Day 140: Out With The Old, In with The New

Mon. 31st December 2012

Like giant flowers blooming over the cityIt is appropriate that we are in Sydney over the New Year and therefore able to make use of all of the opportunities of a major city to update and replace our kit. So it is not just the year that is changing as we are able to update our wardrobes and our travel technology. Whilst we wait for the festivities and fireworks this evening, our priority in the morning as we catch the ferry into the city is to do some shopping.

The old and the new in Sydney City CentreThis is our first opportunity to see the city centre in Sydney and we are immediately struck by the diversity of the architecture in the city – not just the skyscrapers clustered together in the business district but also the mix of old (Georgian?) buildings in yellow sandstone right next to modern glass and stainless steel counterparts. A reminder that there is some history to this city – even if it isn’t built on Spanish lines with a Plaza Mayor!

Victoria Galleries Shoping MallWe shouldn’t be surprised that there is a Westfield shopping mall here as Westfield is an Australian company. It did however bring back memories of the Westfield in Stratford right by the Olympic Park that we passed through so often back in July and August. Clothes shopping is Janet’s priority and she succeeds in finding a new T-shirt and some shorts – they were even in the sale. I am less successful. In addition to being mindful that everything we buy needs to be carried, I’m also not looking for nice clothes – I want a cheap T-shirt that has something distinctive of Sydney about it but won’t matter if it doesn’t make it back to the UK (like my Che T-shirt which now needs replacing).

Technology refresh!We also decide that we need to supplement the laptop to ease some of the time pressure on it and so splash out on a Surface tablet (well it is Xmas!). This is Microsoft’s (belated) answer to the iPad and importantly it does a couple of things that the iPad can’t do, including let us update the budget spreadsheet. Along with the two new phones that were waiting for us when we arrived in the apartment, we are now fully toyed up. It is definitely Xmas and I do have a reputation to maintain!!

Crowds gathering in the Botanical GardensAll around Sydney, we can see signs of the preparations for tonight’s fireworks – banners up everywhere, road signs announcing the closure of roads, and crowds of people around the harbour laden down with bags and eskies (cold boxes). We catch the ferry back to the apartment at around 4pm and as it passes the Opera House we hear an announcement that the grounds around the Opera House are now full and no more people will be admitted. And there is still 8 hours to go.

Karruba Point - Getting ready for the showOnce again we are really grateful to Lynette for letting us stay in her apartment so close to the shore and with views out over the harbour and the bridge. We are even able to watch the aerobatic display which is one of the supporting shows from the balcony of the apartment.


The view from our vantage point

The view at duskThere are two firework shows with a display at 9pm for families with kids as well as the main show at midnight. We decide to use the early display to check out whether the view from Kurraba Point (which is very close to us) is good enough or  whether we need to walk along to Cremorne Point which sticks out further into the harbour but will be more crowded. As it turns out, we got a patch of grass on the bank by the shore and had a fantastic view of the harbour and the bridge and about half of the Opera House. There were perhaps a couple of hundred people dotted around the bank with picnics of varying degrees of sophistication. The sun is setting as we arrive and we are able to appreciate the natural light show over the water and the glass in the city. Even better, the alcohol policy is relaxed and so we’ll be able to bring our champagne down for the main event.

Skyscrapers and boats both lit upOnce it is dark, there is a parade of boats up and down the harbour – a more sophisticated version of the draping Christmas lights round your house that happens back in the UK. All very relaxed and a real change to be able to sit out in shorts and T-shirt on New Year’s Eve. Even without the fireworks it would have been a lovely evening.

Fireworks on Harbour BridgeThe fireworks were all that we had hoped they would be – the 9pm show was pretty good but the main show was incredibly spectacular. Fireworks were launched not just from the Bridge and the Opera House but also from the top of some of the skyscrapers and also from barges moored up and down the harbour. This meant that everyone got a great view and we didn’t need to go down to Cremorne Point let alone be right in the city. We later found out that some 15 tons of fireworks were let off (1 ton / minute) – I can believe it! Was it the best firework display I’ve ever seen? Perhaps. The only display that would come close were the effects at the Olympics opening ceremony – but there, it was all tied up in the magic of the event and was much shorter. The video below is a little snippet:

Fireworks over Sydney Harbour from Dave Hornsey on Vimeo.

A brilliant displayAt the end of the 15 minute display we toasted in the New Year – a few minutes late but as we are 11 hours ahead of the UK, who’s counting! We meander back to the apartment just enjoying being part of the crowd and the event. When planning our trip, one of the cornerstones has always been New Year’s Eve in Sydney. Now like so many of our other milestones it is behind us – but like so many places it has more than lived up to our expectations. With the clock showing 1:01 on the 1/1, we eventually turn out the bedroom light at the end of another great day, but the start of what we hope will be a very Happy New Year for all our family and friends.

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