Saturday, June 29, 2013

Memphis, Part 3: Graceland

On Thursday morning (6/6), Ellie woke up a bit earlier than we may have liked. Considering that she was fighting off a cold and we had really worn her out the day before, we were hoping she would sleep in. But, babies don't care what you hope, do they?

However, we were able to make the most of our early wake-up call. Our plan for the morning was to go to Graceland for more Elvis tourism before saying farewell to Memphis. I had read that between 7:30-8:30 a.m., the Meditation Garden (one of Elvis's favorite places on the grounds, and where he, his parents and his grandmother are buried) is free and open to the public. We thought that if we hurried, we may just be able to make the free hours before going on our paid tour. We put it in high gear and lo and behold, we did make it (thanks to a bit of uphill running) with about five minutes to spare.

I was really glad we were able to make it for that free time. Tours of Graceland hadn't yet started for the day, so it was very quiet and peaceful. We were able to visit the garden with the place almost entirely to ourselves, without throngs of tourists traipsing through. It was very nice.

The Meditation Garden

Presley family graves at Graceland

Left: Elvis's grave. Right: Due to security concerns, Elvis's father had the bodies of Elvis and his mother moved from Forest Hill Cemetery to Graceland in 1977. The large marble cross was Elvis's mother's original monument at the cemetery.

Memorial stone for Elvis's stillborn twin brother

The graves were adorned by flowers and tributes sent from Elvis fans all around the world. All remembrances are accepted. Live flowers are kept until they wilt (sometimes, some are put in the racquetball building so they'll last longer), and plastic or silk arrangements are kept until they start to show signs of the weather.

Before we knew it, a security guard was kicking us out of the garden. However, we took advantage of the tourist-free time to snap some pictures in front of the house before they really chased us off the grounds altogether. This ended up being a great plan, because later the driveway would be littered with tour buses and lines of people.


Ellie rockin' her blue suede shoes in front of Graceland. (Not literally, of course. Clearly we had to buy her an appropriate onesie for the occasion, but we drew the line at the shoes.)

In front of Graceland

When we left the grounds, we took some time to examine "the wall": the brick wall in front of the estate, which is covered in graffiti from adoring fans. It was quite impressive. This is also where Ellie chose to take a nosedive into the sidewalk, with me watching in horror as her little face skidded along the pavement, thus earning herself some scrapes that only looked worse and worse as time went on. Oh, toddlers.

Checking out all the signatures on the wall

She faceplanted, sure, but then got right back to it!

Then, it was back across the street to purchase our tour tickets. We got the most basic tour (mansion only), but there were also more inclusive (read: expensive) packages that would also give you access to Elvis's cars, airplanes, etc. Eh, we're mansion people. Let the tour begin!

Welcome to Graceland!

After you purchase your tickets, you get in line for the shuttle bus to take you across the street to the mansion. As you board the bus, they give you your headset for the audio tour.

Tour groups waiting to get inside

Ellie and Eric are ready to check this place out!

The tour included all of the house and grounds, with the exception of the second floor of the house. That was where Elvis's private quarters were, and we were told that Elvis never let people up there. When he came downstairs, he was always fully dressed for company because that was where he did his entertaining. Also, upstairs was where he died, and the family wished to keep the tour from attracting gawkers eager to see such things. Similarly, his room has not been touched since the day he died. It all remains private.

When you first enter the house, you see the living room to your right, staircase directly in front (with a little hallway to his parents' room beside it), and the dining room to the left.

The main entrance

Portrait of Elvis in the living room (and a handsome photographer reflected in the mirrored wall)

Elvis's living room

Elvis's parents' room

The dining room

I thought this was a beautiful portrait of Priscilla and Lisa Marie in the dining room

From the dining room you move into the kitchen, which was very, very dark. And carpeted! You sure don't see many carpeted kitchens these days.

The kitchen

More kitchen

From there we went down a staircase lined fully with mirrors (trippy!)...

Our reflection in the ceiling! the basement, where there was a media room (with three TVs, something Elvis was apparently very proud of, and a monkey statue that Ellie could not stop laughing at), a bar, and a billiards room that was covered completely in drapes. It was a very dark, heavy-feeling room - very unusual.

The media room

The bar

The billiards room

Left: Close-up of the draperies on the ceiling and walls; Right: A better view of the drape design on the ceiling

But the unusual decor didn't end there (shocking, I know). We exited the billiards room and went up a COMPLETELY carpeted set of stairs. We're talking bright green carpet on every surface - walls, ceiling, everything.

The green carpet staircase

Then it was up to the Jungle Room, which was just...jungle-y.

The Jungle Room

The opposite side of the Jungle Room

We then exited the main house and made our way to a small building behind the house, which housed Elvis's father's office and a shooting range (formerly a smokehouse).

Lisa's swingset outside of the office

Elvis's father's office

Then it was on to the trophy room, which housed a ton of Elvis's awards, gold/silver/platinum records and memorabilia from his life and career.

Elvis stuff!

A long hallway of gold records and such

Costumes from his movies

Elvis and Priscilla's wedding attire

Items from Lisa's nursery

From there we made our way past the pool...

The swimming pool the racquetball building, which Elvis had built in the early 1970s and included a weight training area, full size racquetball court, Jacuzzi and dressing rooms. Now it houses more awards and memorabilia.

Front part of the racquetball building

Some Elvis's stage outfits

More awards!

...and more.

Ellie is loving it!

The tour then concluded in the Meditation Garden, back where we started our day.

Tour groups passing by the gravesites

Ellie in the Meditation Garden

Ellie and Eric listening to the end of the audio tour

We then boarded our shuttle bus back to the main building, saying farewell to Graceland. Then we loaded ourselves back up into our car and set off back to St. Louis for the evening, stopping for lunch along the way. We still had one last baseball game to cross off our list before completing the sightseeing portion of our trip!

Coming up next: A ball game in St. Louis, then on to Bloomington!

To see more pictures from Graceland, click here.


Lauren said...

Graceland looks so amazing to visit, wow! I wanna go :-)

jackson browne said...

Yeah Lauren Graceland is really a nice place you have to visit there. Rather than their are some other tourist places in Memphis, You can also check out some of this. Some places are pyramid Arena, Beale Street, Orpheum Theatre