It's a cold and rainy day in London today, so now seems the right time to reminisce on my recent trip to sunny and warm Austin.
I went to Austin for a mix of work and leisure. We decided to locate our US HQ in Austin and recruit a local team for Accomable - to be led by the amazing Heather Kerstetter. I also have several friends and family there too, who I haven't seen for a while.
So anyway, I thought I'd share my experiences of Austin in terms of the great, the good, the bad and the annoying; and some basic details of the resources used.
1. Where did I stay?
At the La Quinta Austin Capitol.
2. What did you think of it?
It was ok-ish. Its pretty functional, has the basics and is in a very convenient location. The room was a little cramped but the bathroom was nice and big; and had a roll-in shower. However, see the paragraph 10 below "the annoying" on my experience on the first night and having to move hotels.
3. How did you get there and who did you travel with?
A direct flight from London Heathrow to Austin International on British Airways.
4. How was the flight experience?
Pretty meh. To be honest, I've always preferred Virgin Atlantic to British Airways, but unfortunately, Virgin don't fly to Austin. Arranging assistance with Virgin is always faster and easier than BA, and their staff just seem to understand the needs of disabled customers much more. But while a little disorganised, everything went pretty smoothly.
5. What equipment did you take?
6. Did you hire anything locally?
Yes, an adapted wheelchair accessible van from United Access. These guys were just super helpful and plain awesome.
7. The great
I really LOVED Austin! Its a super cool and fun place with great weather this time of year. If you're a foodie like me, then Austin is just amazing and has options ranging from low cost (but high quality) food trucks to more high-end restaurants. Moreover, Austin is home to a ton of cool music, but given its home to the SXSW festival, this is no surprise!
I also had a great time on our "Texan cultural weekend" where we went to a traditional Texan rodeo, a cattle ranch and gun range (yes, I tried a rifle! Pretty nuts, right?!). While it was a little surreal to see a side of the US that was pretty alien to me, we found people to be incredibly welcoming, friendly and the complete opposite of the usual Texan rural stereotypes you hear about.
Even though I felt naturally at home in hipster and techie-centric Austin, I'm really glad we explored a very different side to Texan life.
8. The good
Most things in Austin were accessible and it was pretty easy to get around in our van. While buses were wheelchair accessible, the coverage across the city didn't seem great.
There were plenty of hotels to choose from that had adapted rooms - however, Austin is a bit a of an economic boomtown at the moment; and prices aren't cheap.
9. The bad
Pavements in Austin were pretty badly potholed! While driving my wheelchair, I always had to keep an eye on the ground to avoid a bumpy ride!
10. The annoying
While it had nothing to do with Austin, on the night we landed, the hotel we originally booked (also a La Quinta) didn't tell me that the room reserved for me was undergoing maintenance. There weren't any other adapted rooms available; and after a 10 hour plane journey and then a 1 hour taxi ride, this is the most annoying thing to hear, when all you want to do is get some sleep. While the staff at La Quinta were very helpful, apologetic and managed to find me alternative accommodation (at another La Quinta in a better location), this was a terrible inconvenience!
Despite this annoyance, I loved Austin and strongly recommend it to anyone wanting to visit somewhere different and away from usual conventional tourist places.
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