Memphis, Tennessee – 2008 Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series 2008 Road Trip

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In October 2008, Ken and I took our first big road trip together. We drove from DC > Atlanta > New Orleans > San Antonio > Memphis > DC.

Graceland

Memphis was our shortest stop on the road trip. We were only staying there for two nights, so we only had time to see a few of the biggest highlights. I’d definitely love to go back!

So, one of those big highlights, of course, is the home of Elvis Presley, Graceland.

 

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I had some definite sticker shock on the tour option pricing. I think we opted for the “Platinum” option. It was suddenly quite clear why Elvis is the highest paid dead celebrity (at the time!  He has since been bumped by Michael Jackson).

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The first floor of the home is open for touring. The audio tour, which was included in the admission price, was really helpful.

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You could also tour the basement

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After the mansion, there were several other buildings to tour, including a few buildings serving as museums. This building was the old office, where employees would do things like sort Elvis’ fan mail.

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And the museums were well organized and had (obviously) a lot of great exhibits.

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At the end of the Graceland tour, you see the Presley family cemetery. Did you know that Elvis was a twin? His twin died at birth though, but there is a plaque memorializing him at the cemetery. There were signs posted that said flowers arrive daily from around the world to be put on Elvis’ grave.

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Elvis Presley Automobile Museum

A short shuttle bus ride from the Graceland Mansion was the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum. Elvis had a huge collection of vehicles.

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And, we even got to tour his old airplane.

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After our tour, we were so hungry! We found an amazing Memphis-style BBQ joint!

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Sun Studio

Our next stop was a guided tour at Sun Studio, which touts itself as the birthplace of Rock N’ Roll. Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded at Sun Studio.

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It was in this room that one evening, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all started performing together unexpectedly.

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The session was photographed, and the newspaper published the photo with the headline “Million Dollar Quartet.” It became an iconic phrase of the time period describing the musicians.

 

 

The guide explained that very little in the room has changed. In fact, you can tell that the wall in the photo of the Million Dollar Quartet is still the same wall that the photograph now hangs from!

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Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for our time in Memphis. It was the end of our two-week road trip, and as with many of our trips, we’re always the most tired at the end, and we usually end up getting lazier at the end.

We got started on our drive back home to DC the next morning, and the sky was so gorgeous as we left Memphis!

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I was ready to plan our next road trip!


San Antonio, Texas – 2008 Road Trip (Blast From the Past)

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 2008 Road Trip

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!

In October 2008, Ken and I took our first big road trip together. We drove from DC > Atlanta > New Orleans > San Antonio > Memphis > DC.

The next stop on our big road trip in 2008 was San Antonio. San Antonio had been on my bucket list for a while, especially since I had seen photographs of the beautiful Riverwalk area. I was really excited for our visit.

Mission San Jose

I was truly blown away by how beautiful Mission San Jose was. Mission San Jose is the largest Spanish Mission in the area, and still serves as an active church.

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I am always fascinated by old grafitti. I remember back in 2003, seeing grafitti carved into the side of Abu Simbel with dates from the 1700s. It’s upsetting to see historical sites marred, but it does make me feel a little better that grafitti is not just a “new” concept and that we can’t just blame “kids these days.” Because it’s kids (and probably adults too!) of all days!

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This was a sign near the entrance to the church. Ironic, because isn’t the Peacemaker the name of a firearm?

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In addition to the church, the grounds of Mission San Jose were beautiful.

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San Antonio Riverwalk

One of the main attractions in San Antonio is the Riverwalk. There are restaurants and shops set up all along the river, which is almost like “below” street level. In other words, you walk down steps or take elevators from the main streets to walk along the Riverwalk.

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There are flood gates that can drop if the water starts to rise too high, which prevents excessive flooding along the Riverwalk. Here, the gates are wide open.

