Memphis, home of rock n roll, blues, soul and Elvis.
Mr.C had heard about a rooftop bar, so that’s our first stop, the Big Bass Pro shop. We walk there only to find it is closed, so promptly order a taxi with the hotel front desk. She calls two, apparently it is the Memphis way, as one is likely not to show up and the other will be late. None the less our taxi does come. We climb into this musty smelling car with the long wiry grey haired driver wearing a t-shirt a size to small. His first words were, “I’m so glad y’all call, I was just at home getting drunk”. Mr.C promptly grasps my hand; I give him a look that says, ‘I’ll protect you’. We need not worry as it turns out he is one hell of a character.
He asks about our trip and then exudes enthusiasm about going to Graceland. He tells us he has been four times and kicked out twice. When Mr.C asks why he casually declares that he ‘jelly beaned’ the swimming pool while drunk. We are in fits of laughter at this point. The meter is running at just over $5 dollars by the point he takes a weird side turning. He tells us not to look at the meter he’s taking us on a guided tour and will only charge us $5. We are both unsure of this, I mean he has already confessed to being drunk, he then asked us to keep a look out for his son who he hasn’t seen in days as he is also a drunk. He tells us several fun stories and takes us round to hotel where Martin Luther King got shot, lets me hop out for a photo before telling us that it’s a 3 hour tour. We finally end up on Beale Street, with sore stomachs from laughing. He points out the best place to go for ribs and is true to his word, he charges us $5, and Mr.C gives him $15 for the jokes. He then says, “take my card, I haven’t had time to laminate it, but if you need a ride home just call!” This card is a torn piece of paper that he has just written in the driver’s seat. I promise i do this taxi journey no justice, it is one of them stories that you just needed to be there for.
Beale Street is full of lights, people drinking in the street and the smell of BBQ. Oh my, the smell!!! It is so good; both of our mouths are watering so we head to the recommended restaurant. Order some Memphis beer and a nibble starter while deciding on what to eat. This starter is a plate full of two different types of pickles, cheese with cocktail sticks in, and BBQ sausage. The sauce on the sausage is insane, thick, rich, sweet, just pure yum. Mr.C lets me have all the pickles and so I give him a higher percentage of sausage. We don’t get to finish the starter, as the mains come out. Two half rack of ribs, but they are like the size of a full UK rack and just oodles of meat and hardly any bone. It’s served with carb over load, potatoes and fried bread. I feel full even though I have barely started but refuse to stop. The sauce, the meat, watching it lazily fall from the bone is satisfying beyond description, it is all just soooo good. Mr.C and I haven’t said a word since the ribs arrived. I bail out first, admitting defeat then doing the classic picking while I wait for his declaration. He’s done chips and potatoes left on both our plates but we ate all the meat. We sit and watch this burly 6ft 4, built like a brick house chef, delicately slice meat from a T-bone. He cooks the meat once on the bone, removes it from the bone and cooks it some more, then he surrounds the bone with it and puts it in the oven. We conclude it is his tender and loving handling of the meat that makes it taste so darn good!
We take to Beale Street attempting to walk off our food. We stop for a magnet and note everyone loves Elvis, I wonder why there is no Justin Timberlake memorabilia, seeing as he was born here too. I don’t ask anyone this as everyone in Memphis clearly like there alcohol and some are a touch crazy.
There is one place that you must go on Beale Street, BB Kings. Growing up I was a big fan of the likes of Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, and Billie Holiday right through to Amy Winehouse. But I think BB King was a bit before my time, I missed the boat, even so I am aware of his greatness. I am familiar with his sound and the fact that soul music has a passion that moves people, so BB Kings is a must in Memphis and it doesn’t disappoint. The band are playing, people are dancing. One couple in their late 60’s are fully going for it, twisting and turning like there’s no one else in the room, everyone in the bar in there in that moment, everyone has a smile on their face and are tapping some part of their bodies. The atmosphere is incredibly raw and authentic, you can feel the music being absorbed as it is played by four old and very talented men.
Still worse for wear and having spied these plastic BB King labelled cups I order fresh lemonade. It’s beyond sweet yet somehow it tastes like southern lemonade should – although I really have no idea what I mean by that, just that it was super sweet. After an hour or so here the band take a break and we go to leave. Mr.C discreetly flicks any excess liquid from the cup and pockets it. I smile. This boy, he’s just so intuitive and good. I mean I’m sure if I asked they would say I could take it but he risks it and just safety gets the cup out of the bar. We pass sun studios and the restaurant that Elvis you to frequent (his bum imprint still remains there) and we make our way back to the hotel. Memphis has an eerie feel late at night and the streets are rather empty apart from the cleaners and the horse and carts. Still full we sleep well and are fully rested for the morning.
We decide to head back to the rooftop bar, aka the Big Bass Pro shop. This place is huge! It has its own lake which homes real life alligators, fish and ducks. There are mounted animal heads everywhere and in the pyramid there is a hotel. You can stay in a tree house or a cabin; it is insanity and creative thinking to the next level. It costs $10 per person to ride the tallest free standing lift in the country, but it is worth it. That morning we get to gaze at the Mississippi river from several angles. The glass floor freaks Mr.C out a bit and the cold wind adds to the atmosphere set by the views of the bridge, Mud Island and Memphis. We pretty much have the deck to ourselves, such a refreshing start to the day. I convince Mr.C that Mud Island must be where Mississippi mud pie originated, it sounds totally conceivable in my head. In reality turns out this is not true!
Memphis has made it to the list of places I would return to. It has something so unique about it, so real and honest and I loved ever minute we spent here. Do visit, have some real soul food, definitely visit BB Kings, ask for Keith the crazy taxi driver, laugh and love it like we did.