J and I visited my family in Austin for Thanksgiving. One of the cool things we did was visit the new main public library! The opening was overdue by about a year, but the building and landscaping are pretty awesome.
The building is at the intersection of one of Austin’s major creeks and the river in the middle of the city, so it gets some very nice views and hopefully a lot of business!
The library has an awesome rooftop garden à la green roof and a solar panel array as an awning to provide shade (sadly, I don’t have pictures). There is also a screened porch, so that you can enjoy the weather, but the mosquitoes can’t enjoy you!
Our last day started off with a tour of the Stanford mansion! Apparently Leland Stanford (Sr) was the governor of California for a time and lived in Sacramento. The house, originally pretty modest at around 2000 square feet, was expanded to 4k and then 19k square feet.
After a really bad flood in 1862, the house was raised up and a relatively low-value ground floor added. That particular flood was so bad that Sacramento was about 10 feet underwater for 3 months. Afterwards, the entire city was raised a story, buildings and roads included. There are tours of the subterranean areas available during the summer.
We took Amtrak home in the evening, and then Caltrain back to our place!
The day started with a long walk to the farmers’ market! We asked the hostel’s desk clerk for directions.
The shopkeeper even put the sweets into my tupperware instead of the default styrofoam tray. Yay!
Of course, I was super interested (and pleased to hear that they get enough business). But the shop only uses one particular last, which I’m not interested in. So, that’s a no-go unfortunately.
We visited Sutter’s Fort and the State Indian Museum after lunch. Sutter’s Fort was an early settlement in California. I knew it only from it’s association with the Donner Party – it’s where they stayed to recover. I assumed Sutter’s Fort was a military fort, but… actually it was this guy’s private village.
Curiously, the fort was renovated in the late 1800s. So despite the fact that it’s not original, it’s historical in its own right.
We had disappointing Japanese food for dinner, so I’m not going to include pictures. All the photos are from J, by the way. We figured out a better way to share photos.
We also popped into Goodwill just in time for them to close. Since we weren’t actually looking for anything, a 5-minute browse was sufficient. This was the most professional Goodwill I’ve ever seen. The cashier was dressed in a suit (a suit!), and the store was clean and organized. When we walked in, I thought that we must be in the wrong place; it looked like an actual store!
Edit: My mom admonished me for not recognizing the portrait as being of Jerry Brown, a previous and the current California governor.
The hostel had two sets of stairs — the main stairs and the servant stairs (verrry steep!). There was a shared kitchen with a grand total of 4 sinks, 4 stoves, and 2 fridges. I never actually saw anyone cooking, but maybe it’s used for the occasional party. Fridge access is always nice. Lastly, free breakfast was provided!
The hostel cost around $50 per person per night. That’s much cheaper than hotels in the area, but I’ve definitely stayed at cheaper hostels ($10/night in Seoul!).
Two weekends ago, J and I went to Sacramento to take advantage of the President’s Day holiday. We chose Sacramento because it is close enough to ride the train to, but far enough that we wouldn’t go on a normal weekend. It’s also the state capital.
Apparently though, it is not considered a valid vacation destination. Almost everyone we told our plans to said, “Why Sacramento??”, as if there’s nothing there. For the record, Sacramento has nearly 500,000 people (2.1 million in the metropolitan area), a very walkable downtown, and some of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the US (think of them as the antithesis of ghettos). Sacramento is a lot cheaper than the Bay Area too 🙂
J and I took Amtrak‘s Capitol Corridor line from San Jose to Sacramento. The ride took about 3 hours, which compares very favorably to driving. It cost $40 per person one way.
We stayed at a Hostelling International hostel (J’s first time in a hostel!) just a 10-minute walk from the train station. The hostel is housed in the repurposed Llewellyn Williams Mansion.
I’ll make more posts on what we did in Sacramento.