Bucket List – Check

December 31 – Narrated by Alaina

Ever since I was a little girl I can remember watching how the different cities ring in the new year. While my family would grab pots and pans, go outside and bang the heck out of them; I was always mesmerized by the global celebrations, especially Sydney.
Being one of the first countries to kick off the year and featuring the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the opera house and having amazing pyrotechnics, Sydney always appeared to be the city to beat.

 To go even further, this entire trip was planned around NYE. I laid out several different itinerarys and even a couple months prior to leaving, I switched a few things up.

Here were the priorities:

-Be in Sydney for NYE

-NZ needed to be at least 16+ days

-We wanted to still travel to the Great Barrier

Here were the obstacles:


-ridiculously exhorbitant hotel/AirBnb rates in Sydney for NYE

-making sure we had enough time in each place

Somehow everything managed to fall into place, especially when I made the decision that we would only spend 24 hours in Sydney for NYE, leave the following day for the Great Barrier and have Sydney backend the trip. We saved hundreds of dollars by not needing accomodation around the holiday.

Enough of that, now you have an understanding of our rationale. We arrived from NZ around 8am – of course NZ had to make a final statement from the plane:

 Being somewhat exhausted, we dropped our luggage off at the airport storage facility and headed into the city. We visited Hyde Park where I encouraged Mike to lay down on the park bench and get some sleep (the tired grumpies were creeping up quickly). He got a nice 1:15 nap in and then we headed to meet up with my parents friends who live outside the city and were in posession of our boat cruise tickets.

Jan and Brian Buckley have known my parents for over 25 years… when they visited the states and drove through Maine on their way to Canada they stopped into the Kennebunk Inn. The rest is history, Mom and dad have always kept in touch and even visited years ago! It was great seeing them, their lovely daughter Kelli and having a delicious lunch at Bills, a restaurant popular with the locals. We spent a few hours catching up, updating them on everyone in the family and just enjoying the lovely day.

 We were able to kill some time before needing to head to our cruise. A last minute splurge, Mike and I got tickets to be on a boat in the actual Harbour. I mean, if we are going to fly halfway around the world, I wanted to at least know we would see the fireworks.

 We arrived to the wharf and it was a madhouse. There were at least 40-50 boats picking up guests and while initially frustrating, we found our boat and got two seats on the top outdoor deck in the back corner. Little did we know at that time, we had perhaps the best seats on the boat.

We made our way out into the Harbour, went under the bridge and had the opera house to our right. We went a little bit further down and turned and that turned out to be our “spot” for the evening. It was insane. We watched the sunset, met the folks around us, had some cocktails and were treated to an airshow! I will have Mike explain:

As we sat around waiting for the 9pm fireworks teaser to begin, I looked up & noticed a small plane flying above us. Nothing too out of the ordinary but I did tap Alaina’s shoulder to tell her to look up when I saw him doing some steep banking turns, positioning the plane’s wings almost completely vertical. We watched him do this for a while, going back & forth around the Harbour and wondering if this was some showoff who was going to wind up getting arrested once he landed. Then he started releasing mist behind him and things seemed to be getting a bit more exciting (as a part of me was secretly wondering if we were getting sprayed with nerve gas or something…a sign of the times 🙁 ). And then it began – the steep turns gave way to full 360 rotations. Then into a full-on vertical nose dive towards the water, pulling up at the very last second as everyone around us let out gasps & cheers. A steep climb straight back up led to him seemingly hovering in the air for a few seconds before dropping back down. A few more minutes of daredevils drops, turns & climbs had everyone on the boats around us & around the Harbour cheering. Then the entire crowd held their breath as he made a beeline directly towards the Harbour Bridge. Just as we thought he was either going to try to fly under it (or simply crash into it), he pulled up again – directly vertical at the last second. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen & the perfect warmup for the incredible fireworks shows we were about to see.

 (Back to Alaina) We then enjoyed the 9pm teaser fireworks show and it was awesome seeing the Harbour walks flooded with people and the Harbour was flooded with boats; big, small, sailboats, jetboats, we even had a battleship behind us that was docked.

 After the 9pm teaser, we had no idea what to do considering we had three hours and were stuck on a boat. The captain decided to take us on a cruise and it was there that I determined Sydney really knows how to bring in a new year. We passed an island that had a DJ and stage area and a huge crowd dancing to his beats. We passed ridiculous glass houses on the cliffs that were beautifully lit up as people entertained, and then, the Captain announced we were going to see “how the other side lives.” The yachts.

When we were initially motoring out, I had looked to my left and couldn’t tell if I was looking at land or at boats. Turns out, it was where all the yachts were anchored. They were INSANE. Multi-million dollar yachts, multiple stories; most people don’t make enough money to maintain the actual boat in a lifetime. Everywhere we looked, one boat usurped another. It was incredible.

After we went through yacht alley, I may have dozed off for a bit as it was pretty dark and we had already seen everything (and I was just about at 24 hours with no sleep). Mike nudged me awake at 11:30 and we got into position for the big event and I was able to see the bigger cruise boats all lit up for the parade of lights:

  The entire Harbour had an amazing energy, people were shouting from boats “Happy New Year!”, the jet rocket boats were doing 360’s and boat horns could be heard throughout. The countdown started to be projected on the bridge and it began.
When we hit one, the bridge lit up into an array of colors. We had three fireworks barges in front of us and two behind. We were surrounded by fireworks and fanfare and I was in complete and total heaven. The team that coordinates the fireworks has my utmost respect. Everything was completely synchronized, from the barges, to the bridge, to the opera house. It was perfect. And then it went from perfect to magical. Midway through the show, a gold waterfall of fireworks started falling from the bridge. It was so stunning and beautiful, I was overcome with emotion and started crying. My knees even gave way a bit. I know it sounds so ridiculous, but I have never seen anything like it.
 I didn’t want to take a lot of pictures/video as this was something that needed to be enjoyed in the moment, but I did find this video that was posted and it will give you a sense of how amazing it was: https://twitter.com/smh/status/682566869341966336

When the show concluded, hundreds of boat horns applauded, including the battleship and it was the perfect cherry to the top of our amazing NYE sundae.   

I am so thankful to our Captain that managed to keep our boat in a prime viewing position and that we were able to experience the best New Years celebration in the world. For every future NYE, I will be able to look back and say “we were there” and I know it will always bring a huge grin to my face

Happy 2016 friends and family! There have been many ups and downs for those close to us in 2015; we wish you happiness, health and prosperity in the year to come.

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