My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's the Journey...(Day 3)

Mom and 'the King'
Literally struggled to get out of bed this morning:  the Days Inn-Graceland has the worst beds ever!  The mattresses have double groove running length-wise -- the imprint of hundreds of people who have gone before and broke down the support.  Mom said she had to climb up the side of the hole she was in.  It was nice and quiet, though.

Traveling with a dog is definitely a challenge as you try to visit metropolitan areas.  The hotel claimed to be dog friendly, but it charged an additional amount to have the dog and there was absolutely no where to walk her.  Kept all of that in mind as we traveled today toward New Orleans!
First, though, our day started with free breakfast.  The lobby and breakfast room are all-Elvis all the time, including full size statues and photos.  When we walked into the breakfast room, there were 3 couples in the room -- all from the U.K.  One of the guys was fairly good-sized and clearly an Elvis fan.  He had the hair and the sideburns.  Wish I could have gotten his photo, but I didn't want to offend him by asking and he left before I could sneak a picture with my phone.  Other people filtered in (one couple from Scandanavia), but it's definitely the off-season.

I've been to Graceland before (this was my third visit) and I'm always struck by the size and location.  You're just driving along down Elvis Presley Boulevard past gas stations, gift shops, fast food restaurants, motels, etc. and you end up driving right by Graceland if you don't know it's there (reminds me of The Alamo in that regard).  Fortunately, I've been there and knew when to slow down and point it out to Mom as we slowly drove by last night.  It's a pretty house and nowhere what would be considered a mansion. 

During this off-season, the ticket office opened at 9:30 this morning with the mansion opening at 10:00, which is later than I had hoped given the amount of driving that we had to do today, but it gave us a chance to watch 'Viva Las Vegas' on the Elvis channel in our room after breakfast!
The music room appears through the glass doors
Famous gate at Graceland
The first time I went through Graceland was several years ago when Jeff was working in Memphis.  It was a lovely day and we spent almost all day going through the mansion and out-buildings, plus the visitor's center, car museum, and the airplanes.  Since then, changes have been made (one more room open now inside the mansion but you still can't go upstairs) and both airplanes are now open to the public).  What hasn't changed is the fact that Graceland is not at all what you'd expect for someone of Elvis' stature.  There's a low stone fence in front (with the famous music notes gate) instead of high, electric- or razor-wire fencing and the "mansion" itself is no more than a large house.  I've been in houses of friends that were as large or larger.

Mom waiting for Elvis to start the dinner party!
The tour is self-guided using an audio recording, which allows you to move at your own pace since you can pause it at any time and even back it up to catch interesting tidbits.  The dining room is full of silver plate, both on the table and in multiple cabinets throughout the room, and is adjacent to the kitchen where the famous fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches were made.

The main level includes the foyer, living room, music room, dining room, kitchen, his parents' bedroom, and the 'Jungle Room' (an addition put onto the back of the house).  For the most part, the decor is nice (although clearly 70s).  [Sidebar note:  the worst time in the world to have died and be immortalized had to be the 70s!]  The basement, though, is another story.  The TV room includes 3 TVs, stereo system, and bar -- all classic 70s (meaning: tacky).  Then, there's the pool room for which there really are no words!  350 yards of fabric covering the walls, ceiling, and furniture.  Very claustrophobic!

Billiard room with the fabric ceiling
There are always a lot of memorials at the gravesite, but 2012 is the 35th anniversary of Elvis' death AND his birthday was just a few days ago (January 8).  As a result, the area was overflowing with flowers, pictures, and other tributes.  Many of them have been clustered around the graves of Elvis, his parents, and grandmother while others have been arranged along the pathway back to the driveway and the bus back to the Visitor's Center.

We were out of Memphis by noon with the entire length of Mississippi in front of us!  The day turned out sunny and managed to get up to 49 today, and the speed limit is 70 in these southern states so we made good progress.  Stopped at Sonic because, since the ones in Appleton closed, I've really missed my cherry limeades! 

Gravesites of Elvis & his family
As we approached the New Orleans area, we were traveling on causeways along Lake Pontchartrain just as the sun was going down and turning the sky a beautiful red.  The reflection on the water with the sunken tree stumps and houses on stilts in silhouette was really pretty and enforced the fact that we're in swamp country!  We stopped short of New Orleans (in Metarie) so we'd have a little open space for the dog.  The hotel is sooo pet friendly that the place is practically over-run with dogs -- including a really cute basset hound next door.

Hoping for better beds tonight (not looking great at this point, but I'm optimistic) and a good night's sleep.  Going to head into New Orleans in the morning with plans to visit one of the cemeteries with all of those above-ground crypts, a quick run through the French Quarter, some beignets at Cafe du Monde, and a visit to Southern Candymakers to pick up the very best pralines in the entire south!  Then, we're off along the Gold Coast to view all of the beautiful vacation homes on the Gulf as we head to Apalachicola [no real reason for Apalachicola other than the fact that I like the name and it's about the right distance for the day's drive].

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