A DAY IN THE HOME OF THE BLUES | Darrin Henry
We’ve been out all morning exploring Memphis, Tennessee. After mostly walking the riverfront and chatting to a few people, we stopped for lunch alongside the very wide Mississippi river.
Beale Street, Memphis
Lunch over, we leave the riverfront and make our way into the city and on to the famous Beale Street, often referred to as the ‘home of the blues.’ Here we find people – not a lot, but better than the empty streets thus far. There are bars and restaurants both sides of the street and a smattering of shops thrown in for good measure. This section of Beale Street, about one or two blocks, is closed to traffic but it feels unnatural walking in the road and most people are sticking to the pavements like us.
A few club reps on patrol for potential customers make half hearted attempts to lure us inside, but they look embarrassed about it. Perhaps it’s still too early, plus I’m sure in our hot and ‘glowing’ state Sharon and I don’t look as though it’s a bar and blues we’re seeking. Now if they were offering homemade ice cream that would be hard to turn down!
The souvenir outlets are full of BB King merchandise, blues music souvenirs and of course plenty of Elvis memorabilia including a classic, white jump suit decorated with sequins. Hmmm! I suppose it could be more appealing to people now that the onesie is in style!
FedEx Forum, Home of the Grizzlies
After browsing a few of the shops we are soon at the far end of the street.
Around a corner is the giant FedEx Forum arena where the city’s professional basketball team, the ‘Grizzlies’ play. Out of curiosity we wander over to have a look but the female security guard on the door isn’t in a good mood and seems irritated to have a couple of tourists asking what’s inside. “No, you cannot go inside,” is her curt response to my best smile and request to enter! Oh well, let’s move on (and work on that smile).
We are both in need of a coffee but after trying three cafe/bars who declare they don’t sell coffee, we give up on our attempts at supporting a localised business and head back to a Starbucks we saw earlier. Good old Starbucks.
Ice Cream at The A Schwab Museum
Perked up with caffeine we wander back along Beale Street to visit the A. Schwab Museum. The ground floor is a souvenir shop bursting with music themed souvenirs, unusual bargains and cool novelty items. The wooden peg guns that fire rubber bands really has me tempted but I resist suspecting it can only lead to tears later – the road trip is going well so far!
Up the stairs is an American museum, wonderfully informal yet full of intriguing historic exhibits from not that long ago. Early typewriters with big heavy keys; 45rpm vinyl records in classic paper sleeves; a very mechanical looking laundry wringer thingy; a wooden cased cash register and many more fascinating items. There’s a real chilled vibe about this place and the staff throughout the building are extremely friendly and helpful. Best of all it’s all free.
Downstairs the museum has its own ice cream bar and we decide to treat ourselves as a way of showing support to such a brilliant venue. It’s probably one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. Awesome.
Soon after 4pm we set off for the nearby Peabody Hotel to see the famous Peabody Ducks. On the way, walking along Second Street it’s noticeable the appearance of lone men loitering on the corners and in doorways.
Later, after the Peabody Ducks, we return to Beale Street for dinner to find there are plenty more men hanging around. We are stopped and asked for money as are other people who are out walking. It’s not a total surprise as I’d read about this in reviews on some travel sites.
On Beale Street we both opt for a Philly Po sandwich at one of the cafes, helped down with a Miller Lite each. The presentation and service is sadly poor and although the bar has wi-fi we are told the owner isn’t there to provide the key. They don’t appear too happy when we pay our bill with exact change.
The Hernando De Soto Bridge at Night
To use up some time we wander along Main Street where trams, or trolleys as they’re called, are operating. It’s a truly beautiful street bursting with greenery and very photogenic. Sadly the restaurants and cafes are all virtually empty which gives the place a bit of spooky feel.
Returning to the deserted car park on Monroe Street, ours is the only car left on the ground floor. As we approach, a loiterer crossing the street spots us coming and stops, waiting on the corner. Suddenly another couple appear from an alley and the man is distracted. As we scoot by we overhear an elaborate pitch for money.
Feeling safe in the car we drive down to the riverfront and the floodwall gangway from earlier this morning. We wait around until dark to shoot the Hernando De Soto Bridge. By now the area is completely deserted as the nearby Bass Pro store is closed. A group of teenagers suddenly appear on the walkway behind us giving us a right fright, but they turn out to be very friendly and just out to view the bridge at night like us.
A little after 9pm, photography complete, we head back to the motel. We’ve been out walking the streets of Memphis for well over 12 hours and in desperate need of a shower. Pyramids, marching ducks and Philly Po sandwiches; Memphis, Tennessee has been a great experience.