The 50 best: What are you doing on New Year's Eve?

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The Independent Culture
It's hard even to imagine it: the biggest party in the history of the world, ever. On 31 December 1999, the entire planet will be looking for a good time - from Greenwich to Greenland and Sydney to Stockport. Staying in and watching TV is not an option, of course - but what to do? And what happens if you're not invited? Well, if talk of the millennium leaves you suffering from Cinderella Syndrome, read on. Over the next eight pages, we take you to the four corners of the earth to discover the 50 best ways to join the world party. Start planning now - and remember, there are only 342 days left... Guide compiled by Sharon Gethings, with help from Beatrice Hodgkin and Anne-Celine Jaeger

n 10 BEST UK EVENTS

n 10 BEST EUROPEAN EVENTS

n 10 BEST EVENTS WORLDWIDE

n 10 BEST EXOTIC LOCATIONS

n 10 BEST UNUSUAL CELEBRATIONS

NOTE: Prices correct at time of going to press. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, promoters' plans may be liable to change and readers are advised to check all details before confirming any bookings.

1

LONDON

With Greenwich - the world's "timekeeper" - on the prime meridian and the Queen due to make an appearance as principal guest at a three-hour spectacular in the pounds 758m Millennium Dome, there's no doubting where the capital's celebrations are going to be centred. But for those not able to snaffle a ticket for the show itself, there will also be a huge party along the Thames embankment, with bridges closed to traffic and entertainments such as theatre, music, fireworks and water displays.

Where: along the Thames from Hammersmith to Greenwich. How much: free.

2

DUSSELDORF

In an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for the longest New Year's Eve party ever, the Dusseldorf Fair is spreading its celebrations throughout its entire fairground. You will have a selection of "worlds" to visit, including those of toys, history, multimedia, fashion, sports, fantasy and music, and a wide range of international food will be on offer. The generosity of a private company means that mobile phones can be used free of charge at midnight 1999. To round off the event, a huge party for families will take place on 2 January 2000.

Where: Dusseldorf Fair (00 49 211 9523 2000). How much: pounds 160 for the entire party, including food.

3

ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

Millions of people are expected to descend upon the ancient biblical sites of the Holy Land - Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem - at the end of the year. Thousands more will head for Armeggedon, now named Megiddo, in Israel, to see whether the Book of Revelation's prophecy about the final fight between good and evil will come true... Not only is security going to be extremely tight, accommodation will be scarce, so book very early.

Where: contact the Jerusalem tourist office in London (0171-299 1111), or CAABU (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding; 0171-373 8414).

4

TAKE A CRUISE

Cruise Line are the people to contact if you want to see in the new millennium on the high seas: they have details of all companies making special plans for the big event. For instance, you could sail to Antarctica aboard the four-star Marco Polo, taking in Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Buenos Aires along the way, with guest speakers and expert naturalists helping you make the most of the incredible surroundings.

Where: contact Cruise Line Ltd (01273 835252).

How much: the Antarctica cruise described above costs from pounds 4,365 per person including flights, based on two people sharing for 16 nights.

5

CYCLE TO THE SUN

Gisborne, on New Zealand's North Island, has been designated the first city in the world to see the dawn of the new millennium - at 4.46am, to be precise - and you can witness this historic event as part of a mass bicycle ride from Auckland. You don't need to be superfit to take part as the cycling is fairly leisurely and a back-up bus is provided. During the 600-mile, two-week journey, you can participate in a variety of adventure sports, but the high point is bound to be that sunrise...

Where: Auckland, New Zealand; 19 Dec 1999 to 3 Jan 2000. How much: packages from pounds 3,475, including flights, from 2000 First to the Sun (0181-566 2599).

