Lesson 10: New Year in London

It was with some trepidation, but mainly excitement, that I approached New Years’ Eve in London.

We’d decided quite a while back that we’d like to stay in London for NYE 2010, passing over our other options of Merseyside, Nottingham and Brighton. For years I’d seen the epic Thames fireworks on TV and thought that given how close we are to the river, it would be a crying shame not to give it a look at least once.

The informed opinion amongst ever-cyncical Londoners seemed to be to avoid the river and the fireworks like the plague. Tales abounded of unlucky punters stuck in alleyways between streets, unable to move for the crowds and spending their NYE alongside industrial wastebins and grimy warehouse walls. Other people talked about the ridiculous queues, inability to see anything, and badly-behaved crowds. With this in mind I was starting to regret inviting four of my friends to come down and spend the weekend with us.

As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. We made plans to eat after work and head up to the river after a few drinks at the flat. This almost proved tricky in itself: my friends were driving down from Nottingham and it took them an hour just to travel the few miles from Hyde Park to Kennington, so busy was the traffic into London on NYE.

Once we were ready to go, we headed out for the river sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. The streets were busy but not crazy and we comfortably made our way to Westminster Bridge, finding a neat spot alongside the London Eye and in view of Big Ben himself.

Admittedly, this meant we were three hours early for the big event, but we’d sneakily brought some DIY drinks (no glass was allowed, so we poured a bottle of whiskey into a 2 litre bottle of coke, and passed it around subversively). McDonalds was inexplicably open so some of us sloped off for some dirty chicken nuggets. This took less time than the queue for the toilets, which was about 45 mins by our estimates.

The atmosphere was quite exciting – the crowd was buzzing and TV helicopters were passing by frequently. There was music playing somewhere on the northern side of the river and some inane DJ banter, but we couldn’t really hear it  (and didn’t care).

Soon it was approaching midnight – the crowd began to get worked up into a frenzy. Apparently the bridge was closed off at both ends, so perhaps if we’d been foolish enough to try to get there after 11, we might have experienced the frustrations other people had warned us of.

Finally the countdown came and although, disappointingly, we couldn’t hear Big Ben over the roar of the crowd, the wonder of the fireworks made up for everything. I don’t normally care for fireworks – seen one, seen them all. In this case I was proven wrong as the show was incredible – the end was so seriously over the top I half expected the Eye to explode. This BBC video puts it better than I can, although bear in mind it was filmed from directly opposite the Eye, whereas we were stood directly to the right of it (from the angle of the video). Still, we were about as close as we could get to the fireworks themselves, which was awesome.

So what’s the lesson here? Well, the same as everything else I’ve learned about London so far: figure it out for yourself and don’t just believe what you’re told. Don’t leave it too late, but don’t stress too much about it. As long as you’re with friends and having fun, the location’s not that important anyway. Although those fireworks were pretty damned cool…

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Lesson 10: New Year in London”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Townsend. Matt Townsend said: RT @mattpointblank: New London blog entry: why New Years watching the fireworks wasn't a bad idea after all: http://bit.ly/hgnn81 [...]

  2. Alexa says:

    Seems like a fantastic way to ring in the new year–now *you’re* the envy of all the young kids watching the fireworks on their televisions at home!