This is what happened to me on my trip to Memphis in June, I loved the place and hope you enjoy it.
Might be good to start with my itinerary:
- London to Chicago –
connecting flight to Memphis
3 nights there
- Memphis to Chicago –
connecting flight to Las Vegas
4 nights there
- Las Vegas to Denver –
connecting flight to London
Yes I do now realise that’s a hell of a lot of flights in a short space of time.
We arrive in … hang on lets go back a bit, we come into land at Chicago and the announcement says “sorry ladies and gents but in the rush to take off in London we forgot to pack … (THEY FORGOT TO PACK!) … The green cards you all need to complete before you can get into the States.” Now that’s one thing, and we’re then told that “there will be cards available as you exit the plane.” Unfortunately they forgot to add “but no pens to fill them in and no one to tell you which (of the 6 on display) you need!”
So with everyone shoving to get off the plane you grab a handful and look or someone you can mug for a pen! Pen borrowed, forms completed, finger prints taken and I’m in Chicago (apparently one of the biggest airports in the country if not the world), and as instructed I hand over my bags, as we had to collect them first then take the monorail to terminal 1. I ask someone from United Airlines where to go next and … blank stare. After asking at least 6 people I’m told “oh you’re WAY too early to check in” and “you’ll have to wait until 2 hours before takeoff to check in”, bear in mind I’m 4 hours early for the flight and have just got off an 8 hour one. Also I have to wait where I am, street (not air) side where there are approximately 3 benches per 1000 people.
I hunch in a corner perched on my bag and read my book. After 2 hours (oh yea I’d missed my connecting flight by 5 minutes) I wander down the length of the terminal, speak to someone else and am asked “what you doing here, you should have stayed air side and waited there [STEAM EXITS EARS!!!]
I get air-
Eventually taking off in what appears to be a slightly stretched private jet (4 seats 2 either side of the aisle) which is so low I look like Quasimodo as I lurch to my seat alternately dodging and banging my head on the open overhead lockers! We then fly to Memphis.
Landing in the land of the Delta blues I get through baggage reclaim, yell at T-
Arriving at the hotel I’m pleasantly surprised, Holiday Inn Select Downtown Memphis –
It’s here that I realise something that I wasn’t told before the trip, if you lock your cases the Customs in the US break them open. Now if I was advised of this I would have unlocked them when I handed them over at check-
Quick change and I wander out.
Now this is the only negative I had in Memphis, as I exit the door a voice says “Ha ha catch of the day” the slogan on my t-
Realising I’m walking with someone I don’t know, in a town I don’t know, to who knows where, my brain kicks in and I pretend my phone rings and say I’ve been called back to the hotel by my partner. Now I’m alone but he doesn’t know this. So a little put out I leave my new “friend” saying he will wait for me outside the hotel and I head to my room. There I order room service and crash out for the evening. Well it has been nearly 24 hours I’ve been up.
Tuesday morning Memphis time and I head out. I’ll take this chance to say that I had no other trouble like the previous night in all the time I was there, so forewarned is fore armed. I wander to Beale Street and find a small diner / bar open and head in for breakfast. I have Chicken with breakfast gravy (don’t ask as I haven’t a clue, but it tasted great) biscuits (like hot scones) and a beer, well I’m a Taff on holiday what would you expect!
So suitably fed I ventured around the Beale St area checking out the sites. The weather was great, one of the hottest periods there for a while with temperatures regularly over the 100-
I wander about and then decided to head to Sun Studios. I’d asked at the hotel and been informed they were about a 6 block walk from the hotel on a straight road, so I set off… Now I can tell you I never realised blocks could be SO BIG! By the time I got there I was on the verge of heat exhaustion, and very glad when the building appeared and as I entered I found that despite its age (Elvis first recorded there in 1954) it was air-
I found it quite busy, but that was more to do with the size of the building (smaller than you’d imagine) and the fact that there is a shuttle bus that picks up and drops off at the Heartbreak Hotel, Graceland, Beale St, the Rock & Soul Museum and Sun Studios. So people have a tendency to arrive in groups. Well at least those people not silly enough to walk there in 105-
I paid for the tour, a bargain at $10 (£5.oo with the exchange rate as it was when I went) and we were advised by the guide, a very pretty young lady, that flash photos and video were not allowed at the initial part of the tour but could be used at the end.
I must admit I was a little surprised to find that the initial part of the tour contained exhibits that related (mostly) to some of the other artists that had recorded there, and the other work done by Sam Phillips (Creator of Sun Studios), and the later part took you to the actual “Studio Floor” where Elvis had recorded.
So I managed to get some good video footage of this aspect of the tour and mix it with some of the (flash less) photos I had taken at the start.
At the end was an opportunity to have a photo taken with “the Microphone” used by Elvis. The inverted commas are due to the fact that Sam Phillips gave the Mic to the Studio shortly before he died, and he confirmed it was a microphone he was using around the time Elvis made his recordings, close enough I think.
There was one request from our tour guide that people do not lick, kiss, bite or spit on the microphone…yech I know, but we were advised it had indeed happened. Another reason not to do it if ever there was one )
After the tour I decided to make a day of it and head for Graceland. Now I’d been warned it was approximately a $25 taxi from Downtown Memphis to Graceland, but on venturing outside Sun Studios I realised the tour busses ran every 10 minutes (or when full) and were free.
So I managed to get on the next (but one) bus, … always happens to me … 14 seater minivan and I’m number 15 in the queue! and off we went. The driver asked “How many for Beale St.” and 13 people put their hand up … woops. So when he dropped them off he asked if I minded going back to the studio to pick up some more people, I said no probs. We got there; about 10 people got on … “How many for Beale St?” 9 people put their hand up… So to Beale St, drop them off, and me one other person get a free ride to Graceland. I tipped the driver $5 as a thank you and entered what is the Promise land (pun intended) for Elvis fans.