6

NEWCASTLE

Newcastle is addressing its own rich heritage with its Millennium Eve Countdown to 2000. Material including film clips, photographs and oral history will be included in the Quayside son et lumiere, and local artists will create 100 giant lanterns, each embodying a hope or aspiration for the city's youth in the new era. A parade, featuring young people with their own lanterns, will head from the city centre to the river, along which the giant lanterns will travel east towards the new day, to the accompaniment of fireworks, music and pyrotechnics.

Where: citywide; for more details, contact the tourist office (0191-261 0610). How much: free.

7

WALK TO ROME

For a first-footing with a real difference, pack some walking boots and join this 170-mile, 18-day hike through beautiful Italian countryside to the Eternal City. Much of the route is along 2,000-year-old tracks and roads - some with their original Roman paving. The longest you will walk in any one day is eight hours, and hot picnic lunches will see you through to a relaxing dinner with wine in the evening.

Where: from Siena to Rome, with the Alternative Travel Group (01865 315678); 16 Dec 1999 to 2 Jan 2000. How much: packages from pounds 5,000 per person.

8

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

With a backdrop including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney's firework display is sure to be a treat for the eyes. As a mass of spectator- filled craft jostle for space in the harbour, the pyrotechnics will be launched at 9.30pm from seven separate sites over a distance of 14 kilometres. There will also be separate concerts for adults and children, featuring international and local artists. In the city itself, roving jugglers, magicians, clowns, acrobats and comedians will entertain, as well as help people with directions and information.

Where: citywide; further information from the Aussie Helpline (0891 070707). How much: free.

9

IN AN IGLOO

Each December, a group of top Scandinavian ice sculptors construct the Ice Hotel and Church out of 1,000 tons of ice and 2,000 tons of snow to offer a unique lodging experience. Toast the new millennium with chilled vodka from the Absolut Ice Bar, sleep off the booze in the arctic sleeping bag provided - then wake to a sauna!

Where: Kiruna, Sweden; with Scantours (0171-839 2927); 29 Dec 1999 to 3 Jan 2000. How much: from pounds 950 per person based on two people sharing, including return flights from Heathrow and one night at the Ice Hotel.

10

DRUMMING

Two ends of the communication spectrum come together in a plan to herald the year 2000 with a global "drum in": the ancient and universal language of rhythm and the Internet. Susan Ferrier of Canada's Rhythm of the Earth group has mounted her "millennium rhythm" - based on a human heartbeat - on her website (http://www.mclellangroup.com/rhythmoftheearth/ contents.html), so that you can download it and join in. She asks you to e-mail your location, so that the linking of groups and individuals around the globe can be recorded.

Where: in your own home. How much: free.

11

CARDIFF

The Welsh capital will be celebrating with a community-driven event called "Calennig", a word linked with the Welsh tradition for giving New Year's gifts. It will be based around four landmark sites in the city, where there will be funfair rides, firework displays, outdoor entertainment stages, fire sculptures and specially commissioned illuminations. Schools and community groups will make lanterns to be carried in a grand parade, and, for pounds 1, everyone will be able to buy a leaf to hang on "Millennium Resolution trees" to symbolise their wish for the new era - the money raised will be given to charity.

Where: in the city centre; details from the Cardiff tourist office (01222 227281). How much: free.

12

PARIS

The Eiffel Tower will be the focus of celebrations in the City of Light at midnight on 31 December. Following a massive son et lumiere show, a giant "egg" will appear from the belly of the edifice and then hatch to reveal a clutch of television screens showing celebrations from around the globe; the "birth" will be accompanied by 2,000 drummers beating a "millennium rhythm". Meanwhile, the Place Charles de Gaulle will be transformed into a huge countdown clock, with the 12 avenues which converge on the square forming hour points on the clock; the hands of the clock will be lasers and lights. A light show and party around the Arc de Triomphe will take place after midnight.

Where: events throughout Paris (tourist office: 00 33 1 4952 5354). How much: free.

