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Trip Report Trip to Memphis and Nashville

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Trip to Memphis and Nashville:

At the end of September, 2012, we were invited to visit some friends in Jackson, Mississippi. Since we were flying down to that area anyway, we decided to visit Memphis and Nashville after our time in Mississippi.

We drove highway 55 north from Jackson to Memphis and the trip took about 3 ½ hours and we arrived at about 2:30pm. Our reservation was at the Talbot Heirs Guesthouse based on all the wonderful reviews we read online. Jerry met us in front of the Guesthouse and took us to the garage where we parked our car and then checked us into suite #6 which had a bedroom, living room and kitchen area. It was a lovely and very spacious room and Jerry was very helpful with recommendations and information about Memphis. Jerry helped us with our bags because all the rooms are on the second floor and there is no elevator. There is free high speed internet and free snacks and light breakfast items (boxes of cereal and juice) in the kitchen of the suite. We started off our visit with a walk down Beale Street which was just a few blocks away and you could hear the music from the venues while walking down the street. We stopped at A. Schwab General Store and looked around on the main floor and at the old items on exhibit upstairs. The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum is right off Beale Street and we started with the short film and then used the audio tour throughout the well-laid out museum which was a great place to get an introduction to Memphis and its music since it traces the importance of Memphis in the history of rock, soul and rhythm and blues. We walked back up Beale Street and listened to a band playing in the Pepsi Garden. We checked out the ducks swimming at the Peabody Hotel which was just down the block and we explored the beautiful lobby area. Picking up our car, we drove to Central BBQ. The drive took us through some lovely residential areas of very, very large homes. We found a parking spot in their lot and there was only a relatively short line to get in to Central BBQ. We ordered a full rack plate of ribs with ½ dry (which we didn’t care for very much) and ½ wet (which we liked a lot), a large brisket sandwich with sauce and slaw on the sandwich itself (very good and very large), mac and cheese (we didn’t care for this), a side of good slaw, sweet tea (which was very, very sweet) and a peanut butter pie (very silky texture and very tasty). We sat on the terrace and got excellent service and they brought our food out to us very quickly. We drove back to the hotel and then walked along Beale Street again to see all the neon signs.

For breakfast, I ate the cereal which the Guesthouse provides and my husband went over to the Peabody Hotel and brought back a very good latte and almond croissants. We walked along a very empty Main Street to the National Civil Rights Museum. It was a chilly and overcast day and a good time to spend in a museum. There is a protestor outside and I had read that she has been there ever since ground was broken in 1987 but has never been inside. This was a fascinating museum and we spent at least 3 hours here. The information is presented very well and there is so much to learn even if you lived through some of the periods of time represented. It was very chilly inside the building so I was glad we had little jackets with us. We went across the street to the exhibits dealing with the assassination of Martin Luther King. We bought the audio tour which was very useful but we ended up reading most of the information. After leaving the museum, we got on the Riverfront Loop Main Street trolley and took it in a full circle giving us a bit of a tour and then we got off at Beale Street. We were going to take the tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory but the sign said that only the 12, 1 and 2pm tours have workers present so we decided to skip that. We got our car and drove to Sun Studios and took the 4:30pm tour and parked in the free lot behind the building. The guide was very good and it turned out to be very interesting with lots of good stories. We then drove back to the hotel, changed for dinner and walked to McEwen’s on Monroe which was 2 blocks from the hotel. I was glad I had brought a sweater because, like the museums, the restaurant was very chilly. The service was very good but a bit on the slow side which was fine and made for a nice relaxing dinner. It was a casual restaurant and patrons were dressed in all styles. First they gave us delicious hot small biscuits which melted in our mouths. We ordered shrimp and grits and buttermilk fried oysters for appetizers and grouper and sweet potato crusted catfish for entrees. The grouper came with tasty rice and delicious green beans and the catfish came with mac and cheese and spicy collard greens. The coconut cake and banana cream pie were perfect endings to a really delicious meal.

Today was our trip to Graceland. We checked out of the Guesthouse and drove to Graceland and parked in the huge lot. It was not that crowded. We used a discount I had found online and took the Platinum tour which includes the mansion, airplanes and car museum. They give you headsets to go through the mansion and the outbuildings on the property. Then we took the bus back to the main visitors center and checked out the other exhibits there including the airplanes (wow!) and the car museum. The free exhibit regarding the Elvis on Tour movie at the Graceland Crossing shopping area was particularly interesting and, when we got back home, I was able to get the actual movie from our library and it is well worth watching. After Graceland, we drove to the Stax Museum. The route takes you through some very down at the heels neighborhoods of empty lots and boarded up buildings. When we bought our tickets to the Civil Rights Museum, we got a package which included the Stax Museum and that saved us on the admission prices. This was a very interesting museum but we were glad we had seen the Rock n Soul Museum first because that gave a very wide view of the music scene in Memphis and this was more focused on Stax Records. After this we drove a few blocks to the Four Way family-run southern restaurant. Everything is homemade and very, very good and the portions are very large and the prices amazingly reasonable. We had the fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, candied yams, green beans, mac and cheese, turnip greens (a very strong flavor), excellent lemonade and sweet tea. For dessert we shared a lemon meringue pie. All this for $28! The staff was so warm and friendly and the owner came over to speak with us and they were so happy we enjoyed our food. We took some time to walk around the restaurant and look at the historical photos on the walls.

