Sunday, December 11, 2005

What Would Aslan Do?

"What would Aslan do?"
--spotted on a T-shirt at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
South Lamar, Austin, TX

What a wonderful weekend! GLS and I had original planned to vacation in Savannah this month, but that fell through, so we decided to vacation locally for a couple of days instead.

Right after Thanksgiving, we tried to get reservations at the Hotel San Jose on South Congress only to find it already booked solid for the month. So, after some reflection, we elected the Omni Hotel downtown instead. It was just up the hill from The State Theater, which was our Friday night destination.

We checked in as soon as we could--just after three o'clock and then explored the place. The Omni is a 1980s construction modern-style hotel--lots of glass, soaring atrium, pool on the roof. After changing clothes, we struck out into the city and the chilly 20-something-degree wind. We first swung by the bar at the Stephen F. Austin, a historical hotel, for a tempura sushi roll (so-so roll), and then continued onto Shoreline Grill on Lake Travis for dinner. I highly recommend the tempura lobster tail and seared sea scallops.

The main event, though, wasn't dinner but theater. We buzzed up Congress for the evening showing of "Humbug: A Christmas Carol," which has been extended through Dec. 22. The State Theater doesn't have the historic majesty of her sister, The Paramount, but it is intimate, confortable, and the tickets were a steal. The cast was small but outstanding, and I thoroughly enjoyed the production, though it did seem a tad rushed. I wonder how it might've held up for someone not familiar with the story. Next to me, a mother-and-daughter (maybe age 7) quietly whispered now and then through the production as mom answered burning questions. My favorite: "Is that a real ghost?" Mom: "Of course it is." Daughter: "Cool." Very spooky family! Anyway, the whole effect reminded me of the grandfather-grandson intermissions in "The Princess Bride." I was charmed.

Saturday brought even more fun, and the temperature graciously rose to the 50s and 60s. We had breakfast at the hotel (for better migas, try Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard), and then I indulged in a two hour "relaxation body treatment package" at the hotel spa (which is really just a tiny room on the 20th floor). It consisted of a gentle aromatherapy and jojoba oil massage and wrap, followed by an invigorating salt foot scrub, foot reflexology and soothing peppermint foot massage, followed by a Swedish massage. (A much better total treatment than my last at the Hill Country Hyatt, by the way). By the end, I felt like happy JELLO.

That afternoon, GLS and I hit the South Congress Cafe for lunch, and I enjoyed both my tomato soup with gorgonzola cheese and my shrimp cesar salad. We went from there to the U.T. Longhorns fan shop below the U.T. Club because GLS was interested in buying garb commemorating the football team going to the Rose Bowl (football fan that I am (cough), this was the first I'd heard of it). But you know, I'm happy that he's happy (and even happier that he's not the kind of guy who routinely plants himself in front of a TV and watches football).

From there, we walked to the Texas Memorial History Museum of Science and History (the one on campus as opposed the big, new Bob Bullock one near the Capitol). The exhibits could've been better designed (financing would no doubt help), but I really enjoyed myself. The building is art deco, which reminded me of the Chicago museum campus, and I'm just a sucker for a huge dinosaur skeleton. Or for that matter, for a tiny one. Though school groups zoom through fairly regularly, I'm sure, it seemed somewhat like a hidden gem. Great place to bring kids, too (not that we have any, but we're kid friendly).

Afterward, GLS and I drove back downtown to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Austin Music Hall. It was fun, and I loved the crowd, music, and excitement, but I did notice that most of the same vendors were there as last year and in mostly the same spots.

No matter, by that time, I was already psyched about our evening plans. We went back to the hotel to change and then had dinner at Uchi, which is one of the best sushi restaurants in Austin. The actual fish at Musashino's is better, and the cuts are more generous. But Uchi has an upscale (as opposed to tiki bar) atmosphere, and the sort of bells-and-whistles menu items are more inventive. I especially enjoyed the Avo Bake, though to be fair it's served at Musashino's, too, and some of the cooked fish appetizers.

But the highlight of the evening was seeing "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" at the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on South Lamar, which is hands-down the best place on earth to see a movie. We'd pre-ordered tickets online, which was good because all but the 10 p.m. show had sold out. Imagine: you walk in a fast-moving line to the entrance of the theater, which has been reconfigured as the door to a wardrobe, make your way through hanging coats, and then a forest of Christmas trees on a floor covered in fake snow. Then you enter the theater with it's plush seats and generous arm rests, taking your place behind a long wooden table, where you are greeted by a charming and enthusiastic waitress. Ours brought us, upon request two wine glasses, a bottle of opened Pinot Noir, and a real (not cardboard) bowl of hot, fluffy, fresh popcorn, topped with real butter. We could've also ordered frome the special Narnia-related menu, but of course we'd just had dinner.

As for the film itself, I'll just say that it exceeded my expectations and I can't wait to see it at the theater again. In addition to being a good retelling, well acted, the cinematography was gorgeous!

And that was basically it! We had brunch the next day at Hyde Park Bar & Grill (for a better omlette, try the previously mentioned South Congress Cafe), and now, here I am blogging it up for my spookycyn readers. This week will be a hard-working one for me, but I'm facing it all well rested and in excellent spirits!

Spooky News & Links

Speaking of "Humbug: A Christmas Carol," for those who missed my mention of it on cynsations, I'd like to mention that Esme Raji Codell's new picture book retelling, Hanukkah, Schmanukkah, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Hyperion, 2005) is one of my favorite books this winter!