Day 8

Trip Start Sep 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
Holiday Inn Southaven, MS

Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Sunday, September 19, 2010

We had to pay for our breakfast today - this is Holiday Inn! But the service here is outstanding, everyone has been falling over themselves to make us feel welcome. We love Southern hospitality. Jenny asked for her eggs to be "sunny side up" and soon realised that in the US, this means your eggs are in their own pond of clear runny yolk and white. She has now noted that eggs "over-easy" are the way to go!

Mike B and Jenny chose to visit downtown Memphis this morning, while Mike J and I made the short journey to Elvis Presley Boulevard and his home of nearly 20 years, Graceland. More of Graceland in a moment - here's Mike B's recount of their morning adventures:

"Today, Jenny and I braved Traci's disbelief and indignation (good natured, I think!) to mention that we would like to give Graceland a miss. Instead we planned to spend more time in Memphis.

So first to the Peabody Hotel to see the original 1920/1930 features. We started in the huge and opulent lobby with its central formation, stained glass ceiling and massive crystal chandeliers.
We climbed a marble staircase with a cast iron balustrade and walked corridors with wood and velvet wall panelling.

We looked down at the lobby with its 'Peabody Ducks'. They live on the hotel roof. At 11am each day. they make their way via the lifts and a red carpet to the fountain (with the help of the 'Duck Master'!). The ceremony is reversed at 5pm and draws huge crowds.

In the Peabody Museum was a letter from a disgruntled dinner client who objected to duck being on the menu, considering the connection. No duck has been served since.

After a slow walk up and down the exciting Beale Street, with music every few yards from the bars, we made our way to the Rock and Soul Museum. For the next hour and a half, Jenny was hip-swaying and foot-tapping her way around the exhibition to the beat in her earphones. I was studiously studying the information boards and photographs. I did notice people staring at me at one point. Evidently I was singing aloud to a jug band from my earphones.

We learned a lot about how the folk music of the dispossessed white farmers together with the gospel and blues of the never-possessed negroes led eventually to the 'Memphis Sound' of legends like Elvis, BB King, Otis Redding and others.

To meet Mike and Traci at the National Civil Rights Museum, we needed to walk four blocks (about 400 yards). After one block we contemplated the lack of shade remaining and didn't fancy it in the 100 degrees Farenheit heat so we took a taxi. It was worth $5.40!

By the end of the day, we were museumed out. We were revived in the evening by the live music in buzzing Beale Street. A great day."

Come to Memphis and not go to Graceland? *shakes head in disbelief* ;)

Mike and I made our way a few miles from downtown Memphis to Elvis Presley Boulevard. It was only 11am and the line was already 30 minutes long. Graceland is no longer just the mansion and grounds – you can choose to also visit Lisa Marie (Elvis' private plane), and numerous museums including one filled with all of Elvis’ cars and motorbikes, and another with all of his stage costumes.

We started off with a tour of the mansion. You don’t get to go upstairs but we saw the piano room, the dining room, the kitchen, the so-called jungle room, and the basement TV room. Being an Elvis nut, I have read so many stories about events in all of these rooms and it was easy to imagine Elvis, Priscilla and the Memphis Mafia hanging out here.

After the mansion tour, we made our way through the outbuilding where Vernon, Elvis’ father, kept his office and the out to the paddocks. Next was the trophy room, where they had all of Elvis’ gold records lining the walls. Mike remarked that he could remember listening to Radio Luxemberg in his mother’s house in Wales when he was 14, and writing down all of the titles of Elvis songs … and here he was seeing the actual records in Elvis’ home!

Poignantly, we also visited the squash court. In the room adjacent to the court was a piano and some comfortable sofas and chairs. Here, on the eve of his death, Elvis hung out with his entourage and played some songs close to his heart, one of which was "Unchained Melody".

Also very moving is seeing Elvis’ grave alongside his mother’s, father’s and grandmother’s in the Meditation Garden. There is also a small memorial to his twin brother Jesse, who died at birth.

After lunch in the Rockabilly's Café, a classic 50s diner, we made our way to a new exhibit, showcasing Elvis’ comeback special on NBC in 1968. This is one of my absolute favourite periods and it was fascinating to see the costumes up close, a video documenting how the 'comeback’ came about, and many original documents from the show’s creation. It also explained how the song “If I Can Dream” (which Elvis sings at the end of the show) was specially written at Elvis’ request as a response to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy earlier that year.

Ooh, and I must mention that today I was finally allowed to play the Elvis station on our car’s satellite radio, which broadcasts live from Graceland!

Around 2pm, we met up again with Mike and Jenny outside the National Civil Rights Musuem, located at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis where Martin Luther King was shot outside his room in 1968. It’s quite an eerie feeling standing outside and looking up at the place we’ve all seen so many times on the TV.

Inside the National Civil Rights Museum was an informative exhibition of the struggles and triumphs of blacks in America. It really is shocking to recognise in full the treatment that has been dealt out over the years. The exhibition also included a viewing of the 30-minute film “The Witness”, which chronicled the time of Martin Luther King’s death through the eyes of a pastor who was with him at the time. Amazingly moving.

In the evening, we headed back to downtown Memphis, where a kind, older gentleman guided us into our parking place. He was a lovely man who, when he discovered where we were from, proceeded to tell us a great story about how he was named. His name turned out to be Harold Wilson! (Yes, we saw the documents proving this!)

Mike and Jenny took us to a restaurant they had discovered earlier that morning, an old movie theatre established in the early 20th century called The Majestic Bar & Grill, where we had a wonderful meal.

Onto Beale Street for our fix of music (Daniel, our trusty GPS/sat nav, insists on calling this “Be-Al” Street!). Into BB King’s Blues Bar and then onto Blues City Cafe where we heard a great band called Freeworld, who are so popular that they have played there every Sunday since 1991.

Tomorrow Arkansas!

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