Sunday, 23 March 2014

Memphis - Beale Street, Civil Rights Museum and Gus's Fried Chicken

After a mammoth brunch at The Arcade Restaurant we decided to walk some of it off by exploring 
a little. Being in Memphis we couldn't miss out Beale Street for a cheeky so that's exactly where 
we went. 

 I had to have good hair for Memphis...

Look! It's me and Elvis having a cheeky selfie. Couldn't resist, no hating.

Before we got there we found our way to the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. It was shut which was a huge shame but there was so information, pictures and soundbites playing outside the motel so we got to take in a bit and get some images. They'd even parked identicles of the 1959 Dodge and 1968 Cadillac that were present in images taken just after the shooting which I thought was a nice effect. I'm really gutted it was shut. 

It was time for a drink so we slid on down (literally slid, there was ice everywhere) to Beale Street and went in to B.B. King's for a cheeky cocktail. They had some great smelling food in there but we were saving ourselves for some Gus's Chicken later but we did indulge in some booze, be rude not too. I also popped in to their gift shop next door to get a present for my stepmum's dad who is a massive B.B. King fan.

I'll be honest and say there wasn't a huge gap in between brunch and...erm, late lunch? But we had a lot of places to visit to also involved food and we'd lost half a day from the crazy travel before so we had to pack it in. We'd been told to go to Gus's Fried Chicken, proper southern fried chicken is something I've always wanted to have, again Man vs Food is responsible for a lot of this. It basically looks like a little random shack but don't be fooled by it's simple look on the outside, it's well worth the visit. 


 We heard it would probably be packed so expect to wait, but we got lucky, it wasn't at the high peak in the tourist season and during work hours so there were just a few locals there which was perfect. We were still a bit stuffed from before but we still managed to share a family. We started with some fried green tomatoes, couldn't resist as my mu loves the film and now also loves these. So we ordered the family meal, I love that it took a little while as it was cooked fresh, not just stacked on a heated rack like fast food places. The chicken is fried in peanut oil which is what gives it its crunch and colour. I can't even explain to you how juicy it was, succulent and gorgeous, perfectly seasoned with a kick of spice that's just enough but keeps you craving more. 

It also came with their homemade slaw and cowboy beans. No I hate beans, no offense, but everyone else had it and said they were stunning and couldn't leave them unfinished. Now I'm also not too fussed about coleslaw but it was delicious, I think it was the apple - I have no idea, but it really was gorgeous. 

We then waddled back for a couple of drinks in the hotel, we had big plans for going out for dinner and drinks but I think all the chaos from the previous day caught up with us, not to mention the mountain of food on the day itself and we all just fell asleep like it was Christmas day evening.

where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Museum is located at South Main and Huling Streets - See more at:
where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Museum is located at South Main and Huling Streets - See more at:
where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Museum is located at South Main and Huling Streets - See more at:
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Memphis - The Arcade Restaurant

So now we were finally in Memphis. I've wanted to visit Memphis since I was about 14 and I fell in love with Elvis, but never did I actually think I would ever make it. But here I was, making sure I looked the part with my victory rolls on point and heading out to explore.

OK, so newsflash, Memphis was cold. I don't know why, but I just didn't expect it. I'd heard it was going to be cold, but there was snow and layers of ice and icicles everywhere. But hey, I have Norwegian fish blood, I could deal with it...just. We were staying at the Crowne Plaza which was really nice and had a great shuttle service that would drop you off and pick you up generally anywhere in the downtown area, which is where everything is so that was great.

The first thing we had to do was, duh? Eat some pancakes. It was Shrove Tuesday and we couldn't let the side down. We headed straight down to The Arcade Restaurant, (540 S Main St, Memphis) the oldest diner in Memphis since 1919. Rumour has it that Elvis used to have his breakfast there - so this is where I'm going to have mine.

 ....look! I'm in a diner!

Walking in it was still fully kitted out like a diner from the 50s, but not in the fake 'newly decorated in old style' way, it looks like it had been like that since the 50s which was just what I wanted.  The booths had seats covered in blue and cream with old school and retro prints hanging from the walls and even a milkshake/drinks bar stretching across the other side of the room.

After watching countless episodes of Man vs Food I had a big list of food I wanted to try, the first of course being pancakes with bacon and maple syrup...oh and of course biscuits and gravy. I would be lying if half the trip wasn't based on the fact we all wanted to eat amazing food.

