Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crown Fountain in Millennium Park

In my wild dash to see The Bean in Chicago, I spotted the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park also, and was enchanted!

On the hot and humid day I was there, I stumbled across the fountain with the changing faces as I was leaving the Park to get a cab back to the airport. The moving image of the inside panel of one of the glass blocks caught my eye....a face of a man pulling faces. And then puckering up, this face supplied the visual spout for one feature of the water fountain. Much to the delight of all the squealing children running around and through the fountain spurts.

This fountain is a real life ode to the gargoyle concept, and reportedly features 1000 Chicago residents filmed to appear at either end of the facing panels, to spout their water. Between the upright panels are water jets popping up at random, which makes this stop in the Park a fun Summer find.

I saw a couple of faces during the quick stop I made, and would have loved to stay longer to see more of the characters captured. The water jets looked like fun, but the real life feel of these panels make this artwork at Millennium Park worth searching for once visitors have seen the much more famous Cloud Gate.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Château Frontenac

The castle in Quebec City is one of those iconic and beautiful places I have found on my travels, and one that I took loads of photos of! So enchanting!

Moonrise Kingdom and Dusted at Amsterdam

An outdoor movie, with the view of the CN Tower, out on a barmy Toronto evening sounded perfect to me. The fact that this was held at a brewery, with a band to start the evening and a food truck serving dinner sounded amazing!

Natalie and I ventured down after work, and grabbed the wares from the Sky Blue Sky toasted sandwiches for dinner, and a beer, and found our seats.

Just as the sun was disappearing, and the lights started up on the CN Tower, the band of the evening, Dusted, started their indie funk set. Whilst the sound was not crisp enough to hear them properly, their energy set the mood for the night as the crowd gathered. The food was delicious!

The irony of having to line up just before the movie was about to start, with the rest of the crowd, to get a beer from the only two working taps was not lost on anyone. I had to listen to a group of people debate how many beers they could carry, how many beers they would need, and how many tokens they had whilst the opening narration of the movie began. Shame.

But once settled back into my seat, I could get into the film, and it was lovely! The story of two mis-fit teens who meet, strike up a penpal relationship, and plot to run away together. A quirky, awkward teen love story - so cute!

This is a movie I would have seen at MIFF and continues my attempt to fill my movie list despite being on the other side of the world!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Market 707

One of my food finds of Toronto has come within my last week here, when my supervisor took me on a little outing for lunch. She took me to Market 707, which is a street of food sellers set up in shipping containers along Dundas Street West.

It is across the road from Toronto Western Hospital, of which Toronto General Hospital has a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes all day - handy!

The row of containers house sellers from such diverse cultural food backgrounds, and ranges from Mexican to Korean, West Indian wares to Japanese and Vegetarian feasts.

The smells along the row make your mouth water, and the mix means that there are hard food decisions to be made!

Foods from all around the world, made right there, by the little businesses that bring this strip to life - a perfect city lunch escape.

The food truck craze is really starting to take off here in Toronto, and this permanent little gathering of a dozen food sellers is way ahead of the game. Good food, local businesses, and good prices will surely have the locals flocking to this place as the word continues to get out about it.

I had the Shrimp Ceviche (that's prawn to us Aussie's!), which was delicious.

Sadly I have run out of time to sample all the treats here, and would have definitely made the journey time and again for the dessert options as well as the different foods on offer if I had known about Market 707 sooner! And I lived so close to it! Ha! Always the way....

So You Are Thinking About A Uni Exchange Overseas?

I have met with 2 students thinking about doing the reverse placement exchange that I have been doing here in Toronto – and if they wanted to be talked out of it, I was certainly the wrong person to talk to!

I have just finished my 525 hours of work at Sick Kids here in Toronto, as part of my MSW. And I have loved everything about it!

The chance to immerse yourself into a new city, through the everyday routine of work (or going into school), finding your way around, discovering things to do after work/school and over the weekend. These tasks mean that you see and experience so much more from the destination that a mere visit allows for.

Working or studying within a different country also provides you with a different cultural perspective, no matter how alike your host country is to home. The quirky differences, as well as the glaring contrasts, enrich your learning like you cannot imagine!

