Archive for the ‘Memphis’ Category

Bye, bye, birdies.

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

 

Well, it was our last full day in Memphis, tommorrow we move on to New York.

Maria and I dithered about what we were going to do for the day. John was finishing at lunch time, but he did have a couple of extra meetings scheduled for some time in the afternoon. He had held out a vague hope we might be able to get him into Lanskys if we were around when he finished. Lansky was the personal tailor to Elvis and we had had a quick look. They had some lovely shirts, but John is strange, if Maria likes something for herself and it costs $150 he thinks it quite reasonable, but a shirt for him at $110 was way overpriced(!??) So we decided to be lazy and just hang around the hotel for the day. We visited the little museum Peabody has. Did you know you used to be able to stay here for $6 a night, but if you wanted a radio you had to rent it for 50 cents extra? 

Peabody hotel memorabila room

We caught up with John at lunchtime and had a sandwich from the deli together. We holed up in the lobby bar and met our favourite cocktail waitress again. Maria and I shared our last strawberry dacquiry and John had some Tennessee sippin’ whisky (also known as Jack Daniels). John went off for a final meeting and Maria and I watched the march of the ducks for a final time (we MAY just catch them in the morning), they sure do attract a big crowd.

Peabody hotel - crowd gthered for the

John was all for going to B B Kings again, but Maria wasn’t keen, she fancied the Italian grill here at the Peabody. As usual she won. The food was very nice, the atmosphere elegant but I still think John felt it wasn’t a patch on B B Kings.

ps. John bought 2 shirts at Lanskys.

In the footsteps of the greats

Friday, April 27th, 2007

A reasonable day as far as the weather goes. Maria and I strolled down to Beale Street to see if we can book on tour to Sun Studios tommorrow. We particularly fancied the Backbeat Hound Dog tour. Sadly no chance, the whole tour had been bought out by a private party. We were told there was a free shuttle service from the Rock and Soul Museum to Heartbreak Hotel, Gracelands and Sun Studios. So we thought we’d have a wander around Beale street and then walk the couple of blocks to the shuttle. If you want to buy mundane stuff like loo roll or soap or a normal book you have a problem, however if you’re after a vodoo doll or a pair of size 70in. waist jeans, Beale Street is perfect. A place with real character. Music blarring out of every doorway,  people calling out ‘how y’all’, fantastic. We went into A Schwab, a general store, established 1876 and I think they still have some of the original merchandise,

Voodo shop on Beale St.

After we’d exhausted the delights of Beale Street we dropped off our shopping at the hotel and headed for the shuttle.

Sun studios is so famous that we expected something big and impressive. In fact it’s only the part with the white shop front that is the old studio, a small reception room with a slightly larger room behind and a tiny mixing room at the back. Next to it is what is now a cafe and gift shop (used to be a bakery) on the ground floor, and a small museum (used to be a 3 room boarding house) upstairs. Yet this where Rock and Roll was born!!!

Sun Studios

So many greats have recorded here, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Johhny Cash, B B King to name but a few. And of course more recently Ringo Starr and U2.

The mike in the studio is the original one that Elvis etc used, so it was a real priviledge to be able to touch it and sing a few notes into it. Maria has bought me a small guitar, I shall have to get practising. 

Wilbeary singing at Elvis' mike.

 

Old Man River

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Not a very promising start to the day, weather wise. We went downstairs and wathched the ducks arriving for work and thought about what we wanted to do with the rest of the day. Maria has just about finished the 2 books she brought with her and fancied something new to read. We asked the concierge and he told us about a second hand book shop just opened a couple of blocks away, so we strolled along. It took us a while to locate it. It in fact consists of a basement room under a cafe. We spent a nice half hour browsing and came away with a couple of books.

It was still cloudy with occasional showers but we decided to risk it. We picked up a sandwich (well I think there was bread involved) and a drink and made our way to the riverside. We spent a couple of pleasant hours just chilling out, reading, eating and watching Old Man River flowing by. We got caught by showers a couple of times but it’s so warm we soon dried off. 

Wilbeary with deli sandwich for lunch

By the time we made our way back to Peabody Place we were in severe need of refreshment, so an ice cream seemed just the thing.

Wilbeary with ice cream

John has been in meetings all afternoon and now he’s off to Rendezvous for a BBQ, Maria and I can’t decide if we want to go down to the bar (apparently latest findings show fruity (particularly berry) cocktails are good for you), or to hole up in our room with a rented film and room service.

 

Quack, quack.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Woke up for our last morning at the Holiday Inn, a quick breakfast, packing and crossing the road. We were booked into the Peabody, Maria mentioned a FEW times that she felt much more at home. Personally, while I like it I do thinks it’s a bit over the top.

They keep threatening us with a spell of bad weather on the horizon, so we thought we’d take advantage of the fact that it was still reasonable and ride the ducks. These are an interesting way to tour Memphis, the vehicles are amphibious so they can go along the streets and on the river. Great fun. Something of an interactive ride since we were all given ‘quackers’ and expected to join in with the music and to quack at pedestrians. You know sometimes I wonder just how old Maria and John are, they take to these childish activities far to readily, Maria positively hogged the quacker, I hardly got to have a go at all.

Ride on the Duck

It has been very humid today so after the tour we just had an ice cream and drifted back to the Peabody where I became better acquainted with the ducks.

Wilbeary play with the ducks

They’re very friendly but did have a tendency to try and make me join them in the water, just because they like splashing about all day doesn’t mean we’re all mad keen on swimming. We stayed to watch the ducks retire for the night. I still think it’s an incredible amount of fuss, I mean I don’t expect people to roll out the red carpet for me just ‘cos I’m going to bed.

Peabody ducks going back to the penthouse

We really loved B B Kings last night so decided to go there again. The food was as good as ever and this time we even had dessert. It was an incredible layered chocolate cake, intended for 2 to share, we made it go 3 ways and still had plenty. I love the sign on their shop: ‘Opening times   am – closing’. Maria reckons she could do with that on her studio, except it would commit her to opening before noon.

We’re forecast some thunderstorms for tommorrow, and John actually has to start working, so I’ve no idea what Maria and I will do. Mind you we could easily while away the time without ever going outside, there’s a shopping mall, cinemas, bars and retaurants all within the complex. 

Visiting the relatives

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

 Woke up with a bit of a headache, I think that sun was too strong yesterday, so I gave breakfast a miss. We’d heard Memphis has a super zoo, including pandas, so today we decided to spend the day at the zoo and visit some of my relatives.

The first part we headed for was the Northwest Passage, a new area with polar bears, seals, eagles etc. We only saw one of the bears, apparently one was laid up with a broken leg (a result of some rough play) and one was hidden away dozing, but the one we saw was beautifull, his fur looked thick and silky and he was a superb swimmer. Perhaps I should take swimming lessons.

Polar Bear swimming

The weather was pretty good for going around the zoo, fairly cloudy but warm. When the sun came out it was too hot. We think there is some rain coming as the humidity has gone right up.

Memphis is one of only 4 zoos in the USA to have pandas, so I was pretty keen to meet them. A nice looking pair but with strange eating habits. Why would someone living in Memphis insist on eating only bamboo shoots, BBQ is much nicer and much easier to get.

Yaya (a panda) eating bamboo

Of course pandas are not really bears and red pandas are even further away from bears, but pretty nice to look at.

Red Panda up a tree

We had lunch at the cafe where I made friends with some white faced baboons. They were a brother and sister, very friendly and wanted to know all about me. Apparently they don’t meet many bears from England.

Two monkeys interested in Wilbeary

After the zoo we went back to the hotel to call Claire and Robert, this time zone difference makes keeping in touch awkward, Maria thinks they wouldn’t appreciate being phoned when we get in in the evening. I think they should be happy we call them at all.

We then headed over to Peabody for another one of those lovely dacquiries. While we were there the ducks retired for the night. You should have seen the fuss, red carpet, music, cameras flashing… Honestly at the end of the day they’re only a bunch of ducks. We move over to the Peabody tomorrow, I hope the ducks won’t be for ever showing off.

We then headed off to Beale Street to grab something to eat. We headed for B. B. Kings. Great atmosphere, good music and superb food. Some of the best BBQ ribs and baked beans, and their deep fried pickles were something else. Great. We left with Maria clutching a Big Red, a rather potent mix of crushed ice, strawberries and alcohol (rubbing alcohol I think. Whatever it was, it was 180 proof). I bet she won’t be so chipper in the morning. She should learn to show restraint like me.

