Day 16! Hot Springs, Arkansas

Update: We’ve had the most horrendous thunder, lightening and rain storm but no tornado thank goodness. All’s well.

Well, we certainly didn’t bring the good weather with us to Hot Springs! Today we had a severe weather warning of rain, thunderstorms and even maybe a tornado! At the moment we have thunder all around us.

Bathhouse Row.

Bathhouse Row.

So, what is Hot Springs all about?  Hot Springs is known as Hot Springs National Park (it was the first US National Park) and takes its name from the 47 natural springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain.  Originally Hot Springs was within the lands transferred to the US when the Louisiana Purchase was negotiated in 1803 and was home to the Quapaw Nation of Indians. It sits on thermal spring water and in 1809 when European settlers reached Hot Springs, they quickly realised the benefits of providing lodging and board for the visitors seeking relief in the hot spring waters.  By the 1830s a small town had appeared.

Bathhouse Row 2

Buckstaff Bathouse since 1912.

Between 1879 and 1895 the frontier town had been transformed into an elegant spa city with word-class hotels and Bathhouse Row where the Victorians would come to ‘take the baths’ to help relieve their aches and pains while curing their ills.  By the 1960s the bathing industry had declined and the bathhouses began to close. Bathhouse Row was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on 13 November 1974 and refurbishment started on the closed properties.  Today, two are open again for use.

An area of 5,500 acres provides approximately a million gallons of spring water a day and Hot Fountainthe water rising from the hot springs today fell as rain when the great pyramids of Egypt were built – 4,400 years ago (they have confirmed this through carbon dating the water) and the rain falling today will rise to the surface, heated and mineralised, 4,000 years in the future! The water becomes heated at a depth of about one mile before beginning its journey back to the surface.  It reaches the surface at 147 degrees fahrenheit or 64 degrees celsius!! As you walk along the street there are small fountains and sure enough, when you put your hand in the water it’s very hot.

Hot Springs Panorama 3The Ohio Bar 2We did manage to drive a couple of the scenic routes today and for lunch stopped off at the Ohio Bar and Grill in the Downtown Historic District of Hot Springs. The food was excellent.

The Ohio Bar first opened in 1905 and is said to be the oldest bar in Arkansas and its patrons included the likes of Al Capone, Mae West, “Lucky” Luciano, “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello and other mobsters who frequented the Club for gambling and drinking. It’s also rumoured that Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton stopped by (although not together of course!) The bar is still more or less as it was back in its heyday with mirrors, fans and lights and has a massive 19th-The Ohio Bar 1century mahogany back bar measuring 15-feet-high and 24-feet wide with hand-carved horse heads and a mirror.  It’s believed to have come originally from Cincinnati and investigations are taking place to find out why it has the horse heads and also two ships’ mastheads either end of the bar.

Tomorrow we aim to ‘take the baths’ ourselves at the Buckstaff and experience what the Victorians so loved about Hot Springs!! Watch this space!!

Day 15! From Memphis to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Today was a driving day.  Only three hours but unfortunately due to road works, we came to a complete stand still for 30 minutes on one highway.  Just before we got there we dithered about getting off and trying a different route but thought ‘how bad can it be?’ Well, we soon found out!!

You know that thing they call ‘sod’s law’ well …….. just before we hit the stoppage I said to Si that at the next rest area we should stop so that I could use the loo (I know, too much information).  Anyway, I had no sooner uttered the immortal words and we came to a stop.  Isn’t that just your worst nightmare! What to do?  Well as luck would have it I had a very substantial plastic bag in the car (Dot, it was the one from Wilson’s Leather) so if the worst happened then I knew I had something to fall back on.

I was anxiously looking for the next rest area and there it was …………. closed!  We drove on to the next exit and came upon a petrol (gas) station and in we rushed, only to find that almost all of the people stuck with us on the highway had found the same place too.  There was a big queue for just one women’s and one men’s loos.  In the end, the women were using the men’s too.  What a nightmare!

Anyway, as we don’t have any new pictures for today we thought we would use this opportunity to post some of the pics that didn’t make the first cut!!  Enjoy!

Just realised I missed a few out, so the first ones are out out order!

A view from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah.

A view from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah.

A Buick Riviera in Nashville.

A Buick Riviera in Nashville.

A dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry.

A dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry.

Sitting Room at Graceland.

Sitting Room at Graceland.

Oh My!

Oh My!

You can see why we are all such good friends! Dot is our leader!

You can see why we are all such good friends! Dot is our leader!

Nat, your Mum must be so proud!

Nat, your Mum must be so proud!

There's that pesky squirrel again!

There’s that pesky squirrel again!

Simon in the Japanese garden at Sonnenberg Gardens.

Simon in the Japanese garden at Sonnenberg Gardens.

A Buddha at Sonnenberg Gardens.

