Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of the weirdest city in the US, Austin in Texas. It's a 1.5M city in the heart of Texas, yet extremely different than the culture that surrounds it. Unlike the rest of Texas, Austin is walkable, liberal, features one of the best universities in the world (University of Texas at Austin) and is filled with hip, young people that strive to be different.
I find most midsize and small US cities quite boring. They are usually filled with chain stores, generic malls and you barely see any people in walking around, especially at night. Yet Austin is different. It is packed with unusual shops, boutiques, galleries and original restaurants.
It is also called the live music capital of the world. Indeed, I was surprised to walk around in several neighbourhoods of the city and hear various bands playing live music. On one stroll, I must have seen at live music in at least 10 different places. What an amazing feeling.
Strangely enough, Austin has become one of the best cities in the US to have a tech company. It has a very young and well educated population, and it shows everywhere you look: in the shops, in the restaurants, in the nightlife.
Just 45' off Austin you can also find Lockhurt, the BBQ capital of the US. They do BBQ in a very different way that what you might be used to:
The meat is grilled inside these huge chambers on the left, which are heated by fire logs placed underneath. The meat is removed from the "oven" and then it is chopped up into pieces and placed on paper. You wrap it up in the paper and eat it in the room next door, without any sauce or cutlery for that matter. This way of cooking and eating is closer to the original concept of BBQ, or barbacoa, where the meat is cooked in a pit dug in the ground.
I spent a week at Austin, and while it isn't a particularly interesting tourist place to visit, it feels like a great place to live. I have traveled quite a bit around the US, and I can safely say that it is one of the top 5 cities to live.