Wilbeary in B.B.King's club

Food glorious food (and drink)

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

 Today dawned beautifull again, we are very lucky with the weather so far, they are predicting storms on Wednesday/Thursday. We had decided we were going to have brunch at the Peabody so gave breakfast a miss (except Maria who had some cake left from yesterday and claimed ‘she didn’t want to have to throw it’).

It was still early, so we thought we’d investigate the trolley and see if we could get a 3 day pass. It was an interesting ride, to the accompaniment of mutterings by Maria on the subject of mountain goats, her age etc. The steps up weren’t that high!

 Trolley

We went all the way to the end of the line where the MATA offices are, and where you’re supposed to be able to get season tickets, but everywhere was shut. So we got on another trolley and took the Riverfront loop. Some pretty run down areas and some very up market areas. We got off at Peabody Place intending to browse in the shops but it seems Memphis has a lie in on Sundays, so we just headed for Peabody hotel and brunch. If the Skyway restaurant is anything to go by I’m looking forward to moving on Tuesday. The food was excellent, the choice tremendeous, the service friendly (John’s face was a picture when our waitress called him ‘honey’),and the champagne flowed freely. When it came to dessert (my favourite part of a meal) I was spoilt for choice. 

 What to choose

In the end I had to go with 2 desserts, a cheesecake and a layered chocolate mousse.

What to eat first

We eventually staggered out and headed for the river. After we’d negotiated the cobbles (apparently brought here from England as ballast in boats coming to buy cotton) we got some tickets for the Memphis Queen. A tour down the Mississippi. The tour guide was very interesting, Maria kept muttering about the lack of Mint Julips (??) but I enjoyed the beer. I think the heat got to me a bit.

 

Tipsy

We walked back to the hotel via a Crawfish Festival along the riverside. I can’t see why people would even think of eating crawfish, who on earth first looked at these creatures and thought, ‘mmm… I bet they’re tasty’. Mind you John quite fancied some , until he saw the queue!!!!!

We had a brief break and phoned home to make sure everything was OK. Then Maria was still moaning that she hadn’t had a Mint Julip or even a Dacquiry so John offered to take her accross the road to the Peabody Lobby Bar. I must admit Strawberry Dacquiry is EXCELLENT.

Daquari

We were recommended Blues City Cafe for excellent BBQ ribs, chilli etc. The place looked as if it hadn’t been redecorated since about 1950, formica tables, no 2 chairs matching etc. but it was very busy and the ribs and chilli were superb. We can’t get over the prices here, you get so much more for your money! We walked back along Beale Street, well worth a proper visit.

At the Ballpark

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

 We couldn’t find anyone to explain the rules of baseball to us, so we reckoned we’d make do with what we know about rounders. Not that different, is it?

We had some great seats and enjoyed the lead up to the game sipping some beer, even Maria is getting into this drinking beer idea. The weather is glorious and warm, and a cold beer is perfect. Maria bought me a baseball bat, I know all about rounders, so if they get desperate I could always go in as a pinch hitter. Mind you I’m not sure I could do the fielding or pitching, these Americans are pretty good at throwing and catching, I bet it’s the mitts that do it (perhaps Maria could get me one of those too). 

 

Wilbeary ready to play

There is a lot of activity during a game, which team is batting and which is fielding is constantly changing, they keep cleaning the sandy bits, (just between the diamond and the outfield), the mascot (a big red bird, they’re called the Memphis Redbirds) keeps whipping the crowd up, lucky seat numbers get prizes, free t-shirts are thrown into the crowd and the cheerleaders come out (the best bits).

Baseball action shot

The Redbirds (in red and white) were playing Omaha. There were lots of families, with children of all ages. The food stands were amazing (we had hot dogs, it seemed right).

It was a good game, pretty exciting at times, particularly in the ninth, when Redbirds were just ahead, Omaha was in to bat and the bases were loaded, the batter had had 2 strikes and the pitcher was on the 3rd ball, so either the batter was going to walk it and so they’d get a significant number of runs (and the Redbirds would have to do really well in their last inning) or the batter would get a third strike and the Redbirds would have won.

The Redbirds won!!

There was a bit of a celebration afterward, one of the Redbirds old players was retiring and they were retiring his number, so there were fireworks. I always like fireworks.

