The plane arrived slightly late, having flown a slightly longer route than normal to avoid some strong winds over the Atlantic. They delivered our stroller to us on the jetway (which doesn't always happen), but by the time we had made it through the maze of passageways to the immigration hall we were at the back of a very long queue. Once we actually got to the desk we went straight through with no problem, and we went to collect our hire car and strapped smallclanger into Argos's best toddler seat in the back.
We checked into a Best Western in northwest Houston. After going out again for a short while to pick up a few essentials and a bite to eat, we chilled out in our room until we deemed it not insanely early to go to bed. Jet lag meant we were up very early the next morning and ambled down to breakfast not long after it opened. Saturday was spent scouting out the local establishments for books, music and yarn — and some more chilling out in advance of our drive to Austin. The hotel has free wired Internet, and also a wireless router in the business centre. Our room was just far enough away that you could only get a wireless signal by going to the bathroom.
So on Sunday after a not quite so early breakfast we set off round the curiously named "Fm 1960 Rd" towards the I-10 and made good time to the Omni Hotel in an area of Austin that is amusingly named Southpark. While investigating what was available around that bit of the I-35 we stopped at Texadelphia for lunch, then did a bit more shopping for groceries.
Apparently some sessions of the symposium had already started, but we largely ignored this, and at around 6 smallclanger and I wandered down to see if there was any ice cream. Rather later than originally intended, people emerged from the meeting room and told us that they were planning to go to a barbecue place and come back for the ice cream. As people were making a quick trip to their hotel rooms, bopeepsheep coincidentally appeared. The plan involved driving in convoy to some destination for which the person supposedly in charge didn't have the address and didn't seem to know exactly how far up route 360 it was, and I hadn't caught the name of the place either. The driving involved signalling right and then not making the turn, then suddenly signalling a left which we couldn't possibly make, and doing a U-turn. This successfully resulted in our being completely lost — but just as we were about to give up and head back to the hotel we miraculously found ourselves behind one of the other cars, which took us to Salt Lick Three-Sixty. We were back quite late, but still had a bit of ice cream.
The proceedings proper started on Monday, and I won't bore you with the details since they are all on the site anyway. During the day, bopeepsheep and smallclanger went out for a walk to explore the local area. Failing any concrete plan for the evening among the attendees, we went out on our own and found a Sonic drive-in. It later turned out that a group of people had just gone into the hotel restaurant.
In the evening, a group of people took the lazy option again and went to the hotel restaurant. We went with them this time.
On Wednesday morning at break time I went up to the hotel room to find that smallclanger had been a very naughty boy.
In the evening the Symposium "banquet" turned out to be a trip to Dave & Buster's with a(nother) Texas barbecue meal followed by games. We didn't get to try out all the machines (partly because of looking after smallclanger and partly because shooting games aren't really my thing anyway), but smallclanger's favourite were the driving games. Some of the machines give out coupons by the dozen; we won a couple of hundred on a simple roulette-type game and bopeepsheep won lots more by being rather good at trivia. This combined with donations from several of the other players in our group meant we ended up with several thousand of them. At the end of the day, you get to cash these in and buy trinkets of various kinds. We came away with an oddly-shaped football (I gather it's the custom on this side of the pond to play football with balls that aren't ball-shaped) and a Texas bull, but smallclanger's prize possession is a loop of track and a pair of magnetic cars which came in a box bearing many fantastic boasts in not-quite-English. As the cars go past the bottom of the loop, the track sings an annoying song which we can't decipher any of the words of (I don't even know which language it is in).
On Thursday afternoon as the Symposium ended we checked out of the Omni and moved 400 yards down the road to the Best Western. Then we went to investigate the San Marcos outlet mall. It was so good we went back on Friday. We stayed in for a bit on Friday afternoon and did some laundry, and then went downtown to see the bats. To solve the problem of where to park, we pulled into TGI Friday's parking garage and went to see about dinner. "I'm afraid we don't have anything for about 40 minutes," they said. "No problem — we'll go see the bats and come back," we replied. "Shall we come at about quarter past eight?" "Well, I would say about 8:15." And so we went out to sit on the grass.
We had to wait half an hour or so, but eventually they came. It was a bit dark to take photos, but one or two came out reasonably.
On Saturday we did Austin Children's Museum and Austin Zoo. At the Children's Museum, smallclanger pretended to be a shopkeeper, a doctor, a restaurant worker and Bob the Builder. At the zoo, he saw lots of animals — big surprise there. It was very hot.
On Easter Sunday we packed again and drove to Gruene, where we explored for an hour or two and had lunch. Then it was a sprint along the I-10 back to the Best Western in Houston, and deciding which brand of pizza we should order in for dinner.
One of the things we passed on our way into Houston was Katy Mills, so on Monday we couldn't help but go and investigate it.