13

GIZA, EGYPT

At last November's World Travel Market, the Egyptian minister of tourism outlined plans for celebrating not only the arrival of the 21st century, but also the "dawning of the seventh millennium of the country's recorded history". Proposals include a ceremony to top the summit of Cheops' pyramid with a 9ft golden cover which will remain there from the sunset of 31 December to the dawn of 1 January, plus a 12-hour light show directed by Jean-Michel Jarre. Travel company Abercrombie & Kent will be staging their own tours of the area, with all participants attending a special party at a location nearby.

Where: 12-day tour with Abercrombie & Kent (0171-730 9600); departs 24 Dec.

How much: packages from pounds 3,200 per person.

14

ICELAND

As a European City of Culture in the year 2000, Iceland's funky capital, Reykjavik, has been gearing itself up for major celebrations for some time. For this New Year's Eve, you can expect the streets to be crammed with people watching millions of pounds' worth of fireworks, the profits from their sale going to charity. For a breathtaking natural light-and- colour display, head north to Myvain, and keep your fingers crossed that the aurora borealis will make an appearance. If you're worried about the cold, bear in mind that the average January temperature here is the same as that for Milan.

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland.

How much: a week-long tour package with Arctic Experience (01737 218800) costs from pounds 1,090 per person, including a New Year's Eve party.

15

ON THE INTERNET

OK, OK - we're all planning to be out at the best party ever with hundreds of our closest friends, but in the unlikely event that your carefully laid plans fall through, here's a back- up: celebrate the new millennium on your computer. You can swap horror stories about "the best mate who forgot to book that taxi/pick up those tickets" or simply share your millennium resolutions with people from all over the world. And look on the bright side: you'll be able to choose your own music.

Where: at home. The party will last for 24 hours around New Year's Eve; contact Arthur Cassidy at hotwired@mail.enterprise.net for more information. How much: free - except for the cost of your Internet service provider and phone line charges, if you have to pay them.

16

IN A CASTLE

Elizabeth Castle in Jersey dates back to 1600, and was named by Sir Walter Raleigh in honour of his queen. An enterprising character called Olaf Blakely has plans to hire the castle for the millennium eve and to help his guests celebrate in style. When you arrive at the castle, you will be greeted with canapes and a glass of mulled wine before enjoying a medieval spit-roast dinner in the 160ft marquee. Each guest will be served with champagne in time to toast the year 2000; fireworks, music, film screenings and a casino in the Governor's House will add to the fun.

Where: Elizabeth Castle, Jersey, in the Channel Islands. Visit the event's website at http://www.localdial.com/users/olaf/ for continually updated information.

17

AT AN IMPERIAL BALL IN VIENNA

This is one for those who yearn for some old-style European luxury. After being flown to Bratislava on Concorde, you will taken by vintage steam train to Vienna and your room at a five- star hotel. The next few days will incorporate a regimental-band performance, a night at the Vienna State Opera, and various dinners and cocktail receptions. But the piece de resistance will be the Millennium Imperial Ball at the Hofburg Palace, to which you will be taken in horse-drawn carriages.

Where: the Hofburg Palace, Vienna; 28 Dec 1999 to 2 Jan 2000. The six- day trip is one of Goodwood Travel's (01227 763336) "Flights of Fantasy". How much: pounds 5,995, including return flights on Concorde.

18

TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK

There will be a lot of fancy parties taking place in the Big Apple, but it will be hard to entice those of a traditionalist bent away from this holy of holies. If you've already experienced New Year in Times Square and weren't fazed by it, or you just love noise and crowds, then this is the one for you. It all starts at 7am on 31 December with giant television screens relaying scenes from celebrations around the world as they happen, starting with Fiji. And it climaxes, of course, with the dropping of that ball.

Where: Times Square, New York. Visit the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau website at http://www.nycvisit.com for up-to-date details about events. How much: free.

