I woke up feel grumpy, the bed was as uncomfortable as I remembered. I’m surprised I managed to sleep on it. I took my time getting up as I’d woken up prior to my alarm. I hated myself slightly for not packing my bags last night. I dragged my stuff into the corridor to pack there so as not to wake up my dorm mates who were still asleep in their bunks. I picked up a laminated chore slip – ‘clean doorknobs’. I figured if I didn’t return it for a while I’d get away with not doing it. Some of the other chores available were kind of ridiculous, how many hostels charge people to clean the bathrooms?
After some awkward stares as I packed my bag in the corridor, I finally crammed my belongings into my bags. I had put the stuff I needed to hand in my little, red handbag. I would be walking around Graceland today and they’d advertised online that they had ample locker space. I checked out by handing in my chore card alongside my bedding. There were a few people using the pancake mix and as I didn’t have that long I made some plain porridge with water. It was surprisingly good. I washed up my plate and figured I better get a move on to Graceland, I ordered a taxi and walked round to the front of the Church complex.
Graceland is handily only a ten minute drive away from the Memphis International Airport. Therefore, I’d have time to do a full tour of the grounds and go into a couple of the other exhibits. When I left the taxi in the large parking lot, I felt like I was in some creepy theme park as Elvis songs were creaking out of tinny speakers everywhere. There were many cars pulling into the spaces and families pouring into the main centre. I had bought one of the earlier entry times, so as to ensure I’d get my moneys worth. I had to ask at one of the reception desks just where the lockers were located. Thankfully, there were lockers big enough to put both my bags in. I took my little handbag and my bottle of water with me and joined the queue for entry to Graceland.
That queue took at least half an hour, I was handed an ipad and headphones as I boarded a small coach to drive across the road and into Graceland’s grounds. I was mildly amused that John Stamos had narrated the tour as apparently he is an Elvis superfan. The mansion was smaller than I’d imagined, we were not allowed upstairs as Elvis didn’t allow guests up them. We were ushered into each room and then we’d play the corresponding information on the Ipad.
Elvis definitely had some crazy style, especially in his basement and the jungle room. The people who were also on the tour I’m guessing had to be sixty plus, I felt very young. Though I did ask a lovely older lady to take my photo in the basement. It turned out blurry but I’m still happy to have a cheesy photo inside the mansion. The grounds of the mansion were extremely large in proportion to the mansion. There were several outhouses and that was where Elvis had his offices and they now house most of his memorabilia for fans to visit. It detailed each era of his career with plenty of costumes and his merchandise on show. There was an entire corridor filled with his gold and platinum records, he was so successful with countless hit singles. I mean he’s still incredibly well known and beloved forty years after his death.
The weirdest part of the tour around the mansion is the area of the Meditation garden where Elvis, his parents and his grandmother are buried. It was a beautiful plot with many colourful flowers near their graves but it felt odd that people were lining up to take selfies with them.
I then returned in a coach back to the main centre, I had a little time to burn before I had to leave and my ticket allowed entry to see Elvis’ various cars so that’s what I did. It was not my cup of tea but the jeeps reminded me of the one my Barbie’s had. I then had to get my bags back and called another taxi to the airport, to take me to Chicago.
The Memphis International Airport was a bit basic but at least it had free wifi. I was desperate for some lunch after the poor vegetarian options at Graceland. I had a burrito at what I assume is a franchise, I got free tortilla chips alongside it so I wasn’t disappointed. I then sat and read whilst I waited for my announcement to board the plane.
The flight was just less than two hours to Chicago; I managed to sleep during most of it. I am proud that I have learned how to sleep in uncomfortable positions whilst travelling or at least be able to physically and mentally exert myself enough to nap. Critically, I did wake up in time to watch the descent into Chicago. I was so excited to see the sprawling city below me. I had wanted to visit Chicago for so long in order to live my own little John Hughes fantasy. I was glad that my enthusiasm to explore a new city hadn’t waned.
Moreover, I still loved that I didn’t have to wait for a checked in bag and I could just go straight on my way. Chicago O’Hare airport was huge but eye-catching; the sun was shining through the glass. I could imagine Kevin McCallister running after his family as I walked through the terminal to get the train downtown. I was able to sit next to a window and looked out in awe at my surroundings.
Chicago is beautiful, the sky was clear and blue and the city felt so familiar. Probably due to the amount of films and television shows that film in the city. I walked the few minutes from the L stop to my hostel and I kept stopping in the street to take photos of the buildings.
This hostel was possibly as big if not bigger than the one I stayed in at Nashville. The check in was easy, and my dorm was one of the most modern of my stays. Next to each spacious bunk was a lamp, shelf and plug sockets. There was one other girl in the dorm when I walked into the room, we talked about the 360 tower, she was going to visit that night and was asking if I’d like to join her. I politely declined out of hunger but invited her to get some food with me. Another girl walked into the room after Mimi had left. It looked as though it was also her first night in the hostel so I asked this other girl if she wanted to get food with me. I had found a cute sounding vegan cafe a fifteen minute walk away. She agreed and I started talking to Joanna on the walk there. Joanna was quiet and didn’t have many stories to share, she hadn’t really travelled by herself before.
The café was an hour away from closing when we got there so part of the seating was closed off. I was still able to order my vegetarian burger of choice – a seitan sausage patty with a Portobello mushroom, caramelised onion, sweet garlic, pumpkin seed pesto and a salad. I also got seasoned fries. It was colossal in size, and full of flavour. The pesto was really something, I love pesto and with the addition of pumpkin seeds The burger felt healthy but the fries kind of negated the benefits of all those tasty vegetables. I washed it down with two large glasses of a blueberry iced tea. Joanna ordered an Earth Bowl which was too big for her to finish. We slowly walked back to the hostel with full bellies, once again I was admiring the architecture around me. I can’t say enough just how I was immediately in awe and in love with city.
Mimi was in the dorm room when Joanna and I came in, she hadn’t been able to visit the 360 tower after all. It had closed early that night despite what the website had said, she had an early flight the next morning and kindly, gave me her pass. It was very unexpected and so sweet of her, I hadn’t planned on going up the tower but now I would get see the Chicago skyline from one its tallest skyscrapers. It had been a busy day so I stayed in that night and planned out what I wanted to do in the city. And exactly how I would do my very own John Hughes tour the next day.