Our RV Park in Austin was buzzing with when we arrived – University of Texas and West Virginia were playing and there were flags and banners fluttering for both teams. We watched the first quarter as we were in a sports bar having dinner, both teams looked good, West Virginia won.We are now in what’s known as the hill country of Texas and yes there are a few hills but these people have never been to San Francisco where the hills are serious. Austin is the political Capitol of Texas and they boast that the Capitol building is the biggest Capitol building outside of Washington. They sure like to boast that everything is bigger in Texas but we haven't noticed, except for the men's hats. We took an official tour of the Capitol; the rotunda has a lone star on the floor mirrored by another lone star on the dome ceiling 683ft above. We were heartened to learn that Texans acknowledge that the Spanish and the French also have a history in Texas. In the Senate Chamber there are two very large paintings “the battle of San Jacinto” and “Santa Anna’s surrender to Houston” by an Irish immigrant Henry Arthur McArdle. McArdle made it his life’s work to research the history and work on the paintings which took him over 25 years to complete. Afterwards, we walked the park in a lovely setting at the top of Congress Road which surrounds the building; bronze statues tell the history of Texas and right in front of the building there are statues acknowledging the Confederate troops; Adele walked around it twice to make sure. Then we walked down 6th Street which is full of Bars; as this was in broad daylight somehow it did not make for a good pub atmosphere. We had a nice Mexican meal on 6th in a restaurant which met our criteria - if it’s busy then the food must be good.
The next day we drove west through the Hill Country to Fredericksburg for lunch. Settled by German immigrants in 1846 it is a cute little town with, as expected, many German names on businesses; we had a delicious German lunch in Bierhaus on the main street. Fredericksburg’s most famous son is WW 11 hero Admiral Nimitz who is memorialized in a museum; the town also has a museum to the war in the Pacific. There are a number of wineries in the area yet it is celebrated as the biggest peach growing area in Texas. The original Germans, mostly professionals and city dwellers, sailed to the Gulf and then had to walk through swamp and forest to get to Fredericksburg as all transport was taken for the Mexican American war. Comanche Indians attacked the immigrants and stole their children. The immigrants persisted and ultimately agreed a peace treaty with the Indians which is confirmed in history as the only peace treaty (with the Indians) that has never broken. Other Texans invited all the Indian Chiefs to peace talks, not allowing them any weapons, then when they could not agree to the their terms the Texans pulled out their guns and shot every one of the Indians.
A Duck tour of Austin occupied our time the following day; a great idea! We had a wonderful guide who had a great sense of humor, starting off by giving each passenger a duck quacking beak, we had fun blowing at everyone and anything. We had the usual tour full of local history, color and information on celebrities. Particular mention was made of O Henry whom we had heard of but had never read any of his work, now we must. A local code is that no building may be taller than the top of the Capitol which is cleverly observed by developers of some very nice modern downtown skyscrapers – the building height is mere inches lower than the very top of the statue on the dome of the Capitol. Another nice feature are the old lighting towers that are in continuous use since the 19th century. Afterwards we had our dinner in the beautiful Driskill Hotel built in 1886 by Colonel Jesse Driskill a cattle baron. The hotel has kept all its character including cut glass doors, stained glass domed ceilings, beaten tin ceiling tiles, and a spectacular staircase. The exterior is Romanesque with a bust of Colonel Driskill above the roof, the story is that he lost the hotel in a game of poker and now his ghost haunts the hotel looking for the fellow who won the hotel. Another ghost story is of a little girl who was bouncing a ball and fell down the stairs and died she now haunts the 2nd floor Ladies powder room and the stairs.
LBJ kept a suite in the Driskill when he was in Congress. Texans are real proud of LBJ as he is the only home grown Texan President of the US; they consider the Bush family as “blow ins“ - we were quite tickled by that. We had hoped to tour the University of Texas but as parking was by permit only we had to settle for a car tour; what can we say is its big, vibrant with lots of students and is a very nice campus. One other thing we’ve noticed in this part of Texas is that almost all buildings are either built of or faced with a local stone, private houses included, the stone is a pink sandstone and makes for very pretty buildings.