What child doesn’t want to see what elementary schools are like in a different state or country? Well, we had that opportunity this morning when we visited the Forest Trail Elementary School in the Eanes District of Austin, Texas. Forest Trail, a K-5 school, has its own communal garden, laying hens (Rhode Island Reds which we recognized from home), and an outdoor theatre along a woodland path. It’s linked to the outdoors and the land through all its classrooms, and it was wonderful to see how integrated the children are with the land surrounding the school. In grade 6, the children move across the street to the middle school, until grade 9 when they attend the local Austin high school, which has its own transition wing called, ‘The Grade 9 Centre’.
The botanical gardens in Austin are a wonderful fusion of Japanese and South-western landscaping. The boys picked up several little one inch long Cottonwood snakes that must have just hatched , all while standing under a circular Asian arch with a giant horseshoe framing it. The natural centre next door also hosted local rescued wildlife, including a bobcat. "I always pictured bobcats as just being a big, fat cat," Seumas said puzzled, "because my grandfather is named Bob and he's got a big stomach."
We were going to try one of the ‘flavourtown’ restaurants for lunch , the Green Mesquite, but right beside it was John’s favourite hamburger joint, and a local celebrity, P. Terry’s. It should be on the ‘dives’ show since we loved eating the only thing on the menu – hamburgers and hand-cut fries done in peanut oil. The lines up to the take-out window (it’s all take-out) were so long that we had to wait with the pigeons and crows to get our food, but it was well worth any flavortown rating.
Not far from P. Terry’s is a natural springs swimming hole where visitors have been coming for centuries. Barton Springs is run by the City of Austin, complete with its own lifeguards and a diving board - a wonderful example of a naturally preserved swimming area. Ducks, loons, and the odd mocking bird share the water, but under the 27˚C March sun, it was a refreshing dip. The springs keep the water at a constant room temperature of 70˚F year round, so it is a favourite during the hot Texan Summers. Behind the main swimming pool area there is a shallow lazy river or small rapids. The children spent most of their time here following the flow of the creek like a couple of salmon until the youngest began to turn blue and we dried off in the afternoon sun and headed home to Silverado Circle for a chicken supper and a night of packing in anticipation of Wild Oaks and San Antonio in the morning.