Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Along The Mississippi - Part 8

Concluding our magical journey along the Mississippi on the new Queen of America of American Cruise Lines. Final stop, Memphis...

It isn't quite our final morning on the river but we are due to sail into our final port of call at 11am today, Memphis, Tennessee, the end of our 414-mile journey from St Louis, which has been so captivating and different almost every mile of the way.

After the usual cheery breakfast in the Dining Salon, Riverlorian Jim provides an outline view of The River City and Memphis itself hoves into sight by 10am on a glorious autumn morning. Sadly, with the river level rather low, we have to moor upstream at Mud Island rather than in the heart of the city itself, so it's not quite walkable distance. But, ACL have laid on buses to take everyone into the downtown area, and we take advantage of the 15-minute ride to get our first view of the home of Elvis and BB King.

Happily, the bus drops everyone off at the main entrance to Beale St, the heart of Memphis' music district, and we are immediately wowed by the sense of history and sheer musical style of the place. Sadly, we don't have time to try any of the cafe's - and the Memphis ribs - but we do spend some time looking through the great music shops and the famous Schwab's general store, as well as a few other stores.

We get several great recommendations for live music and make a promise to return here when we have a LOT more time to spare. Just the sounds coming from the Memphis Music store are enough to whet our musical appetites and this is clearly THE place to be in the evening.

For now, we have an afternoon city tour and trip to Graceland booked, so we need to catch the bus back to the Queen at mid-day. It is our final lunch on board, but a memorable one, with a main choice of Herb Marinated Chicken Caesar Salad or a Grilled Reuben Sandwich, both of which hit the spot for us. Then it's off to Elvisville...

We weren't quite sure what we'd make of the home of one of the world's most iconic musicians. Neither of us have ever been Elvis fans and, apart from knowing something of his story, we were relatively ignorant of his Memphis roots. Which is probably why Graceland (the mansion itself, rather than the rather tacky array of attractions and gift shops around it) was such a compelling visit.

We really did gain a useful perspective on the young musician's life and, while it completely glossed over his later years, it was a compelling, as well as quite haunting, perspective. We had around two hours of the three-hour tour here but we could have done with at least another half-hour to see a bit more. Needless to say, true Elvis fans will probably need all day!

Back aboard, it was time for one last Cocktail Hour with our favourite staff, Elizabeth and Theo, pouring the drinks, and then off to dinner with a table-full of our favourite companions from the week. Tonight's speciality was Surf & Turf, with beef tenderloin and lobster tail, and it again lived up to the fairly high standards we'd come to expect of the Galley (along with another great soup course).

Happily, The Mills Brothers (or the new version, at least) were back for another encore performance in the Magnolia Lounge, and this seemed to provide an extremely fitting conclusion to the week - a touch of nostalgia and touch in fairly gentle fashion.      

Tomorrow morning we just have time for breakfast, then it's off to the airport at 8.30am for the flight home, but we will be taking some great memories with us, and a real thirst to see more of this kind of river-cruising in future.

Next up - Mississippi epilogue.