Browsing Category

Weekenders

City Guides Destinations Let's Travel Travel Tips Weekenders

“Two Sides of Memphis” by D.C. Cutler

Another great guest post by friend and fellow traveler D.C. Cutler!

Several years ago, when I was driving back from Oxford, Mississippi to Fayetteville, Arkansas, I got the sudden urge to stop in Memphis. It was a gorgeous, October afternoon in the “Home of the Blues” and I had a roll of money I hadn’t spent while attending an Ole Miss Football game that morning.

I was heading west on Interstate 40, around the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, when I turned my Explorer off at the exit that takes you to downtown Memphis.

When you visit a city that you’re unfamiliar with, parking is vital. I parked my car on the lower level of an empty parking garage near Poplar Avenue. I didn’t know downtown Memphis, so I had no idea that I had parked blocks away from Beale Street. I had always heard stories about how fun Beale Street was with its live music and barbecue restaurants. I had two hours before the sun would start setting over the Mississippi River and Arkansas horizon, so I rushed down 14th Street to save time.

I crossed over to Front Street that runs slightly along the Riverfront. Suddenly, as I walked past an abandoned building with “For Lease” signs in its unbroken windows, I see a homeless man looking out one of the windows at me. He was African-American and he had the kindest eyes. The window he was peering out of was two stories up and there were shards of glass still outlining the windowpane. I didn’t know what to do; I thought about waving to him, but I dithered. I nodded, put my head down and kept my rushed pace.

The abandoned building was to my left; to my right, on a platform in Memphis Park, a fashion shoot was taking place. With Mud Island and the Hernando de Soto Bridge in the background, a brown haired, tall model was posing in a flowy, ruffled dress. There was a noisy wind machine helping her show off the length of the yellow dress. The photographer and his crew had four studio boom lights and an enormous shade screens; it looked as professional as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot. I could hear the photographer yelling instructions at his crew and the stunning model.

My eyes darted from the surreal photo shoot back to the abandoned building. He was gone. The two things were so drastically dissimilar. I wanted to watch the shoot longer, but the sunlight was fading fast.

When I arrived on Beale Street, almost every restaurant, particularly the barbecue places, had lines out their front doors. There was one barbecue joint that I found down a narrow alleyway. The sound of blues and the appetizing smell coming from the place made me immediately get in line.

The line was really long. I kept looking at my watch and fondling the hundred dollar bill in my pocket that I just wanting to spend on a memorial meal on one of the most famous streets in the world to try barbecue.

Kansas City barbecue fans…I wrote “one of.” Simmer down.

I eventually left the line after twenty minutes. I hadn’t moved an inch and people were cutting in line by the entrance. Apparently, when it comes to barbecue in Memphis, there’s no democracy when it comes to a restaurant line. One of the guys with the group that cut in line looked an awful lot like Rob Zombie. It may’ve been the rocker and filmmaker; I didn’t get a long look. It’s probably likely Zombie’s crew had a reservation.

I walked to Dyer’s, the legendary hamburger restaurant on Beale Street, a place that is often featured on travel and American diner shows. It felt like I stepped back in time when I walked in. The restaurant has a 1950’s diner look with its checkered tiled walls, wooden booths, and steel counter tops.

Oddly, Dyer’s wasn’t crowded for a late-afternoon on Saturday. Dyer’s has been serving burgers in Memphis since 1912. I like any burger place that’ll proudly advertise that they’ve been serving burgers out of the same deep fried grease since the year the Titanic sunk.

I ordered two Dyer’s singles and a mountain of fries. My waiter was really pushing the house chili; so I broke down and I had a bowl. He also told me that they can pour chili on a burger as well; I thought about it for a moment, and politely said, “No thanks.” I had the best pink lemonade I’ve ever tasted in my life there. I ordered another the moment I finished my first glass.

When I was devouring my delicious bowl of chili, I remembered the man back at the abandoned building. I put my spoon down and asked my waiter for a to-go box. I noticed how dark it was getting outside as my waiter boxed up my one remaining burger and a handful of fries.

While walking back to the parking garage, the dimming sun was streaming between the skyscrapers. The photo shoot was over. There was nothing left; not any of the crew or equipment. I peered up at the second floor window of the abandoned building. I didn’t see him. I set my untouched leftovers down on the sidewalk and scanned all of the other shattered windows. I waited for a moment and I picked up the food. I walked a few yards. Then, out of the blue, I had the feeling that someone was staring at me. Without glancing around, I stopped, put the Styrofoam box back down on the payment and walked off. A box of fries and a Dyer’s burger wasn’t much, but I had the sympathetic urge to leave him something.

Driving west, across the de Soto Bridge, I wondered who the man in the window and the model on the Riverwalk were. How did those two people get to where they were that fall afternoon in Memphis?

