Memphis

Knowing a whole lot of nothing about the place, we decided to stop for two nights in Memphis, Tennessee. Obviously we knew that’s where Elvis lived and there’s a lot of music history there but that was about it.

The place looked almost deserted when we drove into town. Our hotel wasn’t far from the office blocks of downtown and also not far from Beale Street, which Paul (our friend from Natchez) had recommended for music. It’s the Memphis equivalent of Bourbon St in New Orleans, but much quieter – or at least it is on week nights. Bourbon Street wasn’t quiet any night of the week that we could see – and you’d even find people bar hopping any time of the day too. Beale Street seemed much more clean and sedate, although I’m sure it gets lively on the weekends.

We’d been told to try out the bbq food and I didn’t have to be told twice. BBQ ribs are just about my favourite food in the whole wide world (although my mum’s hamburgers are up there) so Luke summoned the powers of the internet and got some recommendations.

On the first night we stopped at a rather gritty diner called The Blues City Cafe.

All the neon!

It was moderately busy and the air was a little smokey from all the cooking. We ordered a full rack of ribs to share (see? Learning!) and they came with ‘steak fries’ (which are slightly larger cut chips), a little tub of coleslaw and some bbq baked beans. The beans were a surprise – I didn’t realise they were a thing over here. The ribs were excellent – on par with the City Grill Room ribs at home and probably had more meat on them than the CGR ribs normally do. We ended up having a fairly early night… after a few episodes of Star Trek on the laptop, of course.

I was hoping to find some more rockabilly style clothing, so after a hearty breakfast at the diner Elvis used to frequent, we looked in a couple of shops but to no avail. I did buy a few new pairs of  leggings at American Apparel as mine are all starting to wear out. You don’t realise how quickly clothes fall apart until you’ve only got three day’s worth of outfits.

In the afternoon we walked from our hotel to Sun Studios, the label that first signed Elvis, as well as Roy Orbison, Jerry Lewis and a host of other stars. While people take tours (pretty short, underwhelming tours) of the studio during the day recording still happens there in the evenings. If you’re a fan of rock and roll history it’s no doubt worth the trek but otherwise it’s not terribly exciting. The tour visits one room of memorabilia and then the recording studio where you listen to snippets of various people speaking and singing.

The mic used by Elvis.

The guitars used by artists.

One for Mum – a photo of Roy Orbison.

 

One of the most famous photos in the history of rock and roll. Carl Perkins, Jerry Lewis, Elvis and Johnny Cash. Notice that the background of the photo is the wall that the photo is hanging on.

After the tour I looked up one of the musicians in the photo with Elvis, Carl Perkins. I didn’t realise it was he who had written ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and the story behind it is interesting. It was Johnny Cash who had told him it would be a good theme for a song as the shoes were fashionable at the time. The song became huge but Sam, the owner of Sun Records, passed on less than half the money Carl was entitled to. As a young, fairly uneducated man with no idea he didn’t question the money and it was only years later, after he was unable to legally claim it back that he discovered he’d been ripped off. The studio tour idolises the owners for supposedly inventing rock and roll but they did not deal honestly with all of the clients who made them rich.

We went to a different restaurant in the evening – another place on Beale Street. I can’t remember the name but it had a pig on the sign. The ribs there were also good but we both agreed that we liked the first place better. After dinner we walked up to BB King’s Blues Club. I didn’t realise that BB King’s name actually comes from ‘Beale St Blues King’  – and he’s still performing over 200 shows a year now in his 80s. Pretty impressive!

The club was fairly busy and full of energy. People were actually dancing, which we hadn’t seen much of in New Orleans, and we’d have gotten up too – if we hadn’t ordered drinks and then only caught the last 3 songs of the set. Still, it was a great vibe and we contemplated stopping somewhere else on the way home but then settled for an early night as it was a 5 hour drive to St Louis the next day.

I don’t know who the band were, but they were good!

I don’t know if I’d recommended Memphis as a destination unless you’re a music geek, but it was certainly a lot warmer than St Louis. More on that later!

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England: Friends and Family

On our way back from the south west we stopped for a night with Jen and Rob in Bristol. Jen had told me that Bristol is considered by some to be quite like Melbourne, and I could certainly see the similarities. There’s lots of (good quality) graffiti and there seemed to be strong and varied cultural scene. More people with dreadlocks and op shop clothing than I’ve seen in a long time. Jen took us for a walk to a green hill very close to her house, from which we enjoyed and excellent view of the city at sunset. Then we walked through a huge area of allotments that reminded me of CERES and a community farm just like Collingwood! I think if I was to come back to stay for a while Bristol would certainly be somewhere I’d consider.

Somewhat surreal.

We had a couple of drinks at a pub before heading to Thali Indian restaurant. I wish I’d taken some photos of the interior, it was an astoundingly bright mix of blue, teal and dark pink. Completely different to any other Indian restaurant I’ve seen and full of character. The food was fantastic too. Luke and I are already moaning about missing the food in the UK and we haven’t even left yet.

Afterwards we went to see a really funky band, then ended the night at Jen and Rob’s, laughing at Rob doing the Birmingham accent and chatting into the wee hours.

We left the next afternoon, much later than I anticipated and got stuck in horrendous 4pm Friday traffic. I swear I’ll never complain about Australian traffic again. You really have to think about what time you’re planning on being on the road here – we spent over half an hour crawling along at virtually walking pace. Still, it was worth it for the huge English breakfast we had at a cafe near Jen’s.

Bristol – we’ll be back one day!

On the subject of Jen, I completely forgot to write about going to Birmingham a short while back to see her play her cello with a band. It was only a short set (or maybe it just felt short?) but the music was lovely and it was the first chance I’d had to meet her partner Rob.

Jen on stage.

Before the gig Luke and I had lunch with an old friend, Liz – my friend Sarah’s mother, who conveniently lives in Wolverhampton, not far from Birmingham. We met up at her house then went to a pub for a roast lunch. The food was great and it was lovely to catch up and hear Liz’s plans for visiting Sarah (who lives in Melbourne) for a few months around the time Sarah’s baby is due. While we’ve been overseas it seems like half the 30-something people in Melbourne have had babies or are about to. It’s weird to think that a few weren’t even contemplating children when I left and when I get back they’ll have babies in their lives. I’m looking forward to meeting all these brand new people :-).

One day I’m going to learn, for once and for all, that it’s always worth getting my good camera out to take photos. Was great to see you, Liz!

Here Comes The Planet 35 – England 09

We meet up with our friend Justin in Saltburn-By-The-Sea, in my personal favourite episode of Here Comes The Planet thus far!

Justin was the first Couchsurfer Amanda hosted, and whilst in Melbourne he also came along to our Samsara 2012 party (although I have no footage of that, here’s some footage from Samsara 2011). He was keen to return the hospitality, and did so in spades! We had a fantastic time with him and his mates, as you’ll no doubt be able to tell from the video. Apart from a great tour of Saltburn, he took us out to an excellent club night being run by a mate of his, as well as a joint birthday party where there were tasty noms, numerous games (some of which no one knew how to win, especially not the person making the game up as they went) and a lot of padded wrestling. We’re already looking forward to the time we can all catch up again. 🙂

Also, if you’ve never considered taking up dinghying as a hobby, Burno makes a compelling case.