(Walking in) Memphis.
Oh, hey look, another travel post! It’s been a busy fall, but I think I’m home for the foreseeable future. Anyway. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent some time in Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga before, though never Memphis. The impetus for this trip was to take Jesse’s parents to Graceland as a belated fortieth wedding anniversary present. But dang, there is so much more to see than just where Elvis lived.
We got in on a Thursday afternoon and headed to our downtown hotel. At the concierge’s suggestion, we walked over to Blue City Cafe, as seen on the Food Network. That involved eating way too much and a plate of seafood gumbo cheese fries among other items. Needing to digest, we strolled down Beale Street, popping in a few bars to see who was playing and get a feel for the city. Around 4 p.m. we went over to the famous Peabody Hotel to get a seat for the ducks. Basically, people sit around and drink before watching some well-trained ducks leave the lobby fountain and march over to the elevator for the night. Cute enough.
Friday morning we woke up early and made our way to Graceland, which Elvis bought for something like $102,000 when he was 22. Holy hell. The mansion tour, narrated by John Stamos, gives you a view of the first floor, basement and surrounding buildings; the second floor is kept private. Once complete, they bus you back across the street to see gallery after gallery of Elvis memorabilia. There’s cars, outfits, knick-knacks, you name it. We made it as far as we could before opting to see something else. That brought us to Sun Studio, via a handy shuttle between museums. This small building was a highlight for me, with tons of information and history packed inside a space that’s still actively used by musicians including Jerry Lee Lewis. By then, hunger set in and it was time for Gus’s Fried Chicken. Across the street was the Old Dominick Distillery where we had a quick cocktail after lunch.
Saturday morning we took the trolley up to what I imagine is the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop, inside a pyramid. Having never been to one of these stores before, the whole thing was an experience. Plus you can ride the elevator up 26 stories to a glass-bottomed walkout overlooking the city. Afterward, we walked over to a mostly closed for the season Mud Island. Checked that box. That afternoon, we spent hours touring the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Heavy stuff but well worth the trip. Feeling a bit somber, we headed back toward the hotel, stopping for dinner at Rendezvous, a Memphis staple. We even squeezed in a quick trip to Arkansas after to grab donuts and cross another state off my list (12 to go).
Our flight on Sunday gave us plenty of time to explore before heading home, so we decided to check out the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which turned out to be very lively and interactive. We took off for Cooper Union to eat at Sweet Grass / Next Door and visit Goner Records. Driving through the neighborhoods and walking around the area, we got to see something a little less tourist-focused, a welcome experience. And that’s where the trip ended, shoving off for the airport late afternoon and arriving home just in time for bed. Hats off to Memphis.
Images above: Beale Street, Peabody Hotel, Graceland, Sun Studio, view from the Bass Pro Shop at the pyramid, National Civil Rights Museum, Arkansas, Goner Records