A Buddha at Sonnenberg Gardens.

Convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers' Ferry.

Convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers’ Ferry.

Another outlook on Skyline Drive.

Another outlook on Skyline Drive.

A very kind Army Vet. offered to take a pic of us both whilst at a rest stop in Shenandoah.

A very kind Army Vet. offered to take a pic of us both whilst at a rest stop in Shenandoah.

Sandra talking on the phone to her brother, Tony, back in the UK whilst enjoying the view along Skyline Drive.

Sandra talking on the phone to her brother, Tony, back in the UK whilst enjoying the view along Skyline Drive.

A view from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah.

A view from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah.

A flower from the garden at Monticello.

A flower from the garden at Monticello.

The vegetable garden at Monticello.

The vegetable garden at Monticello.

A flower from the garden at Monticello.

Another flower from the garden at Monticello.

We saw the programme on TV where Frank from Antique Archaeology bought this head.

We saw the programme on TV where Frank from Antique Archaeology bought this head.

One of the band playing at Antique Archaeology.

One of the band playing at Antique Archaeology.

Sandra at Antique Archaeology.

Sandra at Antique Archaeology.

Simon at the Opry Land Hotel.

Simon at the Opry Land Hotel.

Simon's meal at Marlowe's.

Simon’s meal at Marlowe’s.

The entrance to Graceland.

The entrance to Graceland.

Basement TV room at Graceland decorated in yellow and blue.

Basement TV room at Graceland decorated in yellow and blue.

Elvis played this piano the morning of his death.

Elvis played this piano the morning of his death.

Day 14! Memphis

Today we’ve done the Graceland tour and I have to say that although we are not big Elvis fans we both found it quite emotional.

Graceland 7Graceland is a lovely place, not particularly large compared to some stars’ homes today. Elvis bought it in 1957 when he was just 22. He lived there with his Mum, Dad and Grandma.  Having been born into a poor family, their home had only two rooms at the time, he was a twin but sadly his twin brother was stillborn, he was conscious of hardship and was a very generous person.  If his brother, Jesse, had lived I wonder if they may have

Rear of Graceland

Rear of Graceland

been a double act!! He was always ready to help other people, and would give generously to people in need of help.  Cheques were on show for 1968 and each time he had given $1000 to each good cause, which at the time was a lot of money.

Cheques Elvis gave to good causes

Cheques Elvis gave to good causes

He was very close to his Mum, Gladys, and was always aware of how hard times had been for both her and his Dad and he was always buying her things to make up for the hard times.

Glady's pink Cadillac

Gladys’ pink Cadillac

He bought her a pink Cadillac and he kept the car after she died because he knew she loved it.  He would buy her jewellery, and things he thought she would like.  His Dad spent a period of time in jail and it was during that time when it was just Elivs and his Mum that they became very close. When Gladys died at the age of 46 he was devastated.

Graceland 9We were surprised at how many stage outfits he had.  All variations on a theme of jump suits.  Some encrusted with all kinds of stones.  We saw his car collection and were also able to go on board his private jet, Lisa Marie.  There were many different coloured seats and each had a matching seat belt all 24 carat gold plated.  He also had a Graceland 8private small jet called Hound Dog II.  The leather seats were yellow and green!!

Graceland 4

He was originally buried in a cemetery next to his Mum but for security reasons his Dad decided that both Elvis and Gladys should be moved to Graceland.  Elvis already had a meditation garden that he loved to sit in at quiet times, so their bodies were moved there and his Dad and Grandma, together with a memorial to his brother, Jesse, are there now too.

Graceland 5

Graceland 6

Graceland 2

Beale Street

Tonight we took our lives in our hands and hit Beale Street!! The street to be in Memphis.  We ate at BB King’s Blues Bar and listened to Blind Mississippi Morris playing and singing the blues. He was excellent.Blind Mississippi Maurice 2

Beale Street 5

Blind Mississippi Maurice

We were lucky that when we arrived in Beale Street there was a display of ‘hot rod’ cars … Si was in his element.

Beale Street 4

Beale Street 3

Beale Street 2

So tomorrow we leave Memphis and head to Hot Springs, Arkansas but before we go I just wanted to share with you a picture of  ‘a new place we’ve found to dwell, it’s down at the end of Lonely Street at the … Heartbreak Hotel’. Now if that doesn’t get you singing then nothing will!!

Swimming pool at the Heartbreak Hotel

Swimming pool ‘down at the end of Lonely Street at the Heartbreak Hotel’

Day 13! Nashville to Memphis

Well, if I get through this it will be a miracle.  I’ve been drinking!!

Today, we drove 3 1/2 hours from Nashville to Memphis.  The trip was an easy one, we passed the time listening to Patsy Cline. She was a Country singer who died at the age of 30 in a plane crash back in 1963.  So many young Country singers seemed to have died in crashes of one kind or another.  Her songs live on today.  Check out two of her greatest hits below.  The lip syncing is off in the first one.