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I should point out that my sister and her family took a trip to San Antonio last month, and in terms of ease of walking around using a stroller, she did not think that the Riverwalk was a very “family friendly” area. She mentioned that it was pretty difficult to walk across the bridges to go to a restaurant or store because she and her husband would have to struggle with the stroller. But, for just me and Ken, during our visit, it was fine.

We went on a boat tour, which we both thought was fantastic.

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The boat tour took us all around, and we got to see staff setting up a Christmas Tree in front of a Riverwalk shopping mall (it was early November during our visit).

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And, the Riverwalk at night was twinkling and beautiful!

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Mission Concepcion

We visited a second, smaller Mission called Mission Concepcion.

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As we walked around, we were reminded how much taller folks are these days!

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The Alamo

The Alamo was located very close to the Riverwalk area. As we were planning our itinerary for the day at the hotel the night before, Ken says, “Oh, don’t forget to remember the Alamo.” I laughed so, so hard.

The Alamo was originally a church, and subsequently became the site of a battle between Mexico and the (then) Republic of Texas. All 189 Texans inside the Alamo died in the battle after fighting 1800 Mexican troops for 13 days.

Photography was prohibited inside the Alamo, so our photos are limited to the outside.

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Dr Pepper Museum (Waco, TX)

Although it’s in Waco, not San Antonio, we stopped at the Dr Pepper Museum on our drive from San Antonio to Memphis, TN. Ken is a huge Dr Pepper fan (he has one every morning at breakfast. It’s like coffee for him), so we couldn’t drive through Waco without a quick stop there!

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And that was it! We were on our way to our final Road Trip stop, Memphis, Tennessee!


New Orleans, Part 2 – 2008 Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series 2008 Road Trip

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!

In October 2008, Ken and I took our first big road trip together. We drove from DC > Atlanta > New Orleans > San Antonio > Memphis > DC.

This post covers the second part of our visit to New Orleans, LA.

Tell me, do you frequently tour cemeteries when you’re on vacation? No? Me neither.

But apparently cemetery touring is a big thing in New Orleans! And, they were so unique and beautiful, I’m glad we visited.

St. Louis Cemetery Number One

We started our second full day in New Orleans at St. Louis Cemetery Number One.

We spent nearly an hour in the small cemetery, wandering around and snapping photographs. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here.

Among the graves at St. Louis Cemetery Number One is the grave of Marie Laveau, a famous voodoo practtioner in the 19th century. Her grave is covered with X’s, because of a legend that says she will grant your wish if you draw an X and leave an offering.

Cypress Grove and Metarie Cemeteries

After St. Louis Cemetery Number 1, we hopped on a street car to Cypress Grove Cemetery and Metarie Cemetery. Crazy enough, we bumped into a foreign couple on the street car that had been at the same restaurant as us two nights before! They had asked us to take their photo in front of some fake alligator on display in the restaurant.

Cypress Grove Cemetery and Metarie Cemeteries were larger, with more green space and was farther from the Bourbon Street area.

Natchez Steamboat

Later that afternoon, we took a ride aboard the Natchez Steamboat. It seemed like a pretty typical touristy thing to do in New Orleans, and it was really quite nice! There is a narrator on board the steamboat telling you about all the things you’re passing along the Mississippi River, as well as information and history about the Mississippi River itself.

The boat travels down the Mississippi a few miles, and then turns around. The narrator stops at that point, so the ride in the other direction was quiet and we could just sit back and enjoy the sites.

More French Quarter

The rest of our time in New Orleans was spent exploring the French Quarter even more. After our first negative experience on Bourbon Street, we decided to give it another try.

While walking, we enjoyed a famous “Hand Grenade” alcohlic beverage from Tropical Isle.

 

And we chuckled at the shirts for sale at Bourbon Street souvenir stores (keep in mind this was only three years after Hurricane Katrina).

And that was it for our first trip ever to New Orleans!


New Orleans – 2008 Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 2008 Road Trip

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!

In October 2008, Ken and I took our first big road trip together. We drove from DC > Atlanta > New Orleans > San Antonio > Memphis > DC.

