‘Shorts? That is Texas‘mates!’ The ranch hand eyed me suspiciously, impervious to the 100-degree heat in his double-leg jeans.
If I were anywhere else in the Lone Star State, I’d worry about being challenged to a showdown at High Noon any minute.
But this is Austin, home of Virgin Atlantic’s newest US route, and a city that challenges any misconceptions of America’s second largest state that JR Ewing or John Wayne might have given you.
Cormac Connelly-Smith explored Austin (above), Texas, a city that “beats with a whimsical, individual spirit.”
Austin is home to Virgin Atlantic’s newest US route, operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (left). Shown at right is the Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner’s full-size cabin
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like Texas at all, from the verdant banks of the Colorado River that flows through town to the awesome, eye-catching street art that adorns South Congress Avenue’s Boujee vintage shops.
Coding, not livestock, is big business here. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have both built shiny new headquarters, and the city is teeming with smartphone-loving tech pioneers.
The commerce has led to a boom in high-end, all-glass downtown hotels. We stayed at the Fairmont, not far from the vibrant nightlife of Rainey Street, with a beautiful rooftop pool.
However, it would be unfair to describe Austin as some kind of soulless Silicon Valley in a Stetson.
It slams with a quirky, individual spirit, embodied in the unofficial motto “Keep Austin strange,” and backed by its proudly liberal politics — you won’t find Trump stickers here.
‘Once in a while [Austin] doesn’t feel like Texas at all, from the verdant banks of the Colorado River (above, under the Pennybacker Bridge) flowing through the city, to the awesome, eye-catching street art lining the South Congress’ Boujee vintage shops avenue decorates. writes Cormac
Cormac stayed at the Fairmont (pictured), which is not far from the vibrant nightlife of Rainey Street
One of the guest suites at the Fairmont Austin, which Cormac says has a “wonderful rooftop pool.”
Avoid the noisy walk-in bars on ‘Dirty’ 6th Street and instead sway your hips at the Continental Club (left) on South Congress Avenue and legendary blues joint Antone’s (right) on East 5th
Live music is a way of life and the city really comes alive when the sun goes down and the hot Texas night is flooded with the sounds of country, blues and rock.
Avoid the noisy walk-in bars on ‘Dirty’ 6th Street and instead sway your hips at more established music venues like the Continental Club on South Congress Avenue or legendary blues joint Antone’s on East 5th.
After a night of dancing, a breakfast burrito, a combination of cheese, potato and egg in a tortilla wrap, is simply a must, topped with a fiery salsa that wakes you up better than any coffee.
Allens Boots is a trading center for everything you need to live out your Wild West fantasy, from Stetsons to cowboy boots. Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Head to Franklin, the city’s most famous smokehouse, to enjoy brisket — according to Cormac, it’s “a mouth-watering delight.” Pictured at right is a plate of Franklin food. Devotees queue for hours to be served
Then there’s the brisket, which is slow grilled over low heat for up to 15 hours, a charred mess of pure, melt-in-the-mouth delight.
Trailers queue for hours in Franklin (franklinbbq.com), the city’s most famous smokehouse.
Of course, it would be a shame to visit Texas without at least some cowboy fun.
The wonderful Allens Boots (allensboots.com) is a trading hub for everything you need to live out your Wild West fantasy, from authentic Stetsons to rows of gleaming cowboy boots.
And once you have the outfit, go to the Lone Star Ranch (lonestarranchtexas.com) on the outskirts of Austin, where the team of friendly Cowpokes will teach you all the lassoing and horse-whispering skills you need to compete on the open course.
Even if you arrive in shorts.
Virgin Atlantic return flights from Heathrow to Austin are from £516 in Economy, from £817 in Premium and from £2,014 in Upper Class. Visit www.virginatlantic.com.