A Travellerspoint blog

Memphis to Lafayette

A boring train journey

sunny 25 °C
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Sorry I've gotten behind in the blogs. As you'll see below I've been sick.

24 October 2016

Kristen had arranged a wake up call for everyone ... at 4.30am. I was already awake before the call. Why am I doing this to myself. I've been travelling for five weeks and I'm really tired and coming down with a virus. Bags were out at 5.00am and we left at 6.00am to catch the train. The City of New Orleans train travels from Chicago to New Orleans - we were travelling from Memphis to Hammond. Most of the day was spent travelling through Mississippi and we crossed into Louisiana.

We were on the train for seven hours. The train was comfortable with big seats and a huge amount of legroom but the scenery was boring and the trip felt much too long (maybe because I had a pounding headache).The bus was waiting for us in Hammond and on the drive from Hammond to Lafayette we started to see the swampland (bayou).

A terrible virus has been going around the bus. At Graceland a lady from our group feinted and on the same day the Tour Director, who has been sick, had a fall. They both spent some time being checked out at the hospital. I thought I'd escaped the virus but today I felt terrible. I was shivering and went to bed at 7.00pm without any dinner. I developed the horrible cough that the other passengers have but I was also up all night vomiting. Not a great night and I was wishing I was at home.

Posted by MissWalker 06:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)


Dropping by for lunch with Elvis

sunny 26 °C
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23 October 2016

A much needed sleep in this morning. I got up at 7.00am and took the opportunity to have a cooked breakfast. We had to be on the bus at 9.45am to drive to Graceland. We were there by 10.00am, Kristen got our tickets, we lined up for the shuttle bus and waited and waited. We were given an ipad and headphones and finally boarded the shuttle ... to drive across the road. Finally, we were there around 11.00am. The house is much smaller than I imagined. We were herded off the shuttle, into the house and we followed the crowd from room to room. The ipad was supposed to give a room to room commentary but it was annoying because it wouldn't work properly, and it was just another thing to carry around.

There were so many people in the house! It wasn't quite so crowded when I left the house and went into other buildings. So much to take in ... photos, clothes (those outrageous Las Vegas costumes!) and walls covered in gold records. At the end of the path is the meditation garden - the graves of Elvis, his parents and grandmother. You can't hang around too long, once you reach the end they have a shuttle waiting to take you back across the road.


There are some other exhibits that my ticket covered - I went into a couple but by that stage I had seen enough Elvis. I joined a few other girls from the tour for lunch in a 50s style diner. We just had time to go to Heartbreak Hotel for a quick look before going back to the bus for 1.30pm departure.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Walmart to get some supplies for our train trip tomorrow. At 4.30pm we were back on the bus to go to the Peabody Hotel to see a bizarre ritual. The Peabody is an upmarket Hotel with a fountain in the foyer, five ducks spend their day in the fountain. They have a home on the top of the Peabody and they are brought to the foyer every morning - by the Master of the Ducks on a red carpet that leads into the lift and to the foyer fountain. At 5.00pm every evening the the red carpet is back and they go back to their home upstairs - the ducks know the routine and are ready to go. It was hard to find a viewing spot among the crowd.


That was my day in Memphis: Graceland and ducks in a hotel lobby! I had a quiet night in my hotel room. We have a very early start in the morning.

Posted by MissWalker 15:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Nashville to Memphis

Memphis rocks!

sunny 24 °C
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22 October 2016

A bit later departure today at 8.30am but I still had to get up early to have my bag ready by 7.00am. We drove for two hours before the morning stop at Jackson - near the Casey Jones Museum, which we didn't have time to look at. There hasn't been any beautiful scenery on this tour, unlike the Canada tour: trees along the highways block any view. We watched a doco/movie about Elvis along the way.

Lunch break was at a shopping mall on the outskirts of Memphis. we made a stop at the information centre in Memphis, located next to the Mississippi River. The centre had large statues of Elvis and BB King. Memphis is known for three kings: Elvis, BB King and Martin Luther King. Next we visited the pace where Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968. The motel is now part of a museum - you don't need to go into the museum because the assassination site is outside and there are information boards.


At 4.00pm some of us were dropped off for part one of an optional excursion (that means it costs extra money) at Sun Studio. The tour of Sun Studio was fabulous. This little studio is where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis made their first recordings. A teenage Elvis paid to make a recording, hoping that his talent would be discovered but it took a year before he was noticed. There are Xs on the floor: the sweet spots for recording. The guide told a story about one tour he was doing: Bob Dylan walked in the door, knelt down and kissed the X where Elvis stood to record, and walked out again. Nobody famous came in while we were there, but we did get to take photos with the only remaining original microphone.


The following photo is known as the Million Dollar Quartet. It was taken in 1956 at an impromptu jam session with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash at Sun Studio. We heard a little bit of the recording.