We had the loveliest waitress too called Victoria who was great especially when advising what we should have and what we shouldn't, like "no you couldn't eat both of those dishes, it's too much, trust me', so we had one dish each and split the other. I like things like that. One thing I forgot about my trip to America when I was 13 was that Coke refills are free, and you just try to finish your glass before it gets refilled...JUST.BLOODY.TRY IT! Basically you can't, so don't even bother - damn they're attentiveness right?

Anyway, the food - THE FOOD. So we had been traveling for a day and a half now on about 4 hours sleep so we were so happy when we were presented with the most amazing pancakes we had ever seen, or so it felt anyway. If it had been closed, there would have been blood. I'm joking...sort of. I'd never actually had American style pancakes with England favouring the crepe style, no lemon and sugar, whaaaaat? I also wasn't sure how I felt about maple sauce, but when in Memphis? And seriously, look at it - that is one handsome dish. My brother and I shared a plate of pancakes, smokey bacon that I can't even put into words how incredible it was - I just want their secrets. I also now feel like I should be in 'Elf', where maple syrup is a food group, I know we get it here but I miss it. We then also had the 'Eggs Redneck', which came with scrambled eggs and hashbrowns (but not as you know then, scary frozen bag of stuff from Tesco be gone!), biscuits and sausage smothered in country gravy. I've been looking forward to trying this gravy for so long and the closes thing I can compere it to only works if you're Norwegian called 'flesk og duppe', beautifully smokey, peppery and thick and just, ugh, incredible, I wish I could put it into words better but I just can't, sorry guys.

Anyway it was all amazing, and we'd hoped, nothing had disappointed. So we were off to our next venture which was a bit of exploring the town and looking for Beale Street for a drink and of course, lots more pictures.

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

America! Pancakes - Elvis - Cocktails - Cruising - Seafood - Mexico

At the beginning of March we embarked on a trip we've been planning for a year, I would like to say I had been looking forward to it but we heard so many bad reviews about the company organising it that I never let myself get too excited in case it all went wrong. Luckily, it all went ahead and before we knew it we were waking up at Heathrow waiting to head over to America!

The trip starts with us landing in Chicago and connecting to Memphis where we would stay for four days, then getting the Amtrak down to New Orleans for four days and then onto a cruise ship to the gulf of Mexico, Belize, Roatan and Mexico before docking back in New Orleans, connecting to Houston and then back to London. So we had to pack for four seasons as we knew Memphis was pretty cold and Mexico the total opposite.

Well, it didn't really work like that. We got to Chicago with no issues, it was -17 there, the pilot actually laughed at me when he saw my cardigan and no jacket. But then again, it was only a connection so I though, no big issue...right? It was still bloody freezing when we landed!! But we picked up our luggage and headed to get the connection...WRONG! All planes to Memphis had been cancelled due to snow, there was only one left going in three hours so we were on standby for that one but one lady was trying to get us to a nearby city so we could get public transport and not miss too much. The closest we could get was Nashville which was about 2.5 hours ago...not the end of the world. The customer service we got from United Airlines was pretty shocking actually, it took a long time and they didn't seem too bothered about helping us at all. I thought that if they cancelled the flight they kind of had to help you out...put you up...give you some advice when you're in a foreign land and don't know the best ways to get around? No. We still had to send our luggage on the one plane that was going but if we didn't get there to pick it up it would be sent back to our home address so that was a fun thing to factor in to the stress. So we didn't get on the Memphis flight, shocker, but at least we had to Nashville flight at 11pm. Luckily I managed to purchase some wifi, book a dodgy motel and four tickets for the Greyhound bus which took four hours from 6am so at least we should get back to the hotel by midday, could be worse.


Only that after getting our boarding passes and seat numbers, when scanning us on to the plane we were told that we weren't on that flight, well, I was, but not the other three people I was with. The annoying thing was that we were actually on it as when we eventually managed to get on the flight and get new seats, our original ones were now vacant on a fully booked plane. It was just extra stress after being up for now 24 hours that we so didn't need. But we got there, we landed in Nashville, which in the end I didn't mind too much, I always wanted to go there (but maybe in the daytime) and going on a Greyhound was going to be an....adventure, from what I've heard. And boy, was it! As soon as we sat down my mum broke her chair and we had to move to another, there were no other tourists on this bus so we soon became the strange chair-breaking English people. The bus was full of all kinds of randomers, cowboys and Indians, some serious dodgy characters and a bus driver that took no prisoners, thank God. Everyone fought, shouted, and then became best friends, it was crazy, we also passed through Jackson which I loved as I played by Johnny Cash playlist. 

A little while later we arrived in Memphis, and after stressing about whether we would have any luggage, managed to retrieve it all! Hurrah! Now it was off to the hotel to finally start the holiday.

To be continued...
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