Deep in the heart of Texas, a galaxy's worth of stars are taking up residence. Join this one for a tour of the capital city hot spots.


Madeleine Stowe has a fantasy about her newly acquired fiddle: "To go into one of the clubs in Austin and play backup," she says. "Wouldn't that be something, to walk into the Broken Spoke and play with Don Walser? I would love to have the ability to just riff. That would be the greatest." Don't count her out. The half-Costa Rican actress from Los Angeles already presides over her own working Texas cattle ranch between Austin and Fredericksburg, where she lives with her husband, Brian Benben, an upstate-New York-bred actor, and their 4-year-old daughter May. Conquering the fiddle is just another goal for this actress who handles Texas steers while starring in Hollywood films. Stowe attended UCLA to study journalism, but switched to acting after working as a volunteer in a Beverly Hills theater. First, she tried made-for-TV movies, then major motion pictures. She broke out of the pack in Stakeout, burning up the screen as a sexy temptress observed from afar by detective Richard Dreyfuss. She also starred with Jack Nicholson in The Two Jakes, with Kevin Costner in Revenge, with Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans, with Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, and with John Travolta in The General's Daughter. This month, she stars with Gary Sinise in Imposter, a futuristic film about a war between two planets. But she remains firmly planted deep in the heart of Texas. Here's a weekend in and around Austin with Madeleine Stowe.


FRIDAY
LODGING
"I'll tell you what I love about the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. The river runs right past it and they have a wonderful restaurant down at the bottom level. People go there just to watch the bats fly by. You get this wonderful, elegant dinner and watch bats fly all over the place. The real bat colony is under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and it's one of the biggest colonies of bats anywhere. Up in Fredericksburg, 70 miles west of Austin, very close to my home, there's a place called the Bat Tunnel. It's an old railway tunnel where the bats love to hang. They fly over my ranch all the time. We used to have trouble with them coming down our chimney and flapping around and squeaking in the middle of the night. But to see masses of them in flight is an extraordinary thing."

DINNER
"I like Mexican food. There's real Mexican at Fonda San Miguel, if you want something elegant. It's wonderful for seafood, chicken, and molé enchiladas, beautifully prepared. It has an Old World sort of feeling. But my husband and me, our tastes run to what's fun and quick. Local hangouts, like Matt's Famous El Rancho. It's a real cultural experience and they probably have the best margaritas in town."

NIGHTLIFE
"Austin has an incredible music scene, and I love the Broken Spoke. It's a honky-tonk on South Lamar. It's Texas Texas. You can go to the Paramount Theatre, an old theater right on Congress Avenue, the street that goes to the capitol. The Paramount Theatre is so beautiful and intimate. I saw Leo Kottke there. It's grand and was restored wonderfully. I love La Zona Rosa, a bar with live music.The thing I like about Austin is its unpredictability. On Sixth Street, you can walk from one bar to the next. I'm not a big drinker, but that's something you can do. Just let the night take you, and see what happens."