The other most amazing aspect of an international placement is the people you meet, the friendships forms, the lasting connections made. This feature made my placement for me.

There have been six of us working away this summer at the same placement, chipping away at the same Masters degree, from 3 different universities.

There has been laughter and lunch dates, excursions and mutual support, tears and tantrums, and an intense work experience surely none of us will ever forget.

Tim Cahill (the writer, not the Aussie soccer player!) sums it up perfectly:
A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles

(photo credit: thanks Natalie!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chinese Fishermen of Toronto

The examples of street art around Toronto are so varied, and some are so beautiful. This collection has caught my eye during my time here.

I spotted this fisherman with his catch down on Queen Street West, across the road from CAMH. I had read some talk about it's threat, given that the building has been sold, and the ongoing Toronto talk to clearing the city of graffiti.

These other pieces catch my eye on my walk to work, almost everyday, as I take Dundas Street West through Chinatown.

These characters are so well painted, and bring to life a neighbourhood as well as an otherwise dull brick wall along a non-descript alleyway. Why would anyone want to rob a city of such magic, creativity and escapism??!?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sparking Travel in Others and Comfort Zone Departures

A colleague last week told me that my photos of my weekend trip to Calgary and Banff, and Lake Louise, have inspired her to look into travel within her own country a little more. Another one told me that all my adventures within Toronto has made her want to explore her own city a little more. My job here is done!

The idea that my example may show someone, even one person, that it's possible to put together little side trips over weekends and see more of your own country - that's pretty cool! If my immersion into the city and Summer events of Toronto have created the idea for someone else to do the same and check out more of the things going on around the city...awesome! I am very happy to spread the travel bug far and wide!

I have certainly taken any and every opportunity whilst here for the Summer, to do everything I have found of interest to me. I have also managed to complete a little list of the side trips I wanted to do. I mean, who knows when I’ll be in North America next, right?

But, of course, this has not been without some pangs of anxiety and fear with each new city and travel adventure, even with all my travel experiences under my belt.

I remember the worry about my lack of French language skills for my trip to Quebec City and Montreal, and whether I would be able to get around and figure out the city. I was a little nervous about my plan to drive around the city of Memphis, just as I was coming in to Miami....but it was all good! I even dealt with a flat tyre in the hire car without having a tantrum!

Travel is a huge comfort zone leap, time and time again, even for the well travelled. That's the beauty of it - it tests you, broadens your understanding of the world, and lets you grow, in ways you cannot even imagine.

Monday, August 20, 2012

An Aussie Bobsled Team

I wonder if we missed things in Calgary when we were there, but over breakfast and when plotting out our roadtrip to Banff, we could only find one thing jumping off the tourism page for the city - and that was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, which is now a fun park as well as a training facility.

The WinSport Canada complex had us at hello with the idea of a zipline from the ski jump platforms, and then a ride on the bobsled track. Sounded amazing!

Then we passed the ski jumps on the drive towards the Rockies, which solidified our decision to go there on the way back.

Reaching the park on the Monday after an awesome weekend, we chatted at the ticket desk about times, mindful of our flight that afternoon, and found we could really only fit the bobsled run in to our day.

We were driven up to the top of the bobsled run, with 4 other blokes who were to do the run before us. As we watched them get ready for it, we got to take in the view of the track and the Calgary sprawl below us.

Given our own helmets, we were then loaded into the bobsled one by one, and the Canadian Bobsleder (who represented in Salt Lake City) gave us the final instructions of the run down. He was pretty funny, and calmed the nerves of us as he joked and did all the checks.

This link gives you an idea of the run, and tells me that we went through 14 turns! The run announcement at the end advised us that we reached a top speed of 93km/hr on our run down the track, as we each were hurtled around within the sled, and very thankful for the helmets!

The sign walking into the top of the ride said that we were about to experience 60 seconds we would talk about for the rest of our lives! Ha, I don't doubt it! It was fun and scary all at once, and one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

One of the best roller-coaster experiences, that's for sure - on an Olympic track in a bobsled!

