Monday, March 27, 2017

Day Trip: Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Last weekend, in keeping with our life goal to visit every drive-through animal park in America, we decided to head down to New Braunfels, which is near San Antonio and less than an hour from Austin, to visit the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. I sort of kid about this being our life goal, but sort of not. There was a place near us when we lived in Missouri called the Wild Animal Safari, and I'm 100% sure it was not legal. But it was also the greatest place on Earth. You could drive through and the animals were always hungry enough to run up to your car and stick their heads in. You could also purchase raw chicken at the front desk to stick on the end of a pole and feed to tigers, who would often fight over it. Like I said, probably not legal.

Anyway, thus began our fascination with wild animal parks, and here we are. The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is much classier, larger, and probably more regulated than the Wild Animal Safari, which made for a fun day, but sadly not as many animal heads in the car. This was fine with Peter, who was mainly concerned with keeping any form of antlers away from the car, but Ali and I were trying to lure the animals as close as possible, naturally.

These deer totally DGAF that we were driving a few feet away holding some form of pellet food out to them. 
Looking slightly more interested...
Finally, some cow/deer hybrid thing made its way up to our car and Ali way overjoyed. 
Not entirely sure what these were, but they weren't too interested in us. Kind of the theme of the day. Part of our problem, I think, was that we visited the park on a Sunday during what we later figured out was spring break for most Texas schools. There was a legitimate traffic jam at one point, complete with a fender bender, so maybe the animals were a bit overfed on this particular day.
So pretty...whatever it is! Peter was especially concerned with this guy getting close to the car.
Ali was especially concerned with him walking away.
The classic giraffe exhibit.
Some more unidentified species hanging out. This places was HUGE and had some really pretty areas to drive through.

All in all, the day trip was totally worth it. The landscape was so pretty, and so were the animals, even though they weren't that concerned with us! There's some sort of cave attraction just next door to the wildlife ranch, so you know we'll be back to check it out.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Weekending: Franklin BBQ and SXSW

Hello, friends! I'm bringing you a few pictures from the last couple of weekends, including an epic trip to Franklin BBQ, and our first adventure at South by Southwest, which is currently in full swing in Austin.

The weather has been gross. We've gotten a lot of rain lately and it's been hideously humid at times. We've actually had plans to go to one of those drive-through animal parks for at least four Sundays in a row now, and it's been raining every single week, so we've been putting it off. A couple weeks ago, we decided to make use of the gloomy Sunday and finally try out the legendary Franklin Barbeque. This place is world-famous, at least that's what they say, and regularly has a two-plus hour wait, hence why we haven't tried it up until a couple weeks ago. We hoped the rain would keep the line short, but of course, that was wishful thinking. 

This was the line when we got there. Apparently, those at the front had been camped out since 6 am. Nope. No thank you. I'm not sure there's anything in the world I would camp out at 6 am for, to be honest. Other than maybe Taylor Swift. Maybe. 

 Our plate. It was pretty amazing, I must say.

Franklin is in a little run-down building in an up-and-coming part of town. Read: janky. We arrived around 10:30 am, and I'm pretty sure we sat down to eat around 12:45 pm. So, yes, it was a long wait. But we all had books downloaded on our phones, and they had foldable chairs to sit in so it wasn't so bad. Was it worth it? I'd say if you LOVE barbecue (Peter) and want to try out one of the most famous joints, then yes! If you're like me, and like barbecue but aren't that big on all the hype, then it's something that's fun to do once, but I'm not sure I need to go back. One of Ali's coworkers swears that it's overrated, and the 'real' BBQ is in east Texas. We might be making a pilgrimage out that way one of these days. Peter is pretty obsessed with barbecue and doesn't believe that anything better than Franklin's exists. I'll keep you posted.