Nashville:

After our meal, we drove to Nashville (about 3-3 ½ hours) which was a totally different place than Memphis. Nashville was a big and very busy city which could have been anywhere. Memphis seemed so quiet and empty with few large buildings but a lot of character. We stayed in the Hilton Downtown which had a great location on 4th off Broadway and we asked for and got a quiet interior room which was a small suite with a living room, bedroom and nice size bath.

We walked a short way to the Visitors Center in the glass tower of the Bridgestone Arena and picked up the Nashville Pass which I had ordered online. That gave us discounts or free admission to various places we would be going and I determined that, financially, it made sense for us to buy it. We walked a few blocks to Pucketts for breakfast. My husband had French toast with bananas and peanut butter and I had sweet potato pancakes with bacon. The surroundings and service were very nice but the food was only ok. We went back to the hotel and picked up the car and drove to The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s home. It was not that far from downtown. First we saw the movie and then all the exhibits in the Visitors Center and the museum. The audio tour was included and was very useful. We walked the beautiful grounds up to the mansion and took the guided tour and then spent the next few hours (we were there about 3 hours total) walking the grounds and seeing all the outbuildings. Our next stop was the Grand Ole Opry but the last tour that day was at 3:30 and we missed it by about 5 minutes. We would have walked around the Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex but they charged $20 to park and we felt it wasn’t worth that expense. We drove back to the hotel and looked for a restaurant for dinner which was close to the hotel and chose Sole Mio, an Italian restaurant a few blocks away. We had salads, mushroom pasta and penne with spicy tomato sauce and delicious bread knots which came with the dinner. The portions were generous and the food was very tasty and the service excellent. We walked off some of the dinner by walking on the Shelby pedestrian bridge and looked over the river and then walked along Broadway with the honky tonks and the music playing into the street. We stopped at Ernest Tubb Record Store and listened to several blue grass groups performing on a stage at the rear of the shop. There was a blue grass festival in town. Dessert was ice cream from Mike’s on Broadway and it was delicious ice cream. We walked a bit up 2nd Street and then back to the hotel.

We stopped at Panara bread for bagels and coffee (just ok) and drove over to the Parthenon which was easy to reach by following the signs. We used the bonus card in our Nashville Pass for this site. First we saw the small exhibit about the Centennial Exposition of 1897 and then we went upstairs to see the huge statue of Athena which was constructed in 1982-90 and is the largest indoor sculpture in the Western world and the original plaster castings of the Elgin marbles. We skipped the art museum exhibit. Our next stop was Belle Meade Plantation which was one of the most successful thoroughbred farms. We took the tour of the mansion first and that was very interesting with very knowledgeable docents. Then we walked around the grounds on our own. My husband tried the wine at the tasting at the end of the tour. Cheekwood Park was our next stop and we parked in lot B and wandered through the various gardens. They had a wonderful exhibit of scarecrows made by various local organizations and scattered throughout the gardens. It was amazing how clever and beautifully made most of them were. The gardens were wonderful. We walked through the art museum which was located in the mansion which didn’t take much time. We also walked along the sculpture trail which had lots of mosquitoes so I was glad I had my repellant in my bag. There was also a wonderful model train set up in one of the gardens. Dinner was at Woodlands Indian vegetarian restaurant which is tough to find. It is a white building right after the highway called The Continental and you pull into the circular driveway and the restaurant is on that level. The food was excellent and very tasty and very reasonable. Dessert was ice cream from Mike’s again.

Today was overcast, warm and humid. We walked one block to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Neither my husband nor I are country music fans but we actually found the Hall of Fame interesting and walked through the entire museum. We got muffins and coffee at the kiosk in the lobby and later shared the fried green tomato, bacon and mozzarella sandwich with sweet potato fries and sweet tea at the restaurant in the lobby. It was delicious. As we walked back to the hotel, it started to rain. We headed back to the Grand Ole Opry and took the very interesting tour which takes you backstage to see all the dressing rooms and ends up on the actual stage of the Opry. We were lucky to have a small group. Be careful because they seem to cancel tours at times. We then drove back to the hotel and walked over to the Tennessee State Museum and walked through the Civil War exhibit which was interesting. The museum was free. We walked past the State Capitol which was closed for tours this year because of construction, stopped at the Hermitage Hotel which was very elegant and then back to our hotel. We had hoped to visit the Ryman Auditorium but, because of special events, all tours were cancelled the entire time we were in Nashville. Originally they said there would be tours on Saturday and we planned on catching an early tour before heading to the airport but then they cancelled those tours also. For dinner, we drove to Germantown Café. Originally we thought we could walk there but we were so glad we didn’t do that. Although it wasn’t that far from our hotel, we would have had to walk through some desolate iffy areas so driving was a much better idea. The restaurant has a lovely view of downtown and the service was very good. The onion soup was delicious with lots of cheese. The squash fritters were very tasty but we should have gotten just one appetizer because the portions were generous. The pork rib eye special was excellent. The shrimp and rice and chard was very good and a very large portion but the rice was a bit underdone and hard. The little rolls they brought with the very good salads (which came with the entrees so we didn’t need all the appetizers) were delicious. We were too full for dessert. Once back at the hotel, we walked along Broadway again and tried a small dish of ice cream at the candy place but felt that Mike’s was better.

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