Christmas Eve in Austin

Christmas Eve dawned crisp and clear, warm enough for capris. Headed for the att phone company downtown which turned out to be across from the Market and Seattle’s Best Coffee. Was treated to a really superior salesman who handled everything related to my phone with style and grace and went over to have a coffee and pastry while waiting. Looked over our list of the 10 best things to do in Austin and tried to plan the day accordingly. First on the list, after getting a phone of course, was to check out Town Lake, or Austin Lake, which is part of the Colorado River that flows through town. This part of Austin is truly delightful, with greenbelts, and I think the entire city was out running or walking or rowing or biking along this beautiful parkway. Next on the agenda was the State Capitol, but since it was a state holiday we only got to see the grounds and exterior, which were lovely, and didn’t have to pay parking to boot. Drove south on Congress Street to the SoCo area which is eclectic and filled with shops. One thing about Texans, they love to shop, and many of the “best things to do in Austin” are related to shopping. SoCo was quiet on Christmas Eve however, so we just drove by and looked as we continued on to Barton Springs and Zilcher Park. This truly is a best thing to do in Austin, the location of the fall Austin City Limits festival and more than 300 acres of paths, trails, picnic areas, an arboretum, sculpture gardens, and the river flowing through the middle. Barton Springs is a natural limestone spring in the middle of Barton Creek that has a long pool, 1/8 mile long, 68 degree water and crystal clear blue colors. People were actually swimming! Down below the pool was a natural area of the creek where there was shallow water and a gentle current where Abby played in the water and swam for a long time while I tried to catch up all my phone calls since I finally had a phone again. Christmas Eve. We had a park hot dog there and continued on reluctantly to our next adventure on the 10 things to do in Austin.

Next adventure was to drive out to Lake Travis. This wasn’t anything like I had imagined the Austin area to be like. It was huge and developed, and the houses were bigger than anything I have seen in California and covered the hills all around the city for miles and miles. The hills were covered with ugly oaks and junipers with very little open space and the lake itself was a huge but very long narrow body of water that was basically invisible because of all the development. We drove many miles through this ugly stuff, all generic, and it felt a lot like it feels to drive through suburbs of LA. We were in the Geo and the roads in spite of the development were rough and bumpy, the sun was glaring and the driving gave Mo a headache. A rare thing. Couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Once back in downtown Austin, we tried to find a place to relax and have a pizza before we went downtown again for some music and then later to a Christmas Eve service. But don’t ever try to find a local pizza on Christmas Eve, we drove and drove up and down the main streets of Austin, north on Guadalupe and Congress, back to South Congress, back and forth on 5th and 6th and nothing. Finally, at the far end of town up beyond 37th street there was a Chili’s, so we gave in to generic and had a great supper there and a celebratory glass of wine. At 7 we drove downtown to the bar that was supposed to have some live music, but once more internet advertising proved to be wrong and the bar was dark. So we drove back over to the St David’s Church where the 6pm service was ending and the 7:30 pm service that was advertised wasn’t happening and we had to wait until 8 to go to the later service.

This was a part off Austin that is the central gathering area for the homeless, there is a large distribution point just 1 block east of the church and lots of people milled about asking for handouts. It was a bit scary in the dark, and we parked on 6th street and tried to be sure we were careful around the alleys. I know better than carrying anything when in the city in the dark, but stupidly I had that huge cat lady bag and didn’t want to leave it in the Geo either since it had my phone, my money, everything.

So off I wandered through the dark streets, watching the alleys furtively with my big old lady Laurel Birch cat bag held tightly under my arm. We walked up 6th a ways to find the Driskell Hotel, a truly magnificent building that was decorated beautifully complementing the many stained glass skylights and huge pillars in the lobby. The hotel was an historic one, and had the distinction of being a favorite hangout of LBJ, and was the place where he and Ladybird had their first date.

The church was an old one, an Episcopal church, and really quite lovely in it’s simplicity. There were also many stained glass windows but at night you couldn’t see the colors, just the images that were there. When the service started there was some great music, a soprano soloist that was sweet as something celestial, and a big pipe organ. The Episcopal service was much like what I remembered from my days going to Catholic Midnight Masses with my grandmother, except that it was all in English instead of Latin. The procession was beautiful with the choir members walking the aisles holding candles and singing. Even the sermon was delightful with the woman who was the presiding bishop speaking in tones that were calm and poetic. I told Mo that if church had been like that when I was a kid I might have really loved it. No guilt, just lovely music and soft kind words. I didn’t feel one bit of the negativity that sometimes overwhelms me in the presence of patriarchal organized religion. It just felt ritualistic in a good way, remembering somehow the good parts of it all.

Left the church and wound our way home back through the Hispanic neighborhoods, enjoying the lights and sounds and especially happy to return to the little house waiting at the HWY 71 RV Park.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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