There are two very attractive innovations in Austin that make visiting this capitol city a pleasure. The Kimber Modern is a sleek new hotel, tucked into a leafy neighborhood just off the groovy shops of South Congress Street. And car2go has opened for business, making transportation a delight for Austinites and visitors.
The Kimber Modern has been open for several years, and occupies a strangely shaped plot of land. Two of the seven rooms are suites, and the remaining five standard rooms feature queen beds, a fridge, clean lines, smoked glass bathrooms and subtle lighting. The standard rooms are not spacious, but there is no cluttered feeling whatsoever. The floor to ceiling curtains provide a counterpoint to the sleek décor. I was delighted by the small touches like the luxurious Malin + Goetz emollients, recessed lighting, tall ceilings and high end European-style fixtures. All rooms open to a multi-level wooden patio, built around a pair of remarkable oak trees. Local ordinances prohibited their removal, so the owners Kimber Cavendish and Vicki Faust brilliantly built the hotel around the oaks. Outdoor couches and a few hammocks invite respite after a night at several of the myriad nightclubs on the world famous 6th Street.
The Kimber Modern Hotel has no need for a concierge, as ‘virtual service’ is provided. In other words, upon booking your reservation, you are assigned a room (each named with a color) and you designate a four digit code that provides access from the street, access to your room and access to the large common room. Happy hour and breakfast (complimentary) are offered daily. Stella Artois, sparkling water bottled in Texas, artisanal cheese and a fine Chardonnay provided afternoon refreshment. The morning offerings tracked the European bed and breakfast approach: granola, yogurt, diced fruit, fresh OJ and espresso.
The owners are seeking “the independent urban traveler” and by all accounts the adjective “sophisticated” could be added. Plans are underway to open similar hotels in other cities, including San Diego.
Austin touts itself as the Live Musical Capitol of the World, and it is easy to see why. For a city with a population less than a million, it sports a seemingly incongruous number of music venues. Sixth Avenue is wall to wall with clubs, and sorting through a recent issue of The Austin Chronicle revealed missed gigs from local favorites like the Flatlanders, Lucinda Williams and the criminally underrated Alejandro Escovedo. Ian MacLagan has apparently taken up residence in Austin; I foolishly never saw his Pasadena club dates when he was based in California. The last time I saw him in concert was when he was in the Faces, with Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart. I will plan my next visit to Austin with an eye on the concert listings.
One evening I drifted down to South Congress a block away from the Kimber Modern and dipped into the venerable Continental Club to hear a great jazz quintet called Church on Monday. The band is anchored by Dr. James Polk on B-3 organ with former Joey DeFrancesco guitarist Jake Langley and is led by saxophonist Elias Haslanger. On my way back to the Kimber Modern I tried some delightful homemade ice cream at Amy’s.
Tooling around Austin in now easier with the debut of car2go. Daimler is investing heavily in the mobility sector around short term use (cars, parking spots, mobile apps, etc). With an expanding list of car2go cities, travelers and lucky city dwellers have a clever travel option. Andreas Leo,
Corporate Communications Manager for car2go, confirms that in three launch cities, car2go has already broken even. Globally, registered users rose from 60,000 in 2011 to 275,000 currently.
Once you set up your car2go account (one-time fee of $35), you can grab any available 2 seater on the street. A quick swipe of your member card verifies your status, and off you go. Payment is based on a simple 38 cents per minute of use. This is a growing business model across the internet, where you pay only for actual use.
You can reserve a car or use your smartphone to find the nearest car. If you need to make a few stops, you can keep the car, although your rental time will still accrue. Of course, the major innovation in the car2go model is the one way rental; just drop it where you want within the ever-increasing service area.
The car is nimble, given its short wheelbase. The navigation system is precise and although the radio is not built for maximum volume, I had no complaints about the sound. Most of the cars in Austin are gas powered, but electric cars are being integrated into car2go’s fleet.
I quickly cottoned to the sprightly nature of the eye-catching white and blue design. Tooling around the Capitol Building, I was able to park (many areas offer free parking for car2go vehicles) and wander around the area. It being Texas, the Capitol Building was purposely made larger than the US Capitol. Indeed, everything is bigger in Texas. The state stretches from the Mexican border halfway to Canada.
Austin deserves its reputation as the city of choice in Texas. The free spirited nature of the 1960s never really left (witness the perennially popular bumper stickers and T-shirts vowing and asking to “Keep Austin Weird”). The high tech revolution is alive and well in Austin, as witnessed by the well-attended SXSW Interactive gathering in March.
Kimber Modern and car2go should have quite a few devotees in short order. Both rely heavily on the subtle beauty of well-crafted design and the ubiquity of near-frictionless internet commerce. I plan to make both Kimber Modern and car2go my ‘go to’ reservations on my next trip to the bastion of music and delightful weirdness known as Austin.