Friday, April 30, 2010

Gallipoli today

Gallipoli Tour information

Did a 6 hour personalised tour of Gallipoli today. Just amazing - the museum, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac Cove. Brings tears to your eyes (and Pauls too).

Off to Selcuk tomorrow to visit Ephesus.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Istanbul to Eceabat

Where we are staying at Eceabat and information on Gallipoli Tours

We were supposed to catch the bus to Eceabat today but when the transfer came to get us, the van drove us all the way to Eceabat. Turns out that the hotel we were statying in in Eceabat had business in Istanbul so they just brought us back with them. It was great!

Took about 4 hours to drive here so we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Incredible Istanbul....

Visited the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace today. I finally got to see inside the Harem. Last time I was here it was closed for renovations.

Paul is now in with the barber getting a haircut and I am catching up on Internet stuff! Paul got a shave, a face wax and a haircut!!! He is a new man!

Off to Gallipoli tomorrow. Catch up with you on our return if we can't find Internet anywhere....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paris to Istanbul

Sadly our Western Front Tour ends this morning after breakfast. The journey may be over but the memories will last a lifetime.

We caught the metro to the Airport - and got on plane to Istanbul. Only a 3 hour flight.

Picked up at the Airport and taken to our hotel in downtown touristy Istanbul.
We went our for some dinner and then came back and crashed!

Alzer Hotel is the only hotel located at the center of Sultanahmet’s historical hippodrome where the cultures and religions meet.

Alzer Hotel Website

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Somme to Paris

This is our last day of the tour. We follow in the footsteps of the Anzacs and see us return to the 1916 Somme battlefields, where we visited the maze of trenches at the Newfoundland Memorial Park. The Newfoundland Regiment was almost wiped out here on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

We will then drove past the Ulster Tower, modelled on Helen's Tower in Northern Ireland, before visiting the spectacular Thiepval Memorial, where the names of more than 72,000 British men missing from the Somme fighting are recorded. This was very humbling.

We also saw Mouquet Farm, scene of a costly advance by Australian troops in August 1916. We then returned to Villers-Bretonneux, where we visited the Adelaide Cemetery, the place where Australia's Unknown Soldier lay for 75 years before being returned to Australia in 1993.

We then went to the remarkable Victoria School, home to a wonderful small Australian museum, and where a sign in the playground entreats that the students 'Do Not Forget Australia'.

We will then returned to the Australian National Memorial where we commemorated Anzac Day, to spend some peaceful time exploring the memorial, reading the names of the missing Australian soldiers and taking a last opportunity to pay our respects to the original Anzacs. Paul and I found a distant relative that Aunty Rosemary asked us to track down. We took photos for her.

We then farewelled the battlefields and boarded our coach for the return trip to Paris.

We had a farewell dinner in a restaurant in Montmatre, before being escorted on an Illuminations tour of Paris - a chance to see the city's famous landmarks bathed in glorious light. Plus, we got to find out a bit of background from our tour guide - David - he used to be a driver for Princess Diana....the stories he told us.....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The best Anzac Day ever....

Did you see us? Did you see us?
We got on the bus at 3.30am this morining to get us over to the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

There would have been about 3000 at a guess, to pay our respects to our 48,000 countrymen who were killed during fighting on the Western Front. As the sun rises over the imposing memorial to Australia's 11,000 missing from France, the strains of the Last Post will echo across the countryside, peaceful now, but the scene of a monumental Australian victory on Anzac Day 1918.

Paul and I laid our wreaths for the 1 Commando Company and the Katoomba RSL Sub-Branch respectfully: I hope you saw us It was amazing and everything we both expected.

Paul met one of the guys from his unit that went over to Afghanistan - lots of medals on his chest. Most of the bus group didnt recognise Paul in his get up but then everyone wanted photos with him...

After this moving ceremony, the highlight of our tour, we went a little piece of Australia in the heart of the Somme - breakfast at 'Le Kangourou' (The Kangaroo) cafe, named in honour of Villers-Bretonneux's strong connection with Australia. The cafe is being opened exclusively for Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours.

After breakfast we visited the battlefield of Hamel, where General John Monash orchestrated one of the great Australian attacks of the war in July 1918. We then began our tour of the 1916 battlefields of the Somme. Our first stop was the imposing Lochnagar Mine Crater - huge - which was detonated beneath the German lines on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Even though erosion has reduced the size of the crater it is still enormous - more than 100 metres across and 30 metres deep.

We then visited the village of Pozieres, scene of the most costly battle in Australia's history. 23,000 men were killed or wounded in six weeks' fighting, and we visited the scenes of their heroic sacrifice at the 1st Division Memorial and the Windmill. Michael, our historian walked the battlefield, gaining a better understanding of the fighting that led to more Australian casualties than any other battle in our history. We then returned to our hotel where our afternoon is free to enjoy to rest after a memorable morning. I had a catnap and now Paul has gone out with the rest of the group into town - I was too tired - it was a huge day!!!!!

Back to Paris tomorrow and then hopefully on a plane to Istanbul on Tuesday.....

Villers-Bretonneux Western Front History Website