The 600 pound gorilla in the Memphis, Tennessee tourist agenda is of course, The King. We've been on the Elvis Trail, starting with his birth in Tupelo, Mississippi; through to his breakthrough with Sam Phillips at Sun Studio; and now to where he lived and ended it all.
Of course, we're talking about his home in south Memphis, Graceland.
Note: you can also get a slightly less ($3 less) tour that does not include some of the smaller side tours...like Elvis' airplanes, which are not wheelchair accessible anyway...or pay $72 for the "VIP" experience, in which you also get to see the automobile museum and get a "keepsake" backstage pass.
We decided to "enhance" our experience even more by moving our last night to the Heartbreak Hotel, a themed lodging across the street adjacent to the visitor's center that is also owned by the same company.
A king suite here was just a few dollars more than the Springhill Suites we were staying at the last few nights but the hotel was a bit run down and looked as it had not been renovated since Elvis' death. The lounge (The Jungle Room) was a bit pathetic and the food choices very uninspiring.
On the plus side, they show Elvis movies 24/7 on the TV's here...
After check-in, we head over to the visitor's center, cash in the reservation we bought online, and head outside. We're across the street from the house so visitors board shuttle buses (which have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs) for the short trip across the street, though the famous music note gates, and up to the front door.
A quick spiel about the history of the house and then you're turned loose inside with your headphones and audio tour. This is always a bit of a pain in the butt for me because Tim can never quite punch in the right code for the proper part of the tour so I'm fixing his errors, trying to get my audio back to match his, and then continue with the tour.
We get by.
You start in the foyer (which is directly under the spot where Elvis died upstairs but they don't tell you that on the tour) and view the living room with its fifteen foot long couch on the right.
Then, it's on to his parents bedroom down the hall, past the staircase (upstairs is strictly off limits), and into the dining room.
A large, dated kitchen is after that. Now, Tim gets to wait upstairs while Letty and I take turns to go down in the basement to see the rec room and bar. Tim watches a video of the same thing in the car port.
Next is the famous Jungle Room with a waterfall, animal skins and theme. It's basically a large family room.
Outside, you go past Lisa Marie's swingset and into the offices of Elvis Enterprises where his dad, Vernon, used to take care of the business side of things.
On the end of this building is an old smokehouse that was converted into a shooting range.
Past the horse pasture is the trophy room where hundreds of gold and platinum records hang on the wall.
More exhibits about Elvis in the Army and his short marriage to Priscilla.
The last day of his life, he played raquetball in his own personal court where it has now been converted to a large display room showing more gold and platinum records plus a selection of the outfits he wore onstage.
Outside, by the pool is the final stop on the tour which is also Elvis' final stop...the memorial garden.
Here, he rests eternally next to the graves of his mom, his dad, and his grandmother.
Back on the shuttle, Letty comments that it was smaller than expected. Indeed, the house would just barely qualify as a mansion in some places but it was a different time with different expectations.
It's back to the hotel after touring the planes and the gift shops before heading out for dinner.
Dinner time and the pickin's are slim around Graceland. Instead, a better bet is to head back downtown for some Memphis barbecue. We're heading to Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. Walking by the Peabody Hotel, one of the city's homeless citizens asks where we're from and if we've had dinner yet.
We tell him we're going to the Rendezvous and he directs us to an alley half a block away. Indeed, this lonely alley is the entrance.
The restaurant is mostly downstairs with another room upstairs. Nothing is at the level of the entrance. Fortunately, the hostess sends Bob the busboy to escort us to a nearby elevator where we make the journey through the bowels of the restaurant to our table.
While trying to decide between all the pork ribs, chicken, sausage and such, our server tells us they are having a special.
"You're here during Memphis Dine week. We have a special, two brisket dinners with beer for $20.13."
Sounds good. We order that plus a plate of pork ribs. The food is indeed special, especially the brisket. It's moist...which is the problem I have with most versions, they're too dry...and have a great smoky flavor.
I tell Bob I love them and he says he thinks the pork ribs are even better. They are very good, tender, and flavorful but I still have to give the edge to the brisket.
One more night in the disappointing Heartbreak Hotel and our too short time in Memphis is over. In the morning, we'll be heading east on Interstate 40 towards "Music City," Nashville.
We'll see you there.
Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved