Posts from the ‘USA’ category

We’re Going to Graceland (Graceland)

By Jacob Aldridge

Today’s Itinerary

How did we find ourselves in this car, listening to a country and western mix-tape?

NOLA Bridge

The Huey P. Long Bridge, named after the assassinated governor. Photo by Ken Lund, CC License

The final score of last night’s game is irrelevant – it was always about the Super Bowl experience, and amazingly New Orleans is planning on rolling that atmosphere straight into week two of the annual Mardi Gras. (Let’s hope there are no more black outs! And for the record, the Ravens beat the 49ers 34-31 … which travel website had a “Ravens Champions Cap” featured last week?)

We’ll be back for the Mardi Gras mid-week, but we needed a few days of quiet first. So when southern local Dan said he was planning a road trip to Atlanta, and had room to spare … well, we were in. What Dan failed to mention was that he is Country. Music. MAD.

Dan needs to be in Atlanta by tomorrow night but (maybe this was the first warning sign we should have seen) he’s planned a stopover for us in Nashville. So it was an early start … far too early (don’t you think?) for Kenny Chesney or Brooks and Dunn. (Though Dolly Parton did remind us that the everydaydream holiday beats working 9 to 5.)

Our first roadtrip stop is breakfast in Jackson, Mississippi. Dan exits just off the I55 and takes us to Broad Street Bakery. It’s the perfect first stop on a road trip north from New Orleans, and not just because they’re playing different music! These breakfast burritos are only $3.95 each. Plus tip, I’m still eating two of them and a coffee for ten bucks.

How very nice of Tennessee

The Volunteer State – who knew? Photo by jbcurio, CC License

So our breakfast conversation with Dan about music seems to have worked. After all – Nashville might be tonight’s destination, but it’s not our next stop. Oh no, our next stop is royalty. It’s rock and roll. It’s the jungle room.

We’re going to Graceland (Graceland), Memphis Tennessee.

Front entrance to the King's palace

We’re going to Graceland (Graceland) Memphis Tennessee. Photo by Maha, CC License

So Dan has acquiesced, and we’ve now got some classic Elvis Presley coming out of the stereo. Have you ever noticed how everybody knows the words to at least some Elvis songs?

And Graceland itself kind of feels like that too – inclusive, no boundaries. In parts, it’s a preserved relic of 1960s and 70s America – when you were the King of America in that era (and Elvis certainly was), then living like royalty meant a mansion full of kitsch and a pink Cadillac in the garage. But it’s also very much about Elvis the man – the audio-guide features commentaries by the King himself, and also daughter Lisa-Marie. In the Jungle Room and the Car Museum, it’s Elvis all the way. And in the Meditation Garden at the end of the tour, we see where Elvis was laid to rest after his unexpected death aged just 42.

The pool room inside Graceland

That’s going straight to the pool room. Photo by Kees Wielemaker, CC License

Down in the Jungle Room

Where’s the pretty little thing waiting for the King? Photo by SD Rebel, CC License

We put Paul Simon’s Graceland onto the iPod when we get back into the car. The tone of that classic feels more connected to the venue now that we’ve been there – Graceland, indeed Elvis’s legacy, is not just gyrating hips and bad Hawaiian movies. There was the upbringing in a two-room shack in Tulepo; the military service; and then the descent into the caricature of himself, overweight and addicted to pills as he struggled to cope with this famous life. Graceland was his refuge, as Neverland Ranch was for his similarly ill-fated son-in-law Michael Jackson.

Tiger print!

Part of Graceland’s display. Photo by Betsy Weber, CC License

What's inside?

Elvis was moved here (along with his mother) after thieves tried to loot their original resting places. Photo by Mark Gstohl, CC License

Paul Simon sings “We all will be received in Graceland”. Elvis would certainly hope so.

“That’s if he’s actually dead”, Dan points out.

And then he turns the radio over to Keith Urban. As we drive through Jackson, Tennessee, and then into Nashville we give in to the rhythm. Having found acceptance, there’s nothing more enticing than heading down to The Printers Alley – a collection of music venues in part of Nashville originally made famous by their printing prowess. We take in open mike night at Lonnie’s Western Room – who knows, maybe we just saw a future Grammy Award winner in action.

Nashville used to be famous for its successful printing businesses.

Nashville used to be famous for its successful printing businesses. Photo by Chris H Connelly, CC License

Lonnie's Western Room, Nashville Tennessee USA

All music is better live! Photo by Denise Mattox , CC License

As midnight approaches, Dan lets us in on a dirty little secret. He also like the Blues! It’s a long drive from New Orleans to Nashville to take in the Blues, but the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar is open until 3am – and we intend to make the most of it!

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Don’t have a friend who’s willing to drive you from New Orleans to Memphis? Catch the train and make a weekend of it!
  • New Orleans, Louisiana, is often abbreviated to NOLA. It’s never pronounced ‘NOLA’ – and it’s rarely pronounced “New” either – try to roll straight from the N into Orleans instead.
  • The biggest Elvis fans stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, next door to Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
  • The Country Music Awards are held in Nashville each November – and have been running for just one year less than the Super Bowl.
  • And you can stay up to date here with the latest Country Music hits.

So what are your favourite roadtrip songs? Share them with the world in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Super Bowl Sunday New Orleans

By Jacob Aldridge

Today’s Itinerary

We’re about to find out what makes America’s biggest (and best) celebration even bigger … and bester. This week, New Orleans is hosting two of the most massive events on every American’s calendar – as Super Bowl XLVII touches down on Sunday, and the party flows into the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

Super Bowl XLVII Montage

Super Bowl XLVII. Montage by RMTip21, CC License

Oh yeah – those Super Bowl tickets that can set you back thousands of dollars? We’ve got some for you already, so let’s go!

Don’t worry if you’re new to NFL (or sport, for that matter). The Super Bowl – whether you’re at the stadium in New Orleans, or part of the traditional Super Bowl Sunday celebrations at homes around the USA – is an experience first and a sporting event … well, the sports is probably top 5.

TOP 5 THINGS ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL

  1. The cultural experience – it’s a party atmosphere across the country
  2. Super Bowl Ads – the most expensive spots of the year, and an opportunity for companies to make a splash
  3. Half Time Show – This year it’s Beyonce! We’re secretly hoping for a wardrobe malfunction
  4. The actual Football match – It’s the running and tackling and stuff in between the ads and the singing
  5. Beer and Nachos – Two finer words were never spoken
Team Cheerleaders

Leading the Cheers! Baltimore Ravens on the left (Photo by Keith Allison) and San Francisco 49ers on the right (Photo by Rajiv Patel, Both CC Licensed)

This year the Super Bowl kicks off at 5.25pm on Sunday afternoon. (Want to see something nerdy? Here’s Google’s history of searches for the phrase “What time does the Super Bowl start?” For two months, every year, it’s one of the most competitive phrases in search engine marketing.)

But the Super Bowl party has already begun when our flight arrives in New Orleans (aka, the Big Easy) on Friday afternoon. You can tell the diehard fans on the streets – they’re already dressed in either the Gold and Purple of the Baltimore Ravens (who won the American Football Conference) or the Gold and Scarlet of the San Francisco 49ers (who won the National Football Conference in an amazing come-from-behind effort – without boring you with all the details, the Super Bowl is essentially a Grand Final between the two divisions of NFL).

Unlike most major cities who place their stadium waaaay out of the way, the Superdome in New Orleans is right in the middle of the business district. That makes it easy enough to get to on Sunday, and also means we don’t have to decide between accommodation close to the Superdome or a hotel closer to The French Quarter (where we plan to celebrate afterwards).

New Orleans Superdome by Night

New Orleans Superdome by Night. Photo by Pat (Cletch) Williams, CC License

We’ll spend Saturday exploring the city. It’s now almost 8 years since Hurricane Katrina devasted this community. Sadly, many people left never to return, but the majority who remain (just like in Christchurch, site of the 2011 Earthquake) encourage you to come to their city and support the ongoing growth. If that means frequenting the clubs and cajun or creole restaurants along Bourbon Street or beside the Mississippi River … then it’s a plan we can support!

Sunday lunchtime arrives, and we’re on a streetcar out to the Superdome. There’s a tension in the air – but it’s not from rivalry (in fact, the coaches of the Ravens and the 49ers this year are … brothers! Mom Harbaugh must be so proud, but I bet she’s glad Thanksgiving is 9 months away). It’s simply the tension of waiting for the game to start – imagine what it must be like inside the rooms for the players involved.

And the Super Bowl Champions are ...

Will the Ravens be Super Bowl Champions again this year? Photo by Keith Allison, CC License

Here are the basics to help you scream along with the die-hard Super Bowl fans:

  • Each team is trying to score a Touchdown by moving the ball into the opponents ‘end zone’. They’re worth 6 points (plus one if they kick the conversion afterwards, which they usually do). Look for the umpires raising both arms above their head – that means it’s a Touchdown and you can go crazy!
  • When you have the ball, you have 4 chances (called downs – as in, First Down, Second Down etc) to move forward by 10 yards. If you can make it through those 10 yards, then your 4 downs begin again.
  • You can do this by running or passing the ball – the quarterback is the most important player, as he receives the ball at the start of each play and decides what to do with it. Usually, the quarterback calls a play BEFOREHAND, so the team know where to run / block etc.
  • A game is made up of 4 x 15-minute quarters. But don’t think that means it lasts for an hour! With breaks between quarters, time-outs, advertisement breaks, umpire discussions, and just general faffing around the Super Bowl normally lasts for about 4 hours.

Want our hot tip just before the players run out onto the field here at the Superdome? We’re confident Coach Harbaugh will bring it home.

Want something more definitive? Here’s the prediction from everydaydreamer (and one-eyed 49ers fan) Nix:”49ers have been consistently improving each season and this is their year to take home the big bowl! Though I reckon is will be close.”

Now pass me some nachos and start yelling…

Inside the Superdome

Inside New Orlean’s Superdome. Photo by David Reber’s Hammer Photography, CC License

Want to go? Need to know!

  • The Super Bowl host rotates from year to year. New Orleans now becomes the most popular host city (tied at 10 with Miami). Next year New Jersey’s MetLife stadium will be the first Super Bowl hosted anywhere near chilly New England.
  • This is the first Super Bowl New Orleans has hosted since Hurricane Katrina, and an opportunity for the Superdome in particular to revitalise its image as a sporting venue not home to so much tragedy in 2005
  • The easiest way to buy tickets is the annual ballot – in fact, given the high resale value, you’d be crazy not to enter the ballot every year even if you have no intention of going yourself. (If your team makes it through, they will also have tickets available the week before the game.)
  • The large gap between game time (1 hour) and game time (4 hours) means NFL can be likened to a game of Chess. Lots of tactical movement you don’t understand, the occasional big play that you do, and far too much time in between (unless you like beer).
  • If you made it this far without liking the football talk, then we reckon you’ll probably love this article by the fabulous Rob Cockerham about the Super Bowl Prank at Super Bowl XLI in Miami !
  • And if you want more Mardi Gras, stick around – we’ll be back here next week!

So is Superbowl Sunday part of your dream holiday? If not, tell us all where you’d rather be this weekend!