Odd ducks and Beale Street

IMG_5313 (800x600)Memphis might be the home of the blues but in the heat of the sun on a Thursday afternoon in June, it’s heart was bordering on depressing. Beale Street was like an aged hooker the morning after the night before. Tired, worn, and not at all attractive. When I was last in Memphis, we hit Beale Street at night – and it was buzzing. Alive. Happening. Have made a note in the Captain’s log that this is when it’s at its best. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but neon has its moment.

IMG_5312 (800x600)IMG_5318 (600x800)All that said, if you like Blues, then Beale Street is the place to be… at night! Lined with clubs and bars and restaurants, most with outside stages and patios, it’s a  virtual smorgasbord of all that’s good about the genre. You’d be hard pushed not to have a good night out on the town, even if an afternoon in said same place leaves something to be desired.

I had to laugh, though, at the dress code and wondered about the preoccupation with sunglasses…

IMG_5296 (600x800) Apart from Graceland, Sun Studio, and Beale Street, Memphis has one more attraction on its ‘must do’ list – The Peabody Hotel. As hotels go, it’s upmarket and plush, but its attraction is not its decor – it’s the ducks.

IMG_5337 (800x600)Five trained mallard ducks (one male, four females) work in the hotel for three-month stints before retiring. In a tradition that dates back to the 1930s, they’ve made famous the Peabody Duck March. Each day at 11am they descend in the lift from their rooftop penthouse and march along a red carpet into the fountain. They return to their penthouse at 5pm, ably guided by the resident Duck Master. Not a bad number, considering they get to die from old age, enjoy three months of fame, and are the in the spotlight twice a day, daily, for their entire working life (NB: the hotel doesn’t include duck on any of its menus).

So  if you’re in the vicinity of Beale Street waiting for the evening to kick off, take yourself by the Peabody and see the ducks in action. It’s stuff like this that makes America so, well, American.


Boating and bourbon beer

Bourbon is the mainstay of Kentucky. It goes into everything. I’m travelling onwards laden with recipes that call for a drop or two or seven of this elixir and cannot wait to try to duplicate RB’s gobsmackingly gorgeous bourbon baked beans. But perhaps the best of all so far has been the bourbon beer – and I’m not one for the beer usually. It’s simply ale aged in old bourbon barrels. Someone was thinking outside the box.

IMG_4801 (800x600)IMG_4795 (800x600)On a Sunday morning on Nolin (pronounced as two words No/Lin) Lake, we had the place to ourselves as Saturday night’s partiers slept off their hangovers. If the music the night before was any indication, they’d be sleeping till noon. Apart from a few water-skiiers, a family of ducks, and the occasional heron, it was just the four of us. Good company indeed.

IMG_4780 (800x600)Situated inside Nolin Lake State Park, the lake itself was created as a flo0d-control back in the early 1960s. Its 5795 acres are well-suited to fishing bass, catfish, crappie, and walleye and its  shores are littered with campgrounds both serviced and primitive.It’s a feat of engineering that has  paid for itself in flood damage savings: – $82 million – versus an original cost of $14.5 million. Would that all public works were so profitable.

Right next door, sits Mammoth Cave, the largest explored cave system in the world. Discovered way back in the 1700s, its 340 miles of known passageways have fascinated millions of visitors for years.

To those who asked why were were stopping off in Kentucky, this is why! Few things come close to spending a few hours boating on a lake with some blues playing the background and some (illegal) bourbon beer on side.

Illegal? Yes. Alcohol is forbidden on all Kentucky water. And this is a state where you can’t dye a duck and sell it unless you’re selling six of them (I kid you not!). And one in which dogs are forbidden to molest passing cars. You gotta love America.