After a couple of days in Austin, I am now in Atlanta an the way to Sao Paulo and am less than delighted to see that the city seems to be descending into chaos. In the last few hours the state Attorney General has resigned amid a wave of killings in recent days, which have left 10 people dead and 13 injured 0- and that is in a 24-hour period! There have been 982 homicides in the city in the first nine months of the year, including no fewer than 94 policemen, most of whom have been gunned down while off duty. It seems that it is all to do with a battle between police and organised crime groups in reprisal for a crackdown on the drug trade. A great way to advertise the city when the F1 circus comes to town.
Perhaps it is unwise of me to mention it, but Sao Paulo sounds a whole lot more dangerous than Bahrain was, but no-one is saying it is a bad idea for F1 to be going there. Hmmm, I am seeing double standards here…
All of this is ahead of us. Discovering Austin was quite fun on Monday and Tuesday. It was good to get a feel of the place after a very busy weekend. Most of the racing people disappeared on Monday but we were still bumping into folk we knew that evening on Sixth Street, where the restaurants are all grouped together. The only F1 person on my flight to Brazil is Heikki Kovalainen, who I bumped into at the airport, just after spotting a vast billboard in the airport with him on it (helmet on). This was good because Heikki was largely untroubled as the folk of Texas have still to put faces to the names of the F1 drivers.
It seems like a friendly town and clearly prides itself on being different, which one could spot from the “Keep Austin Weird” merchandise one could see all around town.
The city is pretty small, with only really one main street, known as Congress, which runs up to the State Capitol. A very dramatic building reminiscent of the Capitol Building Washington, but made from a different kind of stone. The people of Austin seem pretty relaxed about life and are VERY proud that they are not like the image that the world has of Texans. Our cab driver on the way to the airport told us in great detail how the city had voted in a landslide AGAINST George Bush while most of the state supported him. That sort of summed it up. There is a really liberal streak here, which is quite pleasant for Europeans who often find that extreme right wing politics grates a little on the nerves.
The rest of the downtown area, laid out on the inevitable grid pattern that US city builders loved so much, is a mixture of old and new which has a lot of charm. We stumbled across some strange stuff, like the statue of a lady firing a cannon, which no doubt involved a lot of Mexicans being blown away in the days of the Alamo.
One thing that really impressed us was the engagement of the city in the F1 race. They were into it and shops and businesses had gone out of their way to have themed displays and so on. More or less everywhere we went we were asked about our accents and whether we were there for the F1 race – which is a good sign. The cabbie reckoned that Austin was going to develop a long and very deep love affair with F1.
Anyway, here are a few more pics to enjoy…