Who knew that such a mundane appliance can have different purposes, other than cleaning your dishes (for those who refuse to do so the old-fashioned way), and providing a handy place for hiding dirty dishes when you have company over. Add meditation sound machine to this short list.
This only works if you don't stuff your dishwasher to the gills with pots and pans (as the potential clanging noises can disturb the peace). For those of us that take time to meditate each day (and if you don't, I highly recommend it), the noises of a dishwasher while running through its cycle can be just as calming as having a small water feature or fountain in your home.
I know some people would suggest going to YouTube and putting on some nature sounds or a video of a brook babbling, which works, too. But it's just not the same. There is an intangiable difference in hearing sounds at the source verses in reproduction. Plus the standard wash cycle is perfect timing for a good meditation session. Talk about efficiency-cleansing your dishes and your mind at the same time.
This is the best view of Austin, TX-a place that I like to call home. One of the fastest growing cities in the country, and one that has really touted its reputation as "Live Music Capital of the World", with music fests that seem to occur every other month. It is also becoming a "Foodie Heaven", with restaurants and food trucks springing up everywhere; every other one seemingly servicing something with sriracha-mayo, parmesan-encrusted, and truffle-oil infused. Don't let it be a popular restaurant-it's going to require a two-hour wait just to sink your teeth into that honey-glazed cinnamon roll filled with pork-bison chili topped with sriracha aoli and served on a bed of kale. Then you have the late night downtown bar scene-cheap drinks a-flowin' (I've been around, and still am amazed that some places routinely will serve mixed drinks for $2.50 all. day. long). A town that fully embraces the "eat, drink, and be merry" philosophy indeed.
But just like the party girl at your local dive bar, you sometimes have to wonder, "is there MORE? She's pretty and is always down for a good time-she can take shots of 151 like no other, but is there more to her? Has has she read a book? Wait...can she even read?"
I will admit, I have lived here for 7 years and was enamored by the good food, friendly people who like to party, the constant music tests, and again, the ease of constant partying (don't judge-I moved here in my late 20's). But recently, I have decided to dig deeper into the Capital of the Great State of Texas. "There has to be more" I said to myself. This picture above is the perfect manifestation of this. Every stock photo you see of Austin will have either the capital building, UT tower, our gleaming new skyline towering over Town Lake (now called Lady Bird Lake, but that just doesn't roll off the tongue as easily), or the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue. Why not capture the city from the hills that rise up on the west side of town? Or the many lakes and greenbelts that weave in and out of town? These are just as iconic to the city. So here's to exploring a lesser know, "nerdy" side of Austin:
1. Elisabet Ney Museum
I really nerded out when I discovered this former art studio-turned museum. The story behind Elisabet Ney is probably as intriguing as any good international espionage movie. She was a German sculptor, renowned for meeting and doing a bust for Otto Von Bismarck; fellow info nerds know that he was the first chancellor of the newly formed Germany in the mid 1800's. She then abruptly migrated to the United States with her husband (perhaps for leaking info from King Ludwig to Bismarck), and eventually made her way to Texas, where they purchased an old plantation to fill their dream of creating a Utopian society. She then opened her studio in Austin in 1892. There's more to the story but this place is a must-see. Plus, it's FREE.
304 E. 44th St
2. French Ligation
Built in 1841, this is the oldest surviving home in town. It was constructed to house the Ambassador of France to the Texas Republic (recall that at one point, Texas was it's own country until it joined the Union in 1845). In an up-and-coming city where anything built prior to 1970 seems "old", this is kind of neat.
802 San Marcos St
3. Texas State Capitol
Texans like to brag that our dome is taller than the one in Washington, D.C. Albeit true, it's not the tallest capitol structure in the country (this honor goes to Louisiana), but arguably ours is the most grandiose. Tours are free and are given about every 45 minutes or so. It's not enough just to drive by it, you must go inside to get a view of the dome from the inside. Truly impressive.
Downtown where Congress ends at 11th St; you can't miss it.