19

ON THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

The Road to Mandalay offers a truly relaxing way to see in the year 2000. This floating palace will glide along Burma's main highway, the Irrawaddy River - immortalised by Rudyard Kipling's famous poem - as you sit back on board and marvel at the ancient sites around you. On New Year's Eve you can watch the sun set behind the spectacular ruins of Bagan, then enjoy a midnight celebration among the pagodas and temples. After watching the millennium dawn light up the pagoda spires, you can give yourself a spiritual kickstart for the new era by climbing the revered Mount Popa.

Where: travelling through Burma with Orient-Express Trains & Cruises (0171-805 5100); 27 Dec 1999 to 5 Jan 2000.

How much: from pounds 3,300 including flights.

20

WITH THE SNOWMAN OF LAPLAND

Saariselka, located some 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, will be the scene of some unique celebrations this New Year's Eve. After a four-course champagne dinner, you will take a candle-lit walk outside to a frozen pond where "beautiful fairies" will serve cocktails. Then, as the light show intensifies and the background music changes to works by Sibelius, the snowman of Lapland will emerge from the woods to regale you with tales of his homeland. After this, the midnight firework display could prove an anticlimax...

Where: the above tour is with Tauno Salo Tours (00 358 3612 1122; 29 Dec 1999 to 2 Jan 2000), or contact the Finnish tourist board (0171-839 4048).

21

ENJOYING FINE WINE

With every hotel, restaurant and hut charging over the odds for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion, there are few that can match the justification offered by the Chester Grosvenor Hotel. Their "Tribute to the 20th Century" eight-course gourmet dinner will feature 10 wines which span every decade of this century and represent some of its finest vintages. A conservative estimate on just one bottle of one of the wines is pounds 3,500 (a 1921 Chateau d'Yquem Grand Premier Cru Sauternes). And the price isn't putting people off: the evening is already more than half sold out.

Where: the Arkle Restaurant, The Chester Grosvenor Hotel, Chester (01244 324024). How much: pounds 1,500 per head. The hotel is also offering dinner, drinks, champagne and entertainment in the Westminster Suite for pounds 595 per head.

22

MADRID

If any city knows how to party all night long it's Madrid, where people don't even think about going out until 11pm on a normal week day. So there should be frolics aplenty this New Year's Eve - or Noche Vieja - when one of Spain's most famous clocks strikes 12 in the Puerto del Sol. As well as fuelling yourself before the festivities begin at one of the many tapas bars in the area, don't forget to buy some grapes so that you can join in the Spanish custom of eating one at each stroke of the clock at midnight.

Where: Puerto del Sol, Madrid; details from the Madrid Tourist Office (00 34 91 429 4951).

How much: the price of a bunch of grapes and a return flight (around pounds 200).

23

ON THE BEACH IN BRAZIL

South Americans have more than one reason to celebrate on millennium eve: at noon on 31 December Panama will get its canal back after nearly a century of American possession. Not that these carnival specialists have ever needed an excuse to have a great time - which is exactly what you are promised if you're on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro this New Year's Eve. One of the biggest free parties in the world is scheduled for that day, when an expected 2.5 million people will hit these eight miles of sand to enjoy a giant carnival, fireworks, music and a grand countdown.

Where: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro - until the rum runs out; more details from the Brazilian Tourist Board (0171-499 0877). How much: free.

24

STRADDLING TWO TIME ZONES

Why go to one millennium party when you can go to two? For those with the stamina - and the cash - the Millennial Foundation has organised a two-centre trip to Fiji and The Cook Islands, which lie either side of the International Date Line. This means that you can attend a party on 31 December in Fiji, one of the first places in the world to see the year 2000, before flying to the Cook Islands, one of the last places to be letting off fireworks. Thankfully, they have also arranged a champagne breakfast on the beach for the day in between.

Where: the South Pacific, with the Millennial Foundation (0141-204 2000); 26 Dec to 5 Jan.

How much: the pounds 5,500-per-person price tag includes everything except your bar bill.

25

HELI-SKIING IN THE HIMALAYAS

You can't expect the dawn of a new millennium to get in the way of some decent winter skiing - or at least that's what the people at the Ski Club of Great Britain believe. Still, this is skiing with a difference: they are planning to greet the year 2000 by jumping out of a helicopter onto the Himalayas, and you could be doing the same, if you so desire. The accommodation will apparently include a sauna and a jacuzzi, which should go some way to easing the aching limbs you might acquire from any bad landings.

Where: Manali, India; week-long trip with the Ski Club of Great Britain (0181-410 2022).

How much: approximately pounds 4,000 per person, excluding flights.

26

PLYMOUTH

This picturesque port will be involving other Plymouths around the world in its celebrations this December, with satellite links to events ranging from dawn on New Zealand's North Island through to sunset in Vancouver. At 11.30pm beacons will be lit around the waterfront down to Cornwall, both to recall the city's Spanish Armada warning and to join in the worldwide Beacon Initiative. Midnight's clock chimes will signal the start of a fireworks display from Mount Batten Breakwater. Events will continue over the weekend, with a fair in the city centre and a multi-faith service of celebration.

Where: throughout the city centre and on the Hoe; more details from Plymouth tourist office (01752 264849). How much: free.

27

MOSCOW

Ease yourself into the new era by sitting back and enjoying the beauty, grace and elegance of the Bolshoi Ballet's entrancing dancers. The Millennial Foundation has organised a six-day trip to Moscow, during which you will stay at the grand Metropole hotel, where your New Year's Eve will begin with a dinner under the spectacular stained-glass roof of its belle-epoque banqueting suite. From there you will head for The Bolshoi, where members of the company will perform in an exclusive programme planned for the party.

Where: Moscow, Russia, with the Millennial Foundation (0141-204 2000); 29 Dec 1999 to 3 Jan 2000.

How much: pounds 1,750, including flights.

28

MONTREAL

Hopefully, the weather won't be so cold as to confine entertainments to the warren of underground malls to be found in this Quebecois city. Still, there's nothing like a shot of mellow jazz to warm things up, and the organisers of the Montreal International Jazz Festival are hoping that this year's event will see the new century in with a swing. Both indoor and outdoor stages are planned across the downtown area to accommodate the major international stars the Festival is hoping to attract, and festivities will probably spill out from the many bars and clubs also taking part.

Where: various venues throughout the city during the evening; for details, contact the Montreal International Jazz Festival (00 1 514 523 3378). How much: ticket prices will vary.

29

ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD

If the altitude on this trip doesn't take your breath away, then the views certainly will. On 31 December, after waking to a champagne breakfast at the wonderfully named five-star Yak & Yeti Hotel, you will be taken on a four-hour helicopter ride through the valley of Mount Everest. Once you've reached Thyangboche, the world's highest monastery, at 12,176ft, and the leading Buddhist centre in the region, you will be served a champagne luncheon with the world's tallest mountains as a backdrop. There will be just enough time to get your breath back at the hotel before the night's big party. Phew.

Where: Kathmandu, with Steppes East (01285 810267); 9 Dec 1999 to 5 Jan 2000. How much: from pounds 3,795 per person, based on two people sharing, including flights.

30

PLAYING GOLF

Golfers are much the same as skiers when it comes to obsession with their favourite sport, so it shouldn't come as any surprise to learn that someone has organised a mass tee-off in honour of the millennium dawn. That it will take place on Southland, New Zealand, goes some way to justify this as it is is one of the first places to see the sun rise - and Southland also has the easy-to-climb Bluff Hill summit, from where the dawn, if not the golfers, can be seen.

Where: Southland, New Zealand; contact the Southland Millennium Club (00 64 3218 8176 or on the internet at www.southlandmillennium.com).

How much: The tournament entry fee is US$250.

