A Tour of the Peabody Hotel
I went to a reunion last weekend of six families who met each other in China when we adopted daughters through the same agency. That was June of 1998. Those six babies are turning eleven now, and the families have grown to a total of 13 children from China, India, and Mongolia.
The girls were just happy to see each other, but there are a lot of fun things to do in Memphis, no matter what your age.
Saturday we visited the beautiful historic Peabody Hotel. We arrived in plenty of time to witness the arrival of the Peabody Ducks. Every day they are brought down from the penthouse at 11AM sharp. They swim in the lobby fountain until 5PM, when they retire to their suite.
John, the Duckmaster graciously welcomed our group of over two dozen, as well as the rest of the crowd.
Three of our girls (chosen by a blind drawing) were honorary duckmasters for the morning. They carried duck head canes and escorted the ducks down from the penthouse, through the crowd, and into the fountain. They were pretty pleased with the honor.
The Duckmaster told stories and posed for pictures until the crowd thinned out, then took us on a tour of the Peabody.
The first stop was the roof of the building. The elevator goes past the twelfth floor to "S", which stands for "Skyway". They did not want to label it as the 13th floor. The penthouse where the ducks live is built onto the roof. What you see here is mainly a facade; the actual duck pen is spacious but of a practical size for the five resident ducks.
The view of the city and the Mississippi River is pretty cool from that height.
The hotel is filled with precious antiques. One is this piano, once owned by Francis Scott Key. The girls were impressed once we explained who he was. Don't set your drink down on it!
We toured the grand ballroom and a dance hall where big bands played on a regular basis. They still do, although not as often as when the hotel first opened at its present location in 1925. A museum room holds memorabilia and photographs from those days.
The biggest treat for the kids was the kitchen tour, which included fresh cookies. The Peabody does not buy bread, rolls, cakes, cookies, or pies from outside. All breads and pastries are baked on site.
We watched a pastry chef put tuxedos on strawberries. He dipped them in white chocolate, then carefully dipped them at an angle in dark chocolate, and finished by painting on buttons and a bow tie with more chocolate! I found a recipe with a nice picture for you.
After leaving the hotel proper, we visited the Belz Family Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, in the extended Peabody Place mall. Jack Belz, the CEO of the company that owns the Peabody Hotel, and his wife Marilyn have collected tons of amazing artifacts over the years, many from the Qing Dynasty. Our guide told wonderful stories about the works and the culture behind them. The girls were awed by the paintings, embroidery, and sculpture, like this tall palace carved from ivory.
This is just the beginning of the many places to see and things to do in Memphis. The rest of our weekend is recorded in another post.