This post covers the first part of our visit to New Orleans, LA.

French Quarter: Bourbon Street

When we arrived in New Orleans, it was nearly dark. Our hotel was not in the French Quarter, but very close to it. We checked into our hotel, and walked about three or four blocks to Bourbon Street, which is in the French Quarter.

I’m going to be honest here, I did not have a very positive opinion of New Orleans our first night there.* We had several dudes come up to us and say, “Hey, I know where you got them shoes! I know where you got them mother-effin shoes!” And then, when we’d just ignore them, they’d say, “On YO FEET! That’s where you got them shoes!” in an insanely drunken voice.

As you can probably tell, both Ken and I really like to take photographs. Some folks, presumably locals, started following us and saying, “Clickety clack! What the eff you even taking pictures of?” Then some of them would jump in front of our photos. Some asked us to take photos of them.

At that point in my life, I had traveled to more than 30 countries, and had even lived in the Middle East, so I was certainly no stranger to street harassment. But I can definitively say that I had never experienced street harassment like what I did in New Orleans anywhere else in the USA.

**Spoiler alert! Our opinion of New Orleans greatly improved the next day when we started exploring the rest of the (Non-Bourbon Street) French Quarter. I even had to go back to New Orleans about a year later for work, and I downright enjoyed it that time!

It was just a few days before Halloween, so there were a lot of festive decorations up, like cobwebs and plastic spiders. We walked up and down Bourbon Street and we were trying to decide where to eat!

When we decided on a place (sorry, I can’t remember the name of it), I was thankful for this Cajun Glossary included on the menu!

We ate, and went back to the hotel. It was fairly late, and we were tired after our long drive from Atlanta!

French Quarter (non Bourbon Street)

The next morning, we set off to explore more of the French Quarter. We hopped on a street car and took it a few miles and got off right next to the Mississippi River!

As we were walking around, I said to Ken, “Okay, THIS is what I expected New Orleans to be like.” The architecture was stunning, and the street harassment was not nearly as bad!

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

We walked around Jackson Square for quite a while.

From across the street, I took this photograph from under a cannon. The photograph became (and still is) one of my favorites of all time.

We went inside St. Louis Cathedral for a while. If memory serves me correctly, the entrance was free, but we left a donation in the box.

Cafe du Monde

After walking around, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we set off to find the famous Cafe du Monde to try some of their beignets!

They’re apparently famous for their Cafe au Lait too, but strangely enough neither Ken or I like coffee, so we opted for hot chocolates instead.

We got our check, which was just hand written on a napkin.

We also chuckled at how the floors were just covered with powdered sugar!

Algiers Ferry and Algiers Point

A tour book that I brought with us suggested going to Algiers Point, a short (and free!) ferry ride across the Mississippi. The guide mentioned that the area had experienced some sort of redevelopment and that it was well worth a visit.

Well, I think the person who wrote that for the book must have been trying to lure business to the area, because it was really disappointing. The ferry ride itself was good for some views of the New Orleans skyline, but we basically walked around Algiers Point for 20 minutes and then took the next ferry back. Very disappointing. Oh, and some stranger started following us around asking us about our cameras and to take his photo. So we couldn’t even escape people trying to bother us there either!

The highlight was being able to see a levee up close, especially after hearing about them so much just a few years earlier when Hurricane Katrina hit.

New Orleans Ghost Tour

Unfortunately I can’t remember what company we used (there are dozens!), but after some rest back at the hotel, Ken and I decided to go on a guided ghost tour of New Orleans. It was silly, but still a fun way to see New Orleans by night!

A ghost purportedly used to haunt a restaurant located in this alley, so the owner always had to put out an empty table for the ghost to sit at so he wouldn’t disturb the rest of the guests. Seems legit, right? I was trying to capture the ghost’s orb here 🙂

And I think a young girl jumped out of this dormer window when she couldn’t marry the man she wanted (or something like that).

