiquitous all over the U.S., but there are barely any left. Not in Austin though, where you can still spend a fun evening of pinball-ing and other games for only a few dollars in one of the city’s games arcades, most famously Pinballz. If you want to join the Pinball & gaming fun, here are five Austin arcades worth visiting.

17 Live music galore

I knew that Austin was a famous live music spot, but I had no idea that it had so many music venues. I got my fair share of live music performances while I was in the city and would come back for those alone. If you’re visiting Austin and want to enjoy some live music, check out this list of the 10 Best Places For Live Music in Austin (an excellent list) or The Guardian’s Top Ten Live Music Venues In Austin.austin live music texas

18 Public transportation

Okay, Austin’s public transportation is probably not perfect but it served me well. I happened to be in town when Uber and Lyft waved goodbye to Austin and wasn’t sure how I’d get around on boozy nights out after their departure. One of my friends told me that buses were actually pretty good, running all night and only costing $1.25 a ride, or $2.50 for a day ticket. Like I said – whenever I needed to use public transportation, it was fast and easy – something I can’t say about all of the US cities I’ve visited. (That said, I was happy to have a car during my time in Austin because most places are very spread out).

19 Barton Springs Pool

This massive pool is over three times longer than a football field (amazing if you want to swim some laps) and is fed by Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest natural spring in Texas. Austinites pay only $3, and you can stay as long as you want. It is the perfect place for a refreshing dip on a hot Texan summer day.barton springs pool

20 The Alamo Drafthouse

I know, a movie theater that has full restaurant service isn’t something that you find only in Austin, but I love that there are four (!) Alamo Drafthouses, and I thought that the beer menu was larger than the beer menu of some bars I’ve been to (not in Austin, of course!). Plus, some of the theaters seemed fairly new, which I appreciated after spending way too many evenings in New York’s one and only comparable cinema, the old and worn Nitehawk Cinema (note: If the rumors are true, Downtown Brooklyn will get an Alamo Drafthouse in 2016!). The best events in an Alamo Drafthouse theater aren’t the regular movies, by the way, but the sing-alongs, (80s and 90s themed? Yes!!) and quote-alongs.

21 Eeyore’s Birthday Party

A city that celebrates Eeyore’s birthday (yes, Eeyore as in Winnie the Pooh’s best friend!) in the form of a hippie festival – my kind of city, no question. At this festival, held in Pease Park on the last Saturday in April, you find hippies, weirdoes, kids, grandparents, and pretty much anyone who likes to dress up for a day. Everyone comes together to enjoy live music, games, food and drinks – and this has been happening since 1963!austin hope outdoor gallery1

22 Keep Austin Weird

That’s the city’s motto, so I don’t think I need to say more. But just a few things to show you how weird Austin is: #21, Eeysore’s Birthday Party, is a great example, but there is also a Museum of The Weird, a Cathedral of Junk, and for some reason, lamp posts that carry stuffed animals, a Christmas-themed bar (Lala’s Little Nugget), and the Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata (another museum full of weird stuff, run by a family and housed in a private home).Keep Austin Weird

23 There’s art… lots of it!

I love art, and frequent art galleries and museums on a regular basis. That’s why I was excited to discover that Austin has quite a few places that are a must for art lovers: the Blanton Museum Of Art, the Mexic-Arte Museum, the Jones Center (Contemporary Art, but currently undergoing renovations), the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and last but not least the trendy Yard Dog art gallery.austin umlauf sculpture garden

24 Doug Sahm Hill

Take a date there to marvel at the skyline of Downtown Austin and try NOT to fall in love (with your date or with Austin, I’ll leave that up to you). One of the most romantic moments I had was on Doug Sahm Hill. For a similarly awesome view check out Lou Neff Point, right on the river, where I took the picture below.austin sunset1

25 Bike Sharing

Any city that has a bike sharing system is a good city, and Austin is no exception. Plus, Austin is a bike-friendly city in general but for visitors who want to use them: Bcycles can be rented for $8 per day with an unlimited number of 30-minute rides, or $15 for three days which is perfect for anyone who’s spending a weekend in Austin!

downtown austin with river
You can cycle along the river for miles and miles

26 Festivals

Austin is a city of festivals – In addition to Eeyore’s big birthday bash (#21), the city celebrates music – of course most importantly SXSW (see #33), but there are also a great number of other music festivals (like Austin City Limits), plus festivals dedicated to spam, hot sauce, kites,.. to name just a few. And then there are festivals like the Louisiana Swamp Thing and Crawfish Festival, the Austin Rodeo, various street festivals and so much more.