4. O. Henry Museum
Writer William Sydney Porter (aka "O. Henry") lived in Austin for a few years before he went to prison, came out a writer, moved to NYC, and became famous for his short stories. His home still has all of his original furnishings in tact, and also displays one of his unpublished manuscripts. They also host a "pun-off" here, although I have yet to attend one.
409 E. 5th St
5. San Antonio Missions
Maybe I am reaching a bit on this, as San Antonio is a whole 'mother city. BUT, it's barely an hour away (45 minutes if you go with the speed of traffic on I-35), and it's worth visiting if you have time to do a day trip. Especially to see not only the Alamo, but it's sister late 1700's-era Spanish Missions along the mission trail. And as much as a food town Austin is, it doesn't have the heaven-sent puffy tacos in abundance like they do in S.A. Ask around about theses and let the locals steer you to the best restaurants serving them.
6. LBJ Presidential Library
Located on the campus of UT, this library/museum is a must-visit to learn more about this colorful President chock full of Texan sensabilities (maybe a little less harsh than the Bush's, but I digress...).
2313 Red River St
7. Bullock Texas State History Museum
The huge bronze lone star in front of the building says it all-everything is bigger in Texas. This museum explores everything Texan, and is a neat juxtaposition since Austin seems to be the "anti-Texas" city: extremely liberal, and oil did not fuel growth here as it did in many other Texas cities.
1800 Congress Ave
8. Umlauf Sculpture Garden
No frills here-a series of sculptures set within a manicured garden setting.
605 Robert E. Lee Rd
9. Architecture on East 6th Street
Come down here during the daytime, before the streets are blocked-off (Thursday thru Saturday at night) for the safety of the thousands of bar hoppers that flood the streets every weekend, Bourbon Street-style. This area, east of Congress Avenue to I-35 is actually on the National Register of Historic Places, as most of the buildings (in mainly Victorian style) were built prior to the 1880's.
There you have it; the partier can read! She even writes a little short story every now and again, too. All of these places (with the exception of the drive to San Antonio) can be covered within an hour. Long enough to get in, get some culture, leave, and then wait in line for that barbecue place, see a show at that one concert venue, and then party it up until 2 A.M. downing $1.50 Long Island Iced Teas!
As a person who loves to travel, I am always reading up on new and different places to go, both here in the States and abroad. As of late, a few new places are showing up in the magazines and Yahoo! travel articles, etc-and one of these “new, up and coming travel destinations”-is Istanbul (not Constantinople).
This provides a small source of irritation for me. What I gather from many of these articles is that there are tons of new (read: chi-chi poo-poo) restaurants and boutiques. And treated as a side note, there is also a little thing called history, some beaches, and the fact that Istanbul can be used as a jumping off point to see many of the archeological wonders that the coasts of Turkey hold.
With the exception of having a bevy of new restaurants, boutiques, and clubs that cater to a more “hip and upscale” kind of traveller, everything else these articles are touting are cool and spot on and don’t sound the least bit shallow. Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, and then known as Byzantium prior to that, is one of the worlds oldest melting pots and continuously inhabited major cities. Why is it suddenly cool to go there now that the travel press is extolling virtues that it long had? I like to think of myself as being the ugly girl’s friend BEFORE she got the Extreme Makeover (does that sad train wreck of a show still come on? I don’t watch much television anymore). Now everyone is her friend because she is beautiful and has been on t.v. Istanbul, you were never an ugly city, but I like to think that I fell in love with you before the masses (masses in the Western world, anyways) did.
End rant. The following is why anyone who loves to travel needs to go to Istanbul. RIGHT NOW:
1. The weather should be perfect RIGHT. NOW. The picture I took in front of the Blue Mosque was taken in the middle of July. It was hot, and worst of all, VERY humid. As you can see by my sweaty forehead, I was a sweaty, sweaty mess the whole time I was there. Shopkeepers were giving me rags to wipe my brow. “Barack Obama, why are you so wet? Come buy some Turkish Delight!” Go now before it gets too hot.
