Today we are in the presence of royalty, first The King (although we don't think this is a very good likeness).
At the Memphis Visitors centre down by the Missisippi, there is also a statue of that other Memphis King, BB King (we think that his was a much better statue and likeness).
But today belongs to the first of these two kings, Elvis Aaron Presley. We are off to visit Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (imagine Paul Simon singing his song). And yes, we booked a tour with "Memphis Best Tours" who came to pick us up at our motel in the morning and we then had to switch minibus at the Memphis Visitor Centre.
As you can tell, it was pouring with rain, with occasional thunder and lightening too. The lightening bolts are appropriate as Elvis adopted this as his symbol, together with TCB - "Taking Care of Business in a flash".
Graceland was built for a doctor in 1939 and already had its name when Elvis bought the place for $102,000 at the age of 22 in 1957. A part of the sales contract stipulated that the purchaser had to keep the name which Elvis willingly did as he loved the place. Graceland sits on 13 acres of land and to access it you join a shuttle from across the road on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Graceland is very well organised and unsurprisingly a big machine and drawcard.
You are ushered onto a Graceland shuttle bus and given a headset for a self guided tour at your own pace. Of course, you are forced to have that mandatory photo taken which you can later pick up for a cost... We didn't.
Di getting excited about it too!
Through the front door and into the living room immediately to the right. It's lovely and quite tasteful. Elvis received his guests on the ground floor and the upstairs remained private and is still out of bounds today.
Hans looking fab with his headset at the entrance to the jungle room. More on this room later.
You then go downstairs to the TV room. Very tasteful and the height of elegance when it was decorated by a professional interior designer in 1975. Today... Hmm bright yellow and navy with a mirrored ceiling?
This is just a small fraction of Elvis' record collection. He loved all kinds of music and there were pianos and stereos throughout the house. And TV sets too for that matter.
The pool room was covered in 350 yards of fabric, including walls and ceiling.
Then back up the stairs to ground floor and the "Jungle Room". It's a family room extension to the original house and was decorated with heavy carved furniture, which reminded Elvis of Hawaii, an indoor waterfall and green shag carpet on floor and ceiling. The resulting acoustics were so good that he actually recorded some music here, including Moody Blue, his last studio album. Seems odd that it would be the case...
Lisa Marie's favourite chair. Now with a teddy bear and a guitar. Very sweet.
Vernon continued to work like a private secretary for Elvis. Helping to manage his diary and all the fan mail. This sign was on the door.
A very functional office for the 70s.
Part of the building Vernon used as a smokehouse for meats until Elvis thought it would make a good firing range...
Onto the Trophy room, which is actually another large and detached building but is still not big enough to hold all Elvis awards and trophies. It is, in one word, amazing.
And this amazing section is the "Hall of Gold". These are all Gold or Platinum records including some Grammy awards.
Despite the size there are even more awards in the now converted Raquetball pavilion. One part of the display progresses on to Elvis' very successful return to live performances in 1968 and his marriage to Priscilla.
Gifts, flowers and tributes still arrive from all over the world and are displayed at the grave or elsewhere in Graceland for a period. Very touching.
After about 2 hours at Graceland, we wrap up the tour where we started, shuttle back to the Visitor's Centre on Elvis Presley Boulevard across the street from the mansion.
We don't go to Heartbreak Hotel because its pouring with rain and we are already soggy but we figure this is the next best thing, a sign on display. Mind you, Heartbreak Hotel is a newer place around the corner a bit and seems to be a bit of a tourist trap to get more $ out of the punters.
All around, another very interesting, informative and sometimes moving experience.
We come back to downtown Memphis around 12.30pm for a lunch at Denny's. Cheese Quesadilla for $2? At that price Di had 2 servings, with Hans nibbling on some too after finishing his skillet.
Mind you the service at Denny's today is nothing like last Saturday. Denny's was packed then and service and food were excellent. Today we had the B Team working there. Slow and forgetful. It did not matter to us because we were in no rush, just wanted to return to the hotel to dry off and wait for the weather to improve after lunch.
Later, we go out for dinner. We just can't leave without trying the smoked hickory ribs that this area is famous for.
There is a basketball game on today at the FedEx Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies, the local NBA team. The FedEx Forum is just next to Beale Street and as we can see activities there, we go over to have a look. Hans, to his delight, saw a real football on the sidewalk and decided to kick it... Nah, better not.