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TRIP REPORT - Memphis...Off the Beaten Path

Old Mar 13th, 2003, 06:48 AM
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TRIP REPORT - Memphis...Off the Beaten Path

Actually got back Sunday night...I've been too busy to write this, but here we go...
(BTW, for those folks that answered my post about the Fed Ex Tour, it's not there. I don't know where I dreamed that was real)

I had received an e-mail about some 40 dollar a night rooms at a Holiday Inn Select in Memphis and figured it would be a good quick weekend trip. We live about 4 hours from Memphis and have been there before. We had seen the must-dos (Graceland, et al.) So the challenge was what to do?

We arrived late Friday night and were set up royally at the Holiday Inn Select on Poplar Road. It's in a business park on the southeast side of town. A little out of the way, but it was a good value.

After our comped breakfast Sat morning, we headed down to the river and dug around in the Visitors Center looking for things to do.
I'm no art lover, but uur first stop was the best...The Dixon Gallery and Gardens (www.dixon.org) It was a private residence of the Dixons. They were avid art collectors of Impressionism. The Gallery is full of all kinds of art, but the permanent collections has Monets, Rodins, Renoirs, Degas, and other great original artists. It was the first time I had ever seen a "real" Monet and it was facinating. The posters and prints you see all the time are a joke, comparatively. The Gardens were also beautiful considering it was the first week of March. There were a few of the early bulbs blooming and the layout and the formal gardens were impressive too. All this for only 5 dollars a person! (and we had a 2 for 1 coupon we got at the Visitors Center)

On the other end of the spectrum, on the way back to downtown, we stopped at Graceland. We had both been on the tour, but I wanted to stop, not to see the Elvis STUFF, but the Elvis FANS. People watching at Graceland is great fun. We browsed the shops and watched the people for about an hour.
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Old Mar 13th, 2003, 06:48 AM
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We then headed to Sun Studios. We have been to Memphis several time and have driven past, but had never taken the tour. Tour starts in the gift shop (natch) and heads up the stairs to a "museum" of sorts with a lot of memorabilia from the early days of Sun Records. I had met Sam Phillips once and to actually see the stuff was neat. A tour guide goes through each of the display cases (it's only one room) and plays some snippets of songs to go along with the tour. You then head down to "the" studio and listen to some more songs and hear other stories. The tour ends with the presentation of "the" microphone that Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the others used to record the songs. You're allowed to ham it up with the mike and take pictures.

We then went downtown and found the new Smithsonian Rock and Soul Museum. One of the best multi-media museum tours I've ever been on. We spent about three hours there, but you could spend all day. They give you a pair of personal headphones and a CD-Rom player. You punch in the number of the exhibit and it plays the narration and you can also play songs from that era (about 100 original songs). There is a lot of original stuff that traces the roots of Rock and Soul from the Mississippi Delta to modern day. There is also a Gibson Guitar factory adjacent to the museum, you can tour.

The reason that we didn't spend more time there was that hunger called us. We walked over to Charlie Vergos Rendevous...we went to one of the back rooms to get seated quicker. I had the ribs (of course)...she had the pulled pork. Both were excellent. I should have gotten the full rack. Rendevous ribs are great for "dry" ribs.

We then walked across the street to the Peabody and went up on the roof...a tradition for us when we're in Memphis. We window shopped a little bit in the Peabody Shops and then headed to Peabody Place.

I know that downtown needed an economic boost. But, one of the reasons I always enjoed Memphis was that it was a little gritty. Slapping the "Delta Disneyland" that is Peabody Place in the middle of downtown is attrocious. We basically used Peabody Place as a thoroughfare to get to Beale (for all that space, there's nothing there).
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Old Mar 13th, 2003, 06:49 AM
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We saundered up and down Beale...popping in and out for a while enjoying the music. It then hit me that I was hungry again. Two possible causes - 1) The aforementioned half/full rack faux pas at the Vous or 2)I can't come to Memphis and not eat something at the Blues City Cafe. It is my favorite restaurant in Memphis. We slid into the "Tom Cruise" booth (from The Firm) and had some of the Tamales....Had I been hungrier, it would have been one of the Oven-Broiled Steaks) After a little more walking off of the Tamales, it was back to the hotel for a little late night swimming and rest.

Sunday morning...In almost every "soulful" city we've ever been in on a Sunday morning (Chicago, NOLA, etc), we have always seen promotions for a Gospel Sunday Brunch. But we've never had the chance to go. We went to Elvis Presley's Memphis and tried it out. Let's start by saying the ELM is not the best restaurant in town. The regular menu was unimpressive so we both ordered off the special brunch menu. I had the Eggs Benedict and they were out of English Mufins and forgot to put the Hollandaise on. Our waitress had a good heart, but not much skill. The perfomance of the gospel group was supposed to start at 11 and we were standing at the door. Apparently, the group was too since they started to set up the equipment and do sound checks at 11. That was annoying during our meal. At 1130, they got started and were very good. But we had to stay there after we ate and listen for a while. I felt bad about keeping a table held up, but I came for the music. The big positive in the meal, BTW, was the banana pudding for dessert. The best I have had in a while.

We had seen on the TV News when we arrived Friday night a feature story about Reelfoot Lake where bald eagles come to nest. We had looked at the map and seen it was about 100 miles away near the KY/TN state line. We decided to take the back roads home and check the eagles out. I enjoyed the drive there, but when we got there the eagles had left (way to be topical, Memphis TV news). But they come back every year and nest all winter, so we may plan a wilderness trip and come back. We did see one bald eagle and two hawks they had in capitvity because they were sick/had broken wings/etc. The lake looked like a hunting/fishing type place and was very pretty. Just about good enough to justify the three extra hours it took to get home going that way.

A good trip all the way. Sorry this has been so long...I got carried away.
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Old Mar 13th, 2003, 08:59 AM
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Thanks for a wonderful trip report!
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Old Mar 13th, 2003, 09:32 AM
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Thank you, BigRed. That was quite informative. We did Memphis last year and you have now whet our appetite to go back and see what we missed.
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Old Mar 17th, 2003, 06:01 AM
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Totally agree with the problem of the Delta Disneyland downtown
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Old Mar 17th, 2003, 05:45 PM
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On any future trips I would also suggest a visit to the Lorraine Hotel Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. This is the hotel where Martin Luther King was assasinated while in Memphis to support the garbage mens strike. The hotel has been turned into a civil rights museum and King's hotel room (the famous balcony photo) has been restored to the time of King's stay. It is not a morbid site, but instead very educational and moving. It gives a first hand perspective on which direction the shots came from.
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Old Mar 27th, 2003, 08:44 AM
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Topping for Poester. Another hotel idea is this Holiday Inn. The art museum I mentioned is the Dixon that Big Red talks about.
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