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By Lesley Francis


I love exploring new places in the USA, and regular readers will know of my secret desire to eventually visit all the states in the USA. My closest friend from university days, a fellow Brit who by great good fortune has ended up living in Atlanta, is often my ‘partner in travel’. Since my husband, after decades of business travel and millions of air miles, would rather have a weekend at home with the dogs than explore new cities, my friend and I enjoy planning our “girls-only” mini vacations and long weekends. 

Last month we headed to Austin, Texas. I had always realized, intellectually at least, that Texas is a huge state, the second largest in the USA after Alaska. It covers 269,000 square miles, and at its longest points, is about 1,000 miles north to south and east to west. That said, the vast size of the USA always strikes me anew every time I travel. Since the whole of the UK including England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is only 93,000 square miles, this is not surprising. Texas is nearly three times as large as the land of my birth. Texas has a population of 29 million compared to the 68 million living in the UK so I do understand why Britain can seem small and cramped to visiting Americans – especially Texans where apparently “everything is bigger”. 

I am always fascinated by the history of places I visit and discovered that the Native Americans were well established in Texas by the time the Spanish began to occupy this land in the sixteenth century. By the 1730s the Spanish made San Antonio in South-Central Texas their administrative center. The territory of Texas was part of the Spanish Empire for more than a century and then became part of the new country of Mexico from 1821 to 1836, when it gained its independence after the famous Battle of The Alamo. Texas was its own republic for just nine years before it became the 28th state of the union in 1845. At that time, Texas was generally seen by the wider USA as a lawless frontier with a cowboy heritage. Today, it is immediately clear to any visitor that Texans still have a strong sense of identity with their state and an independent spirit. The name of the state derives from the Native American word, caddo meaning “allies” or “friends.” The Spanish spelled this word tejas or texas and used it to describe this area. 

Texas has many different aspects and personalities, of course. There are vast cattle ranches, cotton farms, major oil and gas production and processing facilities, and huge cities of industry and finance. We chose to visit Austin, the capital of Texas and 11th largest city in the USA, located in the state’s south-central region on the Colorado river. Austin was made capital of the Republic of Texas in 1835 when it was called Waterloo but changed its name in 1845 to honor Stephen Austin, who was instrumental in Texas’ independence from Mexico. On the less cultural day of our visit we did go onto the river on one of Austin’s famous ‘duck tours’, a fun day out to see the city by both water and land.  And yes we did blow our duck whistles! However, to balance out the duck tour experience the next day we took a guided tour of the state Capitol building. In line with the Texan determination to make everything bigger, this was built to be 10-feet taller than the U.S. Capitol. 

In recent years, Austin has developed itself as a technology hub, and along with it came a cool vibe with a devotion to music and art. There are multiple opportunities to enjoy a range of different styles and artists. We frequently saw the sign ‘Keep Austin Weird” which originated at the beginning of the new millennium and is now frequently used in their tourism and marketing materials. There were plenty of restaurants, bars, ice cream, donut and coffee shops to experience so we had to walk the calories off as we explored!   

Austin is part of the Texas Triangle, a region that includes the state’s five largest cities and is home to the majority of Texans, over 20 million. This area includes Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, which are connected by I-10, I-35 and I-45. Some say it is the fastest growing “megaregion” in the USA, and 54 of the Fortune 500 companies are headquartered there. 

There is more information at  

I will say goodbye this week with a quote from iconic singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, a Texan who grew up a couple of hours north and a bit nearer to Dallas: “There’s a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.”  

God Bless America! 

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Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009. She can be contacted at  or via her full service marketing agency at