Did you find the secret message in the last post? Well today we were up bright and early and were eating breakfast at the time we were just waking up yesterday which means we got to Graceland nice and early. It was a gorgeous day – sunny skies, a nice gentle breeze and about 80 degrees. A great day to tour Graceland.
Graceland is beautiful – 13.5 acres in Memphis that has mature trees and beautiful landscaping (of course). There are also 4 horses that live at Graceland – Elvis loved his horses and had 3 Tennessee Walkers and one palomino – so they estate has ensured that there are always horses and there is always a palomino on the premises. Elvis bought Graceland when he was 21 for $100,000 – a pretty steep price in 1957. He lived there for the last 20 years of his life.
The house is fabulous. Gaudy? Maybe. But remember it was decorated by a 21 year old guy with pretty eclectic tastes and a very, very colourful personality. This shone through in every room: the formal living room with the peacocks in stained glass, the ‘man cave’ that was yellow and white with the entire ceiling mirrored, the billiards room that is entirely covered in pleated cloth (seriously – it’s like being inside a big ottoman…) to the jungle room with heavy wooden furniture, plants and a fountain. You really need to see this to get the full impact. I loved it. Then we went outside and saw the pool and the office his dad had where Elvis Presley Enterprises was run. We toured his personal squash court (it was just a squash court), and then we went to the meditation garden where the King is laid to rest.
The meditation garden is quite beautiful really – there is a fountain and an eternal flame, a wall with more stained glass, shrubs and flowers, exactly what you would expect to see at the resting place of a much loved celebrity. Elvis is buried with his mom Gladys, his father Vernon, and his grandma Minnie Mae. I did not know that Elvis had an identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn. His twin brother is also buried in the Meditation Garden.
After we were done at Graceland, we took the shuttle back to the grounds across the street from the mansion. I am not quite sure what to say about this area. It houses museums and souvenir shops, his jumpsuits and cars, a sweet shop and a restaurant: it’s quite the place and provides more insight into Elvis. The mansion seemed to be a place of reverence really, a place where fans come to see how Elvis lived, get a sense of how he was with his family, when he wasn’t being scrutinized under the bright light of fame. The place across the road though really is the bright light of fame – so much info about Elvis the singer, the actor, the commodity. The souvenirs you can buy are amazing – everything from Elvis blankets to Elvis kitchen ware. Seriously. You can buy Elvis oven mitts. Actually you can get his name or face on just about anything. While I did indeed buy a few Elvis Souvenirs (yes family, you won’t be disappointed!) it made me a little sad to see how commercialized it had become. Of course, Warren pointed out that Elvis did really love his fans and was a bigger than life personality, so he might have delighted in all the fuss. Who knows?
Once we’d seen all of that, we headed out to take a look at Elvis’ private planes. He had a large plane for taking many people on – it has a living room, sleeping quarters, a dining room, a bedroom for Elvis and a bedroom for guests. Quite a big plane and of course detailed in leather, suede and gold plate. The other plane was smaller and this was the one that he took for spontaneous trips: when he realized that his daughter, Lisa Marie, had not seen snow, he had the plane fired up and they flew to Colorado so she could play in the snow for 20 minutes… then they flew back home. I thought that was pretty impressive till I remembered that Warren and I drove to Mississippi for steak yesterday. Warren says it’s not exactly the same thing but I think it is 😉
After we’d seen everything there was to see at Graceland we climbed back into Ursula (some of us more wearily than others) and after a short rest, headed down to Beale Street. Beale street is one of those places that is bigger than the 3 blocks it actually spans. There is something to look at or listen to on every inch of that street. Music emanates from every business, tributes to icons like Betty Paige and BB King are everywhere as, of course, are pictures, shirts, and souvenirs of Elvis. We wandered down the street until we heard the music of a live band coming from a courtyard just off the street. We were treated to the blues by a band called Blues Express. They were really awesome and the lead singer was a scamp – singing to individuals in the crowd and flirting with the ladies. The music was excellent and we sat for quite a while taking it all in.
It was also Motorcycle Wednesday on Beale street – a tradition where all the bikers in town come and line Beale from one end to the other. It was loud and busy and quite amazing. By the time we had walked up one side and down the other we were very ready to head back to the truck and go find some supper. Warren delighted in telling me that we had logged over 9000 steps today. My feet had already indicated that we’d had quite a walk but it was good to know that they weren’t wrong.
We headed off to Central BBQ for some BBQ (of course) and some more live music. This band wasn’t quite as good as the music we’d been treated to on Beale – they played the Bear Necessities from the Jungle book… but it was still wonderful to sit out in the warm evening air with my sweetheart, listening to the music and eating some fine Memphis BBQ.
Tomorrow we are thinking of touring the Gibson factory and maybe taking a cruise on the Memphis Belle!