They represented two very different sides of a city I plan on visiting again.

Destinations United States Weekenders

Weekender: Galveston, Texas

Welcome to the first installment of my “Weekender Series!”

Most of you reading this probably know that I suffered a pretty horrific accident a few months back, so traveling was (tortuously) put on hold for a while. I finally felt good enough to venture beyond my “home-work-physical therapy-orthopedist” bubble that I’d built over the last few months, so we planned a weekend trip to Galveston.

Getting There

Galveston was an easy choice since it had a beach and was a very quick 50 minute drive from the major airports in Houston. We booked our trip rather late – 3 weeks before we wanted to go – and were still able to get round trip flights from Dallas for $200. With a little more planning, you could probably get those tickets cheaper if you’re coming from somewhere in Texas, or about that price if you’re coming from farther. Galveston is also easily driveable from most of the major cities in Texas, if you fancy a road trip.

Where We Stayed

We chose the historic Hotel Galvez, which was built in 1911, a few years after a hurricane devastated the gulf coast and destroyed most of the properties there. It’s pretty impressive when you approach it from Seawall Boulevard, the main street that runs adjacent to the beach. It stands out in both architecture and size amid the other more modern-looking hotels and restaurants.  The grounds were beautiful, and dozens of palm trees lined the various walkways on the front lawn. The lobby was full of charm, with old-fashioned industrial chandeliers, huge windows, black and white tiled floors, and rustic decorations.  Our room was small but clean and well-kept, with a nice sized bathroom, and we even had a view of the beach and nearby Pleasure Pier. The hotel is right across from the beach, which was great for catching sunrises (and in our case, the blue moon that happened on the first night we were there!)

But the best thing about this hotel, and the reason we picked it? The pool. First, it was a saltwater pool, which was a nice surprise (and great for my slightly swollen leg). The pool deck was lined with tons of lounge chairs, there were cabanas for rent, towels were provided, misters kept you cool in the sweltering Texas sun….and then there was the swim-up bar. Honestly you could throw a swim-up bar next to a landfill and I’d probably still enjoy it, but this one was perfect; the bartenders were friendly, and the white sangria was so tasty, I had one too many and had a buzz by 11am.

Where We Ate

We spent most of both days at the pool, so we ate from the Hotel kitchen during the day and it did not disappoint, especially the fish tacos. The breakfasts were a nice spread of eggs, bacon, sausage, various pastries, coffee, teas, etc.

On Friday night we ate at BLVD Seafood, which was very unassuming from the outside, but was beautifully decorated on the inside. We had crab cakes, gumbo, and fresh red snapper caught that day, which was certified wild caught and local by the restaurant. I highly recommend this place if you ever make a trip to Galveston.

Our last dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant because my leg was hurting and we wanted to make it easier for me. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. We had a delicious campechena to start, and for my entree I ordered shrimp with crispy polenta in an ancho honey sauce…….my mouth is watering just writing about it. My Mom ordered a seafood platter that could probably have fed 3 people. We also got a cinnamon bread pudding that had a cream cheese icing drizzle on top that I will probably fantasize about for the rest of my life. The seafood was incredibly fresh, which automatically makes for a tastier dinner. Overall, we were very impressed with the food the hotel had to offer.

What We Did

Honestly, we didn’t “do” much besides lay by the pool, sit on benches on the seawall and watch the moonrise, and enjoy the ocean view from the hotel’s lounge chairs lined across its expansive front lawn. We took a brief walk around the historic Strand District in Galveston, which boasts several cute coffee shops, confectioneries, and trendy stores. I couldn’t do much walking around so I sat on a bench and people watched, which was fine by me!

Verdict

Galveston isn’t the world’s best beach town or beach destination by any means, but it’s good for a weekend getaway if you just want to relax by a pool, drink a couple (or several) sangrias, eat delicious seafood, and enjoy the ocean air. And it was heaven for a traveling gal who’s been stuck in the house for the better part of the year!

Check out the photo gallery!

Hotel Galvez
Hotel Galvez
« 1 of 6 »
Destinations Weekenders

Weekender series

For a lot of people, getting away for more than a few days is difficult to do because of work, family, and other life obligations.  There are times that I’m itching to get away but I just can’t take the time off work, or I can only take a day or two.  But if you plan it right, these obligations don’t have to be a barrier to having a couple of days to explore the world around you. Getting away for even a day is a great way to re-set without upending your life or breaking your budget.

So, I’m starting my “Weekender” series, which will highlight short trips (between 2-4 days) within the United States, from weekend trips to the Gulf Coast to exploring national monuments in Washington D.C. I’ll include hotel deals and reviews, must-see attractions, great restaurants, good cocktails, rooftop bars (my personal favorite), free things to do, and any other information that might be useful to potential travelers.

Bon voyage!