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The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot – Part 1

Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, USA. The city was founded in the early 19th century and named after ‘Memphis’ the ancient capital of Egypt.

A DAY IN THE HOME OF THE BLUES | Darrin Henry

Memphis, Tennessee! It just rolls off the tongue with the warm familiarity of a favourite song – even though this is my first time here. The very name is as iconic as the people and music associated with it: Elvis Presley, obviously! BB King and Johnny Cash spring to mind as Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ plays around in my head. But, now that we’re here, I’m surprised to learn these three aren’t from Memphis at all! The most famous of Memphis’s children are actually actors Morgan Freeman, singer Justin Timberlake and Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

The Big Silver Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee

We only have one full day in the city; arrived last night, leaving tomorrow morning. Early bird parking ($10) on the ground floor of a multi-storey in Monroe Street at 8.45am on a Sunday and we’re all set.

The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot - Part 1. Different Memphis city views.

The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot – Part 1. Different Memphis city views.

Didn't expect to be crossing railway tracks! The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot - Part 1

Didn’t expect to be crossing railway tracks! The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot – Part 1

Out on the streets the light is great for photography; early morning in June and a clear summer sky. Along Front Street we go. It feels like we have the whole city to ourselves; it’s quite deserted but something we’re fast getting used to in the US, although I had expected more foot traffic in a big city like Memphis, Tennessee.

On the drive in we had spotted, of all things, a silvery blue pyramid! A little online research as we walk back in that direction reveals it’s recently become a large Bass Pro store, specialising in fishing and outdoor goods. Built by the city in 1991 the original purpose was as a 20,000+ seat arena for sport and entertainment functions, however, after local sports teams moved to other premises the building stood empty for a decade. Hopes that the Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee would become a major tourist attraction are still to be realised.

The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee now home for the outdoor fishing store, Bass Pro.

The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee now home for the outdoor fishing store, Bass Pro, from 2015.

Inside the Bass Pro (Memphis Pyramid) shop, designed to look like a swamp area.

Inside the Bass Pro (Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee) shop, designed with a swamp theme.

After some difficulty reaching the store (US infrastructure is designed for road travel not walking) we eventually arrive at the front door, having almost slid down an embankment and crossed some railway tracks to get here. The gigantic metallic Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee looks out of place, something you’d expect to see in Las Vegas, but it’s spectacular for sure. Sweating from the heat, even at 9.45am, we go inside for some air-conditioned respite. We had planned to get a picture from the viewing deck near the top of the 98m pyramid, however, the $10 each charge puts us off. Travelling on a budget we’ve been searching out free excursions wherever possible.

Hernando De Soto Bridge

Out we go again and head along the Mississippi River bank. The city’s Hernando De Soto Bridge, affectionately called the ‘M’ bridge because of its shape, catches my eye. We climb onto a maintenance gangway that straddles a flood wall and discover a great view of the bridge. The light is awesome and we make a note to come back in the evening to try a night shot from here. (check out Part 2 for the night shots)

The Hernando De Soto Bridge in Memphis, also known as the 'M' Bridge.

The Hernando De Soto Bridge in Memphis, named after the 16th century Spanish explorer who led the first European expedition deep into the territory of modern day United States. The bridge is also known locally as the ‘M’ Bridge.

Road works at the end of the Hernando De Soto Bridge.

Road works at the end of the Hernando De Soto Bridge.

You will find some good eggs in Memphis.

You will find some good eggs in Memphis! The colourful Faberge egg that stands outside the visitor centre.

A few hundred metres along the riverfront we run into three Memphians, chilling on the walkway in the shade. They are instantly curious about who we are and comment on the ‘big’ camera. We spend half an hour chatting; they tell us about Memphis and we tell them all about St Helena. The three of them promise to try find our blog although admit they are not internet savvy.

Elvis Presley and BB King

On the riverfront we dropped in to the Elvis and BB King Memphis visitor centre.

A statue of legendary blues guitarist and singer, BB King, stands in the Memphis Elvis and BB King visitor centre. It is said BB hitched a ride to Memphis from his home state, Mississippi, in the late 1940s, just 20 years old. As his performances attracted more and more attention and success, he became known as the Beale Street Blues Boy, eventually shortened to, the Blues Boy which then became, BB.

A statue of legendary blues guitarist and singer, BB King, stands in the Memphis Elvis and BB King visitor centre. It is said BB hitched a ride to Memphis from his home state, Mississippi, in the late 1940s, just 20 years old. As his performances attracted more and more attention and success, he became known as the Beale Street Blues Boy, eventually shortened to, the Blues Boy which then became, BB.

Although he was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his family, at the age of 13. His Graceland mansion in Memphis is now a museum to the late singer, opened to the public in 1982 and attracts over 600,000 visitors a year.

Although he was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his family, at the age of 13. His Graceland mansion in Memphis is now a museum to the late singer, opened to the public in 1982 and attracts over 600,000 visitors a year.

The quiet riverfront in Memphis.

The quiet riverfront in Memphis.

Continuing our stroll along the river front it is quite noticeable that unlike towns and cities we’ve visited in other parts of the world, waterfront type property in America seems to hold little appeal for development of recreation areas. Walking perhaps a mile, there is plenty of prime space but no coffee shops, refreshment stands or souvenir sellers.

Mississippi Steamboats

We stop to eat our pack lunch, marvelling the whole time at how deserted the place is. In the UK, on a bright summer’s day like this, this area would bustle with rows of restaurants and cafes with parasols shading outdoor seating; the grassy slopes would be filled with sun bathers and ice cream vendors would make a killing.

The wide Mississippi River drifts by.

The wide Mississippi River drifts by.

We read a tribute to the Sultana Disaster from 1865, when just 7 miles north of Memphis, over 1,547 people lost their lives when the steamboat exploded and burned. Built to carry 376 passengers, she was at the time carrying more than 2,300 onboard. Most were Union soldiers from Tennessee and nearby states, on their way home after release from Confederate prisons.

We read a tribute to the Sultana Disaster from 1865, when just 7 miles north of Memphis, over 1,547 people lost their lives when the steamboat exploded and burned. Built to carry 376 passengers, she was at the time carrying more than 2,300 onboard. Most were Union soldiers from Tennessee and nearby states, on their way home after release from Confederate prisons.

Perhaps the crime rate has an impact. More online research reveals Memphis has one of the highest crime rates in the US. Violent crime figures were over 12,000 in 2008. Maybe that’s a factor here. Or maybe it’s just because it’s Sunday? I don’t know.

The tide on the river is low. We stroll along the river’s edge where floating debris has become trapped near a few steamboats that are tied up waiting for tour customers, including, as the sign told us, the Memphis Queen II. By now it is nearly midday; it looks unlikely the steamboats will be going out as there is no one around.

Modern art and flowers on the riverfront. The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot - Part 1

Modern art and flowers on the riverfront. The Pyramid in Memphis Tennessee And City Sightseeing on Foot – Part 1

END OF PART 1 – Click Here to Read Part 2

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