Lifelong Elvis fan Jacqui Robson (pictured below, left) ventured out on our ‘Elvis Presley’s Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville’ tour late last year. Read all about her experience in our latest instalment of Staff Stories.
This was my first experience of an escorted tour, so I was a little apprehensive at first. However, from the moment I arrived in Atlanta and met our tour guide Peggy and my fellow travelling companions I knew I was in safe hands.
We departed Atlanta and began our journey to New Orleans. To break up the trip, we stopped overnight in Montgomery, Alabama. After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, we set off to downtown Montgomery and to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King was pastor from 1954 to 1960. Next up, we visited the Hank Williams Memorial for a quick photo stop and then continued our journey to New Orleans.
The driver played music along the way, helping to fuel the collective sense of excitement. Our hotel was in the French Quarter, right in the centre of the city. There was a little bar about a 2-minute walk from the hotel with a live jazz band every night. The staff were lovely, and the cocktails were to die for!!
In the evening, we went on the steamboat dinner jazz cruise down the Mississippi. Our ship was the oldest paddle steamer on the river, and we saw the lights around the harbourfront all lit up. We had a typical Creole meal and listened to the live jazz band as we went along the river. It was a truly memorable evening!
The next morning, after breakfast, we set out on a coach tour of New Orleans, where we saw some of the city’s most iconic sites, including an old memorial ground, which was really quite something. After lunch, we went on an alligator tour in the surrounding bayou. One minute we were in the centre of the busy city; the next we’d stepped back through time into a remote location straight out of a Gothic fairy-tale! The tour was fascinating, and I even got to hold a baby alligator.
That evening, we went for a lovely walk though from the French quarter, with its iron-warped Juliet balconies and French architecture, to the waterfront, with its glitzy, modern developments. The smell of Creole home-cooking wafted from buildings, whilst live bands played on the streets. We thoroughly enjoyed our last evening in this magical city, and ate pizza with pork, apple and cinnamon – it was absolutely delicious!
The next day we headed for Memphis, stopping en route at Tupelo, where Elvis was born and lived with his parents until he was 13. We visited the church where the King attended Sunday school – perhaps where he first realised his love of music! We arrived in Memphis around 6pm and checked into the Guesthouse Hotel, just steps from Graceland.
The following day, we visited Sun Studio, previously graced by Elvis himself, and then stepped back in time as we visited Graceland. What an amazing experience! As you walk in, you pass Lisa Marie’s swing and then pay your respects to Elvis at his grave. The house contained lots of family photos and personal possessions, giving the entire experience a very intimate feel.
Later that evening, we headed to buzzy Beale Street, with its bars, restaurants and electric atmosphere. We stopped at a small café for the most amazing ribs, and a band started playing. People just got up and started dancing, it was amazing!
Our final stop was Nashville, the home of country music. It turns out Nashville is also a great place to pick up two pairs of cowboy boots for the price of one! We headed to Studio B, which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. As our guide dimmed the lights, we sat and listened to recordings of Elvis talking and singing. I even got to sit at a piano Elvis played on! By the time our guide played us some of the songs Elvis recorded at the studio, the hairs on peoples’ necks were standing up and some of the more avid fans were in tears – it truly was a moment I will cherish and remember forever!
We also visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, which commemorates some of the genre’s most famous sons and daughters. You can even record your own song there! The next day, we travelled back to Atlanta Airport, stopping at Chattanooga on the way – a perfect way to round off a fantastic tour!
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting three very different cities that each offer a distinct brand of culture, history, food and music. This experience was truly amazing, and I will hold onto these memories forever!!