Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Weekend Full of More Music, BBQ and Couchsurfing

The Greyhound to Memphis was long. Really bloody long. And those Greyhound busses aren’t the most comfortable of things either. I was met in Memphis by Carlos, a 20-something Marines Reservist. I was a little nervous about staying at his place, being my first Couchsurfing experience alone, and the fact that he was a big Marine type. As it was he was sound as fuck, and a great laugh to be around. 

Driving back to his apartment, I dumped my stuff by the bed I was staying in, and returning to the kitchen was presented with an opened beer. Straight away I knew I would get on with Carlos! Hanging out in his apartment playing Xbox, drinking beer and exchanging stories we were joined by one of Carlos’ friends (really awkward I can’t remember his name…) and we headed out into downtown Memphis for a couple of drinks. We went to two or three bars and sat around chatting and drinking away (always a good night there!), exchanging stories and me asking about Memphis and the places to go and see (ever the tourist!). Crawling back into bed around 2am, I was knackered. As per usual for spending all day on a bloody coach…. 

The pavement down Beale Street
The next morning Carlos had to work early (well 10am) so I slept in a bit and left for downtown Memphis around 12.30pm. It was a bit of a trek, walking around a mile to the tram stop and then a 15mins or so on the tram into downtown. Needless to say I was rather worried that I would a) be on the wrong tram and b) get off in the wrong place and be in a sketch part of Memphis. Thankfully the accent worked out well for me and the tram driver and an incredibly old black man (who I had no idea what was saying) showed where to get off. Downtown Memphis was a pretty cool place, with trams running around the place and the usual smattering of Southern style housing. It was quite touristy, but I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Kicking off my lone tourism in style I headed towards the Mississippi river. Simply because one has to see it really! From there I wandered down the rover and back round, and into the downtown area before heading towards Beale Street. This is where all the jazz and blues clubs are located, and is definitely a very fluorescent part of town! I visited the Rock and Soul Museam located just of Beale Street, and it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Memphis. Charting the history of blues through to rock and roll and modern day influences, I found it fascinating, and also found some great artists to download when getting home!  It also had a cool feature on the audio tour where you could listen to blues through the ages. Which wondering around I did as it was sure more interesting than listening to some tour guide harp on about working in the fields. 

Beale Street

Memphis Trams
From the Rock and Soul Museum I caught the free bus to Sun Records, where many famous artists like  and the one and only Elvis Presley were discovered and recorded. Before going in I went on quite a walk through the Victorian District (where lots of amazing Victorian style houses were located) and around 2miles out of my way to find a bloody cash machine. In the searing heat. Fantastic… However, upon eventually returning to Sunset Studios I was able to afford to join a tour. This again was a fascinating tour, with lots of history and artifacts including original instruments and recordings. The tour itself was just under an hour and again I was in my music-loving element listening to old school Blues and Rock and Roll. 

Houses of the Victorian District
Leaving the Sun Studios I headed back to Carlos’ place, stopping off to get him a case of beer as a thank you for allowing me to stay with me (gotta be polite and all!), and then onwards with him to the number 1 BBQ place in Memphis; Central BBQ. To those of you that don’t know, BBQ is pulled pork, slow cooked and served with a based sauce. I have to say, despite being a fairly naive BBQ eater (I wasn’t a big fan of the stuff in the dining hall at UNC) I absolutely loved the BBQ there. It was amazing! I remember from a class at UNC that I took that BBQ varies from state to state and even regions within the state, with each area being fiercely proud of their BBQ. Apparently NC BBQ is predominately vinegar based, where as in Tennessee it was Ketchup based. Interesting bit of useless knowledge there for you!

Sun Studios

Inside the recording studio where Elvis sang

Recoding studio from a different angle

That evening was spend chilling out and playing Xbox (being all lad-y and all!), and the next day I was leaving Memphis. I had a great time in the short amount of time I was in Memphis, despite being on my jacksie for a lot of it. The city was definitely a cool place and had a great vibe to it, and I would love to got back and experience it a little more. I am incredibly grateful to Carlos for putting me up and being such a nice guy and joker (scary Marine stuff aside!)

From Memphis it was time to head back North-East to where my home was in the States: North Carolina and more specifically Chapel Hill.

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