Happy birthday, America!

The US is a country of great national pride and no day can provide more evidence for that than the 4th of July. Patriotism is not something that comes natural to us Germans for the obvious reasons. However, witnessing how an entire country celebrates its existence and dream for its future, did leave me with a few goose bumps. 

We wanted to honor this important milestone (i.e. the declaration of independence in 1776, in case you enjoyed history in school as much as I did) in the same way Americans typically do. I surveyed some of my US peeps about their 4th of July routines and traditions and it all boiled down to three things: 1) spend time with your loved ones, 2) enjoy some tasty food, 3) watch the fireworks.

This seemed pretty easy and achievable. As there was no strict protocol to follow, we started the day with a healthy oatmeal breakfast and some workout. We figured that the day would not end half as healthy.

Contemplating how to best spend the afternoon in anticipation of the famous fireworks later in the evening, we were confident that one of the best ideas would be to head to the beaches of Lake Michigan. We prepared a lovely picnic, put on our swim clothes, packed the car and drove in direction to the lake.

Well, it turned out we were not the only ones who felt drawn to the water on a day where the sun was shining brightly at 90 degrees Fahrenheit (to all the Germans: this is way above 30°C). The beaches were packed and so were the roads.

Bumper to bumper on Lake Shore Drive

It took us close to an hour and quite some nerves before we finally reached a beach far north of the center of the city, where the police had not yet blocked the exits from Lake Shore Drive, because parking lots were overflowing. It would also be a slight exaggeration to call what we found a real beach, as it felt more like an extended grassy area with some sort of view across the water.

We located a spot that gave us a few inches of shade (from a tiny tree which seemed to just have been planted) and enough space to unfold our picnic blanket (white/blue/red by coincidence). Unpacking all the lovely things we were planning to eat and drink, we were hoping for a few relaxing hours in the sun and shade.

We brought freshly prepared chicken and veggie sandwiches, aromatic strawberries, grapes and peaches, to-die-for mini cakes, different kinds of smoothies and roasted cashews.

Our picnic selection

Yet, after exactly one hour and one quick dip in the water (others, not me), we were done picnicking and ready to move on. Not only was it steaming hot and the miniscule bit of shade not even large enough to cover our toes (note to self: time to buy a beach umbrella). We were also smoked in by countless barbecues, surrounded by families each the size of a football team and listened to as many kinds of music as there were blankets on the sand (oh wait, I meant grass 😉). I admit, I might just not have been in the right mood to appreciate this obviously ecstatic atmosphere of fun and enjoyment on such a special day.

The evening seemed to be more promising. Fireworks were scheduled to take place from Chicago’s Navy Pier between 9:30 and 9:45pm and best to be viewed from any of Chicago’s southbound lake shore spots. We decided where we wanted to go, picked up an Aurelio’s pizza on the way and followed the thousands of Chicagoans and tourists to the scenic waterfront.

Many were equipped with food and drinks (alcohol to be camouflaged), blankets and cameras, ready to enjoy the greatest show of the year. It did not quite qualify as the greatest show for us (not as stunning as some of the German fireworks on New Year’s Eve), but certainly was an enjoyable event with a beautiful view of the skyline. Even more notable for us were the many illuminated buildings throughout the city, each appearing in white, red and blue.

Our highlight, however, was that we got to spend our 4th of July with a dear friend from Germany, who visited us for a week. Thank you, Claudia, for the wonderful time we had together. We do already miss you quite a bit!

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