For all of Memphis’s musical wealth and over the top pomp (where the musicians are concerned – just check out Elvis’s house and Isaac Hayes Cadillac in this post here), Memphis was also a very key part of America’s civil right movement.
Memphis was the final place Martin Luther King visited and where he got assassinated.
See, Martin Luther King was staying in a motel here and was shot from across the street.
Today, the motel and the room he stayed in has been preserved and turned into the National Civil Rights Museum.
Martin Luther King’s fight for equality is one that is still every bit as important till this very day – his message was at its very core about everyone being treated as equals and it’s an absolutely important and really interesting place to visit and reflect.
It may not be the most cheerful of spots, especially considering the history of the place but it is visiting places like this, remembering people like Martin Luther King and finding out more of what he stood for that sometimes helps in furthering the movement towards equality.
From the outside – the museum looks fairly small but it’s surprisingly huge inside! There’s even a replica of the bus Rosa Parks sat on when she refused to give up her bus seat.
Seeing the room Martin Luther King stayed in was without a doubt one of the more poignant points of the visit to the museum but is hopefully one that drives home the impact of this place.
Leaving the Museum, we carried on with something of an Elvis pilgrimage (not intentionally – it’s just one of the top places we’d been recommended to visit in the city) and that place was Sun Studio – the very place where Elvis was discovered and where he recorded his very first hits.
Prior to visiting, I couldn’t imagine myself spending too much time here – I figured it would be a quick ‘in and out’ kinda visit but you can’t tour the studio on your own. You have to go on a guided tour.
Sceptical (and intent on leaving partway through if I got bored), we started off on tour and I don’t know if it’s just the tour guides, the fact that you’re getting to see a part of musical history that so many of us grew up with (even if Elvis was way before our time) or just that Tennessee sunshine that gets to you but it was so much fun and really interesting!
^By the way, that’s Elvis’s actual high school diploma!
The time flew by so quickly (there’s no point in me regaling you with the tales of the studio and how Elvis got his first break here, I’ll let you find that out for yourself when you visit though, spoiler alert – it wasn’t nearly as straightforward and easy as you might think) and before you knew it, we were in the very studio Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins – all made records in (including an impromptu ‘jam session’ – now fondly referred to as the Million Dollar Quartet).
The best part in my opinion though is when the tour is over and you get to play on the very same piano and with the very same guitar Elvis and the other musician played on!
Apparently the owner’s last wishes were for everything in the space – including the microphone to be used. He didn’t want it stored behind glass, left to gather dust and so till this very day, this studio is still very much in use to record music – even U2 have recorded songs in this very room here!
With that we said farewell to Sun Studios and made our way back to town, stopping off at Victorian Village – a part of town that has some really grand old homes….
…before heading over to Gus’s world famous fried chicken for dinner.
Gus’s, by the way, was another brilliant recommendation we got and is one spot that can get so popular that there are queues out the door and around the block for their delicious fried chicken. Suffice to say, you’ve got to head here when you’re in Memphis! (Thank me later.. Hehehe! 😄)
Before finally calling it a day, I decided to give into my sweet tooth and head over to Muddy’s Bake Shop for dessert! Muddy’s is a cute café with – you guessed it, lots of freshly baked treats and was just the perfect way to kick back and relax before heading back to the hotel for some well-earned sleep!
The next morning, we decided to make breakfast more of brunch again – we would be leaving Memphis so it made sense to get as much sleep as possible before the drive (seriously having a decent night’s sleep every night does wonders for keeping jetlag away!).
Still going off the brilliant recommendations we got (seriously thank you so much for sending so many amazing recommendations our way), we decided it was high time to have ourselves some of that famous Tennessee Barbeque!
For this, we went over to Central BBQ in town and the hype was soooo worth it! It was finger licking good (in the literal sense of it too)!!!
There was nothing but cleaned-up bones by the time we were done here. *licks lips*
(Also, we picked out time wisely as, by the time we left, the queues spilled out of the restaurant and into the parking lot!)
One final stop we made in Memphis – at Lloyd’s insistence, was to stop off at Jerry’s Sno Cones!
Heads up – Jerry’s is a very busy place and even though it’s not even smack in the centre of town, it still has humongous queues. Lloyd loves frozen treats like this and after all the rave reviews this place had – we just had to try it out.
Sno cones in hand – we bade Memphis farewell and headed off in search of the bright lights of Knoxville.
A road trip of course, isn’t just about driving – it’s about the stops you make on your way and seeing as Nashville was on our way, a pit stop somewhere Lloyd has wanted to go to since he first heard of it was Mas Tacos!
And so, 3 hours later – we were at Mas Tacos for what turned out to be some pretty amazing tacos! It sounds so silly to just stop in a city for Tacos but they were worth it (and, to be fair – they were on the way!)
I got myself some plantains to go with my tacos (fine they don’t really ‘go together’ – I just love plantains 😄) while Lloyd got himself some soup!
We both went for one of every kind of tacos they had (well actually I did with one doubled up – Lloyd got two sets of the same ones) and left Mas Tacos thoroughly happy with the decision to pop by for an evening meal.
Don’t worry, this time, I didn’t overdo it – I went for just one flavour – the 100 layer chocolate sea salt one (see above), which turned out to be my favourite from last time.
With that we hit the road – and a few hours later (I think it was just a little over 2 hours) we arrived in Knoxville where we check into the Tennessean Hotel – my favourite hotel of our entire time here and one that makes you feel right at home straight away!
The beds here are soooo lovely and deceptively gigantic! (Seriously, don’t be fooled by the pictures, you could sleep an entire family in one of these! 😄).
With that, we decided to call it a day – eager to explore as much of Knoxville as possible over the next couple of days!