Happy New Year!

Sydney goes all out for New Year’s Eve.  We hemmed and hawed about going into the city to watch the fireworks, and finally decided that you can’t be in Sydney on December 31st and not go.  So we packed a picnic, hopped on the bus, and went to one of the free viewpoints.

I wish I had some spectacular photo of the fireworks and the harbor all lit up for NYE.  I do not.    Between the loads of trees, crowds of people, and impossibility of holding a camera steady for a slow shutter without being bumped by a drunk person, this was the best shot I could get.  The blip of fireworks in the corner is only a warning shot that the show would start in 10 minutes.  It’s weak.  Go here to see good ones other people took that actually show how spectacular the harbor looks when it is all lit up.

Most of the views from the park we chose were obscured by trees – which is probably why they don’t charge you to go there.  Other places on the harbor with the more open and sweeping views charge $100 per person for the right to a square of grass from which to watch the show.  While I don’t doubt the view is better than what we saw, I could argue that we got 75% of the effect at a fraction of the cost.  Instead of paying $200 for the spot and then having to buy concessions, we opted for the free park, brought all our own food, and didn’t buy any booze.  Combined with taking advantage of the free public transit after midnight, we actually got away with only spending a total of $3.60  for our entire night (just bus fare to get to the park in the morning.)  Cheapest New Year’s Eve I’ve had in years.

Granted, we spent most of the day waiting.  We left the house at 9:40am, caught the bus to arrive at the park at 10:35am, and waited in line for 2 hours to get into the park (They limit attendance to 17,000 people to this location and people get there as early to get a “good spot,” though I overheard one guy saying he arrived at 7:30am and he didn’t get one of these “good spots.”  There must be 50 of them in the whole park.)  We then spent the rest of the day waiting for the show to start.

If World Tour has taught us anything, it’s how to pass time – and it’s usually in more cramped and uncomfortable places than a blanket in the park.  We picnicked, played cards, read, listened to an NPR podcast, and hid from the sun under our umbrellas. Between the 9pm fireworks display and midnight, we even took a nap in the park, snuggled up on our blanket in the middle of the crowd.

It was a long day, but the midnight show was totally worth it.  Locals we met last week suggested we just watch the show on TV rather than wasting a day waiting for it live.  We were so tempted to take their advice, but I’m incredibly glad we didn’t take the easy way out.  The view you get on TV is probably pretty amazing, but nothing compares to the sensory overload of being completely surrounded by fireworks as they shoot off from the Harbor Bridge, the skyscrapers, and five barges on the water to light up the entire harbor with explosions.  It was spectacular.  The most impressive displays were on the bridge itself, something completely unique to Sydney that we couldn’t see anywhere else.

Ironically, even though I didn’t have a drop of alcohol, I still woke up feeling hungover on New Year’s Day.  I guess several hours of sitting in the sun will dehydrate you enough to feel a bit rough the next day.  Still worth it.

Happy 2013!

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