31

DOVER

Those famous white cliffs should make an effective backdrop for all the fireworks that will be filling the skies on New Year's Eve. And Dover's celebrations seem to be following a theme of light as well: after the lighting of a beacon on the quay, a torchlit procession will head for St Clement's Church to see floodlights switched on to illuminate the tower. Meanwhile, the Carnival of Planets, featuring sculptural costumes, music and dance, will be making its way along the seafront, and both processions will culminate in the animation of a huge "third millennium clock" to a background of colour, sound and fireworks.

Where: throughout the town. How much: free.

32

SWITZERLAND

Tourism officials refuse to be drawn on plans for millennium eve and some people are suggesting that this land of the clock is being a tad fastidious and waiting until 2001 - what it considers to be the correct date. This said, the annual New Year's Eve boat trip out onto Lake Lucerne is going ahead, with lights in nearby towns going off just before midnight to enhance the fireworks. And a recent report that caviare importers are worried that supplies are running low suggests that someone in Switzerland is planning to have a good time.

Where: tickets for the boat trip (Sfr188-Sfr244) can be booked with the Lucerne tourist office (00 41 41 410 7171); further details from the Swiss Tourist Board (0171- 734 1921).

33

NEW ORLEANS

The Big Easy has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the best places in the world to party. Many people will opt for the free festivities in Jackson Square, where street musicians and fireworks will set the scene for the dropping of the lighted ball from Jackson's Brewery at midnight. The parties planned by local establishments are too numerous to list, but two are worthy of mention. O'Flaherty's Irish Channel Pub is planning a Celtic celebration for the princely sum of a $10 cover charge; and the spectacularly pretty Court of Two Sisters restaurant has traditional jazz, followed by dinner and then a millennium celebration.

Where: throughout the city centre; for more details, contact New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (00 1 504 566 5011).

34

YACHTING IN THE CARIBBEAN

There must be plenty of people out there eager to exercise their sea legs because yacht-chartering companies have been inundated with requests for boats in sun-soaked waters. Many of the traditional New Year's Eve venues - such as Foxy's (00 1809 4959258) on the Great Harbour of Jost Van Dyke Island - are promising top-class entertainment, and the party hordes will be stumbling out on to the beach after midnight.

Where: Sunsail (01705 222222) still have a few craft available for charter from 23 Dec to 6 Jan in the British Virgin Islands - though they are going quickly.

How much: pounds 2,140 per person for four people, on a sail-it-yourself basis (qualified sailors only).

35

AT A THREE-MONTH PARTY

One evening isn't enough for organisers in Singapore - they intend to keep right on partying through a three-month string of festivals and events to herald the Gregorian, Lunar and Chinese new years. Highlights will include the DisneyFest, the Christmas Light-Up and the Chingay Parade, which takes place in early February in honour of the Lunar New Year. There will also be a Millennium Countdown Clock and a Millennium Tree on which people can hang their resolutions.

Where: phone the Singapore Tourist Board (00 65 736 6622) or visit their website at http://www.newasia-singapore.com for updated information.

36

EDINBURGH

Those who trek north for the annual Hogmanay shindig in Edinburgh have the Protestant fathers of the 16th century to thank for this joyous occasion: they banned Christmas celebrations because of the Catholic links, and New Year festivities grew in importance. The Princes Street party is now so popular that numbers are restricted - tickets are free, but you can't get in without one. Although Princes Street will be the hub of Edinburgh's revelry this year, there will also be the usual processions, carnivals, bands, candlelit concerts and much more. Organisers Unique Events are also promising some surprises.

Where: throughout the city; for details, contact Edinburgh tourist office's Hogmanay line (0131-473 1999). How much: free.

37

IRELAND

If you want to save your energy for raising that glass of bubbly at midnight, why not hire a classy joint that comes with its own butler? Luttrellstown Castle lies on the Liffey river in 560 acres just outside Dublin, and comes complete with its own butler and other staff. The castle has an 18-hole golf course, a heated swimming pool and facilities for horse-riding, archery and shooting (clay and pigeon), as well as a 20-acre lake. It is renowned for its medieval banquets, so the celebration dinner should be a blast. Just don't forget to leave a hefty tip for the poor Jeeves-alike on your departure.

