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The Free Port At The River Inn Will Get You Rolling On The (Mississippi) River

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  Site Where: 50 Harbor Town Square [map], Memphis, TN, United States, 38103
August 5, 2011 at 10:29 AM | by | ()

All this week, Julia Buckley will be taking us down the Blues trail in the Mississippi Delta and giving us the lowdown on the hotel scene. So kick off your blue suede shoes and get comfy.

Chocolate, schmocolate. Turndown service usually leaves us slightly cold – or rather, it did until our stay at the River Inn of Harbor Town in Memphis two weeks ago. Because there, turndown not only means a gussied up bed. It not only means posh, round, Ferrero Rocher-like truffles rather than a tasteless slab of sugar on the pillow. No, at the River Inn, turndown also means a little carafe of port.

Why mention Memphis in HotelChatter's official Mississippi Delta Week? Because if you’re traveling to the Delta, it’s most likely that you’ll start off (and end up) in Memphis. Not only is it the closest major airport to the Delta, but it’s a fitting place to top and tail your trip, seeing as Memphis was the town all the blues musicians wanted to get to.

We’ve been to Memphis a couple times now, but never had much luck with hotels, the Benchmark being the low point, and the surprisingly snazzy Motel 6 in Horn Lake the high – but it’s a 20 minute drive from town. And though we’ve hung out and watched the duck parade at the Peabody, it’s always been out of our budget or fully booked.

But this time was third time lucky in Memphis, and not just because of the port.

The River Inn is on Mud Island, a smidgeon west of downtown, on, as the name suggests, an island in the Mississippi (although, luckily, it didn’t flood earlier this year). And although that means you need to drive to Beale Street, the location is spectacular: about 30ft from the river, with plum views of sunset from the rooms (which are spread over two buildings, across the street from one another) and the rooftop terrace bar of the main building. Watch the barges ploughing their way along the river as the sun sets over Arkansas, and you’ll forget what Beale Street is, anyway. First gold star.

Second gold star: your room rate includes a free breakfast in the restaurant downstairs, where you can have anything from French toast to waffles to omelettes to eggs benedict. You also get a muffin, croissant, juice and coffee. It will definitely set you up for a Graceland marathon. Third gold star: the staff. The housekeepers were lovely, the lady at check in was lovely (fourth gold star: free champagne at check in), the breakfast waiter was so lovely that he even complimented us on our look for the day (yes, you tip additionally to your free breakfast). We stayed one night at the start of our Delta trip, and one at the end, and when we arrived the second time, we felt as if we knew them all. Not bad.

Rooms are nothing you’ve not seen before – they’re that standard, posh traditional American hotel, all neutral colors, dark wood furnishings and marble bathrooms, comforting but not exciting. Although we were excited by our four poster bed on our first night. On our second, we were upgraded to a suite (the Kate Adams suite) and the excitement came from the windows facing three directions for extra river views as we sat using our free WiFi (fifth gold star).

Not that any of that was as exciting as the port, obviously.

Rooms start at $159, and suites at $375. Roomwise, we actually preferred 306 - it was softer, and the bedroom area was bigger than in the suite. But then, we're not big on clearly defined suites (ie smallish bedroom, corridor, big living room) unless we're entertaining inside them.

Disclosure: Juliab stayed as a guest of the Memphis CVB, as part of an article for a UK magazine

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