Learn to Love New Year's Eve
Every year as New Year approaches, the same questions get asked, “what are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” or “where are you going to see in the New Year?” and these are promptly followed by a number of responses like “New Year’s Eve is always a disappointment” or “nothing, I’ve gone places before and it’s always been an anti-climax”. I can honestly say that’s hasn’t been the case for me. Perhaps it’s because I always have a lot of interesting options on the table or perhaps it’s because I’ve never paid to go into a nightclub for the big night.
As the hours tick down, I’m looking back at some of the fantastic New Year celebrations I have had and how you can do something really big on small budget.
New Year 2007
We decided to go away for New Year this year. We thought about London but decided we wanted bigger, so we put our Euros where our mouths were and booked New Year in Paris.
We bought ourselves tickets on the Eurostar travelling from Ashford straight into the Gare du Nord in Paris. Nowadays, we can also travel from Ebbsfleet in Kent, which is closer to my house. We also booked ourselves into an inexpensive 3-star hotel. I can honestly say a few years on, I can’t remember what the hotel was called or where it was, but I remember it being very reasonably priced (about £40 each for the night) and within easy access of a metro station, just a few stop from the centre of Paris.
We booked with Rail Europe, who have recently rebranded to Voyages SNCF. You can book your Eurostar up to 6 months in advance, so if you book nice and you will be able to take advantage of their cheapest fares. Return tickets start at just £69.
Once in Paris and fully checked in to our hotel, we spent the day wandering around the sites and browsing through shop and stalls offering chic Parisian fashion.
We decided to go for a meal, which was no mean feat as there were 8 of us and it was busy in Paris. We headed to the Latin Quarter, as friends of mine had told me this was one of the nicer areas and we promptly found a cute little bistro serving hearty food. After we finished eating we wandered over to the Eiffel Tower to see the magnificent structure in all its glory. At New Year, this is really something to see. The tower can and does change colour. When we there it was glowing a magnificent gold colour, but I’ve heard stories of silver glitter and rainbow colours.
This isn’t where we decided to spend our New Year. We made slow but solid progress across the side street with the aim to line the Champs-Élysées to see what came next. Over the festive period, the Champs-Élysées is an impressive sight, as thousands of lights are strung through the trees, all the way along the 2km stretch. We picked up some champagne on the way and waited for the big countdown.
What happened next was somewhat surprising. The countdown began and when we hit ‘zero’ the lights lining the Champs-Élysées went out. We expected to be able to see fireworks, but our slight lack of planning meant we weren’t able to see the official display. I had been warned by a friend that the Parisians would let off fireworks in the street, which is exactly what happened next. After a short period of hugging one another, a few toasts and some photos, we decided for our safety to reconvene our celebrations off the main street and retreated into a small but elegant looking bar which was serving French beer. The bar also offered warmth and seats. We had been on our feet for some time so it was nice to kick back and relax for a bit. The Parisians that we spoke to were extremely friendly, responding to our ‘bonne année’ with an equally jubilant ‘happy new year’ (in English). After a while we retreated, using the easy-to-navigate Paris metro, back to our hotel room for a good night’s sleep.
The following day, after a lazy continental brunch and a browse for some souvenirs, we were whisked back to the UK via the efficiency of Eurostar. My friends and I all agree, not only was our New Year truly memorable, but it set a precedence for New Years to come. The atmosphere, hospitality of the French, the quality of the transport and hotel all made this New Year extra special, but above all it was the company. I spent New Year with some of my closest friends, bringing 2006 to a close and opening 2007 with an exciting bang. The following year we travelled to Brussels for New Year, but that’s another tale for another time.
We bought our Eurostar tickets from Voyages-SNCF (formerly Rail Europe).
If you are thinking of visiting Paris, please check out my suggested itinerary.
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