Layover Life : 5 Things You Need to do in Memphis, Tennessee

Ahh Friday, what a glorious day you are and one that I actually have off so major plus!

This week I got sent to the airport to sit standby and was quickly informed I’d be working to Memphis for a 30 hour layover.  I have actually been to Memphis when I was younger and did both Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum (both absolute musts if you’re in the area) but I wasn’t sure what I’d want to do for one day and one day only. I texted my sister who lives in Nashville what one should do in Memphis and she said “nothing! Ha. Peabody Hotel, Arcade for Brunch & Graceland.”

Having already done 2 out of the 3 of those things I set off to make a new plan and here’s what I came up with to fill my last minute layover in Memphis!

1. Take a Tour of Sun Studio.

Sun Studio is where greats like B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley all recorded some of their early work in. In fact Elvis & Johnny both recorded their very first songs in the single room that still stands virtually untouched today. The tour is $14 and lasts about an hour. It’s guided by incredibly passionate music fans- our guide Jason sang along with every song he shared and you couldn’t help but at least tap your foot in solidarity. The moment I left I found myself down a rabbit hole researching all of the amazing songs that had been recorded in that room and of course creating a very dorky playlist to go along with it. I loved the tour! Bonus: when you purchase a ticket you also receive use of a free shuttle service that brings you to Beale Street and also to Graceland which is a great value!

2. Stuff your face at Central BBQ.

Memphis BBQ where can you really go wrong? Honestly, you can’t. Let me tell you though, when you want to go really right, you go to Central BBQ. This place is so good it has 4 locations in the greater Memphis area so no matter where you are you can enjoy it! The brisket was so tender and I loved the hot BBQ sauce that came along with it. Everyone who worked there was really nice and made me feel like I was home- well except Jeopardy! wasn’t on and though my mom’s mac & cheese is my forever favorite it’s quite different! Oh and she sure as hell never made us brisket. This place is special folks, you’ve got to try it.

3. Live Music & Big Ass Beers on Beale Street.

Of course what is a trip to Memphis without testing out the open container law on Beale Street? I’m just kidding but I did stop for a “Big Ass Beer” at King’s Palace and listened to some live music in their courtyard which was a great way to spend an afternoon despite the fact that it was 100 degrees and I felt like I was dying a little inside sitting out there (my New England/Irish blood has a serious aversion to humidity haha) To be honest, I actually don’t know that I’d care to spend any time on Beale at night- call me a loser but I don’t even like Bourbon Street after 5 PM so for me an hour during the day was perfect.

4. Watch the Peabody Ducks Waddle through the hotel lobby.

If you don’t already know about the historic duck march through the lobby of the Peabody hotel, click here immediately to find out. Now you can continue this post… I decided to check out the 5pm session when the ducks are marched from the fountain back to their penthouse suite on the roof. I arrived around 3:30 because I was in desperate need of some air-conditioning and I’m actually glad I did. I got a seat at the bar and met a nice older couple who put the duck walk ever so simply “they roll the red carpet out, the Duck Master makes a 5 minute entertaining speech, the ducks walk to an elevator and we clap like morons.” They made sure I had as good a spot as possible though because even as morons, it was still unbelievably special! There were probably 150-200 people on multiple floors of the hotel lobby looking down at these birds waddling away on a Tuesday afternoon. You’ve just got to check this out friends!

5. Take in the sunset on the rooftop at Hu. Hotel.

This was my favorite part of the day, easily! The rooftop bar at Hu. Hotel is small but mighty in it’s spectacular views of the Mississippi River and cozy rooftop seating. The bar menu had some great options for beer & wine but their cocktail list looked inspired! Still pretty full from the BBQ lunch I ordered an appetizer with a glass of rose (#basic) and sat for an hour enjoying the views. The hummus was delicious! I don’t know how busy it would be on a weekend as I was going up on a Tuesday (ayy) but I can’t recommend it enough! I loved it so much that I’d love to see what the rest of the hotel and it’s rooms were like on my next visit.

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From the moment crew scheduling called me to basically last night when I got back from working my trip “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn was stuck in my head. If you follow me on my Instagram you’d know that I went a little hard on using the song lyrics to dictate my day but hey, I had a prayer in Memphis! So the next time you find yourself in Memphis even just for a day like me, you should absolutely add these stops to your to do list! I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Oh but if the shuttle driver puts her hand out to grab your luggage, do not shake it. The alarming look on her face will shake both of you to your core. I’m so awkward

I hope you have a great weekend filled with rooftop bars, great views and all of the BBQ- or cleaning, like me. I mean, we can’t always be walking in Memphis!

Kari

Travel Guide: Tulum, Mexico

I‘m going to start out by saying like all good stand-by travel trips this one began with an entirely different plan.

I had never been to Mexico. I had plenty of friends who had vacationed in Cancun and at all-inclusive resorts all over the country but for whatever reason it was never a big destination goal for me. Luckily a friend of mine had just gone to Tulum and shared photos of beautiful beaches, fresh, creative food and a kind of hippie-vibe that stuck with me. So when our plan for Germany fell apart, Tulum became the focus and off we went.

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Lodging: The hotel zone in Tulum is widely considered the beach area that goes for a couple of miles. Here you’ll find beachfront cabanas, private pools, balconies overlooking the ocean and some of the coolest architecture I have seen in this kind of area. Many of these hotels seemed to be more on the expensive side but from what I can tell are absolutely worth the price. I could honestly spend all day looking at photos from Azulik & Papaya Playa Project‘s Instagram accounts, seriously give them a look!

Another area of boutique style hotels has popped up between the Tulum Pueblo and the Beach which is where we ended up finding Naay Boutique Hotel. Naay was a small hotel with plenty of charm and a rooftop pool area that could not be beat. Free parking, bike rentals and a really clean, comfortable room. The real winner of this hotel was the breakfast included. Every morning the nicest staff ever served freshly squeezed juice, assorted muffins, a fruit plate and so many main course options. I still dream about this breakfast to quite frankly.

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Day 1: 

We arrived just before dinner so we headed over to Tulum Pueblo to check out the “downtown.” Lined with souvenir shops this was definitely the place to get your more inexpensive gifts. We stopped for food at a little taco shop but let me tell you the entire block of restaurants smelled incredible. We found ourselves on a little post-dinner pub crawl on Calle Centauro S. Between restaurant/bars like Pasito Tun Tun & La Malquerida we had the best time swinging life away- no really, there were swings instead of bar stools- and drinking a few too many tequila shots because Mexico, am I right??

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Day 2: 

After breakfast at our hotel we drove out to the Tulum ruins. Tulum is the only Mayan city that was built on the coast and these ancient ruins are only minutes from the center of town. The ruins are scattered over quite a large area and really well labeled if you’re a nerd like me wanting to learn what they once were. Like most tourist traps they are  visited by thousands of people every day (think tour bus central) so we were glad we went early before the tours really started to get going. The views overlooking the ocean are breathtaking and with these ruins being so easily bikeable from anywhere in town I’d highly recommend stopping by to see them.

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After trekking around the ruins we made our way down the hotel zone to find a spot to set up for a beach day. I had read that a lot of the hotels allowed you to sit by their cabanas for free so long as you were buying food/drink but the one in particular we had heard good reviews of was La Zebra Hotel. We found a bed, made friends with the bartender and ate some of the most incredible fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life!

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After La Zebra we headed over to Coco Tulum because I had been heavily influenced by all of the photos I’d seen on Instagram while doing research- we decided to stay for a drink but honestly it was pretty overrated. The music was unbearable and the vibe was just a little tacky while also being expensive.

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For dinner we went back to Tulum Pueblo and hit up an Argentinian restaurant called Estancia Jujena. The restaurant’s ambiance was rustic chic, with reclaimed wood being the focus and candles lit everywhere. The menu was large but if you go and don’t get as many empanadas as possible I’ll be disappointed in you. After dinner we headed over to Batey Mojito Bar which may have been my favorite part of the entire trip. The fresh sugar cane made for some of the most incredible mojitos. There was an awesome live band and the servers were all really nice and very on top of their game! It was cash only so keep that in mind when you go.

Day 3:

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After yet another excellent rooftop breakfast we hit the road for the ancient Mayan city of Coba to explore some more ruins.  Located about an hour from Tulum the ruins of Coba are home to one of the only Mayan pyramids that you can still climb to the top of. There is a fee to enter the ruins but once you arrive you can rent bikes for $2 and explore the miles of jungle roads around the site. It honestly felt like being in an Indiana Jones movie. We got there early and headed straight to the pyramid so we could climb it a little before the crowds started to arrive. While it is only 120 steps to the top, these steep and damp steps are no joke. All in all Coba was a must see, especially first thing in the morning before the crowds become overwhelming!

One of the most magical parts of Tulum are the countless cenotes scattered throughout the area. It seems like every mile you drive has another sign advertising these beautiful sinkholes. Newbies to the cenote hunt we opted for one of the more popular ones called the Gran Cenote. Being one of the more touristy ones comes with perks of having clean bathrooms, large changing rooms and plenty of lockers to keep your things in. I’d recommend buying one of those plastic cases for your phone to take underwater photos (we did not, regret that one). There were definitely crowds but you could find a lot of spots that had nobody around. I was fascinated by swimming with all the baby turtles but a whole lot less intrigued by all of the bats chilling when you swim under the cave… in any event visiting cenotes are a must when traveling Tulum! The ones I wish we had also visited were Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Nicte-Ha so when you do go make sure you add those to your list.

Whenever traveling I tend to keep to a budget for most food & beverage purchases with the exception of one special meal at a place I wouldn’t normally go to. On this trip the final meal was at Rosa Negra, a beachy yet upscale Latin American restaurant in the hotel zone. This place was magical! The open restaurant was dimly lit and intimate while also employing an in-house DJ that played everything from lounge music to dance beats. The service from the moment we sat down was world-class and the bartender crafted some of the most unique cocktails.  With a focus on fresh seafood the menu was filled with local produce and showcased their spin on the area’s cuisine perfectly. It was the best meal to finish off a great (yet unexpected) trip to Tulum!

Transportation Tips: Tulum can be found about 1.5 hours west of the Cancun airport. I have heard that there are plenty of buses as well as cars for hire out of Cancun. There are plenty of taxis once you get to Tulum but after talking with friends and figuring that we’d want the freedom to be able to explore the area more we decided to go the rental car route. I would definitely recommend doing your homework before renting a car because in Mexico you are required to buy insurance on top of your own coverage. It is recommended for a whole host of reasons including theft that you go with full-coverage. I’m glad I knew this because I rented a car through Thrifty and added the extra coverage but when I arrived at the airport there was definitely an attempt to strong arm me into purchasing even more coverage. When I showed receipts that I was already covered the gentleman quickly backed down.

I had also heard that people were pulled over for random reasons and “waived on” if they paid the fee of whatever was in their wallet so I made sure to be extra careful about my driving and also what was in my wallet. To be honest, I didn’t have any problems driving or stopping for gas but I was cautious so I would say just be smart about it.

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I know that Tulum has been criticized over the last few years for becoming more and more commercialized but I think they are doing a pretty good job of managing that influx of tourists while maintaining that laid-back beachy vibe it’s known for. Going in I thought I was going to be drawn to the hipster hotel-zone (#basic) and while I did love exploring the unique beach clubs and the restaurant scene- seriously you should see some of these restaurants! I was surprised to find that the Pueblo’s genuine mix of local, expat and tourist vibes was where I actually gravitated towards. Two things I wish we had done but didn’t have enough time for would be a day trip to Chichen Itza and a day trip snorkeling/paddle boarding around the Sian Ka’an. Next time!

I would highly recommend adding Tulum to any travel plans, especially if you’re looking for a relaxed vibe with plenty of added adventures easily available in the area.

Have you been to Tulum? Where did you stay? Would you have done anything differently?

Til next time, friends!

Kari