As we regained our legs and our breath, we walked back to the carpark, exhilarated and shell-shocked all at once.

I checked out the International Flag Court before we drove off, where the flags of the nations competing back in the late 80s were displayed, as well as the cauldron for the flame. What a cool visit, as the Olympics were going on in another part of the world at the very same time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival

Since arriving in Toronto, I have been trying to find my favourite Canadian beer. My go-to order for a pint...but have struggled because of the large spectrum, and the never-ending variety stocked by different bars. Instead, my tactic is to ask about the most local beer, and try that. The longer I am here, the more craft breweries I am aware of!

The Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival was perfect to try beers made here in Ontario, and the set up of this first time festival made access to each one all too easy.

The festival was set up at Roundhouse Park, alongside the Steamwhistle Brewrey, and across the road from the Rogers Centre and just under the CN Tower. Both iconic Toronto views!

Gina and I picked up our special Fest glasses and beer tokens, and entered the space in the park - here each brewery had a tent set up, there was a free water tent (very responsible, and a great idea!), a band playing, and then a couple of food trucks adding to the atmosphere.

One beer token, which was $1, gave you a half fill of the glass, which made the only tough decisions of the afternoon being which tent to target first, and then which of the two, sometimes four, beers to try first.

The Flying Monkeys impressed with the Stereovision brew. Loved the boots atop of the taps at the Wellington Brewery tent, and I loved the in depth discussions at each tent to help with our selections.

We tried Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner on a recommendation from Kieran, mainly due to our ongoing quest to find a good cider here in Canada. At the Great Lakes I chose the Green Tea Ale, cos it sounded so different I had to try it, but taking a sip of Gina's Crazy Canuck Pale Ale I had clearly made a silly choice! Green Tea beer is a little weird, but the Canuck was great!

The menu envy was reversed when we had our much needed linner (lunch and dinner combined) from the food trucks. Gina's lobster roll from Tide & Vine was disappointingly tiny, for the price. Whereas my Lumberjack toastie from Gorilla Cheese - the Canadians do like to add slices of fruit to the most unexpected dish, with delicious results!

For a first time festival, it was small and easy to access. The crowd filled up after the end of the baseball across the street, which validated the awesome location. I can see this gathering of brews from the province getting bigger with word of mouth and some more promotion for next Summer.

I was a guest of the Craft Beer Festival, but thoughts and opinions in this post are entirely my own.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stunning Lake Louise

Lake Louise was my big motivator to travel across to Calgary and Banff whilst I was in Canada, after seeing photos a couple of years ago and not really believing my eyes. I think even standing on the shores of this magical lake of turquoise water still begged belief - so beautiful!

Just under an hours drive from Banff in our little convertible, the journey was filled with spectacular mountain views, glimpses of snow caps even in the middle of Summer, and fun tunes.

Walking down the trail to the lake from the carpark, the first twinkle of water from the sun's reflection is breathtaking - the colour is just amazing! Surrounded by forest and of the most beautiful places I have been to!

We each dipped our toes into the water at one point, and despite the heat in the sun above, it was unbelievably icy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Sweet Tour of Kensington

Chrystal from Chrystal-Clear had been talking about her upcoming sweet-themed tour through Kensington, and it sounded too great to pass up! I joined her on the weekend for a Tasty Tours Toronto walk, which included some samples of desserts and treats. Delicious!

Our meeting place was a bakery that I have passed many times, but was totally not aware of what goodies are sold from within. Audrey, our tour guide, introduced the morning, and the small group had a chance to meet each other, which was such a warm starting point.

I had received an email the day before the tour, reminding me of the booking and the details, which included the weather forecast and tips to ensure I was prepared for the morning, was a really cute touch. I also received a follow up email a couple of days after the tour, which was personalised for our group, which just added to the sense of connection from the morning.

The tour takes the group to six locations in and around the Kensington Market area, and each store provides the group with a sample of their wares. Audrey tells you about their business, the treats they sell and usually make on-site, and she also has many interesting facts about sweets, sugar, and this particular local area of Toronto.

