Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Years Eve/Day

So having discovered the blue haze of the mountains in Katoomba we headed back to the sleepy suburbs of Sydney were we planned to leave the car for the New Year's Eve celebrations. We didn't fancy paying the toll or car parking fees that went along with driving into and sleeping in the centre of Sydney (didn't fancy sleeping in a multi story car park ether) so we settled on finding somewhere to stay near the university of Macquarie. With a little research using the free uni wifi and asking a very helpful nurse in the uni's hospital we discovered a street which had UNLIMITED FREE PARKING! RESULT!

So leaving the car locked and parked (for free!!!) we caught the bus ($2.20, student ticket, another sweet result) into the centre of Sydney, this took around 30 mins and dropped us off right outside the Sydney harbour YHA!

Having wangled another free shower from a YHA we decided to set off on our journey to find the 'perfect viewing spot' for the fireworks! However, walking down the road I saw a familiar face! A certain Miss Emily Farr (a close friend from uni!), excuse me, I correct myself... A Mrs Emily Watson as she is now known! Emily and Neil were out in Australia for their honeymoon and had met up with Neil's family for the big new year celebrations. We sat down and had a drink with everyone and it was lovely to see Emily and Neil as we hadn't seen them since their summer wedding.

After this we joined the masses of people steadily flowing towards the harbour bridge and the opera house. Our first choice view point (infront of the opera house) was full by the time we got there (12pm)! But the next best was just along the quay and was still in full sight of the bridge!

We chose our spot, laid out our towels, showered in sun screen, bought the expensive water and waited the 9 hours for the first set of fireworks to begin. The day wasn't without its drawbacks, in fact it wasn't until the sun fell and the 35 degree heat died down did we actually start to enjoy our surroundings and take in the excited atmosphere.

The 12am fireworks were amazing, everything we had been expecting and more. The photos don't do it justice. The colours, timing, direction, mix and placement of the fireworks was perfect! They even had them being lit from the top of the high rise offices in the CBD just behind us. Everyone was cheering and embracing the coming 2013. The 12 hour wait in the blistering sun, one of us having to always hold our space, being told to move on when siting in the shade of the hotel, walking around and around the nic nac souvenir shop just to enjoy their air con, drinking warm water and sitting on hard concrete. We both agreed that the fireworks had been worth it but if we ever get the chance to come again we would go halvesies on a hotel room with a harbour view and air con!

Around 1am we managed to hop on a bus back to our home/van and went straight to sleep.

New Year's Day we decided to spend wandering around Hyde park barracks, one of the few attractions on our list that was open. Based in Sydney we left the car where it was and hopped on the bus back to the CBD. It was really interesting reading about the convicts being sent over and learning about what they had done to deserve the punishment of 'a life in the new land'! No-one was safe from the law, even women and children were sent over!

The population of NSW in the early stages of its growth had a ratio that was heavily weighted towards the males. So much so that women who were sent over as punishment for lighter crimes (such as having a still born) were straight away married off to a prison guard or officer.

In later years Australia also housed irish female orphans derived from the potato famine who were transported there to try and even up the population.

Alec and I enjoyed the museum and its interesting history. The most fun was had, however when it came to testing out the 'prisoner's hammocks' in the reconstructed dorms and searching the 'criminal data base' for names of family members.

Brooks is apparently a very common name of those sent over to Australia for committing offences in the uk! Maybe that's why great Grandad changed it to BrookEs! We even found a David Brooks who had been sent over for 'looking at a policeman in the wrong way'! Nightmare day for him, he was just short sighted!