Early one Thursday evening, we sat on a deck high above the Colorado River drinking almond-flavored concoctions spiked with “shine”. It was still quite hot, but runners followed a path below that paralleled the water. A canoe or two passed by. Our drinks came from a distillery that not only had a great river view, but a misting system and a Taylor-Swift kind of singer who sang mostly on key. The owners told us their handcrafted spirits were made from filtered rainwater. It sounded almost healthy. The whole setting seemed very organic, and Austin-like.
But we weren’t in Austin. We were 30 minutes southeast in Bastrop, Texas. You know Bastrop, that small town buried behind the fast food restaurants on Highway 71. The last time we had stopped there, their historic downtown area was fading fast. This time, it was as if someone waved a magic wand and infused the place with rustic charm.
We love small towns, but we don’t expect a lot from them. We are willing to look beyond what isn’t there and enjoy what is. It’s something we have in common as travelers, and it’s the thing that makes our frequent road trips enjoyable. We assumed an afternoon would be plenty of Bastrop-fun. What a surprise to find that Austin’s urban sprawl has sent charm-loving residents here to revitalize the place.
No dodging darts while we ate hamburgers on this trip. No pool-table-view seating. Those days are gone. We had chicken salad at Maxine’s, a cute café on Main Street. They have a resident ghost. There was a snapshot of the guy hanging on the wall. (It’s posted below.) Later we had a fried okra snack at an equally cute place just around the corner.
We climbed a steep stairway to a shop called the Italian Cowboy where we found unique birthday treasures for a foodie friend.
The Italian Cowboy is a great place. Visit them online and you’ll see! Visit The Italian Cowboy
Just down the stairs we found Cripple Creek and Company. We checked out their wine tastings, their wine gifts, and the amazing potion they sell to remove wine stains. Not naming names, but one of us has a husband who makes this miracle product a life necessity.
We also stopped by the Lost Pines Art Bazaar, a home-décor-gift boutique that is so chocked full of good stuff you should allocate major time to look around. Even if you are late for an appointment in Austin, we suggest you take the Bastrop exit and find this place. It’s just across the Colorado River Bridge. There is an added bonus — the Copper Shot Distillery is just steps away, so you too can sample rainwater shine.
And don’t miss the city’s residential streets. Bastrop’s neighborhoods reflect the charm of the 1800s, with some homes predating the Civil War. Be sure to drive slowly. This is a place where you finally learn why the chickens cross the road.
Bastrop is a chicken sanctuary and fowl roam freely. We braked for a rooster more than once.
There is so much to see and do in Bastrop, our afternoon visit turned into a two-night stay.
Keep scrolling to see more of what we loved about this small town and be sure to follow us on Instagram.
Bastrop has a great museum.
We watched films about the history and were amazed that Bastrop is one of the oldest towns in the state of Texas. We had no idea.
This child’s vest dates to the Civil War. The condition was amazing. The placard beside it says it was passed down for generations, even to the family boys.
They have an unbelievable art center that houses galleries, shops, and a wine bar.
The Lost Pines Art Center is one of the reasons we stopped in Bastrop.
Our close friend and photographer, Charleen Baugh, was featured artist at the time of our visit. The soft-color, reflection abstracts are hers. You can see more of her work by clicking the link. We are particularly fond of her Texas photos, but then, we love Texas! Art by Nature – Charleen Baugh
Smithville, Texas artist Melodie Spears Schmidt is the talented painter who was also a featured artist during our visit.
In one of the galleries we met a local photographer with some pretty amazing art.
We enjoyed visiting with Paul Licce and seeing his work.
And we know you’d like to see the ghost that haunts Maxine’s Cafe. Here is his photo. He’s the one with white eyes and the western hat.
We will be off to another small town before you know it.
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