27 Cheap Parking

Yes, this is another one that comes from my NYC perspective, but being used to seeing signs advertising 30-minute parking for ‘only’ roughly $11 (yes, Manhattan, I’m talking about you!), I was delighted to find cheap parking everywhere around the city. I think the most I paid was $1.25 per hour, and I even got to park for free (for two hours) right by the river for my daily workouts and also on 6th Street, the touristy bar drag of Austin – mind blown! Imagine pulling up right by Central Park or on Broadway and not having to pay for it.

Austin downtown texas
Cheap downtown parking… what’s not to love?!

28 Hope Outdoor Gallery

I love street art, and I appreciated the big murals around Austin, but my favorite place for graffiti was the Hope Outdoor Gallery, an abandoned construction site turned ‘paint park’. What was supposed to become a condominium complex but was never finished is now a concrete wasteland covered in colorful graffiti, tags and murals, with aspiring artists coming here to practice their skills. I love the concept, and you can pretty much always look over an artist’s shoulder while he or she is working on a piece.Austin Hope outdoor gallery Texas

29 The Highball karaoke bar

This is not just your regular ol’ karaoke bar – this is a karaoke bar that will turn even the biggest karaoke grinch into an enthusiastic singer. The Highball is famous for its themed rooms (there are seven of them), including a Black Lodge (of Twin Peaks fame), a scary room (think The Shining), or a satanic room for Black Metal lovers. I don’t even like karaoke, but kinda wanted to move in there!

30 Voodoo Doughnut

Even though Voodoo Doughnut was born in Portland, their Austin branch is nothing short of amazing and deserves a mention (I am obviously a huge doughnut fan, see #1). What surprised me the most wasn’t how delicious the donuts were but how cheap they were! Thanks for keeping your prices adequate, Voodoo, even in what I guess must be a pricey location right in the center of it all on 6th Street.Austin Voodoo Doughnut TexasIf you prefer savory over sweet, you might want to change #30 to breakfast tacos, which were perfected in Austin. These days, you can get a breakfast taco in too many places to try them all, but if you’re up for a challenge, Austin Eater recommends 24 essential breakfast tacos in Austin to work your way through.

31 Proximity to nature trails

I’ve already mentioned that Austinites are outdoorsy people, but the possibilities for hikes and other activities don’t stop at Austin’s city limits – there are so many things to do around Austin, I don’t think I’d ever get bored! If you need a break from the city, some of the nature trails around Austin you can escape to are the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Pedernales Falls, Hamilton Pool, McKinney Falls State Park, Bastrop State Park or Lake Travis.austin nature trails texasYou’re not into hiking? No problem! There’s plenty of other stuff to do around Austin: the Texas Hill Country which is great for road trips and has several wineries which can be toured, or San Marcos where you can float in a tube on the San Marcos River for hours.Austin Lake Travis

32 Avocado Margaritas

Need I say more?! I love avocados and I’m never one to turn down a margarita – combine those two and you know you’ll have me at ‘hello’ 😉 There are several restaurants and bars that offer this fine drink these days, but the very best avocado margarita can be enjoyed at Curra’s Grill, an institution in Austin’s Tex-Mex food scene and home of the original avocado margarita! If you don’t like the idea of avocado in your drink, don’t worry: there are plenty of other margaritas on the menu, and everything is so affordable. And it’s not only at Curra’s – I was generally overjoyed when I paid for my margaritas, which is about half of what I pay for a margarita in NYC.

austin craft beers
Because I didn’t take any margarita pictures… here’s one of the many beer flights I consumed in Austin.