More than anything on the ghost tour, I thought the Jesus shadow on the back of St. Louis cathedral was very creepy!

Random story, there was a guy on our tour (which consisted of about 8 people), that was from the same small county in Pennsylvania that I’m from! Small world!

And with that, we wrapped up our first full day in New Orleans!

*I had been to New Orleans when I was three years old. My family drove to Louisiana to go to the 1984 World’s Fair. But unfortunately, I have zero memories of it.


Atlanta – 2008 Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series 2008 Road Trip

This is a “Blast from the Past” post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!

In 2008, Ken and I took our first big road trip together. We drove from DC > Atlanta > New Orleans > San Antonio > Memphis > DC.

This post covers our visit to Atlanta, GA!

World of Coca Cola

Our sightseeing in Atlanta started with the World of Coca Cola. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the city, so we drove into the city and parked in a garage near the World of Coca Cola.

To be honest, I kind of had low expectations for this place, but the exhibits inside were really great!

Like this room filled with Coca Cola memorabilia.

And they had a room dedicated to international versions of Coca Cola

I focused on the Middle Eastern and Arabic language stuff! (I used to live in Egypt! More on that in future “Blast from the Past” posts!)

And all the old Coca Cola “vending machines” and coolers, as well as a display of dozens of Coca Cola products.

There was also a Coca Cola “bottling” area, but, much to Ken’s disappointment, it was just for show and not actually for Coca Cola that was bottled and sold.

We posed for a quick photograph with the Coca Cola bear!

(p.s., in my enduring commitment to fashion, I still wear those same shoes, every day of every summer. They’re six years old and still going strong! Thanks Mephisto Helen!)

Looking out the windows near the Coca Cola bear, you could see a courtyard filled with broken Coca Cola glass!

Another very cool exhibit was the Coke Pop Culture Room

And then perhaps Ken’s favorite, the tasting room! Each tasting station contained fountain Coke products from a particular geographic region, like Europe or North America.

And then, before exiting through the gift shop, we were able to take a complimentary bottle of Coca Cola!

After the World of Coca Cola, we grabbed lunch. I still remember the drama that went with finding lunch nearby. The World of Coca Cola was downtown, and it was a weekend afternoon, so pretty much everything was closed. We must have walked for 30 minutes trying to find an open restaurant. We finally did find one, and it was going to be an hour wait! Luckily we found a nearby pizza joint that was open and empty!

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

After we scarfed down our lunch, we drove to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It was an early October day, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

I’ll let the photos do the talking here!

CNN Studios Tour

The next day, we started our day with a tour of the CNN Studios in Atlanta.

We learned when we purchased the tickets that photography would not be permitted on the actual tour of the facilities. Booo! But, it really was a great tour.

And the gift shop after the tour had really cute stuff, like this “Cub” reporter.

Centennial Olympic Park

It was just a short walk from the CNN Studios to Centennial Olympic Park, which was really stunning. And, I might add, a much more reasonable size than the gigantic Sochi Olympic Park.

Centennial Olympic Park also had this statue of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic movement.

And I thought the statue created some cool shadows!

Georgia Aquarium

So, I have to be honest, I’m always a bit underwhelmed by aquariums since I’ve been to the aquarium in Monterey Bay, California. The aquarium in Monterey is just so amazing and stunning, that any other aquarium pales in comparison. I will say that Georgia’s aquarium was certainly better than say, Baltimore’s (which everyone says is amazing and I have no idea why), or Pittsburgh’s, but I was still a tad disappointed, especially considering the admission cost. The kids we saw running around at the aquarium seemed to be having an absolute blast, so I guess my grown up opinion shouldn’t matter much as long as kids are engaged and having fun!

One of the more fascinating features were these HUGE aquarium fronts.

I’m pretty sure I had a screensaver like this in 1998:

We walked around a bit more in the aquarium, and then we were done for the day! We were beat!