We had been to St. Louis last year, and stayed so far from the arch that we wanted to go back and stay close enough to see it from our hotel room. We did, and I would recommend the Hyatt at the Arch for visual effects. Our corner room had a view of the arch from both windows. We got there in mid afternoon, and the light hitting the silver colored arch was awesome. Later, after walking along the riverfront and watching barges go by we went to a “quaint” area with shops and scared ourselves enough to go back to the hotel and stay in. We are not used to panhandling and since it was Thanksgiving day, nothing was open in this warehouse district that had been converted to shops. We were asked to donate to something by a young man who said he was a vet, which hits all of our patriotic buttons, but it was in an alley and it was getting dark, and we could see two men coming our way from the other direction, so we left as quickly as our bodies would let us. Bob reminded me on this trip that I can no longer call myself middle-aged….I am now OLD. Of course, he is OLDER than OLD, so we cannot run very fast or very far if we have problems. That means we must be smarter as we get older, but I think we may have flunked that one also. Anyhow, we stayed in this wonderful room, and I woke up to a sunrise that bathed the arch in pink…..if we must wake up to go to the bathroom early, it is nice to see scenery on the way. We felt privileged to have seen the arch at sunset, with the lights on at night, and sunrise. Our main purpose of the trip was Graceland in Memphis, but we went via St. Louis to make that 10 hour drive in two legs. I had checked the routes, and it was about six hours to St. Louis, and then six hours to Graceland, so the only really long drive we would have was coming home from Graceland on Sunday.
(Gateway to the west, the St. Louis Arch is awesome to see. The view from our hotel window Friday morning was impressive. We first saw it in the evening, then at daybreak, and this was just before we left the city. The stainless arch is a credit to American engineering.)
We left St. Louis and drove thru Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee….We have been watching a program on the History Channel that told us that Kentucky had a piece of land that was in the middle of Missouri and Tennessee, and did not touch Kentucky. Hard to imagine living half in, half out. I think our taxes get confusing!
We had been told by a young bellhop at our hotel in Missouri that if we were staying across from Graceland, we were staying in the “hood.” We were pleased. We arrived around 4:00, too late to take our tour because it takes about three hours, so we went to Beale Street, which is shut off to vehicles and you can walk the streets. We saw horse carriages decorated for Cinderella, Christmas, and other holidays to encourage everyone to tour the city with them. We went past the Peabody Hotel where they have ducks in the fountain in the front lobby, and twice a day the ducks walk across the lobby to come from or go to their penthouse where they rest up for the next day in the fountain entertaining the tourists. We ate at a hole in the wall called Johnny G’s where I got a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell for 12.95! Much less expensive than the Oyster Bar, but a long drive to save the money. I also got Cajun popcorn which is seasoned, deep fried crawfish. The crawfish and Bob’s shrimp and the oysters were wonderful!
Back at the hotel, which reeked of mothballs, we decided to go for a walk. We were told to walk toward Graceland, not the other direction. We walked to Heartbreak Hotel, which is part of the Elvis complex, and enjoyed the Christmas lights. If I had known how beautiful the Heartbreak Hotel was, I would have made reservations there rather than saving money by going to the Days Inn near Graceland. Our hotel was adequate, but just the lights outside the Heartbreak Hotel made it seem as if the King lived!
Next day, we realized that Elvis indeed still lives in the hearts of two to three thousand people who tour Graceland each day. If everyone just bought the tickets and did not get any memorabilia, that is approximately $100,000. That does not include the minimum of $10 parking, or snacks or Elvis wastebaskets, coffee cups, shot glasses, puzzles, pens, pencils, cell phone holders, cards, bubble gum packages. If it could be printed, it had Elvis on it! Each souvenir had a little silver square that declared it genuine Elvis memorabilia. I sell promotional products, and it looked like paradise to me.
(The famous jungle room at Graceland has a stone waterfall at one end, chairs covered in fur and massive wooden arms on the chairs. It was not a room I would have felt comfortable using. Like the mirror lined walls and ceiling on the stairs, it was over the top, and interesting to see.)
We were not allowed to walk across the street to Graceland, only tour buses were allowed in the gates, which I am sure you know were designed with musical notes on them. We drove up, with our headphones on, and the tour was done well. We trooped through two floors of the house, which Elvis bought in 1957 from a local doctor. It was about 10,000 square feet, and he added approximately 17,000 square feet to it. We went down a stairway that had mirrors on the sides and top to see a recording studio that had curtains on the walls for acoustics. The house is more or less as Elvis left it. We were not allowed upstairs in his personal living quarters, but the furniture and the old style television sets reminded me that the “King” died almost 35 years ago and we have had many changes in our TV sets since then. We saw a huge cabinet TV that I think RCA had donated to Elvis that was the newest improved version, and it was hard to remember when our TV’s were that cumbersome. We were surprised that the home was not larger and more opulent, but it was wonderful for the time. There was no garage, but a big carport. His parents’ room still had his mother’s clothes hanging in the closet.
We ended the tour over Elvis’s grave in the Meditation Garden that he had enjoyed. He was buried first in a local cemetery, but his father, Vernon, had him and his mother moved to Graceland, and they are all there together, along with Elvis’s twin brother. We counted the years on the markers, and Elvis had a grandmother who outlived everyone in the family. She is buried there also. The Presley family was not long-lived, except for the grandmother. It was a good ending to the tour of the house. We left in our tour bus and went back across the street to see the two planes that he owned, the car museum and the clothing he wore in various movies and on tour.
I would recommend this trip to everyone, not just the people who enjoy Elvis music. It is awesome to see just how much Graceland adds to the economy of Memphis. Elvis may have “left the building” as they told us at the Ft. Wayne Coliseum, but he left his wallet behind, and many people benefit from the “King” having lived.