Saturday snippets: 27th December 2015

By | Category: Travel news
New Year's Eve In Sydney 2014

New Year’s Eve In Sydney 2014

Christmas may be over but celebrations for New Year’s Eve are the next in people’s minds. In London, the celebrations on the South Bank and in Trafalgar Square take England’s attention whilst Scotland looks to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Perhaps the most famous, though, is in the Australian city of Sydney where the fireworks around the harbour and the bridge take the world‘s attention as Sydney is one of the first large cities to great the new year. The beauty of Sydney is that you can catch a great view of the fireworks from plenty of spots around the Harbour such as North Head which is about 12 miles away by road from the action. In fact if you are on any high ground even in the outer Sydney suburbs you can see the fireworks. The Opera House, Milson’s Point, Luna Park are the best vantage points but be prepared from crowds and a slow trip home afterwards!  There will be harbour cruises and hotels around the harbour will have packages on sale but these aren’t cheap which is why most Sydneysiders picnic at the favourite spot to watch the new year in.

In New York te crowds gather in Time Square to see the ball drop. There is also a ball drop in Panama City in Florida so holidaymakers spending the holiday nearby break there might like to see a slightly different ball drop. There, at 8pm, 10,000 inflated beach balls will be dropped on to the cheering crowds along Pier Park’s beachfront boardwalk, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. At 8.30pm, families head home and the official New Year’s Eve celebrations begin, with live music taking the party well in to the night. Just before midnight, the countdown to 2015 will begin and in true Panama City Beach style, an 800 pound LED lit beach ball will descend 100ft, followed by the second fireworks display of the evening.

It’s very different in the African country of Swaziland. They have a festival – Incwala -, also known as the ‘Festival of First Fruits’ to count down the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. For the Swazi people it is an important religious ritual and Swaziland’s most important cultural event. A ceremony that has lasted for hundreds of years, it is one of the last remaining examples of what was previously common practice in many African countries. Essentially this is about cleansing and renewal, and – above all – celebrating kingship. Although not a tourism event as such visitors with an interest in Swaziland culture are always welcomed. Respect for total privacy is required on certain special days when the nation gathers for its own focus, without outside interference.

In the French capital, Paris, there is countdown as well but the evening begins with the Champs-Elysées being closed to traffic at 11pm and, taking advantage of another of the most well-known structures in the city, a video show is projected on to the Arc de Triomphe for ten minutes leading up to the new year. On January 1st itself, the Champs-Elysées stays closed to traffic from 1pm until 6pm to allow for a big parade that starts at 2pm.

the banner says it all!

the banner says it all!

In less than three years since it opened, Titanic Belfast has welcomed its two-millionth visitor. Michael Sweeney from north Belfast became the latest milestone visitor when he booked tickets to the nine-gallery exhibition that tells the story of Titanic and Belfast’s maritime history. In all, visitors came from 145 countries in 2014. The exhibition has proved to be the major draw in attracting more visitors to Belfast. All sorts of nuggets of information came with the press release.  On a personal note, and as an anti-coffee person, it distresses me that Titanic Belfast has been selling about 350 coffees a day to just 240 or so teas!

The retail sales might have begun but so have the tourism sales as well. Merlin – which owns 31 attractions such as Alton Towers, Blackpool Tower, Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland, the London Eye,Madame Tussauds,  Thorpe Park  and Sea Life Centres to name just a few  – have put on sale their Merlin Annual Pass which gives entry to their sites. The standard pass has a £40 reduction to £119 and the family pass for a family of 4 is £396. On the face of it this is a heck of a lot of money but if you visit any of the Merlin sites more than about three times a year with your family you start to save. If you want the premium pass which includes parking and no blackout dates such as August and bank holidays, then it will cost you £476.

Aphrodite Rock, Cyprus

Aphrodite Rock, Cyprus

In Italy, TripAdvisor has been fined €500,000 by the regulators after complaints about fake reviews on its pages. That fake reviews exist will come to no surprise to many readers since Just about travel has mentioned this more than  once. It has to be said though that this can and does happen across many review sites and is certainly not limited to Trip Advisor.  But being the biggest attracts officialdom and the company can feel a little aggrieved that other companies weren’t treated in the same way. It says it will appeal although it must also find a better way of vetting the reviews it carries.

What have you been doing over the holiday period? Pretty obviously, I have been writing my column but the rest of you? Research released by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation suggests almost one in five people admit that, when on holiday, they are too preoccupied uploading pictures and updating their status, rather than experiencing the holiday they are updating about. That number rises to more than one in three 16-44 year olds. Now if I was in Cyprus at the moment, I woudn’t be taking photos and sending them here there and everywhere. I’d be enjoying the sunshine especially since it is cold, wet and miserable where I am at the moment. That afternoon walk to clear the Christmas cobwebs and walk off some of all the food I’ve gorged looks like not happening!

And talking of the weather many people will be returning home this weekend but some won’t find it easy. As I write, Leeds-Bradford Airport is still closed because there is a drop of snow on the ground as correctly forecast by the Met Office so why couldn’t they cope? The only solace is that in Moscow, where they had much more snow and you would expect they would know how to cope, they didn’t. There was widespread disruption. London Kings Cross – the main link to Yorkshire, the North East and the East of Scotland – is almost completely closed today due to over-running engineering works. How often do we hear that phrase throughout the year? Can Network Rail ever plan more accurately? Passengers will have to use the tube to Finsbury Park and lug their baggage from tube to train instead.






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