Spoiler alert: It’s a Canadian perspective, eh?
The last time I was in the US of A on Independence day, we were in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011. I’m sad to say it was slightly anti-climactic. In comparison, 2013 was… a cupcake…literally.
Approaching our hotel in the city on July 3, I already felt my excitement beginning to mount. South street is a hipster kind of deal, stretching for miles with no grass and lots of cute little townhouse looking colonial buildings squished up together amongst unique boutiques and restaurants. Our hotel was down the street from a stern and aged ornate kind of city hall, surrounded by antique churches with cemeteries and brick buildings with character, sitting on top of hidden eighties-style underground malls. Parking is a nightmare. But once parked, we were able to freely explore.
Lesson 1: From now on when I travel to big cities, I will choose hotels in central locations over suburbs or ‘burrows’ as the east coasters call them.
Then July 4th happened. It was singularly fascinating. Andrew and the kids partook of the free historical Once Upon a Nation Story-telling Benches tour. I and my sister-in-law went wander-shopping and philly cheese steak hunting. But the cupcakes!
We stumbled upon 1776 cupcakes that were free and frosted red, white and blue, nestled neatly on a 30 foot L shaped table to resemble a huge Stars and Stripes banner. In the light of my particular love affair with baked goods and party planning, it was intoxicating. I had read online the night before about this nation’s ‘largest street party’, without expecting that we would actually be able to weave our way through the crowds to find it. So I was dizzy with excitement to actually unwittingly stumble upon it and end up being 15th in line, in air conditioning, while the rest of the line, in hundreds, snaked around the block several times in sweltering heat. It would be the cake that fed 2000 people. Historic in a kitchsy Americana Biggest and Best kind of way. So our blind exploring had us line up for half an hour, taking turns to hold the line whilst the other two went for water and bathroom breaks in the Philadelphia Visitor Center.
Lesson 2: Research and plan for your trip. I know. State the obvious. But I’m not a natural trip planner. And since my sister-in-law and husband are information hound-dogs, I tend to sit back and let them loose. I follow their trail and it usually takes me to good places. But I know if I hadn’t taken that little bit of effort to do a google search or two and click on one or two links, I wouldn’t have known ahead of time what those cupcakes were for and I wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to quickly nab a spot in line. It pays to be informed.