Memphis . Tennessee
We arrived in Memphis Saturday evening after spending the day in Little Rock. It’s an easy drive of about 170 miles, and the rolling hills and lakes of northwest Arkansas ease into flat cotton fields and farms. En route I made a reservation at the Best Western downtown. Although the hallways smelled like an ashtray and the hot water was ill-tempered the first night, the room was comfortable, and the location was perfect being across from the Peabody Hotel and two blocks from Beale Street. Thanks to our location we didn’t need to drive at all during our stay, and I’d highly advise anyone to stay downtown which is central to most sights, (except Graceland).
Before leaving I received recommendations to visit Rendezvous Barbeque. Turns out the entrance was located in the alley next to our hotel. “Follow the Smell” is what the front desk told us, and she was correct. I found out that few restaurants serve hard alcohol, only beer. However I found out by watching some locals (carrying in Jack Daniels and other spirits), that you are allowed to bring in your OWN booze. This is typical in the state of Wyoming as well, but I still find it odd seeing people entering a restaurant carrying their own minibar.
Our next day in Memphis we walked to Mud Island, a park just off the banks of the Mississippi River which houses a museum featuring a wide variety of subjects detailing life and history along the mighty Mississippi. I thought the museum itself was dark and shabby, (the tram is as aesthetically pleasing as Droopy Dog), but the exhibits are interesting and cover a wide range from riverboats, civil war transportation, and the origins of the Delta Blues. Being the “freeway” of the 1800s and civil war life, the towns along the Mississippi saw their share of action: riverboat gamblers and entertainers, and the military advances of the Civil War, which also led to the crude methods of surgery held in makeshift hospitals.
The area on South Main, near the Lorraine Motel, is rapidly changing and now has many trendy restaurants and condos in old buildings. It’s a nice area to stroll around in during the day, and well removed from the noise of Beale Street. Bluff City Coffee has a nice ambience and good brew.
Earlier in the day I had made a reservation to take a “ghost tour” of the area, and we met our guide and a few other folks at a bar on Beale Street. Our guide: Memphis “Bones”, led us around to see many older buildings that served as hospitals and morgues during the civil war, including the Butcher Shop Steakhouse. On Beale Street we were given the lowdown on what bars formerly housed whorehouses and other dens of iniquity. Oddly enough many of the haunted locations on Beale Street happened to be bars and shops that were owned by our guides buddies, and could offer us many a discount. Skepticism aside I enjoyed our walking tour, and it gave some background to the buildings we frequently walked passed by during our stay.
I don’t follow Rock and Roll history, which I’m now finding to be an insufficient answer when verbally accosted about “How the hell could I go to Memphis and not see Graceland.” However the deep blues music on Beale Street was rich in musical flavor. Among one of the bands we listened to was the Dr. Feelgood Potts band. During his show he mentioned his music is on “YouTube”, (to the blank stares of every other tourists). But as the baffling popular comedian Dane Cook says: everything everyone has ever done is on YouTube, so Here’s a full clip.
Memphis summary: Great food, kick-ass music in a touristy area, annoying liquor laws, powerful civil rights history, and not everyone works at FedEx.