(I don’t own the rights or anything to the videos).

HH2We are staying at the Heartbreak Hotel right next door to Graceland, the home of the King, Elvis Presley.  We will do the tour tomorrow so expect more pics then.

Tonight we’ve eaten at Marlowe’s Ribs and Restaurant.  It’s famous here in Memphis, Elvis used to eat here too.  The food was excellent and the portions huge.  I can understand how easy it must be to get into the habit of eating large portions.  Marlowe's 2

Poor Si was rather shocked at the size of his ribs!

Pink Caddy 1If you phone the restaurant they will come and pick you up in a pink Cadillac limo, so of course we had to do that.

They very kindly drove us back to the hotel afterwards and in our case it was a jolly good thing they did!! After starting with Pink Cadillac cocktails Pink Caddy 2 and then progressing to other alcoholic beverages we probably wouldn’t have been able to do the mile walk back!!

Day 12! Nashville – Part 2

Nashville 6It’s been a day of ‘firsts’ today! First, we did the behind the scenes tour of the home of Country music, the Grand Ole Oprey, stood on the stage and sang a song and then we ate fried green tomatoes! (The picture is a copy of the official one taken of us today so the quality is not very good).

Nashville 5The Grand Ole Oprey was ‘born’ in 1927 and to any Country music fan is the place to be and a ‘must’ to visit.  We walked in the footsteps of all the great, old and modern Country singers.  A lot of them live in Nashville and perform there on a regular basis to sold out shows of 4,400 people.

Nashville 1

Nashville 4

Nashville 3

One interesting fact is that each member of the Oprey has their own mail box actually in the building and if a fan sends a letter to their idol, just addressed to the star’s name and Grand Ole Oprey, then the letter is placed in the mail box and the stars come and empty their box and take the fan mail away to answer.

Fried Green TomatoesIf you have seen the film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe’ then you will know all about fried green tomatoes.  They were delicious.

The Oprey has its own outlet shopping mall so you know what that means …………. more shopping!! It’s now official ………….. we’ve purchased the extra suitcase to put all our purchases in.  It’s Memorial Day Weekend here so there’s lots of exceptional offers in all the shops so it seemed rude not to take advantage of the cheap prices.   Well, that’s what we are telling ourselves anyway! We got a really good deal on the new suitcase.

The other ‘first’ is that I’ve spoken to my brother, Tony, on Skype for the first time.  He’s new to 21st Century technology, he’s just bought his first computer and smart phone, but he seems to be handling it all really well!!

Day 11! Nashville

Well, Nashville does indeed have a lot to offer.

Antique ArcheologyWe started the day by visiting Antique Archaeology (their spelling)! Does anyone besides us watch the TV programme on the History Channel on Sky TV? Well, just in case we are the only ones, the programme’s about two guys, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz who are American pickers.  They travel the US searching for old stuff. They have two shops, one here in Nashville and one in Iowa and we will be visiting that one later on our trip.

We arrived at the shop this morning firmly believing that we would be the only two turning up and saying “hey we watch you on the TV and we thought we’d come and check out your shop”.  Well, how stupid are we!! We turned up at the same time as about 150 other people so it seems as though we are not the only ones watching them after all. There was Antique Archeology Bandeven a band playing music. It was quite the carnival event.

Nashville is a great place for live music and has the Country Music Hall of Fame and

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Museum.  Visiting is a must for any Country fan.  It shows the complete history of Country and Western music and has over 400,000 pieces of memorabilia including Elvis Presley’s solid gold piano and gold car that has a gold television and record player.

In Downtown Nashville there are literally dozens of bars, most playing live music all day, where a good time can be had by all.  If you are a young girl then shorts and cowboy boots are the order of the day. Simon will try and get a picture tomorrow ……….. as long as he doesn’t get arrested doing so!!

Nashville CostumesAnother programme I watch is a series called Nashville (it’s on More4).  It’s about two Country singers and part of it is actually filmed here in Nashville (surprise, surprise). Some of the costumes and things from the series are on show too.  Gosh, those dresses are really small.  I need to get back to the gym as soon as possible!!

Day 10! From Virginia to Tennessee

Well, this will be a short blog today as we spent all day in the car!

Mimslyn Inn

We left our hotel in Luray and the temperature had dropped from 83 degrees yesterday to 45 degrees this morning.  It was cold and as you can see, overcast!!

We’ve now made it to Nashville after a very uneventful 567 mile drive and also going through one time zone in which we gained an hour.  The skies are blue and the temperature is 73 degrees.

We spent most of the drive time playing the driving licence game, we now have 38 of the 50 State plates but we gave up counting dead animals on the highway ….. too morbid!

Tomorrow we will start discovering just what Nashville has to offer.