We took a taxi to the Amtrak station the following day, for our onward journey to Memphis. There wasn’t much at the station, so we ended up walking a few blocks down to a fast food outlet for our “breakfast.” Which was Mexican food – very tasty just not the norm.
Back at the station, there was a private lounge for passengers who had booked sleeping accommodation like us, which meant we could sit in comfort. There weren’t many seats in the main concourse and they were metal. We had quite a wait between check-out and our train. Although we weren’t travelling overnight, I thought it would be a nice idea to have a roomette – a little compartment with just two seats that folded down into bunk beds.
We were on the upper floor of the train, which meant we had a great view, especially from the lounge car, with its big picture windows – the observatory. I’d booked it because I wanted something different and am so pleased that I did, it was interesting to travel through some of the places I’d heard about and see so much of the countryside.
We’d booked in for dinner at 18.00. Honestly, we were both so impressed! We both chose the vegetarian rice noodle option, followed by a dessert that was a bit like cold custard, with strawberries on top (far better than it sounds) and we shared a bottle of Chardonnay, and Kate also had a coffee. When the waitress came up with the bill, we asked if we could split it. When she said it would be $16, we thought that was for each of us, as the wine was advertised at about that price, but no, it was $8 each! Honestly, it was one of the best meals we had, and definitely best value for money – amazingly good value. We’d found the food in the States quite expensive thus far, New Orleans was probably a bit more expensive than London, although when I checked the exchange rates, they were slightly better than when we first came out.
We arrived in Memphis about 22.15, so went straight to our hotel, The Peabody, one of the most famous in Memphis. The original hotel was opened in 1869 and soon became the place to be go. It was named after a friend of the owner, George Peabody, who died shortly before the opening. In 1925, the Peabody was rebuilt in its present location at the junction of Union Street and 2nd Street.
The Peabody is a lovely hotel, but there were no tea and coffee-making facilities in our room, however, they did provide bottled water, which we hadn’t had in Manson Dupuy. We did ask for coffee and they brought us a filter coffee maker, which suited us down to the ground.
We went out for breakfast, only to find none of the local eating establishments opened until 11.00, so we popped into Starbucks for a coffee, and then went to Pig at Beale in Beale Street.
We both had pulled pork – huge portions, so neither of us finished that, then went on the shuttle bus to Graceland. Kate is a huge Elvis fan, and this had been a lifelong ambition for her.
We’d seen the exhibition when it came to the O2 in London, but that wasn’t a patch on the real thing.
The house itself is now across the road from the big exhibition centre. I’d heard that it was quite small, so was unexpectedly surprised when I saw how big it actually was. Maybe not my style of house, but certainly not tiny, and visitors are only allowed to see the ground floor and basement. That said, I suppose when Elvis was entertaining his many guests and jamming with his musician friends, it wouldn’t have seemed that big. I can certainly understand Priscilla’s being upset with the lack of privacy.
Kate was made up about seeing Graceland, and would probably have stayed the next few days there, but she couldn’t, and we got the shuttle back to our hotel.
The following day, we waited in the hotel until 11.00 am to see the Peabody ducks. The Peabody ducks are a real tradition in the hotel. They parade (march) twice a day – at 11.00 am when they come down, and at 5.00 pm when they return to their home on the roof of the hotel. It started as a bit of a joke, back in 1932, when the general manager put decoy ducks in the Grand Fountain but they turned out to be so popular with the hotel guests that they were replaced by real ducks.
The ducks are so famous that they have been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as featuring in magazines. The team of five North American Mallards only live at the hotel for three months before they return to the farm on which they were raised to live as wild ducks.
While we were waiting to see them, we met a couple, Hope and John. At first, I thought they were from Australia, although it transpired that they were from Suffolk, and they were getting married later that day. We both wish them well, and toasted them later in the day.
The weather had been good to us in Memphis, and although it rained overnight, the days were good. It didn’t start raining in earnest until Friday, the day we were travelling on to San Francisco. We could see from the earth that they needed the rain, yet the Mississippi was close to flooding in places after the rain. I suppose it’s a bit like in the UK, the water drains down, and leaves the surface very quickly.
So, on the Friday, we cabbed it to Memphis International. I suppose I was surprised again by the lack of size of the airport, particularly for an international airport. Maybe we are just spoiled with Gatwick, Stanstead and Heathrow, but all there was landside was a Starbucks (of course) and an Irish bar and restaurant, where we had omelettes for our brunch. We then had a very nice chat to one of the local airport dog handlers, Brian Jenkins. He was a lovely chap, and emailed us to check that we had arrived safely in San Francisco. Protect and Serve is still alive and kicking, despite what some people might say.
© Susan Shirley 2017