I got into Austin in the early evening of Thursday and pretty much got straight out to enjoy some Cuban food and play some foosball at Buffalo Billiards. We met this great couple Celia and Toby who Brad and I whipped at foosball (they got us back on Sunday night but it was fun while it lasted).
It was great to have Friday free to get some sight-seeing done, in the morning I met up with Carl Camera who had kindly offered to give me a tour of Austin along with Cameron Adams, his girlfriend Liz, and the bearded Chris Mills. Carl took us around downtown and out to the West Lake hills and then on up to Mount Bonnell where there was a fantastic view over Lake Austin. Lake Austin is a dammed section of the colorado river and as a result the level of the lake is constant which allows houses to be built right up to the water. Commonly these houses have boathouses, like garages on the water and it looked like it could be a cool way to get to work!
Carl took us for lunch in an amazing Mexican Restaurant called El Arroyo which translates as the ditch and then after that I hooked up with Brad at the Texas State Capitol building where the Sergeant at Arms, Rod Welsh gave us a tour of the building which was fascinating; it was really interesting to see how the building was extended in 1993 underground to accommodate the office space needed without affecting the outside appearance of the building.
Whilst we were there we learnt a little about the history of Texas and in particular that Texas was an independent country for 9 years after declaring independence from Mexico in 1836. During this time the Capitol was intended to be the National seat of government. In 1845 Texas became the 28th State as part of the United States in return for the USA wiping out the debts Texas had and for defending it's disputed borders with Mexico. On the outside of the building the six flags that have been flown over Texas are displayed; French, Spanish, Mexico (complete with a cactus which kind of gives it away), republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.
To round off the tour Rod took us to the top of the rotunda (the dome) where we got some great views of Down town Austin and Congress. We were lucky to be able to see so much of the dome as these parts of the dome aren't currently open to the public.
So thanks to Carl and Rod for the Texas hospitality, we had a great time and I for one was pleased to be able to spend some time learning about Texas and Austin rather than just coming here for the conference.
So far the panels have been really good and I've enjoyed seeing some of the different panels. An event as broad as SXSW allows you to get outside of your comfort zone and really see something you haven't seen before. Also I've found it's a lot better to not be too worried about what you're going to do or see.
I'll be uploading my notes here and photos to flickr as soon as I get a moment :-)