Next up: a pilgrimage to Round Rock Donuts. I'm noticing that we make a lot of food pilgrimages. The big draw with this place is that it was featured on Man Vs. Food and sells a 'Texas-sized donut' which of course we ordered. It was amazing, and I'm sad to say that we finished it within two days. Did we each probably gain 10 pounds? Yes. Do we regret it? No.
 Here's another picture for scale.

Food pilgrimage #2 of last weekend was a trip to the new Sprinkles cupcake ATM at the Domain. The fact that this exists proves that there is a God. 

Speaking of food, because when am I not, Stitch Fix feeds us like queens. We get a catered lunch every Wednesday, and then catered snacks that are pretty much a full meal at least twice a week. I don't know that I've packed more than a handful of lunches from home since I've started working there because there is always so. much. food. The other day our lunch was salmon, roasted cauliflower, asparagus, and potato wedges. It was AMAZING. 

And that bring us to this weekend, which we kicked off at our local brewery, St. Elmo Brewing Co. This place has the CUTEST outdoor space, and some really good beer that I don't absolutely hate, which is saying something. It was pretty packed, but we found a table outside and played Uno for awhile. Ali LOVES games. She's one of the most intense gamers I know. Not like video games, but actual games. 


On Sunday, we decided to venture out to South by Southwest to see what all the fuss was about. All week, more and more people were descending on the downtown area. On my walk to work on Friday, I felt like I was in some alternate universe filled with hipsters wearing lanyards dressed totally inappropriately for the weather. The last couple of days have actually been pretty chilly, but that hasn't stopped some of the hardcore festival goers from acting like it's summer. I was so fed up with these types roaming the streets and making my commute to work more miserable than usual, that on Friday evening, a lanyard-wearing hipster ran straight into me while staring down at his phone, followed almost immediately by a large cockroach running straight into my shoe. I decided I'd rather be bumped into by the roach. I kid, sort of.

Sunday was cold, so it did keep some of the crowds at bay. I think this is the 'interactive' portion of the festival (whatever that means), and later this week and weekend is primarily the music portion. We didn't purchase a pass, partly because they're upwards of $1,500 and partly because we're not cool enough. 

We did wander around and collect free food and drinks, though! Here we are at the maple syrup party at PF Changs, where they gave out maple-flavored cotton candy, free drinks, and free maple-glazed donuts and chicken wings. It was a definite win, especially because lots of these events are badge-only, meaning we couldn't get in and could only gaze at all the free stuff from afar (I'm looking at you, Twitter and Pinterest parties). 

We avoided downtown and focused mainly on Rainey Street, which had some really cool setups, like this 'awesome' word art.
There is an app called Gro, devoted to gardening, that sponsored one of the food truck parks. If you downloaded their app, they'd give you a token worth $5 to spend at one of the trucks. Ali and I combined our tokens and split this ridiculously amazing macaroni and cheese sandwich at the Burro grilled cheese truck.

We also got avocado bowls from a cool ATM-like machine at the Avocado Mexico stand (food ATMs must be a thing right now), but I was too busy eating to take any actual pictures. We will definitely pick another day or two to roam around. It's kind of like a State Fair for tech and music companies, and there's definitely fun to be had even without a badge. Also, you can RSVP to events as they become available and then stand in line and try to get in. To be honest, it's all a little bit confusing and under the radar. There's not a published list, at least that I've seen, that lays out where and when things are happening. I think that's intentional, but also a bit bewildering for those of us who really have no idea what this whole thing is about. 

Oh, and no celebrity sightings yet. On Friday, Ali and I met outside of our buildings to walk around for a few minutes, and there was a lot going on at the Paramount Theatre right next door to us. After returning back to work, a few of my coworkers came running in all excited that they had just seen Ryan Gosling arriving at the theatre. Ali and I missed him by a matter of minutes, apparently. We'll keep creeping, and you'll definitely see a picture if we catch a glimpse of anyone famous. 

I'm working from home all week, because of the traffic and general madness downtown, so I'll probably have some time to post again this week! 


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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