Day 16 - Memphis - Tennessee

Trip Start Oct 13, 2012
1
16
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Trip End Nov 19, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Sunday, October 28, 2012

When you start the day with biscuits and gravy for breakfast you know you have to be in the South - there goes the diet! Biscuits, by the way, are scones. Gravy is pretty much old fashioned style gravy made like a thick sauce that I have under good authority is produced using lots of shortening (i.e. fat). Oh well you only live once, and not for long if you keep eating this food. Tomorrow I'm going to give the grits a go, I'll keep you posted.

After a super hearty breakfast it was time for some Memphis, or should I say Elvis Town, sightseeing. Despite the loads of people who have lived here, played here, and recorded here this town pretty much belongs to Elvis. Downtown Beale Street belongs to BB King and the blues, but the rest of the place belongs to Elvis.

First stop Sun Studio where Elvis recorded his first song, which I believe was "that's alright", recorded for his mother. It was also the birthplace of the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins) who recorded a bunch of songs together, very cool, very that new thing called rock and roll!

Then I got my first glimpse of the iconic Missisippi River. The river runs all the way from Minesota to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through 10 different states along the way. It is the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. There's no housing along the bank as it's been known to flood from time to time, but there are some spectacular mansions on the rise across from the foreshore over looking it. Apparently Cybil Sheppard used to live in one of them, but I'm not sure which one.

From the river it was off to the Lorraine Motel where Dr Martin Luther King, leading Civil Rights activist, was assassinated during a visit to Memphis where he spoke in support if striking sanitation workers. There's plenty of conspiracy theories as to who was responsible, but it was James Earl Ray who was arrested and jailed for the offence. The hotel no longer operates but remains a shrine to this great man.

There are more photos reflecting the civil unrest in Memphis and Martin Luther King at the Rock and Soul Museum, which was my next stop of the day. There's a bit of Elvis stuff here, but this place is not really about him, it's much more about the soul than the rock, it's really bluesy and reflects the music that is still played in all the bars and restaurants in Beale St.

Then to the real Elvis Town ... Graceland. A couple of things really strike you here. The first is that it's quite modest, sure it would have been pretty fancy and extravagant for it's time but it's no where near the size of the mansions that the modern day stars and celebrities seem to have. The second is that everything is for sale. Given the fairly modest home I have to wonder if he would have wanted something as commercial as what his home has turned in to. Perhaps I should have asked him about it when I saw him in Vegas.

The gift shops definately outnumber the attractions and anything you could think of has had his name stamped on it and put on sale, whether it has anything to do with him or not. My two favourite things for sale were legitimately Elvis related. First were the replicas of his gold records. Really? Who buys this stuff? The second, and my absolute favourite, was the rhinestone jumpsuits. For the small sum of $3,775 you too could have your very own Elvis Aloha jumpsuit. It's great value as it includes the belt and cape too, and each one is bespoke so would fit like a dream. Perfect for your lounge room Karaoke or Song Star parties. Gotta love it.

Then one last stop for the day to see the Peabody Ducks (good tip Laz they were fun). The Peabody Ducks are ducks that parade across the foyer of the beautiful Peabody Hotel twice a day. They live on the rooftop of the hotel and at 11 am each morning they come down from the roof in the lift, parade across the foyer and jump into the foyer's fountain. They hang out there for the day then at 5 pm parade back across the foyer to the lift to return to their palace on the roof for the night. This all started as a joke back in the 1930s when the Peabody's general manager and a chum returned from a hunting trip a bit tipsy and put their live decoy ducks in the fountain for the night. In the morning they were stunned to find them still there and it all grew from there (obviously the original ducks are long gone but there's always a new family ready to spend some time in this luxurious hotel fountain).

Last but not least was dinner at King's Palace in Beale Street complete with blues accompaniment and blackened catfish (I don't even know how to start to describe what the catfish was like, it's like nothing I've ever tasted before, but was quite yummy). I am determined to try all the different tastes of the South.
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