Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spring Vacation, Day Two & Three - Memphis

Hello!  Today's post is a continuation of my spring vacation series.  We spent two days in Memphis, Tennessee.  The morning of our first day, we went to Graceland.  Then in the afternoon we toured downtown Memphis.

 The first thing we did when we arrived downtown was to take a trolley ride.  I was so excited to see an authentic trolley car.  We've seen trolleys in many cities we have visited, but they are usually converted to operate like a regular motorized vehicle.  These trolleys still rode on tracks;  just like the good ole' days.  We paid $1.00 a piece, and took the city loop to see the sights.  I called my son while on the trolley and sang the song from 'Meet me in St. Louis' , you know, 'Clang, clang, clang went the trolley'…because it's one of his favorite movies.  I held the phone so he could hear the clangs and horn, and said 'guess what I'm doing right now?'.

 The interior of the trolley car was beautiful!  It looked like all the original woodwork was still there and  it was very well maintained.
 After our trolley ride we walked around downtown Memphis and took pictures of the famous Beale Street.  We were only there during the daylight hours, so we didn't hear any music, unless it was drifting outside from a bar.

This is the only remaining original business on Beale Street.  It was first opened in 1876, and now holds a lot of antiques and souvenirs, and also has a soda fountain.

 We loved all the vintage neon signs on Beale Street.

 One of our favorite highlights of Memphis was seeing the Peabody Ducks.  Now I live in the country, so I see ducks everyday and I have to work really hard to avoid hitting one in the street when I drive to work.  But the history and story of these ducks really intrigued me, so we decided to go to the Peabody Hotel and see if we could find them.  The Peabody is a beautiful, old, five star hotel in downtown Memphis.  Prince Harry recently stayed there on a recent trip to America.  In fact, he rented the entire top floor of the hotel.  When we arrived at the hotel, a valet very kindly opened the door for us and I asked him where we could find the ducks.  I was afraid he would tell me to go away, because I wasn't a guest of the hotel, but instead he told me exactly where the ducks were and when they would be escorted up to the roof top.  We then proceeded to walk into this grand hotel and we saw a beautiful lobby which was filled with people enjoying fancy drinks and desserts.  I then saw this beautiful fountain with the ducks swimming inside;  but I was afraid to enter the carpeted area where the fountain was, because I thought the people eating and drinking were guests of the hotel and I didn't want to bother them.  I later figured out that they come several hours before the official duck ceremony to get a good seat.  They bring lap tops and books to read, as they wait for the duck ceremony to begin.  Because we arrived only a mere hour before the ceremony,  all the seats on the main floor were already taken so we had to go upstairs to the balcony to watch.
 If you never heard of the Peabody Ducks before, I encourage you to read the story in the link I provided above.  It is really a wonderful tradition, and it touched my heart deeply to watch.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we went back the next day too!  I think what I loved about it the most was that people from all walks of life were welcome to this grand hotel to view the ceremony.  I was so afraid someone would know I wasn't a hotel guest and/or not 'rich enough' to be in this place;  but all the staff was so nice and helpful.  They all warmly greeted us, and talked to us, and shared stories of the ducks and other features of the hotel.  And I loved how I saw people from all walks of life come in and enjoy this fun tradition:  rich and poor, young and old….they were all welcome!  They even have special 'rules' so the kids can get a good view:  when the red carpet for the duck escort is rolled out, the kids are allowed to sit right on the floor so the ducks walk right in front of them.   It was a really fun experience.

 The hotel is very dark, so it was difficult to get a good picture,  but you can see nicer pictures on the link I mentioned above.

Our second day in Memphis was sunny, but bitter cold.  Well, it was in the 50's, but the wind was very strong and bitter cold.  This unfortunately was the day we took our riverboat ride.  It would have been a much nicer ride if it had been in the 70's that day and we could have sat on the top deck and enjoyed the sunshine, but because of the cold, we had to sit inside and thankfully it was heated.
 The afternoon river tour only costs $20.00 per person and takes you up and down the Memphis coastline.  Our tour guide was a wonderful man who shared many interesting stories about Memphis and it's history.

 We ate at two great restaurants in Memphis.  Our favorite dining spot on our entire trip was this Italian restaurant.  It was in an old warehouse and it was beautifully decorated with antiques and old trolley cars.  They even had an old trolley car inside the restaurant that was gutted and filled with tables so that you could eat INSIDE the trolley car.

 The food and service was excellent.  The staff was so friendly and kind.  Everything looked so good, we couldn't decide what to order.  So we decided to get the Italian Sampler Platter.  For $27.50 we got spaghetti, ravioli with Alfredo sauce, two servings of garlic bread, Veal Parmesan, two sausages, a salad, and more bread.  The portions were huge, we even had leftovers which we had for dinner the next day!
 The day before, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street.  Again, the staff was wonderful, and I remarked to my husband that the waiter who served us was the best waiter I've ever had.  This cafe had a stage where I'm sure local musicians perform on at night, but during the day there was just music videos playing.  I wished my son, who is a percussionist, was there so that I could have taken his picture up on stage behind those drums!
 We decided to 'play it cool' and take some fun pictures while we waited for our food.

 I ordered a barbecue sandwich and my husband just had his usual burger and fries, and it was all perfect.  In fact, I remarked to my husband that it was probably the best barbecue I've ever had!

And finally, after our second visit to the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks, we decided to explore the gift shops and other features of the hotel.  We learned all about Mr. Lansky and how he met and designed clothes for Elvis Presley, then we saw these old photo booths and decided to take some cute photos.  It was a really fun time.
Overall, we really enjoyed Memphis.  It seemed to be struggling a bit economically as we saw quite a few closed up shops and businesses;  but I think that's the norm for most towns these days, considering the economy.  We really loved the 'bluesy feel' of Memphis, all the music and river history, and most of all,  the great service we received from everyone we encountered.  We found it to be a very friendly city with warm and happy people.

Have a great day!  Amy

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