Sunday, April 12, 2009

Walking in Memphis

Hello my friends! I am back from my holiday! 

Obviously I didn't manage to blog from New Orleans or any of the other places I went to. It was mostly due to a lack of time, we had a pretty tight schedule.

I am going to divide the trip in three posts for the three stops we made - Memphis, New Orleans and Pensacola/Florida.

The trip was pretty great even though I had some health issues. I will try to explain in a short paragraph what happened:

About a week before we left I got really sick. I hadn't been sick like this since I was a child and I am putting it down to having no anti-bodies for American flu viruses. I had a fever, I couldn't even move for a few days and I had a really bad cough that hurt. I couldn't smell or taste but I wasn't hungry anyway. We left for our road trip to Memphis  on day 6 of this flu. The fever was gone but I was still coughing. I awoke from our first night of the road trip at 4am in our hotel in Memphis, coughing up blood. I did what I always do and googled it. A google search for "Coughing up blood" told me to go to the emergency room immediately which we did. Let me tell you - if you want to see the true state of a city - go to their emergency room at 5am on a Saturday. Let's just say there are a lot of poor people in Memphis and the hospital I went to was in a bad state. Anyway, turns out I have a bronchitis but at least not pneumonia. I got some antibiotics and an inhaler spray. A week later, I feel better but still cough a lot. But the meds were good enough to make me able to enjoy my holidays.

Alright - let's move on. So as I said we first drove down to Memphis/Tennessee. Memphis is actually a really beautiful city. I found that I really like the South. First of all of course the weather was great. We did have a few cooler days but it was in the mid 20s (Celsius) during most of the trip. I even got sunburned in New Orleans.
The landscape is great. It is so green! I expected the South to be all dried out. Maybe that's just because it's spring, I don't know but it was very green, everywhere we went.

To get to Memphis we drove down through Illinois and Missouri. The landscape of southern Illinois and Missouri was a bit of a surprise. You drive through the middle of Illinois and it's actually pretty - hilly and green and then all of a sudden you are in this bare country full of black, broken trees, run down looking houses and depressed land. We had to fill our gas tank and the first town we went to we decided we wouldn't stop because it looked like right out of one of those movies were the natives of the town kill and eat every stranger that passes through. I am serious. It's not pretty. We also didn't stop in the next town. What we saw of Missouri wasn't any better. I really can't imagine how it must be like growing up there. I was briefly imagining my husband back in 2004 bringing me home for to introduce me to his family to Cairo/Illinois instead of Akron/Ohio. I don't know if I would have ever agreed to move to the US.

The landscape got much better once we entered Tennessee. One thing that Memphis is famous for are their ribs. They are prepared differently than in the rest of the US and they are GOOD. They fall of the bone, they melt in your mouth. It's pretty incredible. The most famous ribs place is "Rendezvous Ribs" but it was closed when we were there so we drove down to another place called "Central BBQ" which was great too. It is in the middle of a residential street and you can sit outside, they have a little beer garden right there and they had some live country music playing. It was really cute and felt very local. And of course the ribs were heaven. And trust me - I am normally not a fan of ribs but these won me over.

The other thing Memphis is famous for is Graceland - Elvis Presley's mansion. Graceland is full of tourists and a very organized operation. You arrive at a house which is actually on the other side of the street from Graceland. On that side of the street you can see Elvis' planes. He had two of them. The "Lisa-Marie" is the most luxurious plane I have ever seen (we got to go inside). There is also a museum with all of Elvis' cars. If you want to see Graceland you have to wait in line to get on a bus which then brings you to the other side of the street. Graceland itself looks like a cute, little colonial style house but wait until you get inside - it is one of the weirdest and over the top places I have ever seen. Here are some pictures:

The mirror ceilinged basement with the creepy, white monkey

The lavish living room

The pool room

The jungle room 

The center of Memphis is old and beautiful and incredibly clean. Memphis is right on the Mississippi river and the river banks are green park areas. They have some really hip bars downtown too. Girls dress up when they go out (which they don't do in Chicago a whole lot unless you consider wearing a really low cut top dressing up) - it feels like you are in Sex and the City - girls in high heels, with perfect hair and make up and cute dresses. And then of course you have famous Beal street. Beal street is the Blues/Jazz street of Memphis. They have live music on the street, little, cute shops, lot's of neon signs ... 

When we drove to Central BBQ we got to see a really pretty part of Memphis. Big, colonial mansions in cute, little streets with lots of green and trees which were blooming in red, white and pink. This is what I imagined a southern City to look like. 

To sum it up - I really liked Memphis. Unfortunately due to my health situation I couldn't really experience Beal street the way I wanted to but I will probably be back sometime.

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