Valley Forge is a famous winter encampment of the US military during the Revolutionary war against the British. Now it's a huge park and visitor center. It seemed appropriate to go on July 4th, and I reckoned it'd be a great opportunity to brush up on my US history. I have a lot of brushing up to do. I only recently learned that New York was named after the Duke of York and not the city itself, that Virginia was named after Queen Elizabeth I, and Louisiana after the French King (the 14th one). Maryland was named after King Charles I's Catholic wife (and it was also a Catholic safe haven). I do find it slightly ironic that these names stuck even after the US declared independence, but I like that they did.
Valley Forge was great. Their "second annual July 4th picnic" was in full swing when we arrived. This involved BBQ food, kids' games, colonial outfits, toy guns and of course, stars and stripes. We watched Jefferson read out the declaration and we were even offered the chance to sign our independence.
The friendly girl at the stall struck up a conversation with me and I was happy to oblige until she said "uh, where are you from?"
Uh oh. Busted. Oops. Enemy in the ranks.
"Shh, I'm actually British!" I whispered.
"Haha, I thought so, I won't tell!" She laughed.
I added "I just got my Green Card though, so it's aaall fine!" I signed my name, and she joked that it was 'official' now.
It was too darn hot to stay much longer, so we bowed out, and drove back home. I had baked a cake from the Mary Berry Baking Bible I'd been given for Christmas. It was, to emulate the irony of the names of the founding States, a chocolate Victoria Sponge. I thought it seemed apt.
Mark and I cut the cake with the knife we'd been given for our wedding cake, and that Mark had actually forgotten to bring to the wedding. Cheesy, yes, but to be fair we didn't get to spend our first anniversary together, and this is a reminder to make and cut (and eat, I hope) more cakes together.
We ate chicken grilled outside on the family BBQ. No rain, no food poisoning, just your every day US BBQ, not the drenched British renditions I'm used to. Then we settled down to watch the shows on TV. If you're from the Old World (like me) and you've never seen July 4th television before, it bears a resemblance to the Eurovision Song Contest, but as if nobody involved knew it was Eurovision, and with added American patriotism and bravado. And the really great thing is that it's on more than one channel. Oh yes. I think this is something that Eurovision should definitely adopt. We could flick from NY to Capitol Hill to Philly, catch a patriotic revue by a girl from the hit show Smash, watch some smooth jazz, experience the legend that is John Williams, enjoy a bit of bluegrass, and listen to more than one rendition of America the Beautiful if we wanted.
At one point I did start singing along with a familiar tune coming from the Military walking bands. After being reprimanded for my blatant inappropriateness, I discovered it wasn't supposed to be the UK national anthem God Save the Queen, but actually the patriotic US ditty My Country 'Tis of Thee. It's the same tune guys, so forgive a simple Brit's fanfare faux pas?
After all that we watched a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of fireworks blow up all over the country, including some around our neighborhood that sounded way too loud to be legal. We missed the San Diego firework fiasco until the next morning - at any rate I thought it bore a strikingly suspicious resemblance to the Oban November 5th fiasco last year.
But now, holiday is definitely over. Time to get used to living here for real…