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Soaking up the sights and sounds of Austin

Congress Avenue Bridge
Congress Avenue Bridge

The Live Music Capital of the World is buzzing with beats, bats and bites to eat, discovers Madeleine Barber

I’m sitting in a dark, wooden-walled, fan-filled front room tucking into my first ever plate of sopecitos yucatecos. The dish is a corn cake topped with cochinita pibil – a traditional slow-roasted pork recipe from the Yucatan Peninsula – hollandaise eggs, plantains and bacon. I could be forgiven for thinking I’m eating brunch in the heart of Mexico, but in fact I’m in the neighbourhood of East Austin, Texas.

 

Licha’s Cantina, this bungalow-turned-restaurant, is named after owner Daniel’s mother, who raised him in Mexico City. I can tell it’s a friendly place when my city guide, Donnalou Stevens, greets Licha’s family with hugs, smiles and a distinctly southern “how’re y’all?”.

 

We arrive at the restaurant via a Pedego Electric Bikes tour, which I’m grateful for in the 43°C July heat. The built-in throttle means we can navigate the city (almost) without breaking a sweat, taking in Barton Springs natural swimming pool, the green grass of Zilker Park, statues and dogs at Auditorium Shores and zipping on and off the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail that surrounds the city’s north-south divider, Lady Bird Lake.

 

This “lake” is misleadingly named. In fact, it is a section of the lesser-known Colorado river that flows from the north-west corner of Texas down to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

At the Bullock State History Museum, I learn that the city’s Mexican ties are far from surprising, given the state’s history. Until 1836, Texas was under Mexican rule – they called it Tejas – but the Battle of San Jacinto the same year saw Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, defeated by Sam Houston and his Texan army in just 18 minutes.

 

As a result, Austin brandishes a deliciously diverse Tex-Mex identity that flows through the city’s cuisine and culture. And with Norwegian’s newly launched Gatwick-Austin route operating three times a week on a fleet of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, it’s now easier to get a taste of the southern US city than ever.

 

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