Sunday, July 20, 2008

Memphis trip report (cont.)

On Saturday morning, Some of the members of our party legged it down Main Street a bit in search of brunch. We ended up stopping in the Cafe Napoleon, which I wouldn't necessarily recommend to anyone on the basis of its food, but which was locally owned by some super-sweet people. (And I had bacon. No one can screw up bacon. I LOVE bacon.)

On the way back, I got some cute pics of kids playing in the fountains on Mail Street. Sooo cute!

Then, we headed over to the National Civil Rights Museum. This is where things started going downhill. When we arrived, there was a line snaking out the door, in the heat. No one seemed to know if this was the line to get in, the line to purchase tickets, what. And there was no representative of the facility there to direct people.

When we finally did make it inside, a museum rep was shouting (and she had to, really, because the lobby area was so crowded) that we had to check our cameras and camcorders (They said they would set off alarms within the exhibit. Riiiiiight.), which I wasn't crazy about. I mean, if you have a $20 camera, it's no big deal to check it with a stranger. But if your camera costs more like $250? You kinda don't want to hand it over to the unknown person behind the window.

So we split up. Some of us went to check everyone's cameras and some of us went to buy museum tickets. After waiting in lines for that, we went to ANOTHER line to wait to be admitted into the actual museum. The lobby was thick with people. And it was HOT. The AC may have been going full blast, but so many bodies crammed into such a small place made it virtually worthless.

Finally, we were ushered into a theatre to watch a brief video about the Civil Rights movement before FINALLY making our way to the actual museum. Again, a museum rep in the theatre shouted at us to move in and leave no seats open due to the crowd. (Though when the video started, there were still plenty of vacant seats in the theatre.)

Anyhoo, the video was informative and well done, and then we were unleashed upon the museum itself. A word about the exhibits - there are alot of printed placards containing information and quotes about various stages of the Civil Rights movement. In fact, there are almost too many. You are basically confronted with wall after wall of printed text, which takes alot of time to get through. (Plus, if you are short - like me - you have to jostle your way up to the front of the assemblage to even SEE what you are looking at.)

The actual artifacts on display were quite powerful, including vignettes of Rosa Parks (You walked through a bus, and there were both audio and text placards to guide you.), lunch counter sit-ins (This was extremely powerful; the video here was amazing.), and a burned-out Freedom Riders bus. I wished that the museum had showcased more of these types of items and fewer "walls o' text" that you had to just read.

The tour ended in a complete bottleneck at the hotel room where Martin Luther King was shot. (See pic above - an outside photo.) I peeped in, but by this time, I was mostly hungry, tired, and burning-up hot. We skipped the second part of the museum, across the street, because we were weary and fed-up.

I arrived really wanting to get the most out of this experience, but unfortunately poor museum crowd control (and traffic flow in the design of the facility) made it difficult. I recommend calling ahead and asking museum staff when they experience a "slow time" in order to better absorb what this museum has to offer.

We found refuge at The Majestic, a restaurant on Main Street. Cooling fans, white tablecloths, and great food awaited us. I had the flatbread duck confit appetizer, which was big enough to be a meal in itself. The waitress kept the cold iced tea coming. We slowly began to revive.

After that, well, it was time to head back home! We stopped in Grenada for ice cream at Spencer's on the way back, and then beat a hot trail to Jackson.

All in all, it was a great trip! I really enjoyed myself!

Next up - Portland, Ore., in early August.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

You summed it up perfectly ... great concept but poorly executed. I learned a lot at the museum, but man it was a chore.

What a great trip, though, as a whole. So glad I went!