The tours run every second Sunday, and Audrey keeps them to a small group, which makes it an easy outing for a morning treat. It would also be awesome for a hen's afternoon. Audrey also does Chocolate tours in the Trinity Bellwoods area, every other Saturday...sounds delicious!

I was provided with a tour from Tasty Tours, as a travel blogger. The thoughts in this post, however, are entirely my own.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Four Aussie girls took off from Toronto for a long weekend, across the country and landed in Calgary. I picked up our hire car when I arrived, a flight after the others, and whilst in two minds about the 'compact' description of our car category, was totally sold when we were offered a convertible - we'll squeeze in, surely!

The next morning we jumped in our little car, with the top down, and headed out of Calgary to the highway and on to Banff. Having the Canadian Rocky Mountains appear on our horizon and then loom closer, was enough to build the anticipation of a great weekend ahead.

As we drove into the cute little town of Banff, nestled there in the middle of the mountain range, I was in awe of the view from the streets. At the end of every street was a view of the Rockies....

After a lunch stop in town, we went to check out the Hot Springs, but were pretty confused to find that the much hyped attraction was just a pool, with hot springs water in it. We had pictured a rock pool at the least, rather than something that may have awaited us back at the hostel. So, we skipped it.

We checked in to our HI-Alpine hostel, and then got ready for our dinner date with the mountains. Kylie, Chloe, Meg and I boarded the gondola and were lifted up to the peek of Sulphur Mountain, with just the ride up into the sky giving us a spectacular view!

Taking out table, and eventually scoring the much coveted window table, we tucked into one of the best steaks I have had, as part of this 2 course meal. The ride up and back is usually $30, and so for $20 extra you can get this dining experience - well worth making the booking and spending that extra time at altitude. After dinner, we checked out the observation deck and the view of Banff below, with the mountains all around. Just gorgeous!

The next afternoon was one of the many highlights for me of this awesome weekend - horse-riding in Banff. We arrived at the horse yard near the Banff Springs Hotel, and were each allocated a horse. We had needed to shop for closed-toed shoes for the adventure, and Meg had even found a cowgirl shirt for the ride.

Donned with pigtails each, we were introduced to and then assisted onto our horses by the (Aussie!!) lead of the ride. As a small group, we were led through the nearby woods, through streets and trails, and then along Spray River. This ride gave us a view of Bow Falls, which we would not have seen at all otherwise, and then took us on horseback through the River.

Riding further through the woods and up and around the hills and trees of the area, we crossed the Spray River again, each horse figuring his way through the stones underwater. Hanging on for dear life, this was scary and exciting, and spectacular all at once. Such fun - we rode through the Rockies!

That evening we went on a bear hunt - a wildlife safari which took us to spots around the outskirts of town, to see the local wildlife. We spotted a deer and her foal, and were shown a baby osprey in his nest, trying to pluck up the courage to fly. No bear spotted, but our very enthusiastic guide taught us much about the local animals and their habits, which were all pretty foreign to us!

The town of Banff is so pretty, with it's streets, shops, and amazing food range within the restaurants. The position within the Rocky Mountains gives it a special isolated feel, with spectacular views from every angle - such a friendly place, which we completely fell in love with over this long weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cloud Gate

The Bean, otherwise known as Cloud Gate in Chicago, is this sparkling, sun-catching piece of art in Millennium Park, and the sole reason for my crazy stopover on the way back from my weekend trip to Memphis.

The taxi driver who dropped me back to the airport after my dash into town and back between my flights thought I was crazy, and funny. But hey, I wanted to see The Bean!

I have been to Chicago before, for a Winter weekend, back in 1999-2000, so I couldn't justify a whole weekend there on this Summer in Toronto time on a tight budget - but piecing together the possibility of a stopover for a few hours made a visit to marvel at this shiny beauty possible!

Chicago did not disappoint me either - the city put on great weather, with the right amount of clouds in the sky for just the right kind of reflections, and was also kind with the traffic in and out of the city from the airport. All good!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Temper Trap In Toronto

I told my housemate that I was off to see The Temper Trap here in Toronto, and he informed me that they are huge right now - that's exciting to here, an Aussie band this far from home!

Kylie, Chloe and I met up and made our way over the the East end of the city, and stopped at Against The Grain for a bite and drinks. We experienced one of the weirdest times here, we wondered if we were on a candid camera show....which is a shame, cos we loved it last time where we here.

Walking across the road to the venue, the city was the backlight to the block of fluro colour that was changing hue at a pace.

Kool Haus is part of The Guvernment complex, and was a pretty modern and impressive space. It had several levels, and areas to it - and for this evening was near full, with maybe over half of the voices there Aussie accents.

These Melbourne lads mixed the set with tracks from the newly released self titled sophomore album as well as that amazing album from 2009. Tracks like Love Lost and Fader reminded us how amazing that album was, and the new hits Trembling Hands and Need Your Love had the crowd enchanted and singing.

Dougy's voice is incredible. This is a band that sounds so amazing live, better than their recorded material.

Sweet Disposition, of course, was the final song of the night, and it was a huge sing-a-long. It was so cool to hear a filled room this far from home, filled with the words of this band's songs...impressive!

Rogers Cup

The Rogers Cup here in Toronto is one of the warm up events on the tour, leading up to the US Open. This year the Men's tournament was here, and the Women's in Montreal, which worked out very nicely for me. I staked out tickets some time ago for the Semi Final day.

The event this year had been plagued with bad luck before it had even began, with the withdrawal of some very big names like Nadal and then Federer. The tournament also suffered from being schedule just a few days after the end of the Olympics in London, and then tennis competition for a medal.

And then to top these factors off, this week has had the worst weather Toronto has had for the Summer. In fact, Thursday was a complete washout, and Friday consisted of both Round 3 matches and the Quarter Finals, meaning several players played twice on that day.

I made the trek out to the site, which is out on the York University campus, taking the subway to Downsview and then a bus. It was raining while I made this trip, and the volunteers were set to work with the blower machines as soon as it stopped, to allow play to get started as soon as possible.

The first match on the main court for the day was between the Frenchman Richard Gasquet and the giant American John Isner. A slight delayed start, and all around me on the very top level there seemed to be stormy looking clouds coming the way of the stadium, but it held off and allowed this match to get going.

Despite the hype and might of the Isner serve, he was ordinary at his returns, and Gasquet owned this match. A good match to watch, with many even rallies, but the Frenchman had it wrapped up in 2 sets, and earned his place in the final.

A couple of hours to kill between the two sessions of the day, I took in the practice courts, the Grandstand Court, and the retail sections. I brought a sweater (look at me, using the North American lingo!), after freezing my way through the last set because of the wind at the top of the stand. Lindt chocolate is one of the sponsors of the tournament, so I scored a free sample, made right there at the little stand.

Just as the time grew closer to take our seats and be ready for the second Semi of the day, the threatened thunderstorm arrived overhead, with belting rain, thunder and full lightening. The whole crowd waited this out in the undercover tiers of the stadium, before it stopped.

The amazing volunteers managed to get the court looking very close to being ready for play again, and the rain started again. Just a shower, it didn't last too long, and then they were back to it, getting the water off the court. This amazingly happened one more time, before the players could come out for the match, which is a tribute to those guys and girls doing all that work, and not giving up!

Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarovic, both from Serbia, took to the court under lights for this match. There were many clusters of Serbians fans all around the stadiums, as the players got serious on court early on.

Janko put up a good fight during the first set against the World Number 2 (although he is ranked 9 himself), but a few errors made him angry at himself come the start of the second set, and Nole just put the foot down, really! An easy ride into the final set for the next day, although not before another rain delay, making this a very late night for the players, and also those spectators who waited it out.

I feel completely warmed up to complete my Slam now, with the US Open at the end of the month. Canada put on a good tournament, with many of the crowd demonstrating the patience that is needed for the love of this sport!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Walking In Memphis

I had Marc Cohn's Walking In Memphis in my head for much of my weekend down South, despite having a hire car and actually driving around for most of it!

My hotel was a little way out, and getting to places I wanted to see was just easy with the car - plus the heat that weekend was oppressive, and would have been a factor in getting around without the joy of an air conditioned car to break up the stops. There are shuttle buses around Memphis to get out to Graceland and to Sun Studio, but I really recommend getting a car.

I made sure I went into town once the sun went down, to check out the scene that is the infamous Beale Street. I parked, and lined up at the security line to get into the street blocked off to traffic for the night. And it was teaming with people, out to have a big Saturday night.

The Home of the Blues strip is full of neon, outside drink stalls, clubs and spruikers, and music coming out of every establishment. Names like BB King's Blues Club are lit up, and create the buzz of blues and jazz all the way along the street.

Down here on Beale Street, a block party happens every weekend, both Friday and Saturday nights. It reminded me very much of Bourbon Street down in New Orleans.

About halfway down there was a park on one side of the street, with a market and a stage set up. A band played their mix of jazzy blues, and had gathered a crowd of listeners. I stopped here for a bit to let the moody tunes add to the atmosphere all around me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll

After Graceland I was keen to complete my tour of music in Memphis, and drove around to find Sun Studio. Heralded as the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, after a very young Elvis Presley come to lay his first track down to vinyl here, with his unmistakable croon and rhythm.

When I arrived and had taken in the view of the outside, I was delighted at the refreshing air conditioned comfort of the cafe. But learning that the next tour was at least 40 minutes away had me wondering whether I should hang around, or just push on to something else. Luckily, a delicious milkshake was in store for me, as I sat at the stools where all sorts of music names must have sat, and waited it out - because the tour was really great!

Just a small group had gathered for the last tour of the day, and our cute guide with her Southern accent took us through the record store and up the stairs to the gallery of history.

The story goes that a very young Elvis came in one day, and asked to make a record as a present for his mother's birthday. But it is thought that he just wanted to met and impressed owner Sam Phillips, and be discovered. Apparently Sam didn't care much for this young rock singer's style, as the song My Happiness did not match with the style the studio was cutting at the time, nor the sound Sam was searching for to launch his little record label.

It's Alright was the song that got everything started, when a persistent Elvis was jamming after a recording session the next year, and Sam finally heard something he really liked.

Our guide played us the original cut of both of these tracks, and also part of a little song you may have heard of called Walk The Line - including a demonstration of that distinct sound Johnny Cash added with a piece of card under his strings. She was very cute - and it was spine-tingling to hear these tracks played out above the very rooms in which they were recorded. She brought these stories to life, with the grabs of recorded music.

Another highlight of the tour was playing us the footage of one of Elvis' first TV appearances, before they changed the angle to avoid broadcasting those hip movements...our guide said she had had someone on a tour earlier in the day who remembered seeing that on the day it was aired, and then having her parents ban her from watching television. So risque, apparently! Oh dear....if only they knew what we are subjected to now!

Taking us downstairs into the little block that is the actual Studio, which is still functional and in business today, our guide told us of the many artists who made this studio a worldwide name. The list included Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison, and then the story of the Million Dollar Quartet. We got to hear one of these tracks too - so amazing.

This is the microphone that Elvis used, at about this same spot for some of his recordings here in this little room. Getting this shot is a bit of fun right at the end of the tour.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lorraine Motel

Another big drawcard for my weekend in Memphis was the idea of visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Motel. This is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was gunned down on that fateful day in April, 1968.

Room 306 is intact, as it was the evening of his assassination, which is kind of eerie and also such a tribute to the man who fought for racial equality and the rights of African Americans in America. Tea trays are there on display in the room, which Dr King had just left to go for dinner, when he was shot on the balcony by a sniper.

In what must have been the reception area of the Motel is the entrance and beginning of the museum, which outlines the struggles for Black America to be counted, to travel on the bus with a right to a seat, to use the restrooms in a public place without segregation, and have access to the same education as their White colleagues.

The rooms of the Museum before you reach the preserved Room 306 outline the struggles, and the gaining of power of the movement towards legal equality. Footage of the I Have A Dream speech is played, which paired up my previous weekend's trip so coincidentally to provide me with this strong American history lesson.

