It’s a balmy summer’s night here in Memphis, Tennessee. Nice and comfortable and perfect weather for a walk around the neighbourhood. It reminds me of the Roma days when the family would go for a walk after dinner and we’d all have our choice of home brand half choc dipped ice creams (strawberry, chocolate or caramel) for dessert along the way. Except I’m in a foreign place surrounded by closed businesses so I head back to my room after spending another night (and my last night here) down on Beale Street, home of Jazz and Blues in Memphis. This is the first time since Vegas where I’m up to date with my blogs as to where I’m currently at.
I’m going to start this one with today’s events even though I arrived yesterday from New Orleans. Up nice an early at around 8:30am to get ready for the day and for breakfast to kick start my day. If you’re wondering, that is early for me after all I am on holidays! I have grown very fond of these toasted bagels with cream cheese, so after breakfast I mosey on over to the Graceland’s ticket booth which happens to be right next door to my hotel, the “Heartbreak Hotel” (seems appropriate). All this time since I arrived yesterday I’ve been staying right across the road from “Graceland” and I didn’t even realise it. The buildings filled with Elvis Memorabilia shops and museum exhibits across the road from Graceland (right in front of my hotel) is like a little mini Elvis city.
I arrive nice and early as past experience at tourist sites has taught me this is the best time to beat the crowds. By this time it’s around 10:00am and by the time I leave this place at the end of my adventures it will be around 3:00pm. I feel like royalty getting my VIP Entourage – Front of the line tour pass from the ticket agent. I soon have my headset and audio tour guide placed around my neck and I hop on the courtesy bus which will take me not 50 meters across the road and up the driveway into Graceland itself. Us VIP’s get dropped off around the back of the house and we head on around to the front of the main house. These grounds are just beautiful and the home movies that we’re about to see that are running throughout the inside of the house, make you appreciate how wonderful and fairy tale like it must have been to be a kid growing up here on the property. Especially scooting around on your own ski runner through the snow in the middle of winter, up and down the hills throughout the 13 acres of land around the property (what appeared to be very happy days for the family).
We begin our tour of the downstairs part of the main house (the second story is kept private for the family). Through the living and dining rooms, the kitchen, the pool room and finally the jungle room, which had a custom made indoor waterfall. The tour then goes outside into a few more other buildings (I’ll let the photos tell these stories) and with the running commentary from the audio headset, I start to get an overwhelming feeling of where I am and the life that one very special family had lived here in the same place. I can’t help but shed a tear or few when I go through the building that has all of his lifetime achievement awards, actual suits that he did his last performances in and the movie of his last concert that he ever did playing on the big tv screens throughout the room. This room is packed, no one is saying anything, all attentively glued to the screens and in awe of all the framed platinum and gold records that line the very tall walls within this room. I wish I was around when this extremely talented man was in his prime.
I’m outside and around the back of the house and the swing set that Lisa Marie had when she was a little girl is still there, just like the one that we used to have when we were little. There are horses in their paddocks and the grass is perfectly manicured and vibrant green with the white fences framing the separate areas around the grounds. The pool area is just like you would remember from the movies made back in the 70’s and 80’s with the retro cast iron pool chairs, table and lounges placed around the kidney shaped pool. It’s hot today and I’m very tempted to jump in! I wonder how long it would take for someone to come running and escort me out of not only the pool but the grounds I’m sure, VIP or no VIP!!!! At the end of the pool area is the Meditation garden. This area is very crowded and then I realise what the attraction is. This is where Elvis, along with his twin brother, mother and father all call their resting place. Their headstones are over 6 foot long and there are flowers, teddy bears, wreaths and signs from devoted fans. There are more tributes arriving every day at the moment given that next week will be the 35th anniversary of the King’s passing.
What a place to end the audio tour at, again a little tear is shed. It’s back to our VIP area where we are ushered into another room (VIP’s only) where all of Lisa Marie’s childhood items and memories are on display. What a special room and looking at all the photos and home movies of her and her dad, you get a glimpse of how much this little girl meant to him. To finish off our tour on the grounds, we’re back on our bus and begin our tour around the back of the grounds. This includes the barn where the horses are kept, the other buildings where his family and friends would stay if the main house was full, the workshops where all the maintenance was done and the secret driveway at the far side of the fence line that he used to use to avoid all the fans and media if he needed to. There is also a few pieces of old and rusted machinery that was used on the property before Elvis bought it. Apparently he never threw anything away. After our final part of the tour, it’s back down the main driveway and across the road back to “Elvis City” for more attractions, exhibits and museums to make my way through.
After a maze of buildings that contain everything and anything relating to the King, I take some time out. It’s nice and warm outside but there’s a line of cast iron garden benches that line the driveway where the buses come through for the pickups/drop offs. All the benches are sheltered by big trees planted behind them. So I sit here and rest up for a while. This is a perfect spot to people watch and there’s a great view of Graceland and it’s massive front lawns across the road. Then a couple walk past eating a waffle ice cream cone. Five minutes I arrive back at my bench, under the shady tree, with my Pecan Praline and Vanilla Ice Cream Waffle cone. Delicious!!!
After about 45 minutes of enjoying the scenery, I head on back through the little Elvis city and through the gates to my hotel. I have a short wait until the shuttle takes me back down Beale Street for another night of jazz, blues and bbq – southern style. I have to also mention that tonights shuttle driver’s name is “Dallas”, Dallas from Memphis. He gave a running commentary of the city and stories along the way and even took us the scenic route into town. A little extra that changes a good holiday into a great one!
Now to get back to yesterday, when I actually arrived in Memphis. I’m quite used to the formalities of travelling via air. So it’s another routine landing, long stroll to the baggage claim and outside to the Hotel Shuttle pick up area just outside the terminal entrance. The voucher that I have that tells me that the driver will there waiting for me once my flight lands was not quite accurate. After almost an hour wait and still no hotel shuttle, I give them a call to find out that one was never going to come pick us up. Yes, we did need to call once our flight landed. I mention “us” and “we” in these last 2 sentences.
This is where I introduce Mike the “Millionaire”. Oh don’t get too excited, those of you who are thinking that I’ve “met” a guy that happens to be a millionaire. Mike with his son is on holidays after winning a million pounds on an instant scratchie card. Apparently there were only 4 winning million pound tickets made and he just happened to buy one of them for a measely 10 pounds. Good investment hey. So it turns out that they’re from Leicestershire in the UK and since he won it big back in November of last year, he has made investments in a holiday to Australia back in Easter, a new home (for him and his son), “Gold” membership in Holiday Time Share (which pretty much gives him free holidays every year for the rest of his life – all around the world… NICE!!!) and a new Mercedes car. He did tell me the model but I kinda could tell he was showing off a little on that one. But he seemed proud of it so good for him.
He sounded like he was using his new fortune for sensible items and not blowing it all in the first year. He’s also going back to work when they finish their USA holiday at the end of the month and he’s even got gigs doing promotional things for the lottery and other companies. In the hour we had waiting for the shuttle, finding out all about their travels made it go pretty quickly. By the time the shuttle arrives, theres 5 of us waiting to go to the same hotel, with all of us being told by our travel agents that the shuttle will be waiting for us at the airport. The agents fault??? or perhaps the hotels me thinks!!!
In a back to front way, that pretty much wraps up my 2 night stay in Memphis. A beautiful place but it turns out that 2 nights was a perfect amount of time to stay. Next stop… Nashville, TN.