We find our AirBnB place in a lovely neighborhood about 30 minutes away from the river, but close to a hip neighborhood. The room is large, but we have to walk through the kitchen and dining room to get to the bathroom, which is off the living room. The bathroom has recently been redone and is lovely, but it’s quite a trek. Also weird, the hostess has her lover in for the weekend, so to get to the bathroom we often have to negotiate passage through the thin kitchen past bathrobe-clad lovebirds. Our hostess is originally from Brazil and her lover is from Mexico so they speak to each other in Spanish. When I meet him in the kitchen when she is at work and I am preparing a #HellaHealthy dinner for us, all attempts at casual conversation fall flat. He’s not rude, just uncommunicative. It makes me not want to use the kitchen. Sigh.
Luckily, there is a back door entrance, and the BF starts playing a game where he sees how long he can go before seeing them again.
Also luckily, Memphis is delightful. We hit Bourbon street first thing. It’s the middle of the afternoon, so not as hopping as it will be later at night, but there is BBQ and music, and really, what more does one need. The temperature is rising and we are lucky to find a parking spot a block away. We head down the street and I find brass notes on the sidewalk, like the stars in Hollywood! I had no idea, and I’m charmed.
We grab a spot in the first restaurant we find. I’m sure this is a tourist spot, but we are tourists and obligingly order BBQ. The pork ribs come dark and tangy sweet, with cornbread and coleslaw. The BF gets BBQ shrimp, which are served in a bowl with the most divine sauce. Later we walk the street, buy postcards and I get a 2-disc set of the best of Sun Records for the car, and we enjoy the colorful neon signs, listening to blues and a surprising array of pop covers as we walk past several other restaurants and ice cream shops. The BF is thrilled to see Jerry Lawler’s restaurant, complete with memorabilia. When we come back a few days later, he tells me all about how this wrestler is the guy who tangled with Andy Kaufman. A man with a guitar is playing beautifully and covering — pop songs. We were hoping for blues, but it is a lovely serenade for our lunch.
Then we head over to the River Museum. This is the best museum on our trip so far by a long shot. It’s located IN the Mississippi River, so we have to take a tram to the island, which is fun. It’s still early, school hasn’t let out yet and we are nearly alone with the bored docents.
When you exit the tram the first thing you see is a glorious view of the bridge spanning the Mississippi between Memphis and Arkansas, as we later found out when we missed an exit and drove over the span.
Looking down from the 2nd floor, you see the River Walk, a scale version of the Mississippi River from it’s origin in MN down to New Orleans. It’s a 3-d version and you can walk down into it and follow the whole length (we didn’t have the time as the museum closed at 5). I did get a close look at the Memphis area, complete with bridges. I was fascinated. It meanders and gets smaller, then larger, then deeper, then wider. Inside the museum, we started with typical museum displays talking about the Mississippi River and the the two inventions that made it commercially navigable — a sort of enormous scoop that would suck up huge trees, and the steam engine. It makes sense, once someone said it, that the river would have lots of trees and debris from storms and such, and one could see how hitting an entire tree might be detrimental to a boat. No one ever had much trouble getting DOWN the Mississippi, but getting back UP was quite a chore. There were men who polled barges up the river using only their muscles. I mean, dayum, those must have been some muscles.
Enter the Steam Boat, which is where the museum took us next. Into a steamboat replica full with appropriate ambient noise (chitchat in the parlor, a conversation with the engineer in the boat house up top, etc.). You found your way down into the hold and off a plank to the next exhibit, and each room was an exhibit unto itself with sounds and interactive elements (you could load a shot into a cannon), ending with a few rooms dedicated to music. It was delightful and a lot like a theme park ride, going from one room into the next, never knowing what you would find. Five stars. Highly recommended.
Next up: More Memphis
The Journey starts Here: