Austin Outdoors

The title is a bit misleading because these photos are only from two places: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and a trail at Zilker Park.

Let me just say that hiking in the middle of the day during a Texan summer is not a good idea. We were slightly miserable at points but overall had fun.

I went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and high school and wanted to take Joseph, so that was the first stop on our drive into Austin. Because we got there an hour before closing, they let us in for free! (We actually hardly paid for anything in Austin besides food)

These last two photos are from Zilker Park (near Barton Springs, but we decided not to swim). The trail was mainly uncovered, and it was noon. I’m telling you, it was a bad idea. I’d planned on taking breaks to wade in the water a bit, but the creek was running pretty dry.


In the first photo I was dying from heat exhaustion.

A Weekend in Austin

Joseph and I took a quick trip a few hours south to visit Austin last weekend. I’ve been a few times here and there but never as an “adult.” We had so much fun, and I really didn’t want to leave. I love all the little shops and restaurants that make up the city and appreciated not seeing any large chain stores.


Our first dinner was, of course, at a food truck on South Congress. We both got wraps at The Mighty Cone (Joseph’s a venison “cone dog” and mine breaded avocado). They were fantastic!


Sunday morning we did the ultimate tourist activity–we visited the state capitol.


This was my favorite feature: gigantic Texas Capitol door hinges! So over-the-top and very Texan.


We also visited the LBJ Library & Museum. Last time I was in Austin while I was in high school there was an exhibit about the 1960s, and I stood in front of a video of The Beatles for as long as I could. This time, though, the museum was undergoing a change, so there wasn’t much to see.


My favorite stop in Austin was the Elisabet Ney Museum. This beautiful house and studio is surrounded by wildflowers in the middle of a neighborhood. Inside, you walk on creaky hardwood floors to make your way between Ney’s incredible marble sculptures. It’s free and a very unique experience, so I recommend you make a quick stop if you’re in the city.


One last photo of food–Joseph’s carnitas at Curra’s Grill.

Beautiful Things in Las Vegas

Say what you will about Vegas, but the city does not take the easy way out when it comes to design. It’s like Walt Disney World: absolutely contrived and profit-driven but incredibly detailed. That’s something that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. I love the details. I love that these hotels will display huge fountains and mounds of flowers just because they can. Who in the world decides, “Why don’t we cover our ceiling with 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers? Let’s not make anything easy.”

Sure, their motivations aren’t for aesthetics alone. But I am a frequent complainer (much to the annoyance of my husband) about sky-scrapers. I hate imposing glass walls with nothing to them. I only want the precision of details no one else cares about. This absence was actually a huge adjustment for me when moving back to the US last summer after four years in Italy.

But the level of design in Vegas helped me like the city more than I would have otherwise. Without so many beautiful and intricately-designed things to look at, I think the consumerism would have killed my spirit.

First, Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como in the Bellagio lobby. I love this. The glass flowers burst from the ceiling like some kind of beautiful disease (is that too gruesome?).

Just past the lobby is Bellagio’s botanical garden and conservatory, dressed up for fall.

A beautiful glass leave hanging from the conservatory roof. I didn’t even take photos of the beautiful flower displays set up throughout the hotel and behind the check-in desks in the lobby.

My other favorite hotel was Wynn Las Vegas. This hotel is gorgeous and, of course, expensive. I’d recommend anyone on the strip walk around, even if it’s further down the road than the others and is lacking in loud tourist attractions. The light is took dark (in every hotel/casino) to do the photos justice. The Wynn has the most beautiful and unique design–a mix of contemporary cute and classic sophistication. I was dying over the carpet and wallpaper, both of which I neglected to photograph but very badly want for my home office.

This is the Wynn Buffet, where Joseph and I had dinner with my friend Sarah. The meal was delicious, and do I even need to mention this room? It’s straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

Las Vegas: The Strip

Neither Joseph nor I are big on gambling, but of course, we were in Vegas. There’s really not much else to do. We stuck with the slot machines and actually came out ahead, but it still terrifies me!

This machine was set on tormenting me. This happened TWICE. Notice neither row is actually on the line, making me a loser. Ugh.

I ate a crepe for breakfast at the Paris buffet, and then we sat down for a bit of gamblin’

Everything on the strip is so nice and so beautiful! I couldn’t help sneaking a few pictures of bathrooms.

Photo at the Bellagio. More on this later! That is such a beautiful hotel.

I’m really excited I got to meet up with my friend Sarah, who I met online a few years ago and who happens to live in Vegas. Isn’t she beautiful?? We had a great lunch at the Wynn, which offers a lot of Vegan options for her (another seriously beautiful hotel–more on that one later too!)


Just a corner of one of the shopping centers. Seriously beautiful!

New York New York:

Our hotel, the MGM Grand:

As for shows, we very sadly got our dates confused and missed the one we were looking forward to–The Lion King. The tickets were nonrefundable, of course, and they are leaving at the end of the year. :( We did get to catch Cirque du Soleil’s Ka but were extremely disappointed in it. They held it at an absolutely incredible theater with an amazing moving stage, but there was almost no acrobatics. We were looking forward to seeing something like Downtown Disney’s La Nouba, which we really loved. Ka had one ribbon dance (which honestly wasn’t incredibly impressive considering what I saw at La Nouba), a one baton twirling act, and a segment of shadow puppets. Like, shadow puppets you make with your hands on the wall illuminated by light. This was not at all what we were looking for, and I found myself wanted to walk out (which I have never done at any kind of performance).

That kind of put a bitter taste on the night, but it was still overall a great trip. I just should have done more research because it seems other people who didn’t like Ka were also hoping it was more like La Nouba.

Las Vegas: Nature First

Joseph and I just returned from half a week in Las Vegas. It was kind of a strange destination for us considering the places we normally travel, but we needed a relaxing vacation and a break from school and work. Vegas requires very little thinking or planning–it fit the bill perfectly.

Before I flood you with photos from the bright city, I’ll share our first day. We flew in early and spent the morning hiking at Red Rock Canyon before driving for a quick tour of Hoover Dam. It was kind of a last-minute decision, and I’m really glad we spent the early part of the trip this way.

I’m normally not a fan of this dry landscape (I love and miss my Dolomites), but it really was incredibly beautiful in person.

Hoover Dam:

One of the best parts of the day: stopping for lunch at In-N-Out! We got our very first one here in Fort Worth a few months ago, but it had been too crowded for me to try. When we realized the chain was in Nevada, we immediately knew where we wanted to go. It definitely lived up to the hype, but I felt like a dork ordering everything off the “secret menu.”

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