The last quarter of the year just kicked off, which means it’s that time of year again when you start thinking about New Year’s Eve – at least if you’re into celebrating the beginning of a new year as much as I am. Who will I celebrate with, what am I going to do, where will I ring in the new year? I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea yet where I’ll be for New Year’s Eve, but since my most memorable celebration (which I’ll share below) was a last minute trip, I am not too worried about it yet.
For me as a traveler, New Year’s Eve has always been a great excuse to go on a short getaway – especially whenever I happen to be in Europe for the Holidays. Distances are short, transportation is cheap (thanks to the wide selection of budget airlines) and there are plenty of great destinations to ring in the New Year, from the Hogmanay Festival in Edinburgh to the big open air party at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Memorable New Year’s celebrations included bar crawling in Prague, watching the fireworks over the Thames River in London, snowboarding and après ski fun in Austria. I have definitely had some of my best New Year’s Eve celebrations in Europe, and the ideas for most of my trips formed only a few days before 31 December. If you are also still looking for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve getaway, check out Contiki’s Festivals and Short Stays trips for some inspiration.
One year when I was living in Germany, my girlfriends and I were not sure what we were going to do for NYE until 31 December. While we had set our minds on a dance party in the biggest club in town, we weren’t too happy with our choice. Tickets were expensive, and in the end it would just be like any other party night. Would it really be worth paying all that money for a night of clubbing?
‘Why don’t we go to Paris instead?’, my friend Mel asked innocently, and we all looked at her as if she was crazy. But ten minutes later we all ran home to pack our bags for a quick getaway to the Eiffel Tower. We headed to the supermarket to pick up some champagne, snacks and fireworks, and were on our way to Paris shortly after. That’s one thing I just love about Europe: it is so compact that you can easily travel to another country within a day, starting your day with a German breakfast at home and having a pasta dinner in Italy – or in our case, a champagne dinner in France.
The spontaneous road trip to Paris was so much fun – girl talk, much laughter, lots of chocolate and impromptu photo stops along the highway. The essential stop for baguette, cheese and croissants after we crossed into France.
Seven hours after we left our small town in Germany, we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, beautifully lit up in changing colors and flickering lights. We even managed to find a parking lot in walking distance to the Champ De Mars, the wide open green space on which the Eiffel Tower is located. The closer we got to the Eiffel Tower, the louder we could hear the laughter and exciting chatter of the people, until we were finally in the midst of them. There was such a vibrant energy in the air, and I had to pinch myself to believe that I was really in Paris.
We unpacked our champagne and chatted with other travelers while we were all waiting for the clock to strike twelve. At midnight, we were hugging strangers and I remember that there was a lot of cheek kissing as well.
Usually people pay a fortune for a hotel in Paris on New Year’s Eve, but we lucked out and found a cheap room in a hotel that wasn’t fully booked. We spent the next day exploring Paris in the snow, enjoying French pastries and strolled through the artist market in Montmartre, my favorite neighborhood.
What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory, and do you already know where you’ll ring in the New Year in 2014? I’d love to hear your memories or plans to get some inspiration!