2. Mosques galor. A little history-Istanbul was the Eastern capital for the Holy Roman Empire (Rome of course being the other one). It was a Christian city until the Ottomans, a Muslim group, conquered the city in the 15th century. Some churches were turned into mosques, and some were built from scratch. Imagine San Francisco and it’s hills, but then set mosques with towering minarets on those hills, and you get a pretty good visual what the cityscape looks like. See as many as you can, and marvel at them at night when the minarets are under-lit on each one. Simply amazing.
3. Turkish baths. Get one after a long day of sightseeing. It’s an age old tradition, so one must partake. Also a good way to cleanse yourself of all the sweating you will do if you don’t heed my advice and decide to visit in the summer months.
4. If you like to shop, this is your town. And I’m not talking shopping like going to the mall and just looking at The Gap or The Nike Store or anything else you can find in America, showcasing stuff you really can get anywhere. I’m talking about Turkish lamps, Kurdish rugs, and little exotic crystally-looking doodads. There are also these little dancing figurines that are quite prominent in the tchotchke stores. It’s all other-worldly and awesome.
5. Negotiating. If you not only like to shop, but like to get bargains when you shop, the Turks are all about it. Never have I seen so much haggling. I actually got hemmed up in a back alley carpet shop (a good rule to follow is to NOT do this, clearly explained as to why in my travel ebook, “Get Lost”-available on Amazon-www.amazon.com/dp/B00EK7K5HM). After 30 minutes of sometimes tense negotiations, I talked the guy down from $600 to $150 for a rug. Do that a couple of times and you will come back to the U.S. ready to tackle 10 car salesmen….at ONCE.
6. It’s cheap. Turkey uses the Turkish Lira and the Euro interchangeably. No matter, because everything is still way cheaper than most other European tourist powerhouses (sorry Paris and London-love ya, but my wallet hates you). Food is cheap. Lodging is cheap. Partying is cheap. Hopefully Istanbul will remain inexpensive as it becomes the new travel darling.
7. Food. Donar kebabs and Ottoman dishes and fresh fish sammiches caught right behind the vendor stands that line the waterways (the Golden Horn-Galata Bridge area in particular). ALL the food is good, and without being fried. They sell roasted corn as street food. How healthy is that?! And Turkish Delights-don’t get me started. Baclava and all sorts of semi-sweet goodies that you can gorge yourself on since all the other food you are likely to gorge yourself on is so healthy. And roaming through the spice markets; ingredients used to flavor all this wonderful food…let me stop now. A foodie’s nirvana, this place.
8. This is one that the travel guides and magazines won’t tell you-the people. SMELL. AMAZING. I don’t know what it is; if its a cologne or perfume, or a type of detergent that they use. Another factoid-Istanbul proper has over 13 million people, so it’s one of the top ten largest cities on Earth. It’s crowded, but catching whiffs of sandalwood or whatever it is they use when you are crowded up in public areas or in public transport makes it that much more bearable.
9. Lots of old stuff. This really should be the #1 reason, but then again, I am not putting these in any particular order-but the preserved history of this city is absolutely stunning. I have been to Rome and I would say that Istanbul is a not so distant second in terms of antiquities on display and preserved ruins and such. The archeological museums are a nerd’s dream. In fact, last time I was there, the museum had so many artifacts that many of them had to be housed outside. Even driving into the old quarter from the airport, you are met with centuries-old crumbling city walls to your left hand side as you (or your cabbie) drive down Kennedy Caddesi. There is even a huge Roman-era aqueduct off the beaten bath. Everywhere you look there are traces of history. It’s almost overwhelming, but in a good way. See as much of it as you can.
10. Nightlife. I am a big believer in partying with the locals as much as I am in learning about their culture. Turkish pop music is really fun to dance to as well, and like a lot of Spanish cities (and Berlin), the party doesn’t really get jumping until midnight or so. And I must say, these are a styling’ bunch of folks.
So there you have it-there are many more reasons but these ten are the ones that have me clamoring to go back. Please hurry before it gets overhyped and overpriced. Unfortunately good things can’t be kept under wraps forever.