You have 3 tours on offer ($27, $32 and $68) and I was all set to pay for the top one till I was advised by the ticket office that the only difference to the next one down was that you could go back to the same places again, for the top price one. So I went for the $38 one, as you can take your own time anyway. So it was to the shuttle bus to enter the grounds of the mansion itself. To this point you’re across the road where Elvis Presley Enterprises are based.
Oh back a bit… there are no video cameras allowed in the House or grounds, so I asked about options to leave my camera and was pointed to a set of lockers, I put the money in turned the key open the door, it snaps shut with my camera still in my hand and the key in the lock…Crap! … Another coin and I get the hang of it this time. So it’s on the bus and listen as the provided walkman gives you an introduction to Graceland.
First impressions once the feeling of awe had passed? Well come on I really was awe struck, I’ve been an Elvis fan for as long as I can remember. I still remember being woken up on a school day (I was 10) by my Dad and being told that Elvis had died. I EVEN gave a speech in an English class in school defending his movies… now THAT’S A FAN! Well as I said then he wasn’t going for an Oscar it was a way his fans could get to see him, especially as he never toured outside the USA, rumour has it due to the residency status of his manager.
So back to it first impressions … smaller than I had imagined (a feeling reinforced once we got inside) but mainly the enormous feeling of “I’m fulfilling a lifelong ambition”.
I wandered around taking photos where possible and pinching myself … I’m INSIDE Graceland… I’m IN the TV room… I’m IN the JUNGLE ROOM… The tour includes the racquet ball court which has been changed into a display hall for some of Elvis’s stage outfits, Gold discs and other memorabilia, then the Garden of Remembrance (a genuinely moving experience) and back on the bus over the road to the Car exhibition, the planes, and two smaller exhibitions, one on his time in the military.
There were many gift shops and Elvis themed restaurants where you could spend your money, with items ranging from $1 to hundreds of dollars.
Now I needed to get back to downtown Memphis. With the amount of people milling around I didn’t fancy my chances on how long I’d wait for a space on one of the minivans, so I headed for a taxi, got one, was quoted $20, and we set off… before we hit the road (we were in a car park) a call on his mobile and the driver says “I’ve got an on-
Oh and it’s here I realise the danger of assuming that someone has heard and understood what you said. When I got in the car the driver asked “Where you from” so I said ” Wales in the UK” So the ladies are in the back and the driver says “This is Rob from Wales in the Ukraine” Oops!
I get back to the hotel drop my stuff off and head out again to have something to eat. It was at this point that I realise that everything really is bigger in the States. I went to BIGFOOT
A restaurant on the way to Beale Street, and ordered a beer which came in a pitcher [just for me ;o)], and fish and chips … okay okay get all the Brit abroad gags out the way now … it was a different type of fish… ! OK!!
WOW I could have easily not eaten again until Las Vegas, and the food was great as well.
So this is where I managed to shoot myself in the foot, it’s been a long day it’s hot so I head back to the hotel and decide to crash out for an hour then head to Beale St. at night for some serious drinking.
I crash out …and wake up at 3am … oops Jetlag strikes again. So I go back to sleep till Wednesday, my last full day in Memphis.
Similar start, wander to Beale St. realise I was lucky to find the first place for breakfast as quite a lot of the others don’t open till significantly later. So in the spirit of if it aint broke don’t fix it I head back there and try their local sausage platter, very nice but not quite as yummy as the first meal I had.
Well by this point I had realised one significant restriction to staying where I was if you were of the female persuasion (I know I’m not but I know a few and I know what you like) there are virtually no shops! I’d been trying to find somewhere to buy DVD’s since I arrived and was told at the hotel “If you don’t have a car and don’t want to take a taxi forget it”.
So what to do for my last full day? The river cruises don’t run when I have time, and the one I’d want to do only run on weekends. No shops, and even I can’t drink all day and night, especially with 2 flights early the next day!
So I remember the Rock n Soul museum.
I wander down there, it’s right next to the Gibson guitar factory (not a lot of help if you haven’t been there I know) and wait for it to open…sit outside for a while … nothing, no one about, wander around a bit come back and Holy Cr*p where did you all come from. I manage to fight my way in between duelling coach parties who had miraculously appeared from nowhere
“Ladies and Gentlemen in the Red corner a group of mobility challenged OAP’s …and in the Blue Corner a group of interest challenged High School students” … This is Gonna be FUN!
Back to the hotel and I venture to the pool for 45 minutes, I’m scared to do anymore in case I end up lightly seared!
Then change and head to Beale St. for a few drinks and a meal. Now this will surprise people that know me as I very rarely (if ever) drink if I have to work or travel the next day, all to do with a weak stomach and over active planning area of the brain… (What if this happens … or this … or this…) you get the picture. But hell I was not going to travel this far and NOT go out there, so I headed to Silky O’Sullivans an Irish themed pub (no I hear you say .. Really… but it’s true).
Where I was treated to a nice burger, a few pints and some traditional blues sung by a very talented lady.
I walk out a little while later into what suddenly looks like a motorbike supermarket, there must have been upwards of 600 “hogs” I think they’re called, with accompanying passengers. Apparently they get together quite often.
However despite comments I’d heard before arriving in Memphis I never once felt nervous or uneasy, and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening sampling quite a few of the establishments that were located in the area including Coyote Ugly, getting back to the Hotel about midnight.
It’s 9am and to paraphrase a movie I like
“It’s Memphis, I’m hung over, wearing sunglasses and I’m off to LAS VEGAS!”