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12 Hours Walking In Memphis – Part 2

Walking into Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

Walking into Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

A DAY IN THE HOME OF THE BLUES | Darrin Henry

Click here to read part 1.

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.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

The contrasting styles of Beale Street.

The contrasting styles of Beale Street.

As well as the Elvis memorabillia you could spend a lot of time just reading all the signage along Beale Street.

As well as the Elvis memorabillia you could spend a lot of time just reading all the signage along Beale Street.

No shortage of places to eat and listen to the blues on Beale Street.

No shortage of places to eat and listen to the blues on Beale Street.

The colourful mural style signs are brilliant, but it still feels strange seeing the 'No Firearms' signs on shop doors.

The colourful mural style signs are brilliant, but it still feels strange seeing the ‘No Firearms’ signs on shop doors.

Beale Street souvenirs, Memphis, Tennessee.

Beale Street souvenirs, Memphis, Tennessee.

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).

The sports balls give it away - the FedEx Forum is a sports arena, home to the Memphis Grizzlies. (basketball)

The sports balls give it away – the FedEx Forum is a sports arena, home to the Memphis Grizzlies. (basketball)

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!

The A. Schwab museum on Beale Street, a great place to visit in Memphis. Free entry.

The A. Schwab museum on Beale Street, a great place to visit in Memphis. Free entry.

Inside the A Schwab Museum on Beale Street in Memphis.

Inside the A Schwab Museum on Beale Street in Memphis.

All the different hats in the shop were just too tempting for Sharon!

All the different hats in the shop were just too tempting for Sharon. Mini fashion show in session!

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.

Elvis Presley souvenirs.

Elvis Presley souvenirs.

The laptop's great, great grandfather.

The laptop’s great, great grandfather.

Rock and roll in Memphis, Tennessee.

Rock and roll in Memphis, Tennessee.

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.

No Loitering

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.

Click here to read about the amazing Peabody Ducks marching through the hotel.

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.

The Philly Po sandwich it said on the menu came with chips, which we found out meant Lay's crisps, not French fries!

The Philly Po sandwich it said on the menu came with chips, which we found out meant Lay’s crisps, not French fries!

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.

A cycle bar vehicle making its way along Main Street.

A cycle bar vehicle making its way along Main Street.

The photogenic Main Street in Memphis and the Tennessee state flag.

The photogenic Main Street in Memphis and the Tennessee state flag.

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.

The Hernando De Soto Bridge across the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Hernando De Soto Bridge opened in 1973 and carries more than 55,000 vehicles each day. It is referred to as the “M” Bridge because the arches resemble the letter M. Many Memphians call it the “New Bridge” simply because it’s newer than the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge. And it’s also referred to, with a slight wink, as “The Dolly Parton Bridge.”

Photographing the Hernando De Soto bridge at sunset, in Memphis, Tennessee. It's been a long day.

Photographing the Hernando De Soto bridge at sunset, in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s been a long day.

Memphis, Tennessee at night. Looking back toward the city from the top of the floodwall.

Memphis, Tennessee at night. Looking back toward the city from the top of the floodwall.

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.

The bridge is named for 16th century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who explored this stretch of the Mississippi River, and died south of Memphis.  At night, the bridge is illuminated by 200 sodium vapor lights along its "M" structure.  The big "M" on the bridge has become a symbol of the city.

The bridge is named for 16th century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who explored this stretch of the Mississippi River, and died south of Memphis.
At night, the bridge is illuminated by 200 sodium vapor lights along its “M” structure. The big “M” on the bridge has become a symbol of the city.

Click Here to view Part 1 of this post.

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