by Melinda Gallo

First day in Memphis

I have only been to the South two times and both times briefly. I went to Houston about 20 years ago and New Orleans a few years ago. So, I am always amazed at how friendly and cordial people are here in the South. I went walking around downtown Memphis near the hotel with a few friends from Italy. I had expected Memphis to be a bustling metropolis, but it seems quiet and the pace quite slow. The weather was rather warm and humid, but we walked around the streets to see what Memphis had to offer.

Living in Florence :: First day in Memphis

We were surprised to find only a few shops and many abandoned or very empty buildings all along the streets. I wasn't as surprised as my friends to find that we were usually the only people walking on the sidewalks.

There weren't that many tourists, but I did see one couple from our hotel at least four times today.

We decided to take the tramway that they have going down Main Street. The driver stopped and opened the doors, so I walked up the steps to talk to him. "Where are you going?" he asked. I first said that I didn't know, but explained that we'd like to go to the shops downtown in the direction he was going. He smiled at me and said, "There ain't no shops down there." The other people in the tram giggled and I just smiled. He told us to go the other way where there are a few shops.

We walked down the street in the opposite direction. He told us it was only three blocks, but it was more like eight.

We saw a few artsy shops, a restaurant or two, and a pastry shop. We kept walking to the end of Main street and found nothing. I took a few pictures of colorfully painted parking meters and a couple of interesting buildings, which looked deserted.

We got on the tram to go back in the direction we wanted to go and got off at Walgreens, which is the only shop we knew we could buy a few things like water, etc.

After our brief stop, we got back on and asked the driver if we could go to the end of the line. He nodded his head and we paid the $1 fare for each of us.

When we got to the end of the line, the other three passengers got off and we followed. We ended up at the bus station next to a police station. We walked across the street to the shop attached to the gas station because the driver told us there were shops in the little mall. In fact, there was nothing that interested us, so we walked back and waited for the tram.

The first driver that we talked to was the one who picked us back up. He recognized us and smiled. I explained that we decided to just go to the end of the line and back. This time I told him exactly where we were going.

At one point, someone got on and started talking about football. Our driver became animated and many of the passengers were talking about the game. The energy was very playful and fun. My friends and I listened in and enjoyed watching them all.

When we got off the tram, I asked the driver if I could take his picture because he had been so sweet to us. He said yes, flashed a smile, and waved goodbye when he went past us.

For a first day in Memphis, I was very pleased. Everyone we passed in the street said hello to us and would help us out any time we asked for anything. So far, the South's reputation for being hospitable has been validated for me.

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