My adventures last weekend in Memphis started with a tour of the Peabody Hotel, chronicled here yesterday. After that tour, we, a group of twelve adults and fourteen children, walked a block or so over to historic Beale Street. By noon, there were already people partying in the street and live music coming from all directions. We enjoyed lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and shopped for souvenirs at Schwab's.
I asked the kids if they wanted to see the National Civil Rights Museum. Several said no, and one asked, "What's that?" I said it was the hotel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. They changed their minds immediately! The word "museum" sounds like a real bummer when you're eleven years old, but they all knew who Martin Luther King, Jr. was.
From this angle, you'd never know the hotel is now a museum. It looks pretty much the same as it did in the 60s. But step inside, and there's so much much more.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying at the Lorraine hotel during his appearance in Memphis in support of the sanitation worker's strike in 1968. He left his room on April 4th and was shot on the balcony from across the street. The hotel stayed in business until the property fell into foreclosure in 1982. A group of Memphis citizens raised money to save the historic landmark, and the National Civil Rights Museum opened in 1991.
We also rode a trolley and visited the Gibson Guitar Factory in the same neighborhood.
Sunday began with a trip to the Memphis Zoo, home of Le Le and Ya Ya. Memphis is one of four US zoos to host giant pandas. I've visited three of them now (the others are in Atlanta and Washington, DC); only San Diego is left on my to-see list.
Le Le appeared to enjoy watching us as much as we enjoyed watching him. The pandas were behind a glass wall, so the pictures are no substitute for being there. You can see the Memphis pandas yourself on the zoo's panda cam.
The Northwest Passage section features an underwater viewing room, where we lingered for the air conditioning. You can watch polar bears swim in their personal pond cooled by big chunks of ice. On the other side, a sea lion hammed it up for the kids. We later saw her strut her stuff in a live show.
She is star material. When I asked the kids to turn around for a picture, the sea lion flashed her best smile, too. We also saw elephants, apes, and exotic birds. A bit later, I watched an ostrich lay an egg. I failed to get my camera out in time, but figured it's just as well since it was a bit gross.
Meanwhile, the kids were in little girl heaven at the enclosed butterfly garden.
The rest of the weekend was devoted to swimming, eating, and taking pictures. A good time was had by all.