No one puts “websites I want to visit” on their Bucket List.
It’s amazing what you can learn about the city you live in by taking a tour of it. Last night I thoroughly enjoyed a “bat boat” cruise along Town Lake…er Lake Lady Bird…with the Austin Women Travelers group and learned a lot too!
Those of you unfamiliar with Austin may be asking, “bat boat, what the heck is that?” Well, let me tell you! Austin, the city proud of “keeping it weird,” is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. Under our beloved Congress Street Bridge lives 1.5 million Mexican free tail bats. Yes, MILLIONS! Between March and November, every night at dusk they descend out of crevices underneath the bridge en masse. They’re all female and they’re essentially going out for dinner. They always fly away from the setting sun and are so lightweight even the slightest wind can push them. On a really still evening, they look like a giant black cloud. People line the bridge, nearby restaurant balconies, grassy knolls along the lake, and several commercial boats, which is what we did. It may sound crazy but it’s actually quite impressive to watch more than a million bats fly into the sky at one time. We love our bats in Austin. We have a bat statue not far from the bridge and we love that they eat thousands of pounds of bugs every night. Mosquitos? Austin doesn’t have half the problem other cities near water do, thanks to our bats!
I’ve lived in Austin 27 years but this was only the third or fourth time I’ve done the bats. We had a great tour operator on the boat who informed us that the Frost Bank tower looks like an owl, City Hall is supposedly built to look like an armadillo (I didn’t see it; perhaps he was pulling one on us), and that the city’s tallest building, The Austonian, is jokingly referred to as the world’s largest USB drive. It does! And how appropriate for our city, the centre of the Silicon Hills?! The skyline of Austin changes almost daily, so it was also nice to learn the names of all those building and what they house. Amazingly, the majority of all new buildings aren’t office space, but condos. Glorious condos. Have I mentioned shut the gates yet?!
The “owl” and the “USB port”
I remember taking a tour of my hometown Santa Fe on board the city’s “Chile Line” bus. It was so informative and fun! I also remember taking the trolley car tour in San Francisco and opting for the double-decker bus tour of London the day we arrived because it was pouring rain. We learned so much and saw the whole city in one fell swoop. These types of tours then allow you to later pick and choose which sites you want to go back to.
They say travel is really the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer. And even though travel can also be so frustrating, I couldn’t agree more. Even if it’s right in your backyard.