Katherine Compton: Visiting the Texas Capitol as a Tourist | Good Living


British philosopher Bertrand Russell once surmised, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Recently, I decided I needed to waste a little time, so off to Austin I went. I whiled away the days sipping cocktails at the Driscoll, beating the heat shopping at the Domain and feasting on decadent food at my one of my new favorite places, Péché.

Péché describes itself aptly on their website saying, “Meaning sin in French, Péché is distinctly Austin’s first absinthe bar, a cocktail program headed by bar manager Derek Weiss, showcasing a selection of pre-Prohibition style cocktails and a curated wine list. Executive chef John Lichtenberger brings that same tailored focus to the food menu, providing rich French fare made with the freshest ingredients.”

As a table, we started with the buttery escargot and rich chicken liver pate. For dinner, I had the sleek, silky foie gras perfectly complimented by a bright peach chutney and creamy grits.

Next time you are in Austin I highly recommend drinking and dining at Péché.

After the preceding decadence, I decided it was high time I did something worthwhile, so I paid a visit to the Texas Capitol building.

When asked to describe Texas, Carl Sandburg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, said “Texas is a blend of valor and swagger.”

There is nowhere that the swagger and valor of Texas is more evident than on the grounds of our beautiful State Capitol. I have visited the Capitol many times in the past but when I look back on all my previous visits, they have each been quick and for a specific purpose. I have gone as a chaperone for my children’s school field trips, as a Realtor bringing attention to property tax reform, and as a part of Jackson County Day visiting with our local legislators about the needs of our county, but never as just a visitor.

Last week, the opportunity finally presented itself for me to leisurely visit our awe-inspiring Capitol as a tourist and a lover of Texas. It gave me a chance to appreciate the stunning building and learn more about our great state. It turns out that the building that stands proudly in Austin today is actually the third Capitol of Texas and the second capitol building to occupy the exact same spot.

The current building is constructed of sunset red granite that was sourced from Marble Falls. The build, which commenced on Texas Independence Day in 1885, was financed by a Constitutional article that allowed our government to sell state owned land to pay for its construction. It took more than 900 workers the better part of three years to complete the massive undertaking but the end result, which is still the largest of all the state capitol buildings in the nation, was certainly worth the investment. Over the years, our proud capitol and its stunning 22-acre grounds have seen their fair share of renovations and expansions, but the original building remains largely the same as it was when it opened in 1888. There are guided tours offered to visitors about every half hour during business hours every day of the week, except for state holidays, and visitors are free to go on self-guided tours of the building every day, as well.

I started on a self-guided tour and ended up taking the guided tour, too, both were awesome. I especially loved the one of the newest additions to the tour, Capitol by Phone. This visitor-friendly feature, which popped up a few years ago, consists of placards spread out throughout the complex. They invite visitors to scan a QR code or text a short message to a number that will link you with audio recordings or photographs about Texas history. My favorite one was a code that led to a YouTube recording of one of Gov. Pappy O’Daniel’s 1941 radio broadcasts.

I am going to share three of the links I enjoyed the most from my tour, I hope you will learn as much from them as I did. Text each of the following to 56512: TEXCAP Pappy, TEXCAP Dome and TEXCAP Ma and enjoy a bit of the Capitol from the comfort of your home.

While you are at it, whip up a batch of Laura Bush’s famous Cowboy Cookies. They are as big and as flavorful as Texas.

Katherine Compton is an active mother of two grown children and a Realtor. She loves cooking almost as much as she loves living in Jackson County. Katherine can be contacted by email at whatscookingkatherine@gmail.com.

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