Afterwards I achieved one of my great ambitions and met some cheerleaders! John was jealous (I think that is why the camera shook).

Wilbeary with cheerleaders

Down in the Jungle Room

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

 

 We got up OK this morning, that’s always easy for the first few days, it’s staying awake in the evenings that’s difficult. After a good old American breakfast, bacon, sausage, hash browns, corned beef hash, pancakes, apple sauce, orange juice (we passed on the grits(??) and biscuits with gravy) we were ready for the off. Mind you after all that I’m surprised we could still move, they believe in feeding you well around here.

We took the Blue Line tour out to Gracelands. Not too much queing thankfully. Most of the shops, burger bars, ticket offices etc are on one side of the road and the mansion is on the other. You get shuttle bused into the grounds. Rather nice, it keeps the sheer commercialism away from the mansion. It was actually smaller than we thought and rather pretty. Maria kept saying she could live somewhere like that (dream on). 

mem070422e.jpg

The ground floor was a bit showy but not way over the top, it looked like the family home of someone with a bit more money than he knew what to do with, but at the same time pretty comfortable. The kitchen in particular was like anyones kitchen but a bit bigger, a real family kitchen. Upstairs is not open to the public, these were always Elvis’ private rooms.

Of course when we went down into the basement, things got a lot more interesting. Maria nearly fell down the stairs, due to the fact she was disorientated,  both walls and the ceiling of the stairwell were made out of mirrors, very strange. Mind you Elvis seemed very fond of mirrors. The Tv room was interesting, 3 TVs on all the time and a ceiling made of mirrors, Maria liked the pool room, Fully lined with pleated fabric, including the ceiling, but my favourite was the Jungle Room. Partticularly when I saw the Panda in Lisa Marie’s favourite chair.

mem070422a.jpg

The outbuilding had a lot of Elvis memorabilia, his gold records, various awards, army uniform etc. I loved his costumes, I think I’d look great in a jumpsuit covered in rhinestones. Wonder what the chances are of Maria making me one?

 mem070422b.jpg

We then crossed back to the other side of the road and had to make a decision. Do we catch the 1.00pm tour bus and get back in time for a river trip, or wait for the 2.30, put the trip off until tommorrow and do some serious souvenir shopping? You can guess what we did. Especially since it meant I could have a quick sit in a Chevy.

mem070422c.jpg

Once we got back to the hotel, John took the shopping up to our room, (you should see some of the stuff Maria bought, I just got a tasteful guitar pin), and Maria walked down a block to get some tickets for tonights Redbirds game. She’s determined to have the full American experience.

Just to keep us going we popped into Peabodies, had a quick look at the ducks and a quick snack in the Deli and Dessert (a perfect combination). Lovely cake (and I did have a diet green tea to make up for it).

mem070422d.jpg

Looking forward to tonights game.

 

Drinking in Memphis

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Boy, yesterday was a long day! We were up at just after 5 to get ready for the taxi to the airport. Luckily we had packed the night before. The plane was packed and the flight to NY seemed awfully long. When we eventually got there, instead of making our way to our hotel (as I’m used to) we had to hang around a couple of hours and catch another flight down to Memphis. It was a shorter flight and a much smaller plane, Maria kept joking that she was occupying the seat of the rear gunner ( I didn’t know she goes all the way back to WW2!).

We eventually landed in Memphis at 6.00pm local time, that’s MIDNIGHT UK time. It took ages for our luggage to come through and then for the hotel bus to arrive. They drive like maniacs!! Maria had talked about perhaps hiring a car, I think I’ll try to dissuade her.

The hotel is OK (for a Holiday Inn) but I’m looking forward to moving to the Peabody on Tuesday.

We had thought of going for a barbecue at Rendezvous ( just around the corner) but when we saw they were queuing in the street we settled for the hotel bar instead. Maria and John had a club  sandwich containing cheese, turkey, different cheese, ham, bacon, lettuce and tomato (oh and possibly some bread, it was hard to tell) and I chilled out with my favourite beer.

 Wilbeary's first night in Memphis

A nice bit of live music finished the evening off nicely.

Today we have a tour of Graceland booked and possibly a cruise down the Mississippi. (Maria then wants to finish off with a baseball game?)