We were picked up at 5.00pm and taken to the hotel. The day continued with part two of the excursion ... at 6.45pm we were back on the bus for a night out in Memphis. Beale St is where the bars and blues music continue late into the night. There was a strong police presence at the ends of Beale St; our Tour Director advised us not to walk back to the hotel after dark. Nashville was quite safe at night but Memphis has some problems.


We had dinner at the King's Palace Cafe, which was accompanied by a guy playing some music and singing the blues. He got everyone to join in singing and clapping along, and some people were up dancing. It was a great atmosphere.


We also had a free pass for the Rum Boogie Cafe (all the bars have a cover charge), where we went to listen to some blues. The music was good and the Rum Boogie Cafe was interesting - small, dark, crowded with guitars hanging on the walls and ceilings. Not a late night, we were back at the hotel around 10.00pm. This was a fabulous night out but I was glad to be back at the hotel ... this was my third night out in a row. I would have loved to stay and listen to the music but I was tired!


Posted by MissWalker 16:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)


Honky Tonkin' in Nashville

sunny 18 °C
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21 October 2016

We had to be on the bus at 7.45am because we had an appointment to tour RCA Studio B at 8.30am. The hour long tour was fantastic. My early teenage years were spent listening to and loving Elvis music. It was a thrill to be in the studio where he recorded so much music and to soak up the atmosphere of the studio.


The RCA Studio is no longer in use but there are many other recording studios in the area. The music industry doesn't provide Nashville's biggest product. The printing industry dominates, specifically the printing of religious material.

After the studio tour we went to Millennium Park for a short break (mainly to use the toilets) and then drove through the city and stopped at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall (not a shopping mall but a park). The park has a large map of Tennessee that you can walk on - you can walk across the state.

Around 11.00am we were dropped off at The Country Music Hall of Fame, given tickets to enter and set free until 3.45pm to explore Nashville. I went through the hall of fame and museum first. It was well done but I didn't recognise many of the performers. I did enjoy seeing the car with steer horns on the front, saddles and guns everywhere, including guns for door handles. Of course it was decorated with silver dollars.


Then I headed to the street running parallel to the museum. Broadway is the main street and for several blocks is known as Honky Tonk Row - mainly bars that play live music mixed in with with shops selling cowboy hats and boots. As I walked down the street the music was already in full swing with each bar trying to outdo the next in music volume. I looked in some of the boot shops, just to see the outrageous boots with big price tags.

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It didn't take long to walk the street and I was at the Cumberland River. I walked back along the street stopping into the bars to listen to the music and check them out. I decided on a quieter place for my lunch of burger and fries, the Rock Bottom Hotel. I ran out of things to do and sat in the sunshine at the Music City Walk of Fame Park - it was lovely to soak up some sunshine after a couple of days of rain.

We drove the thirty minutes back to the hotel in Music Valley but only had time for a short rest before we had to be on the bus at 6.00pm to go to the Grand Ole Opry. In case you don't know what the Opry is (I didn't), it's a live performance of country music that's broadcast as a radio show - complete with advertisements. The radio broadcast has been running since 1925.

The show was a mix of performers, some terrible and some good. The first half was mainly in the terrible category but the second half offered a couple of very good singers - one very strange looking man with long stringy hair but a beautiful voice (not really a country singer) and the final act was more high energy rock than country.


Our group managed to get out quickly and we avoided the chaos in the bus parking lot. We were back at the hotel around 9.30pm, exhausted after a big day out in Nashville.

Posted by MissWalker 15:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

St.Louis to Nashville

Getting the country flavour

rain 18 °C
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20 October 2016

The storm continued over St.Louis and I could hear the thunder deep into the night. We departed St. Louis at 8.00am. There wasn't much to see along the way, just the trees and fields in a rainy mist. Our morning stop was at another truck stop with the usual array of sweets, coffee, cakes and fried foods - or if you're lucky they have bananas.

During the morning we crossed the border from Missouri back to Illinois and then into Kentucky. Lunch break was at a town called Paducah. We had far too much time to fill in and there wasn't much to see in Paducah - the Ohio River, the murals along the riverfront and the quilting museum. The murals were lovely and surprisingly had no graffiti on them. I wandered around but had seen everything I wanted in a very short time: the town centre felt run down and deserted. At least the rain held off but it was quite cold.


Heavy rain started as soon as we were back on the bus. We filled the time watching a movie called The Coal Miners Daughter, about country singer Loretta Lynn. We arrived in a warm and humid Nashville around 4.00pm.

I had signed up for the Nashville Nightlife optional dinner and show. I'm not a huge fan of country music but I'm in Nashville so I'm going with the country flow! There were already eight buses in the parking lot and we had to line up for dinner ... not a good start. The show started a bit slow and I thought it was going to be just another poor tourist show, but the musicians were very talented and the show was very good. A really enjoyable night out! The show finished just before 9.00pm: after a long day it felt like it was really late.


Posted by MissWalker 20:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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