Thursday, December 17, 2015

Austin, Texas

Usually, I post a Halloween blog about my party. This year,  I wasn't in town to have a Halloween party because my script, Patchwork, was selected as a Second Rounder in the Comedy Screenplay Competition of the Austin Film Festival in Texas. The Austin Film Festival is a big festival in the screenwriting community.

I've never been to Austin, Texas before and was super excited to explore both the city and the festival. The only info I had about Austin was the film festival, football, and the famous phrase: Keep Austin Weird.

I stayed at the Driskill Hotel, famous for being haunted. Of course, I didn't know about this until I was already there. This is the second haunted hotel I've unintentionally stayed in.

The Entrance of the Driskill

I loved these bedside tables. They look like steamer trunks.

The infamous room: 525. Considered haunted. I was a few doors down...

The Painting of the little girl who died in the hotel. Her ghost is rumored to haunt the Driskilll.

Most of my time was spent at the conference (an amazing one for anyone wanting to be a screenwriter or filmmaker), but I did have time for a couple of excursions.

One of the excursions was the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. After visiting the Ronald Reagan Library in California, I am determined to see all the Presidential Libraries. 

Johnson was a teacher before he pursued politics. When Kennedy was assassinated, as Vice President, he took over the presidential role.

As President, he created the Great Society Legislation that upheld civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, and Medicaid. It also provided aide to education, the arts, urban/ rural development, public services, and his war on poverty.

The Silver Star. Johnson received this medal for gallantry in action during an aerial mission in the Pacific (1942).

Campaign Poster 1960

Johnson was known for his sense of humor. 

Lady Bird Johnson (the first lady) was given her nickname by Alice Tittle. She took care of Claudia Johnson when she was a baby. She said that Claudia was as "pretty as a lady bird", and the nickname stuck. As First Lady, Lady Bird did an exceptional job. For example, she led a group of foreign journalist on a five day "Visit USA" Tour in April 1968. As a thank you, they sent her these demitasse cups and saucers from their respective countries.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the Vietnam War occurred. The damage from the war and public disent made Johnson decide not to run for re-election. 

Also at the library was a special exhibit for the Beatles. The British band became a cult phenomenon. 

A Beatle's Fan's Room

1965 Book tie-in. It was highly unusual for a band to have a book tie-in, especially a hardcover one.

An interactive drum set. You can learn to play the drums from Ringo Starr. I'm not going to lie, I tried it out.

The next time I was able to go on an excursion was on Halloween Night. Have you ever been to Sixth Street in Austin, Texas on Halloween? Let's just say that it beats most Halloween parties I've seen.

Just a sample of the craziness this night.

Seriously, they go all out. They're like a giant outdoor Comic Con. I wish I had taken more pictures of the costumes.

The next morning, I went to Stubb's BBQ for their Gospel Brunch. They are known for their "make your own" bloody marys, brunch, and live gospel music. It was fun.

The band for the gospel music. 

That night I went to see the Congress Avenue Bridge Bats. The world's largest colony of bats live there. Every night at sunset, 1.5 million bats leave the bridge to hunt for insects. 

My attempt at capturing the bats.

Truthfully, it's impossible to capture in the photo the amazingness of this event. Like giant black clouds, the sky literally darkens from the swarms of bats. It is definitely worth seeing. 

Austin is a unique city. I wish I had more time to explore it. 

 Fun Foods I Enjoyed:

Amazing Filet Mignon at the Driskill Grill

The Rainbow Chard side that I ordered at the Driskill Grill

Queso is popular in Austin. I made sure to take advantage of it at the Roaring Fork.

Delicious Rainbow Trout with Toasted Almonds at the Roaring Fork

My Brunch at Stubbs BBQ. Warning, it has some heat.

Nopalitos. It's a cactus dish cooked with onions, peppers, cilantro, and tomatoes. I was determined to try cactus at Stubb's BBQ. It reminded me of green beans. 

The Midnight Cowboy is a bar in Austin. It was a former brothel and speakeasy. As a bar, it still keeps some of its former speakeasy heritage. There is no signage. You have to find it yourself and ring a bell in order to enter. The drink I chose was the Gun Club Punch which contains: white rum, dark rum, pineapple, lime curaƧao, grenadine, and crushed ice. A little warning: their drinks are good, but they are also strong.

So Voodoo Doughnuts... I had never heard of them when researching Austin. However, every time I went past the place, there was a huge line. Luckily, on my last night around 10 pm, there was no line. So, curious, I decided to try it. Their doughnuts are amazing. I had a simple cream-filled doughnut, but you'll enjoy any of their selections. 

~A.E. Keener

Want to know more about my adventure? Click the links below:

~Driskill Hotel/ Grill:

~LBJ Presidential Library:

~Roaring Fork:

~Voodoo Doughnuts:

A new section I've added.

Books I Used for Research:

~100 Things to Do in Austin Before You Die by: Kristy Owen

Friday, October 23, 2015

Toledo, Spain

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to take a day trip to Toledo while I was in Spain. Toledo is known as the Imperial City because it had been the main venue of the Court of Charles I. It is also known as the City of Three Cultures because it was influenced by the historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Unprecidented at the time, the city of Toledo allowed for mosques and temples to be built within the city and worshiped in. The phrase Holy Toledo comes from the city being considered a holy city for its religious tolerance.

Toledo also has a history of producing bladed weapons and metalwork which are now popular souvenirs of the city. In fact, many of the props from the Lord of the Rings series were made in Toledo.

The bridge leading into Toledo

Ruins that are being excavated outside the city.

I decided to take the train to Toledo. Having never used the European train system and not familiar with Spanish, I was a little nervous taking the train. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The train system is extremely organized and efficient. Plus, it was fun to see the landscape from the train.

The Train Station at Toledo

I hired a private guide while I was in Toledo. I would definitely recommend hiring a guide. Toledo is a tourist town so the guides specialize in knowing all the interesting facts of Toledo. 

One of the alleys

Those indentations are from knives being sharpened on the walls. 

One of the first stops was the Toledo Army Museum. Situated in the old Alcazar fortress, it is a multi-floored museum showcasing weaponry and armory from different centuries in Spain's history.

One of the many interesting weapons.

A suit of armor for both horse and man

They are also excavating ruins within the museum.

Like many of the museums in Spain, this one takes about several hours to view everything. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to explore it entirely. It is amazing to see the different armory and weaponry.

My next stop was the Toledo Cathedral. Also known as the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, it is considered by some authorities to be the magnum opus of Gothic Style in Spain.  It took over 200 years to build.

So gorgeous

Each one of these hats hangs over the buried tomb of a Cardinal.

This is part of the ceiling.

The crown jewels

For an additional fee, you can go up to the top of one of the bell towers. Though the climb is steep and claustrophobic, it is definitely worth it.

A place where I rested as I made my ascent.

This bell is huge. It can fit five or six people underneath it.

View from the top of the bell tower.

The masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by El Greco, is located in the Iglesia de Santo Tome. Although pictures are not allowed, seeing this masterpiece in person is breathtaking.

Here are a few more photos from my tour in Toledo.

The Jewish Quarter. Written in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.

Inside a synagogue

El Greco died in Toledo. 

The Statue of Miguel de Cervantes. He's the writer of Don Quixote.

Lastly, I stopped at a restaurant and had some delicious gazpacho.

Toledo was an amazing trip. I wish I had more than a day to explore it. The blending of cultures and history has created a unique town worth exploring.

~A.E. Keener

Want to know more about my adventure? Follow the links below:

Toledo Army Museum:

Toledo Cathedral: