History, Cotton, & the Waltzing Ducks of the Peabody Hotel

After the Saturday morning Midtown walking tour and spending another 2 hours walking around the gardens and galleries at the Dixon, we had worked up quite the appetite. As a budget traveler, I had done extensive research and purchased several Groupon deals for Memphis before going there. For lunch we used a Groupon to eat at Celtic Crossing, an Irish pub in Midtown. Fish and chips and club sandwiches with local brewed beer were on the menu. We ate some and saved some for later because the portions were so huge!

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Our next stop for the day was Slave Haven, which served as an Underground Railroad station during the Civil War. Now it operates as a house museum which can only been seen via group tours throughout the day. My advice – do NOT go there. It is not worth the price of admission. I may be saying this because 1) there is no ventilation in the house and it was a million degrees and 2) I have claustrophobia so I did not enjoy being crammed in with lots of other smelly people in a hundred degree heat. Or maybe because it is a rambling hour long history lesson about slavery which most school children are aware of. I just didn’t feel like the museum did a good job of preserving the original appearance of the home or presenting history in an interesting and memorable way.

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After our visit at Slave Haven, we stopped back by Mud Island for a walk around the neighborhood with our dog Deuce. He didn’t mind that it was in the heat of the day. We admired the wide streets with sidewalks on both sides which just don’t seem to exist in Louisiana. After refreshing showers, we went back downtown to visit the Cotton Museum, which can also easily be skipped but we stopped in for 30 minutes because I had bought discounted admission on Groupon. The major value of the museum is that it does a nice job of explaining the effect of the cotton boom on Memphis’s economy – specifically that cotton brought in a lot of jobs and a lot of money. The museum’s location is also interesting in that it is in the old Cotton Exchange building which used to be bustling with elite cotton traders.

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Next up on our downtown agenda was a visit to the famous Peabody Hotel at the designated 5pm time for the marching of the ducks from the fountain to the elevator which carries the ducks up to their habitat on the roof of the hotel. What a spectacle! This you must see. We arrived early so the lobby was not too crowded when we walked in. We were able to secure a spot at the bar from which to watch the march. While we ordered our drinks the ducks circled around faster and faster in their marble fountain as though they knew it was almost time to get the show started. Finally, the duck master appeared with great pomp and circumstance… Yes this is actually a career. A real live duck master. I wonder how you train for that?

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By this point the lobby was getting more and more crowded. By 4:50 there was a sea of people crowded around and overflow on the second floor balcony. Everyone was gathered to watch these ducks waddle down their red carpet. The hotel must make so much money off of those ducks. Even our drink stirrers were duck themed.

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Finally we heard a series of announcements and then the ducks were on their way! They rapidly piled out of the pool and ran in a line towards the elevator amidst hundreds of people and cameras. Everyone reached around to try to get a shot of the ducks scrambling down their red carpet. Those ducks did not waste any time. In about 30 seconds they were out of the water and in their elevator headed back to the peace and serenity of their mega expensive rooftop habitat, away from the crazy people with flashing cameras. The whole thing makes for an amusing spectacle. My expression must have looked something like this dogs, who was sitting on a horse drawn carriage outside the hotel. “Man, this is ridiculous but entertaining all at the same time.”

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