Mesmerizing murals, Hindu temple, enchanting roads, stunning sculpture and more — thanks to an assignment from Helen Edwards

Helen Edwards
Helen Edwards has transitioned from corporate president to listing agent, and in the process gave me an adventurous assignment.

For the past few months, I’ve had the utter joy of creating content for Helen Edward’s residential real estate website. Spending hours driving Austin’s back streets from Georgetown to San Marcos has been a fascinating experience. I’m sharing some of the photos I took, along with some observations about our multifaceted metropolis. It’s easy to understand why the pundits of popular culture love Austin.

But first a bit about Helen, who has been uniquely involved in the Austin real estate community since the 1990s. She grew up in Brenham, attended Texas A&M University and learned the real estate business from Richard Smith, a well-known Texas politician and savvy businessman, who founded Coldwell Banker United, Realtors.

Helen started out as a jane-of-all-trades, moving to Austin to oversee the company’s growing presence here. By 1998, she was vice president of sales and took the helm as president of the Austin region in 2005. Helen was named president and COO of the entire company in 2012, directing operations in 73 offices across Texas, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Successful companies often attract attention from larger companies, and national behemoth NRT LLC purchased Coldwell Banker United in 2015. Helen remained on the executive team until December 2017 when she decided to take some time off for family priorities and plan the next chapter.

A two-time cancer survivor, Helen is devoted to helping others, especially her parents, husband, children and grandchildren. After years of motivating and mentoring real estate agents, she’s going back to the future — specializing in listing homes across the metro area with Coldwell Banker United, of course.

Helen and I have known each other since I moved to Austin in 2012. Our relationship was conducted via email and phone calls for all these years, but then we met in person at her home in Lost Creek this spring—and I began writing her website biography, gathering testimonials from her many admirers and creating neighborhood profiles with fun photos.

I traveled down streets I never had time to follow before, discovering neighborhoods and outposts that captivated me. I also came across a few spots that gave me the creeps. I like that.

I recalled how my dad would take our family on Sunday drives in the 1950s in the suburbs of Denver and how much I miss that mid-century tradition. What a joy it is to get off the interstate and uncover the contrasting lifestyles, architectural styles, flora and fauna, and overall vibes that create the depth and texture of Austin’s culture.

So, welcome to my dependable Toyota Corolla as we put a few hundred miles on the odometer, starting from my home in Lockhart.

blog downtown tower
Nobody seems to ever talk about Buford Tower on Cesar Chavez Street, but to me it’s a charming landmark. Built in 1930 as a drill tower for the Austin Fire Department, the Italianate campanile is one of those architectural details that capture history in a visual vignette.
blog metal sculpture
I need to walk down East Cesar Chavez Street from downtown Austin to US 183. to take it all in The art, the color, the diversity — I do believe this is the coolest street in our city.
Blog The Yard
I am a sucker for a reimagined industrial property. The Yard on East St. Elmo Street has it all going on with distilleries and creative companies of intriguing varieties.
blog burnet road
When I moved to Austin in 2012, Burnet Road was starting to find itself. Now it is quintessentially cool. The restaurants and bars are fab, but the consignment stores are the best in town.
Blog Scenic Drive.jpg
Yes, I really took this photo on a hot Saturday morning—and Lake Austin really was this shade of turquoise. Check out Scenic Drive. It is a stunning byway.
blog woodlawn
A shade northwest of downtown Austin is Woodlawn, an estate dating back to 1853. There’s soap opera drama to be found on this land, and it still remains storybook stunning. You just need to find it and uncover the plot yourself.
blog elizabet ney museum
German-American sculptor Franzisca Bernadina Wilhelmina Elizabeth Ney immigrated to Texas at age 39 and played a key role in making Austin an arts center. She died in Austin at age 74 in 1907 but her creative legacy lives on and on in Hyde Park.
Pflugerville typhoon texas
I moved to Austin in March 2012 and confess I’d never been to Pflugerville until January 2018. It has many charming assets. Who knew? It also has a water park of certain renown.  Kids will understand this!
blog heritage office square
Rollingwood is this little incorporated area immediately southwest of downtown Austin. It’s super small but it has a Trader Joe’s. You may have known that, but did you know about Heritage Square? It’s an office park comprised of Victorian homes — and it’s delightful.  You must turn off Bee Cave Road to find it, however.
Blog chinatown
Austin’s diversity shines most north of downtown. Chinatown, located on North Lamar Boulevard, reflects another culture and place in time — a tribute to the Asian community that has made its mark on this city.
Blog hindu temple
Probably the only place I’ve been in Cedar Park is the HEB Center where the Texas Stars play.  It’s a great arena, and the hockey vibe rocks. So anyway, I was stunned in my travels to discover the Sri Venkateswara Temple on New Hope Drive. It’s beautiful. And exotic.
Blog frog mural
Murals take my breath away. This frog mural, which caught my attention on San Jacinto Boulevard downtown, may or may not still be there but it set my personal Kermit free.
Blog view above Pennybacker
Yes, this is a real street and a real Mercedes.  This breathtaking scene can be yours.  All you need to do is cruise West Courtyard Drive.
Blog Pieous Belterra.jpg
I almost never get out to Dripping Springs.  What a shame. The new Belterra retail center, developed by Endeavor Real Estate Group, features a bevy of great stores and restaurants, including Pieous. That would be pizza to die for.
Blog Georgetown downtown.jpg
I’ve been to Georgetown before but not in a long time and not for long.  My recent Saturday visit opened my eyes to the charm and vitality. The stores are appealing, the architecture so comely and the pace so upbeat that I am coming back soon — the day after Thanksgiving, perhaps. Meet me for drinks?
Blog Lakeway airport.jpg
One of the favorite things I discovered in my travels is Lakeway Airpark. My gosh. You just pull up and get in your plane and fly away.  Seriously, all the houses in this neighborhood lining Champion Drive have their own hangar next to their garage. Am I cleared for take-off?
blog cafe mozart.jpg
After my daughter came to St. Edward’s University for college, one of the first places she took me was Mozart’s cafe. I’ve spent many afternoons inside and out reading and writing. There is no more appealing ambiance in Austin, in my humble opinion.
blog tv towers.jpg
It seems to me that all of Austin pivots around the West Austin Antenna Farm. The red lights from eight broadcast beam day and night from the hill near Westlake Drive and Capital of Texas Highway.  In most cities, broadcast towers are located far from chi chi real estate. But in Austin, some of the most expensive homes are perched underneath the towers.
Blog Cuernevaca
If you’ve never explored Cuernavaca Drive off Bee Cave Road, then you’re missing a mysterious path.  The road is a narrow and curvy blast from the past — Austin unleashed. You’ll see hippie mobile homes and stately mansions. As the asphalt winds down to the river, the foliage becomes exceedingly dense and the homes much larger.  Oh the mystery and charm.
Blog traffic stop
When finished exploring Austin’s unique places, you are welcome to get stuck in the traffic grid. For me this was southbound I-35 at Texas Highway 71.  Temperature? 103. I’ve had hot fun in the summer time.

So, what are your favorite undiscovered spots in Austin? Jot me a note at

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