33 SWSX

Yes, SWSX might be an industry event, but nonetheless it is one of the biggest music festivals in the US, with over 2,000 artists performing across 90 venues during four days in March. As a music lover, I love the whole idea behind SWSX and every year I find at least one new artist in the festival line-up that I adore (in recent years Emily Wolfe, Courtney Barnett, Sylvan Esso, Soak and Låpsley).austin street art

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Polaroid of the week: Street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city bushwick street artWhen I arrived in New York last week, I was told that I had brought summer with me. Apparently, it had been cold and rainy most of the spring until the weekend of my arrival – and hearing this made me feel reassured again about having spent all of May in Austin (in case you haven’t noticed yet – I’ve got a major case of FOMO and ‘scarifying’ a month in New York for four weeks in Austin wasn’t an easy decision for me to make!). To be honest, I was considering extending my stay in Austin for another three weeks (yes, I loved it that much – more on that to come next week) but then my travel plans were changed by circumstances beyond my control (more on that soon).

And that’s why I ended up spending only eight days in my adopted home. Knowing that my time in New York would be short and sweet, the goal was to make the most of it. This meant: make sure to have a decent New York bagel (check), have a pizza at Roberta’s (check, and it was so worth nearly missing my flight for it! Still my favorite pizza spot in NYC.), see some new street art in Bushwick, go to Smorgasburg for some street food, see the spring blossoms in Central Park, catch up with friends. Well these were all the things I that I managed to fit in – my actual list was, as usual, much more ambitious than what I could actually fit into a short week, but I also managed to fit in a daily run in Prospect Park, bike rides through Brooklyn, I checked out a brunch place I’ve wanted to go to for a while (Cheryl’s Global Soul, thumbs up). It felt amazing to be ‘home’, to see my friends, just to be part of life in the Big Apple again.

What else did I get up to? I checked out a few new ‘coffices‘, had two wild nights out, soaked up the sun in Madison Square Park, made time for a stroll through the West Village (one of my favorite neighborhoods), and I even ended up at Dominique Ansel Kitchen (unplanned, which made it even better), which is a pastry lover’s dream, and where I last went for a birthday treat last winter, for a chocolate nutella swirl croissant (just as indulgent as it sounds) and scoped out a couple of Middle Eastern places I hadn’t been to yet (thumbs up for both Taim and Kulushkat.

The last two got me excited for my next destination: the next Polaroid Of The Week will be coming to you from BERLIN (where I’ll be stuffing myself with as much Middle Eastern food as possible for eight glorious days and welcome a very special visitor).

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset over Austin, Texas

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas austin sunsetI have to apologize if I’m getting on your nerves with my constant ravings about Austin – I’ve already sang the city’s praises here and here – and if that’s not enough, here are 33 things I love about Austin. I can’t stop gushing about Texas’ quirky capital. I arrived in New York last week and have been enthusiastically talking about how great Austin is ever since my plane touched down here, almost forgetting that I’m in my favorite city in the world.

But my last week in Austin was a great one, and I finally got the local introduction to the city that I had hoped for: from someone who had lived in Austin for many years and knew the city inside out. Together, we hit up some of East Austin’s coolest bars (including the fabulous Weather Up bar, which I learned had a branch in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, just around the corner from where I lived two years ago – not sure how I had missed that place back then!), I was introduced to the magic of pinball arcades (I need to bring them to NYC – so much fun!), finally watched a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse while enjoying craft beers and a surprisingly tasty meal, wishing I could always enjoy restaurant service and booze in a movie theater (apparently Brooklyn is getting an Alamo Drafthouse in a few weeks – I am excited!), and had a midnight diner meal at the Magnolia Cafe which came to fame thanks to the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

And then my last night rolled around, and my love affair with Austin came to an abrupt end. It ended on a high note, however: after the weather had been pretty bad all week, with lots of rain, thunderstorms and even flooding, the sun came out again for my last evening in town. I went for my usual evening run along the Colorado River and was rewarded with this sunset – making me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. Austin, I’ll definitely be back – thank you for the amazing time!

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