Where: three nights minimum, with Elegant Ireland (00 353 1 475 1632). How much: a snip at Irpounds 10,000 (about pounds 9,000) per night for up to 28 guests.

38

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Not only are top DJs going to be able to name their price this December, they are also going to have the pick of fantastic locations to strut their stuff. South African music promoters Etnica-Pleiadians and Vortex are planning a massive psychedelic trance concert on Table Mountain, and are hoping that this unusual venue will draw both the punters and the big names in trance.

Where: Table Mountain, above Cape Town, South Africa. Go to http://www.southafrica2000.com on the Internet for regular updates on the state of play.

39

KHAJURAHO, INDIA

Head for the stone temples of Khajuraho in central India in December, and you'll get two millenniums for the price of one. These beautiful buildings - famous for the erotic sculptures adorning their walls - are also celebrating their 1,000th birthday this year, and officials are using the event as a springboard for a cultural revival of the whole area, with artists, dancers, theatre and craft organisations all playing a part. The celebrations for the temples run from March 1999 to March 2000, but there will also be a grand party on 31 December.

Where: Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India; contact the Indian Tourist Board (0171-437 3677) for further information.

40

GOING BACK IN TIME

Spend the last few days of this century indulging in nostalgia by reliving the golden years of entertainment - with a little help from some lookalikes and soundalikes. Celebrations kick off with the "last party of the 20th century", featuring songs from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe will join you. New Year's Eve offers a choice between Fifties rock'n'roll or hits from the Sixties, with Elvis making a personal appearance before the midnight fireworks. Bill Clinton is promised for the "first party of the 21st century".

Where: Nailcote Hall, Warwickshire (01203 466174); 30 Dec 1999

to 3 Jan 2000. How much: pounds 1,450 per person, including accommodation.

41

LIVERPOOL

Liverpool is targetting the youth market this Millennium Eve, having roped in the services of top club promoters Cream. Although plans are at an early stage, the Cream brand alone will be enough to convince many clubbers that this is the party to go to. What is known is that the event will cater for up to 35,000 revellers and will feature a combination of top DJs, live acts, international link-ups and giant screens relaying the shenanigans to those who weren't quick enough to grab a ticket.

Where: the ticketed Cream evening will centre on the Pier Head, but there will be other free festivities throughout the city.

42

BERLIN

The dawn of the new millennium will be a time of reflection for many in this city. Its place at the epicentre of events in the Second World War, the building and dismantling of the Wall, and the Government's decision to reclaim it as Germany's capital must all prompt a desire to look forward with hope to the year 2000 and beyond. Free celebrations will include live bands and DJs at the Brandenburg Gate, with fireworks and street parties throughout the city, while the beautiful Kempinski hotel plans a more select function. As for clubs, choose between west and east: the former for flash and tack, the latter for style and edge, generally speaking.

Where: various locations; for more details, contact the German tourist board (0891 600100).

43

TONGA, PACIFIC ISLANDS

In a bid to lure tourists away from its rivals in the race to be first to 2000, Tonga is throwing the mother of all parties. A dawn ceremony to mark the start of a 1,000-day countdown to the millennium took place in April 1997, and festivals and conferences have been taking place ever since. On New Year's Eve, the fireworks, music and entertainments will be fleshed out with feasting "tupakapakanava" and traditional Tongan dancing "lakalaka".

Where: First Dawn Celebrations (0161-236 6657) have arranged a package deal with Jetset Europe which covers festivities in both Tonga and Samoa, flying out on 26 Dec 1999 and back on 4 Jan 2000. How much: pounds 3,500 per person.

