On the way to the hotel in Memphis we made a little stop at somewhere a bit different that the usual petrol station. Whether you're a die hard fan, or only listen to him during Karaoke, everyone has heard of Elvis. Personally, I'm not really a big Elvis fan. I have some of his more well known stuff on my iPod, but I usually skip in favour of some indie band singing yet another acoustic song. But I have to admit, as we all jumped out of the van and made our way to the museum entrance, I was kinda excited.
After an iPad and a pair of headphones were given to us all, we were ushered onto retro buses and taken across the road to begin our tour of the mansion. That's actually one thing I really loved about the tour, it was completely self-guided so you could spend as long as you wanted in the different rooms. It did mean we were all juggling cameras, iPads and bags though; more challenging than you think. All the rooms have been left pretty much in tact. In the dinning room, Elvis' wedding china is laid out, and there is a tear on the pool table thanks to someone who messed up a shot. Every detail is explained by the audio tour, with snippets from Lisa Maria and Priscilla given to bring it to life. Although you can't actually wander round and sit on Elvis' sofa, you get a pretty good view, and it felt less like a museum, more like an interactive episode of Cribs.
We all know Elvis is famous. Famous being the understatement of the year. It's only when you walk through the trophy room and see all the awards, discs and other amazing accolades that you really understand the scale of his fame. Think many walls of Tetris, but instead of multi-coloured bricks, it's shiny discs. There's a special section focused on his films, and his tours, but what I liked was that they paid attention to his charity work. There's no question that Elvis was a big earner, but he did his bit and helped a lot different charities, bringing them into the spotlight.
The last part of the mansion tour is humbling. Tucked in behind the pool are the graves of Presley family. The tour skims over Elvis' death, proably to avoid any controversy or conspiracy theories that are floating around. We visited a short time after Elvis Week, honouring the anniversary of Elvis' death, so all the tributes from around the world were still scattered. Flowers from fan clubs from near as Memphis and as far as Greece showed just how popular he was and still is today. Whilst we might not have been the biggest Elvis fans, there's something about getting to know someone by going to their house and have a look. Ok, so it's not like we popped round for a cuppa, but the tour definitely made me think of Elvis as a person, rather than an untouchable celebrity.
Now that we have followed the story of Elvis' rise to fame and his amazing career right to his death, it was time to get back onto the the bus and go across the road again. We handed in our iPads, and were let loose on the many exhibitions housed in the main building. First stop was to the car museum and let me tell you, there are a lot. From Pink Cadillac's and a Rolls Royce to golf buggies and motorcycles, anyone into cars would be in their element. Me being me, I got a little excited about the pink cars, and pretty much picked out my new car from Elvis' collection. Each of the exhibitions in the main building has the usual format of exiting through a gift shop. What we didn't expect was that each exhibition had its own shop. There must have been 6 different shops in the museum all selling different themed Elvis souvenirs. In the end, Andy & I rated them all based on how good their air con was. To say that it was a hot day was an understatement.
The last exhibition we went to was a tour of Elvis' private plane. Named after his daughter, the plane is the perfect way to travel, with a wardrobe, a dining table and gold bathroom. I wouldn't mind travelling across the Atlantic on that. Once we were back on the tarmac and through the final gift shop, we made our way back to the van, ready to go Walking in Memphis.
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