For as much as I bitch and moan about the ridiculous heat, high humidity and sketchy liquor stores down dirty side streets because you can’t buy wine at a grocery store – I really love this place.
I know I mostly get the ‘tourist’ view of life in Memphis. While poverty is a big issue here, there is enough police
presence that the general area around Beale st. feels very safe. You’re not completely sheltered from the homeless, but even turning them down when they request a few bucks, they wish you a blessed day. It’s sad to walk along main st. It’s tucked between tall, old buildings and the combination of those buildings and some trees keeps the pedestrian area pretty shaded. There are a few bars, cafes dotted along the way, but the majority of the shop fronts are closed, boarded up and unused. There is a trolly (that I didn’t see) that runs down the center of the street and no cars can drive down. It’s a fantastic space and greatly reminds me of Strøget in Copenhagen. But with Beale st. getting the majority of the tourism, no one really ventures a few blocks over. It seems like it’s a vicious cycle, money is needed to get the cafes, shops off the ground, but it’s also needed to keep them going. And it would be hard to pull tourists off historic Beale st., so attracting locals would be their number one draw. But with poverty levels nearly twice that of Seattle (28.3% vs. 15% – for 2012) I don’t know where they would start. That one day, when I win the mega millions… you know what city I’ll be adopting.
But other than the heat/humidity, I have had a fantastic time. The locals that I’ve talked to have found it amusing at my dislike of the heat, saying, “honey, our summer weather hasn’t really started yet.” Which I find
horrible funny that 92F (and the app saying it feels like 102F) isn’t summer weather – that’s a damn heat-wave! Apparently once it hits 100F the electric company won’t switch of your electricity even if you haven’t paid, so you can keep cool and survive the summer months.
Hotel staff have been exceptional (even granting me super late check out so I don’t have to wait half a day at the airport with my suitcase). I’ve been able to catch up on some much needed sleep (10-12 hours a night) and they’ve let me be with my ‘privacy please’ sign hanging on my door. I heard the house-keeping lady across the hall and requested an extra roll of TP – we chatted for a couple of minutes and I returned to my room with a smile on my face. Everyone is just so friendly! This is my fourth stay in the past five years, and although staying across the street at the Peabody has become more and more affordable (only a $20 difference last year when I booked), I still choose to stay here at the Holiday Inn. I called to make my reservation and they knocked a big chunk off the nightly cost (enough that staying four nights was the same as what I would have paid staying three if I had booked online). Plus, you can’t see the big Peabody sign from your window if you’re staying there.
Yesterday I took a 90 minute riverboat trip aboard the Island Queen. We sailed down and back up a small section of the Mississippi river. The tour guide was funny and shared lots of interesting information about the river, Memphis and Mark Twain. There wasn’t much to see – you don’t go very far, and the Arkansas side is pretty much all trees, but it was a welcome break from the heat (the inside had A/C) and the tour guide made it worth it. I know there are longer cruises you can go on and I’ve now set my sights on one day sailing from St. Louis to New Orleans on an 8 day cruise. It’s pretty pricey ($4000+), but I imagine it would be a great time.
I guess it’s time to close down, finish packing and head to the airport.
Memphis… until next time.