44

AT THE SOUTH POLE

Forget the splitting of hairs over who will see the first dawn of 2000 (see no 49): the penguins will have seen it before you. Anyone standing at the South Pole on 31 December will be in prime place as the sun will have risen over Antarctica months before. California- based entrepreneur Greg Wright is hoping to raffle places for a trip to the South Pole in a charitable event involving the UN. He is also trying to raise sponsorship for the Millennium Snapshot - the creation of an image database of the arrival of the third millennium which will be available on CD Rom and on the World Wide Web.

Where: for further details, contact Greg Wright (00 1 818 784 0325; e-mail: wrighthink@aol.com).

45

GETTING STONED

There's no doubting the power that ancient sites exert over a large portion of the population - and no doubting that many of these people will turn up at their preferred arrangement of stones to ponder the consequences of the new age. If you wish to experience a monumental Millennium Eve alone, you could do worse than arm yourself with Julian Cope's comprehensive guide to ancient sites, Modern Antiquarian (HarperCollins, pounds 29.99), before setting forth. Alternatively, an American company, Billennium, intends to stage a worldwide event linking sites around the world.

Where: any stone monument or circle. For details about the Billennium event, contact Mark Mitten (00 1 773 327 2000). How much: free.

46

BIRMINGHAM

The annual end-of-year celebrations organised by England's second city are becoming so extensive that they are thinking of cordoning off a particular section in the centre in the same way that Edinburgh has cordoned off Princes Street (see no 36). They are also considering making it a two-day affair, with a large-screen satellite link to other Birminghams in the world, and a repeat of their 1998 tie-in with a local radio station. There will, of course, be lots of fireworks, live music and entertainment.

Where: in the city centre, with a focus on Centenary, Chamberlain and Victoria Squares; more details from Birmingham's tourist office (0990 992244). How much: free.

47

ON THE RIVIERA

If you have money to spare and you're heading for the Riviera, you will probably have already booked a deluxe suite at Monaco's swanky Hotel Hermitage in order to catch the harbour fireworks. But the penniless among us can also make like James Bond with a bit of forward planning. Hire a posh car to spin Persuaders-like through that tunnel on the coastal road, park it discreetly nearby when you check in to one of the handful of pleasant one-star establishments in the Principality, then head for Monte Carlo Casino. This sumptuous temple to gambling charges a modest FF50 entrance fee, and the slot machines start at FF1. You might make a million before the year 2000 begins.

Where: Monaco. How much: peanuts.

48

ON SAFARI IN AFRICA

As far as we know, the animals you will encounter on a guided tour through East Africa will have no idea that a new millennium is about to descend upon them, which is partly what makes this getaway so enticing: it will keep things in perspective. Confronted by the natural beauty of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, you might even forget about partying yourself. For a moment.

Where: Tanzania, East Africa. Abercrombie & Kent (0171-730 9600) do tailor-made packages which cover the Millennium Eve period. How much: around the pounds 3,000- pounds 4,000 mark.

49

RACING AGAINST TIME

British Airways are keeping shtoom about plans for their Concorde fleet, but chartering one of these planes will enable you to see in the new millennium six times by flying backwards over the time zones from Tokyo to Honolulu. If you're more interested in being the first to greet 2000, some sly jiggery- pokery with the International Date Line and the setting of clocks by local officials has created a choice of locations in the South Pacific. Fiji, Tonga (see no 43) and Kiribati are the main wannabes in these Millennium Games, but they are all playing with time: it's an indisputable fact that the first rays of Dawn 2000 will strike a piece of land belonging to New Zealand - Pitt Island.

50

AVOIDING THE BUG

No one really knows what will happen if the millennium bug bites, but dummy runs on vital services in a number of countries have produced enough scary results to have many computer-industry insiders stockpiling tinned foods. Cuba is reputedly the least computer-dependent country in the world, but if you're nervous about flying there, perhaps now is the time to take up Great Aunt Aggie on her offer of an extended stay in her remote country pile...

Where: as far away from airports, railways and cities as possible.

How much: variable - depending on how high this particular market force pushes the price of tents, generators, wind-up radios and galoshes.

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