King's work, his gaining of voice, and his arrests in the struggle to his last day, it laid out in photos and articles. The photo of him in his prison shot is pretty amazing to see.

One of the most powerful stories is that of Mrs. Rosa Parks and her arrest which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Arrested because she would not give up her seat to a White person, the civil rights movement then activated a boycott of the buses by the Black community. A boycott of 381 days, before the financial toll on the city of Montgomery and the blight that the violence towards the boycotting people by White supremists, led to change. This non-violent protest put the spotlight on the violation of civil rights, and launched King as a national symbol and leader of the movement towards equality.

At the Museum, you can step onto a bus and see Mrs Parks in her seat, and hear the orders barked at her by the bus driver. You can then here the call the driver puts through to have her arrested.

Taken from Mrs Parks' autobiography, she reiterated about that day:

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Ever since I watched some of those midday movies with Elvis and his super smooth moves, and dreamy voice, I have wanted to check out Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. The home of Elvis was the main reason for a weekend trip down to the Southern American state 2 weeks ago.

Arriving at Graceland and purchasing a ticket for the tour of the estate, I was allotted a time slot for the mini-bus across the road to the house. In the meantime, in the heat and to avoid the crazy line of tourists, I took in some of the other museum rooms, before my ticket was called up.

Given a self-guiding audio equipment, I was loaded into the bus and taken across the road, through the famous Graceland gates, and up to the front door. The audio tour began, and told us that Elvis brought this house when he was just 22 years of age, for his family to live in, for just over $100,000, just as his stardom was taking off. Wow! What was I doing at 22 again??

Instructed to follow along with the audio device, the busload was showed into the front door, and we started with the front room with the stained glass windows and piano.

Shown his parents' room downstairs by following the guide attached to my ear, guests of Graceland are not actually taken upstairs to Elvis' private rooms. The live guide standing in this area relayed that he was a very private person in life, in terms of his family and private life, and thus this is still respected today.

The guide instructed me to walk through the dining room, all decked out, and into the fairly modest kitchen. With very 70s trimmings, the audio feed informed me that there was always food available in this room as people came and went within the house. Next was the Jungle Room, the sitting room decked in animal and greenery - all wood and fur fittings!

Downstairs to the basement level, the guide in my ear told me about the room with Elvis' music collection and the mirrored ceiling. This room had 3 televisions added side by side when The King saw that President Johnson kept up with the news with such a set up, according to the voice in my ear.

Making my way outside to the backyard, the guide took me through Vernon's office out the back, which broadcasts a cute little grab of an interview Elvis did when he returned from his military service. He advised it's best to toe the line in the Army...and dodged a question from the media scum about leaving a heart behind!

Back out into the Memphis heat and past Lisa Marie's swing set in the yard, the walkway took me along the fence of the stables before reaching the trophy building. Here, as Elvis sang about being a Hunk of Burning Love on the audio feed, I took in the vast array of musical career hits and awards. This building also took me past the movie works, the wedding outfits of Elvis and Priscilla, and then the return to stage with the '68 Comeback Special.

The final two stops at the Graceland mansion are the Racquetball Room and the Meditation Garden, where his gravesite and those of his family, are.

The sports court has an adjoining sitting room, where my audio guide relayed instances of group jam sessions and people watching racquetball through the glass wall to the full size court - and also that Elvis spent time at the piano in here on his last day. The racquetball court is now a shrine to the music of The King, with posthumous awards from all over the world, including a few ARIAs, and his array of costumes from Vegas shows. In here a screen plays a full live song, which I stopped for and watched in awe.

The audio guide speaks of Elvis' prescription drug issues, and reminded me of his untimely death at just 42. Heart failure, the voice in my ear reminded me, in the year I was born. This delivery gave me a heavy heart as I walked out into the Meditation Garden, and past the burial sites of the Presleys.

This visit gave me a renewed love of the music and the man that was Elvis Presley. The strong sense of family is here to see in his provision of everything he and his could need. A feeling of sadness at the journey Elvis' life took, and succumbed too, filled me before a sense of delight sparked as one of his amazing hits filled my car from a local radio station as I drove away.
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