Today we slept in again – lazy tourists, that’s what we are. I’m totally ok with that but it seems to cause a bit of stress for Warren. We headed off to the ihop as per usual, and then went down to the Mississippi river for a cruise on The Memphis Belle III – a lovely old paddle wheeler. We managed to snag seats on the top deck and enjoyed the sun, the breeze and the 83 degree weather (that’s 30c for you Canadians…). There were so many things to see on the cruise and it was fascinating to hear of the history that surrounds that part of Memphis.
The Mississippi is huge and fast moving. There are many currents and cross currents evident in the swirling waters. Not having seen such a big river before I was surprised at how many things are floating in the water – there were many, many trees, logs and miscellaneous chunks of wood. There was, sadly, evidence of the humans that inhabit the banks of the river – many plastic items, a tire or two, coffee cups – that part was saddening.
When Warren and I had scoped out the dock for the Memphis Belle, we noticed that the parking area on the levee was paved with cobblestones and we wondered how long they’d been there. Well, the tour guide told us that the stones came from Ireland and Britain. The rocks were put in the bottom of the sailing ships to add ballast when they were empty. When the ships were in Memphis to pick up bales of cotton, the rocks had to be removed to keep the ships from sitting too low in the water so the crew just threw the rocks onto the bank by the dock. Rocks are hard to find in the wet silt laden memphis area, so the enterprising city fathers decided to use the rocks to line the area around the docks to keep the cotton bales out of the mud. And who did they use to place these stones? Nope, not slaves (that’s what I assumed), they used inmates from the prison and had them set the stones. It was hard work and according to our tour guide the crime rate in Memphis dropped like… well, a stone 🙂
After 90 minutes in the sun we were back at the dock and left the Memphis Belle. It was a great cruise and frankly we could have stayed on the boat all day – except we were getting a little burnt from the sun. So we jumped into Ursula and after a little deliberation, headed off to buy me some lighter shirts and a pair of shorts – it’s pretty hot here. Shopping with Warren is very fun – he had all the women in the store charmed by the time we were done because he helps me shop instead of just waiting – and he spoils me. Once shopping had been accomplished, we headed downtown for supper.
What was for supper you ask? Why do you ask – it was BBQ again, but today we went to the Rendezvous. This restaurant was one of the first things Warren mentioned when he suggested we head to Memphis – it is well known for it’s BBQ and when we were out and about in the city, once people knew we were tourists they’d ask if we’d been to the Rendezvous yet. The restaurant is down a small alley in an area a block over from the Peabody Hotel. It does not look like the place that people from all over would flock to for the BBQ but it certainly is just that. The Rendezvous has been in business since 1948 and Charlie Vergos is credited with the resurgence of the downtown core after the tragedy of MLK jr’s assassination in 1968. A link to an article about the Rendezvous can be found here. If you are ever in Memphis you have to go and have ribs at the Rendezvous – you just have to.
When you enter the Rendezvous you need to go down some stairs into the basement where a slight haze of smoke hangs in the air – smoke from the BBQ you understand. The floor is black and white checkered and the walls are covered in framed pictures, portraits and newspaper articles. The beams running across the ceiling are blackened perhaps from a long ago fire – it’s a room steeped in history. Warren had the rib and brisket plate and I had the small order of ribs. I wasn’t sure I could finish it but I did – it was too good to leave anything on the plate.
Once we had licked our fingers and wiped our faces we went on a tour of Memphis and decided to find the MLK jr monument in Memphis. The monument isn’t what you might expect – it is the Lorraine Motel where MLK jr was assassinated. Not one thing has changed at this motel since he was killed – time stopped for the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. There is also a protest that has been going on for 29 years and 82 days as of tonight. Jacquiline Smith has been protesting the location of the civil rights museum and the use of the Lorraine Motel for 29 years and 82 days. In the picture you can see the sign and her head. We did not talk to her because she was asleep, but it would have been interesting to hear what these 29 years have held for her.
And that’s our wrap of Memphis! It has been amazing – so much history, music and tradition – and it has been wonderful to be able to do all of it while holding my sweetheart’s hand.
Tomorrow we head to Tupelo Mississippi to see the birthplace of Elvis Aaron Presley!